This is part one of a four-part series on life lessons —knowledge I’ve acquired over the last decade. Once you’re done with this, check out parts two, three and four. Because yeah. This set is officially done (insert check-mark emoji here).
Oh, if I could go back in time. Oh, the things I’d tell my younger self. Only recently have I really come into my own. I used to be this wet blanket. A people-pleaser with no voice.
I’d apologize for everything. I’d say sorry for saying sorry. I’d agree —even if I didn’t for fear of rejection. Judgment.
Not anymore though.
I don’t know when it all clicked. But when it did, it did. And now, I want to share some things I’ve learned over the last decade. About myself. About life. About everything. Because nothing is what it seems. Nothing really goes according to plan. I mean, I had this picture in my head of who I thought I was. Who I thought I’d be. Of what life would turn out like. But that’s stupid. I see that now.
Why do we put such high expectations on ourselves? Why can’t we live in the moment more? And why can’t we be content with what we have instead of spending the precious moments we do being sad about something we made up in our heads that we thought we needed? Most of the time, the universe has a way of straightening things out far better than we ever could. I think we have to slow down a bit. I think we need to appreciate the small things a little more. Because they add up big time.
Plus, we’re not going to remember most of this shit anyway.
Like back when I was 16, my parents got divorced. I was a sophomore in high school and I thought my life was over. The McMansion I grew up in went into foreclosure and my dad left. He left the state. Fled —leaving my mom and me to pick up the pieces. The thing is, I don’t remember much. But I do remember something my dad said before he left. And for whatever reason, it stuck. He told me that these next two years are going to fly by. “Before you know it, you’ll be in college. Someplace new. Somewhere you can start over if you want too.”
I didn’t believe him. I mean, high school was all I knew. It was my every day for nearly two decades. And I thought things were going to stay like that forever. As if things were never going to get better. You know what though? They did. He was right. Before I knew it, my mom and I were driving to West Virginia University where I’d start over as a college freshman. No one knew me. I could be anything I wanted just like he said.
I could be happy. Content. Something I had wished for but always came up short.
The thing is, I could have been anyone or anything the whole damn time. I could have been happy. Content. It’s just, I was so fixated on everything I was loosing. Everything I lost. I failed to see what was in front of me. I didn’t understand that what I already had was, in fact, enough. And when I realized that, I also realized damn. Maybe I will be OK? Maybe I am OK? Happy. Content. Maybe I can get through it? Maybe I will? Because I did. Because I continue too.
And you know what? So can you. You just have to keep going. I can almost guarantee, there will be times along the way where you’ll probably want to give up. Don’t. Because you don’t have to see the whole staircase, as they say. You just have to take the first step. And yeah, you’re going to need some positive people in your corner but that’s why we have family. That’s why we have friends. At the end of the day though, it’s not about anybody else. It’s about you. It’s about me.
So, from 20-something to nearly 30, an age I knew I’d get too but never thought I’d actually be —this is what I’ve learned.
1. Damn. The Counting Crows Were Right.
Don’t it always seem to go —that we don’t know what we’ve got til it’s gone? Yes. Abso-fucking-lutely. I’m sure we could all sit here and think of someone (or something) we’ve lost. I’m sure we would love to have that someone or something back in our lives. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. Truth is, most likely, we knew what we had, we just never thought we’d lose it. And that’s a tough pill to swallow. Besides grief of any kind; whether it’s a relationship, the passing of a loved one, or even losing a tangible object with some type of sentimental value, hurts. It all hurts.
No matter how you slice it, loss is loss. What we ought to do is appreciate the people and things we have before they become what we did have. In short, don’t take anyone or anything for granted. Make sure those in your life know how grateful you are and how much you love them. Send that text, make that call. You probably won’t regret doing it, but you will regret it if you don’t. I wonder how many people have perished without ever realizing how much they were cherished? I say we change that.
2. I Say We Focus on What We Have, Not on What We Don’t.
Unfortunately, we live in a society of more. It seems like there’s no such thing as enough. We either don’t have enough stuff or we feel like we’re not enough. So many of us can’t stop worrying about fitting in. Like keeping up with the Joneses. Not looking perfect enough, not being productive enough, or not having enough friends. Sometimes we focus so much on what we don’t have that we fail to see, appreciate or even use what we do. Like what’s in front of us. What’s inside of us. You. Me. I mean, someone else out there right now is happier with less than what we both have. Think about that for a second.
3. Plus, the Most Important Relationship We Will Ever Have is With Ourselves. It’s All About Our Insides.
I’ve wasted far too many years beating myself up because I never felt good enough. I’d measure my self-worth based on how many friends I had or how many guys liked me. I tried to fill this impossible void by always having a boyfriend and self-medicating on pills and potions. I was running away from myself —until I realized, I’m a pretty cool chick. Because the relationship we have with ourselves is the foundation for everything else. So give yourself some credit. And never settle for someone who isn’t right for you merely because you’re afraid to be alone.
4. It’s Quality over Quantity Anyway.
The older I get, the fewer people I need. It wasn’t always this way though. Growing up, I had a fear of missing out like really bad. I had to be around a million people. I had to have a million friends. If I didn’t, I was a loser. A failure. Except, that couldn’t be more untrue. I think that’s normal though. When we’re young, we associate having a large social circle with being cool. And, while at times, I’m sure it was nice standing with a large group, when we start to mature, we realize that having a few true friends is way more important than having a shit ton of fake ones.
Sure, I admit, there are times when I wish I was oozing friends again.
I think one part of me, maybe, still longs to be a member of the cool girl’s club. Hey, I want to be liked as much as anyone. I mean, I’ve definitely felt the physical pangs of sadness (maybe some envy) when I see a pic on social media of friends together at some party knowing that I wasn’t invited. But popularity, likes, and invitations aren’t a measure of friendship (not a real one anyway). So I’m more than content knowing that while my BFF list might not be bursting at the seams, the ones on it are real AF.
Most of the people from my “past life” don’t even know the real me anyway. At least the girl I’ve been for a while now. Because I had to change. Because my addictive behavior was taking over my life. And I was about to lose it if something didn’t give. So I take full responsibility for the fallout. At the same time, those people didn’t have to change. They never struggled with addiction; so they’re the same person they’ve always been. So it makes sense that things have since shifted. It’s called the circle of life for a reason. Things are supposed to evolve.
For instance, you’d never catch me staying in on a Friday night; but today, that’s pretty much to be expected.
5. Because It’s More Than OK to be Boring.
I don’t get why people associate the word “boring” with such a negative connotation. Boring doesn’t mean bad. Boring doesn’t mean you’re missing out either. Because I’ve lived more lives in my 29 years than I can put into words. Because I had enough fun to last a lifetime. And because of that, I’m content. I don’t need to keep up with anyone. I don’t need to pretend either. I’m so out of the loop, yet —I’ve never been more satisfied. It’s rather freeing to not care. To live for yourself. To be healthy. To be happy.
Because my goals are different this time around. Like if you would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be cool with staying in on Saturday night, I would have laughed in your face. Like I said, back then, I always had to be doing something. I hated being alone. In fact, I made it my mission to not be. I wasn’t content with my insides nor how I felt about myself outwardly. But today I am. Are you? I think as we get older, we tend to exchange excitement for comfort. For freedom. And freedom means something different today.
Freedom is putting on my comfy clothes, making some hot tea and reading a good book.
Freedom is going to bed before midnight and actually wanting to get enough sleep. Freedom is waking up without needing a substance to get out of bed. Freedom is living for myself. For my family. Doing the next best thing. And yeah, it took awhile for me to get to this place. But now that I’m here, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Because I’ve grown up a lot. I never thought this would be me. But it is and I’m proud. So if freedom seems boring to you, guess what? I don’t care. I don’t care what you think. And that’s the point.
Because if boring means being seen as a leader, instead of a follower, then at least I know I’m living my truth and not somebody else’s. Because when I was young, I was a people-pleaser and probably a follower. I also needed everyone’s approval on just about everything. I needed to fit in. I had too. If someone called me boring, I’d set out to prove them wrong. Except now that I’m 29, things are different. Because in this case, different is good. So yeah, I might be boring but I’ve also never been happier.
And if you’re like me, if you can’t believe you’re closer to 30 than you are 20; please remember this:
Remember that the Counting Crows were right —you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Remember to focus on the things you already have. Stop dwelling on what you don’t. Remember that the most important relationship, you’ll ever have is with yourself. Plus, it’s quality over quantity anyway. Remember that being boring isn’t a bad thing. Because it’s OK if you are. Oh, and if you’re not the same person you were 10 years ago, that’s OK too. Because if we don’t change, we don’t grow. And if we don’t grow, we really aren’t living.