Well, against my wishes, another year passed and I added another forehead wrinkle. The pants continue their battle against my waistline and I find staying awake in long increments almost as hard as running a mile. I mean, if I ran a mile. I don’t, cause I’m sane, but if I did.. that’d probably be just as hard.
As an anxiety-filled person, I reflect a lot, on myself, what I said (either earlier today or in 8th grade to that boy in 4th period), and on my life in general. Mostly when I think about my life I find myself asking the questions like: Am I doing this right? Am I figuring this out or fucking it up? What have I figured out?
And that brings us here. So, what have I learned in 10,950 solid days on this earth?
1. I learned that my past doesn’t have to define me. I don’t have to fit in this box of life because I did this or I didn’t do this. I went to the biggest Baptist University in the World. I also probably slept with half the football team. Fit that in the same box.
2. I’ve learned that I don’t really care what other people think about me, and ironically, I think people have liked me more because of it. Now sure, I’d LOVE for everyone to love me. I like people and I like when they like me. And in just about everyone I can find something I like about them and enjoy a conversation. I think there’s good in everyone and I like to find that. That being said, if someone just read my #1 and decided they didn’t like me because I slutted it up in my college years, so be it. They are allowed their opinions as much as I am allowed to make my choices. And at the end of the day, nothing they think affects my life. They don’t pay my bills and they don’t make life decisions with me so what does it matter? I realize this may seem an obvious point, but if you knew how much sleep I’ve lost in my years over people that I heard didn’t like me…*facepalm* I’d totally tit-punch young me right now if I could.
3. I’ve learned playing an instrument is incredibly hard and the people that do it are incredibly talented. I am not one of those people. But I will keep strumming my three chords.
4. I’ve learned it’s okay to quit. From relationships to jobs to anything that doesn’t bring you joy. You don’t have to stick it out to get that profit-sharing at your five year mark. You don’t have to stay just because you love them. You don’t have to keep reading the book if it doesn’t interest you. Time is so unbelievably valuable, wasting one second on something that doesn’t add to your life is a million times worse than walking away and finding something that does.
Don’t waste your time. Not on boring books, shitty jobs, or bad lovers.
5. I’ve learned the things I was most terrified to do have truly been the most rewarding. I’ve quit my corporate jobs twice now, not having anything lined up, not knowing what my plan was, just knowing I needed something different. The first time I did that, I shoved what I could fit in my trunk, and my 3 most important things in life (my two dogs and my niece) in the cab of my car and drove 2400 miles home. I didn’t have a job lined up. I didn’t know when I’d get one, or how I’d pay my car payment. I knew we wouldn’t be sleeping outside and that was enough. Because of that, I was able to get back home and surround myself with people who supported me, and I got sober.
The next most terrifying thing was leaving my ex. Call it co-dependency, maddened love, extreme insecurity, low self-esteem, or really: all of the above. When I made the decision and walked away promising I’d never look back, things got SO much better. I started at the gym and losing weight. I made friends. I wasn’t holed up at home alone every night waiting for a call. I met AMAZING people. I changed my body. I raised my self-esteem (and my standards). I had thought I was broken and unlovable, but it’s amazing what you’ll put up with when you don’t believe in yourself.
6. I’ve learned life has a way of working itself out even if you can’t see it at the time. Having blind faith that it will work out is the best route. Some might call it plain stupidity, they may be right, but its a less stressful route and what’s worrying going to help? (I say this now, but i totally still worry about things I can’t control..I’m still learning)
7. I’ve learned that friends you’ve only known a short period can take the place of family. Opening my life up and all the mess I truly am has only brought me the cream of the crop people in existence. I spent years trying to hide things about myself, my past, and my struggles and found by letting them out it attracted an entire realm of people that I didn’t even know existed. Embracing who you are and what you’ve gone through is quite liberating. And the right people will find you when you do.
8. I’ve learned that I’m not good at saying no, and it’s incredibly hard for me to set boundaries. I am still learning why I’m that way, and I know I’ll need to work on this. So I still consider the recognition progress. 🙂
9. I’ve learned debt in the anti-Christ to freedom. No vehicle, new television, or any other object is worth being a slave to a debtor. I can proudly say short of my student loans, I live a debt free life as of this month and it provides a lot of freedom that I need.
10. I’ve learned that when I was chasing a title to a job, or the next biggest raise, I was chasing the approval of others and the materialistic happiness- which I learned isn’t real. No one ever bought a brand new car and had their life changed and lost all their sad they had been previously carrying around. I repeat. NO ONE.
I’ve seen first hand people living in gorgeous 5 and 6 bedroom homes, more cars than drivers, more toys in their carpark than you could spend a weekend driving, and then confide in me that they are, in fact, quite miserable. And worse, they don’t know why. My heart hurts when I hear that cause how do you fix something when you don’t know what’s broke? I felt that a lot when I went through depression and people would ask “but why are you sad?”
Now, I’m not saying that the material things brought these people in these beautiful homes this unhappiness, no. That’d be silly. Who doesn’t like the feeling of a new pair of jeans? (Well, not me, because they are pants, but.. I digress). But I look at these people that tell me these things and wonder “what if you had took that $300 you spent at Lululemon, and used it for a weekend away with you and your spouse instead? Would that of helped rebuild a bit of the failing relationship, perhaps make more memories of happiness for you to draw on when the times got tough? I think it would. I think we forget people are meant to be loved, and things are meant to be used, not the other way around. I’ve learned loving people is always the most important.
11. I’ve learned I’m the happiest when I placed my time and energy in living life through adventures and meaningful connections.
12. I’ve learned we’re in an over-consuming, material-buying, product-obsessing culture and we need about 10% of the shit we own. Seriously. TEN. PERCENT. I’ve purged SO much stuff I held on to way too long thinking “but I can’t get rid of that, it’s my KATE SPADE!”, or “but I might wear that shirt again if I find the right pants, even though I haven’t worn it in seven years”.
Throw. That. Shit. Out.
GET IT OUT OF YOU LIFE.
The amount of freedom not being tied to moving a bunch of shit around or stepping over clothes you don’t wear is life-changing. Watch the Minimalists on Netflix. Before I buy anything I ask myself “will this bring value to my life?” Most often times, I find the answer is no. Free your life from unnecessary clutter.
13. I’ve learned the “American Dream” is a god-damn lie. Growing up I was told, arguably had it beat into my head, that you graduate high school, go to a good college, get a degree, then get a great job where you climb this corporate ladder and make more and more money until you retire, and then you get to enjoy your “golden years” vacationing and living the dream.
What. A. Bunch. Of. Shit.
You know what you don’t have at 65 (if you’re even able to retire then)? A whole lot of energy to be climbing mountains and sleeping in hostels. You know what you’re gambling on waiting until you’re 65 to start really living? Your health. What if I get cancer? What if I lose a leg in a car accident? What if a rhino escapes the Woodland Park Zoo while I’m doing my yearly walk and tramples me right in the park? What then?
Any goal or dream that prevents you from being able to also live your life in the NOW, the only moment we actually ever have, is a crock of shit. Putting life on hold for 35-40 years while working in corporate America for someone else’s dream, while you try to manage getting by on 10-14 days vacation a year, and THEN you get to live your life (health willing)? Fuck. That.
Live it now. Tomorrow isn’t promised, let alone 35-40 years. If you make it that far, it may be good genes, circumstance, or luck. But I have just never been a gambler, and definitely not on the most important thing we have, the only thing we have: our life.
14. I’ve learned it’s never to late to start following your heart. You know what I wasn’t asked growing up? What makes your heart soar? What lights you up when you think about it? What would you do if money wasn’t an issue? No one ever asked me that. Not once. It was “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And my answer was always “I have no idea”. And I don’t. I still don’t.
But if someone had asked me “what makes you the happiest? What do you love doing in your free time? What would you pursue if you weren’t worried you would fail?” , then the answers would’ve been some mix of “animals, writing, comedy, travel”. BAM. Answered. No hesitation. I’ve always known I love those things. But no one asked me that, myself included, until about one year ago, and it was a manager at my gym. And that got my wheels spinning more, and thinking ‘what if I tried that?”. And here we are, still by NO means making it, but also not hating every minute of my life doing something I hate. I’m still learning, but I like to think I’m in the right direction- most times.
15. I’ve learned love scares me now. I think people that knew me back in the day would of said I was a hopeless romantic. I blame my mother for buying me every Disney movie ever (in reality, I begged for them). I’m such a stupid sap. I cry at weddings. I’ve been in nine, attended over 20 and I have yet to NOT cry. I love when I hear people talking about their loved ones. I love fairy tales. But I hate the endings. They destroy me. So, I’ve found my heart and energy is much better vested in my friends and animals. The return on investment is infinitely better.
16. I’ve learned that there is no price to be put on your health. My dad has always told me this growing up. “Your health is your #1 priority. It’s your house you live in forever, Tash. It’s all you have. You have to take care of it. AND GOD DAMNIT WOULD YOU PUT THE DONUT DOWN WHILE I’M TALKING TO YOU!” Err.. something like that. I may have been distracted. 😉
He’s right though, as he often is in his life wisdom he passes down to me. I keep my bills as low as possible to further add to a life of freedom I need. When I first joined a gym 1.5 years ago and was debating on the cost, I called my dad. My father is an excellent budgeter/financer/planner and I was more than certain he was going to tell me that was way too much to spend.
Instead, he said “Honey, if it makes you go, it’s worth it. Spending $10 at a gym you won’t step foot in is actually a waste of money. There is no amount of money to put a price on your health and taking care of yourself. If is costs that much but makes you go, it’s worth every single penny. If buying the fancy water makes you drink it, buy it. You can pay the farm now or the pharmacist later. Take care of yourself.”
You ever notice how you never think about how nice it is to breathe until you’re sick? And your nose is stuffed and you’re coughing up the crud and then you’re like OMG OXYGEN IS SO NICE, WHY DID I TAKE IT FOR GRANTED LIKE AN ASSHOLE!?! That’s what I think not taking care of yourself when you get older will be like. It’s important to do it now.
17. I’ve learned sunscreen is a necessity. Wrinkles suck and skin cancer probably does also, and I don’t want to find that out.
18. I’ve learned I was still a good person even when I struggled with my alcohol and depression. I learned that no matter where I was in my journey, a person that loves you would not try to make you feel worse by your faults. That true love reaches down to lift you up, or give you a hand, or sit in the mud with you (as my friend Brig once said to me), until you can stand. I was never malicious, or reckless with someone’s heart or feelings (intentionally), I was never mean. I still stood by my morals, I didn’t cheat. I didn’t lie. I was still a good person, I was just still learning how to be better.
19. I’ve learned spending a lot of time on myself and learning about myself was the best thing I ever did and long overdue. I don’t mean ‘do I like Mexican or Chinese or American food?” No, that’s stupid. (The answer is obviously D: all of the above). I mean like “What makes my blood boil? What situations increase my chances of having an anxiety attack? What methods work best for calming me down? What the best way for self-care? What makes me happy? What makes my energy feel lower after I do it? Or WHO makes my energy feel higher/lower after I’m around them? How much sleep is too much sleep? (Answer: 13 hours). How much food is too much food? (Answer: Still researching). I hope you get my point.
Finding these answers has opened doors to understanding and handling situations better, and managing my own moods.
20. I’ve learned that I’ve never regretted being kind. It goes so far in this often times difficult life. Be kind, always.
So here’s to another year in the books. I look forward to more adventures and to see what else this life has in store for me. And I hope more than anything, my struggles can help someone else avoid a bump or two in their life.
Cheers to another year, if I’m lucky enough to get one. 🙂