Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I turned 31 in March. There was a noticeable decline in Giving a Shit from when I turned 30, and that was already a pretty significant fall. I recall waking up the day of my 30th birthday and caring a little bit less about... well, everything. I felt more relaxed in my own skin and comfortable with my life. Turning 30 was like reaching the end of the hardest race you've ever run and finally getting a moment to coast.

So imagine my surprise at the existential dread that hit me as I approached 31. There's a difference, you see, between turning 30 and finding yourself in your thirties. Thirty is the new twenty-five. Your life is beginning and there are so many possibilities ahead of you. You're experienced but still learning. You're an established, independent adult but with a youthful zeal. You can continue to shop at the same stores you did in your twenties, and Aerie has such comfy leggings. But 31? Congratulations, you're old. You're seeing your body break down. There are grey hairs just popping up all over the place. Like my chin. There's 30, and then there's "well you're nearing 40." I still get acne, though. I guess that's the last trappings of youth on an aging face?

But it wasn't the noticeable and gradual breakdown of the body I've abused and neglected. It wasn't waking up sore just from sleeping in a different position, or the prominent dark circles under my eyes that never seem to fade. Nope, it was the question I'd always been able to brush aside with confidence.

What have I done with my life?

What have I contributed to the world? What will anyone think of when they think of me? Will they think of me at all? Have I made any impression on those around me? People I know have switched careers, moved far away, started businesses, started families. They donate and volunteer. They are determined and successful. They are inspiring. But instead of feeling inspired, I just felt overwhelmed and unfit. It's that impostor syndrome, rearing it's ugly head after years of building self confidence.

I'm 31 years old and it had taken me so long to get to a point in my life where I'd not only started to accept who I am, but to have pride in myself. Maybe it's gender related, maybe it's generational, maybe it's years of self doubt causing me to question everything I do, but even the idea of having pride in my life and what I do feels... bad. As if somehow "I'm proud of the person I've become" is a shameful statement. I thought hitting my thirties would be the time I worked myself out of that mindset.

And maybe it is.

Sure, I don't own my own business. I'm not much of a business idea person and the truth is the concept of a daily grind doesn't have a large appeal to me. And that's okay! I have hobbies and goals that I'll never financially profit from, and those keep me as busy as I want to be. Nearing 30 I found myself feeling confident with who I already am. Perhaps this next decade is when I'm able to look around and say, "This is okay, but what can I do to really get the most out of my life?" No one wants to find they've peaked, and they certainly don't want to find out they peaked at 30. The more I started to think about it, the sillier the notion of reaching some finish line at 31 seemed. Maybe I can no longer turn my neck all the way to the left and these grey hairs just keep growing like weeds, but our thirties are still so early in our lives. We have the benefit of lessons learned in our twenties, the same youth we've learned to enjoy, and free time that comes with established priorities. However, hangovers do last at least two days. You'll want to consider this when you're drinking on a Saturday.

At 31, I know enough to realize my life isn't exactly where I want it to be. But now I recognize that that doesn't equate to failure. I can grow because I want to continue to improve, not because I feel like I'm not enough.

Maybe you've had this thought at any age. Maybe you're in your twenties and wondering if you're the only one blindly feeling your way through life. (Spoiler, you aren't. There's a pretty good chance everyone else is as internally terrified as you are.) But at some point you start to see that you're taking things in stride and you feel more prepared. And before you know it, you're 31 and you can feel "IDGAF" in your soul in the most positive of ways.

30 was full of some challenges and changes, and I can't wait to see where the next decade takes me. Most importantly, I realize that I can determine that path myself.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

I am sometimes sarcastic.

Recently I've been listening to the soundtrack for a Broadway musical almost nonstop. Not sure if you've heard of it, but it's called Hamilton. Why did no one tell me how great this is? Maybe it's just not really well known. I'm sure tickets are easy to get and don't require selling a kidney to afford.

I want to make it clear: this is sarcasm. It’s astonishing how many people that actually know me continue to take what I say at face value, with the utmost seriousness. I once jokingly “threatened” a friend about going to an overcrowded, mediocre restaurant, saying I would throw away the Christmas gifts I had bought her. In reality, I’d go wherever she wanted and not care as long as food ended up on my plate. Despite the clear intent, a third party was aghast, and called me every name he could think of. Thankfully, he didn’t think for too long. (Imagine what it’s like to go through life with such a literal sense of humor. I hope to never endure any kind of cognitive injury that would cause that.)

Here’s some advice, friends: don’t entertain people who consistently see the worst in you.
These people will pretend that they want to help you, as if you’re some puzzle that needs completion--as if they have the missing pieces. This isn’t for your benefit, but rather, for their satisfaction. Yes, it’s helpful and healthy to have people in your life who will be honest with you when you’re not being your best self. Sometimes we need people to tell us to step back because we’re acting a little crazy and letting our anxieties get the best of us, or that we’re losing our focus on goals.
No one is so self-aware and well-adjusted that they don’t need this kind of cheerleader in their corner. If you think that you’re that person, you’re wrong and could benefit from some honesty from the people close to you. I say this from a place of love--you can be a better person.
(That’s another joke.)
I think of it like this: imagine that you’ve hired a personal trainer. This trainer tells you, “I just know if I don’t make you work out, you won’t do it”--even if you’ve faithfully gone to the gym and worked out independently every day. Or maybe after a week of clean eating, you have a slice of pizza, and the trainer exaggerates your indulgence by saying, “You’re always eating junk and that's why you're fat." They criticize every roadblock and misstep as "just who you are as a person," because they believe that you'll never succeed without their direct influence.
You’d probably want to stop paying a trainer as unproductive as this one is, right? You would definitely, at the very least, lose motivation to keep working out. A trainer this critical and pessimistic is no more helpful than a trainer who makes excuses for you and tells you that you’re doing great, even when you see no progress toward your goals.
Now imagine those same situations, but with a trainer who is understanding, positive, and productive. Had some pizza? Hey, you're human and pizza is delicious. Just focus on moderation and make sure you keep cheat meals on schedule. Skipped a workout? Fitness takes effort and no one else can do it for you. Rest days are important, but rest days should also be on schedule. These are encouraging words of advice, guidance, and motivation. This type of feedback is empowering. It reminds you that you are in control of your actions and you can reach your goals if you put forth the effort.
Being told you’re awful is not at all the same as being told you can do better.
So, why do we allow people we call friends to act like the first trainer toward us? Maybe you’re comfortable in long friendships that are ingrained into your life, or maybe you’re simply afraid of losing people who are in your circle. Maybe we don’t even see the difference in their treatment of us and what real encouragement is supposed to look like. With enough naysaying, we may start to believe their insults. Telling your friend that they’re awful isn’t tough love--it’s just mean.
You can guarantee that exactly one person will be with you throughout your entire life. That person is you. I’m not saying that to be depressing or overly harsh. It’s just something as reliable as death, taxes, and losing your debit card in a parking lot because you just tossed it into a bag after stopping in a drive-through and telling yourself, “I’ll just put it back later.” (Another inevitability is realizing how many companies have that information when you cancel the card and start getting phone calls.)
Anyway, my point is: all our lives, we will (or should) strive to be better people. We have to learn to live with ourselves. Having so much negativity in your life, no matter the source, only makes it harder. Whether they’re taking your sarcasm literally by assuming the worst about you, or constantly cutting you down to make you fit in a mold they deem fit, they don’t actually produce any positivity or radical changes in your life.
I’ve discovered that I am filled with enough self-doubt that I don’t actually need someone else telling me I’m right. I need someone to tell me that I’m not at my best, and I can be better. However, this requires constructive criticism and sincere encouragement--and that requires my friends to look past my complications and downfalls to see that I really am trying to do better.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

It's Been a While

Hello. It’s me.

That would have been funnier if I had written it back when that song was still popular, which is also when this dropped off the radar. I haven’t written here since 2016. I actually haven’t written anything since 2016, and I’ll kindly ask for patience while I knock the rust off. It may be a while and will probably involve more backtracking than progress. Not unlike everything else in my life.

Let’s not just pick up where we left off. Last time I posted an entry here I had just quit my job and moved to Columbia. I sold my house, and got an apartment with a roommate that quickly became a best friend. Living in Columbia, with family and so many friends nearby, I was happy. I was probably the happiest I’d been in years, or maybe ever.

So of course something had to go horribly wrong. I moved because I needed something new, including a new job. And the new job was okay, and seemed to provide the challenge I was looking for.  I worked with some great people. Unfortunately, I also worked in an incredibly toxic environment. I was constantly in tears. I had a boss that made it clear he wanted me gone. Something had to give and I decided that it would be me. Everything else is perfect, except this job- the one thing that has always been a driver in my life. So, I quit. I turned in my resignation letter, finished out a week, and I was done.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t love the look of shock on my manager’s face. Honestly, I don’t know why he was surprised. He’d put me on probation. He’d discussed termination steps. He’d caught me looking for jobs while I was still at work with a desk that faced his office door. And yet he had the audacity to tell me he was caught off guard. I knew how much I’d grown as a person when I didn’t start laughing at him.

Now anyone that knows me knows I don’t make huge changes without knowing exactly what’s going to happen next. I am not a risk-taker. My idea of taking a risk is not looking at or changing my seat assignments on an airplane. What if I’m in the middle? What if I’m near the back when I have a short layover and need to rush off? Just thinking about it gets my adrenaline pumping.

So anyway, I started a new job in Florida. I left this perfect life with the perfect roommate and perfect social circle and perfect gym, and moved to a city where I knew literally no one for a new job that I had never done before. It was me, and my two dogs.

Which, in case you didn’t know, soon became one dog. Within the first six weeks of moving to Florida, Emmett developed a tumor in his spine that couldn’t be treated. I drove him back to South Carolina to say goodbye and let him go.

And I started thinking about this blog. I said so many times that life after something like divorce would be a huge change. The subtitle to this blog is about change. And yet I’d been living in the same house, with the same job, doing the same things I had when I was married. Feels a little disingenuous now that I look back on it. A lot has changed. I still have a lot to say. I’m still just unsure of what to do with this. I want to continue. I want to do something that may help and entertain other people.

A theme would help. Who doesn’t love a theme? Just some kind of unifying note throughout it all, that may help keep me focused as well as build an audience. For a brief moment I considered making the central theme of this a fitness blog, but then I saw myself naked in the mirror.

Maybe I just need to continue writing, forcing myself to sit down and put something out on a regular basis. Waiting for inspiration or some catalyzing event doesn’t get things done. As Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs- the rest of us just show up and get to work.” The only way I’m going to make anything of this little venture is to keep doing it. The only way I’ll be a better writer is to keep doing it, and that includes the failures.

So stay tuned. I’ll want to write about the things that lead me to this spot in my life. The people that have taught me so much and how it’s helped me cope. Or how leaving behind almost everything from my “old life” has allowed me to become who I am. And feel free to keep me on track. Feel free to comment or reach out. Feel free to make suggestions on where this can go.

I’m serious. Suggestion box is open. #helpme