Finding Yourself

People say that the 20s are when we find ourselves. That’s why people go away for college – to find themselves.

I’ve never agreed with this, because I feel like I’ve known exactly who I am since I was about 8 years old.

That’s not to say that I haven’t grown and matured, come up with different ways to handle different situations, let go of relationships, etc… but for as long as I can remember, I have known exactly who I am and what I want.

The thing I’ve never known is how to get what I want.

This is where networking comes in, I guess. Even if you don’t know anyone who can actually do anything to get you closer to what you want, you could at least network your way to a conversation with someone who did it, or did something similar, so you can get a sense of at least one way that it could be done.

If you feel like you’ve already found yourself and you know what you want, I would say the next step for you is making a tangible plan of how you’re going to get there.

Maybe you want to be a writer. Try to get in contact with other writers and ask how they got where they are. Make sure you are writing every day, even if it’s a journal, and you’re the only one who reeds it.

Maybe you want to be a doctor. Contact other doctors, ask how they got where they are, and make sure you’ve got all the necessary education under your belt, or at least a plan to complete it.

If you’re still finding yourself, and still figuring out what you want to do, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Try everything. Travel. Go sightseeing. Start a new job. Google top 10 things to do in your city, and try everything on the list you’ve never done before – even if they don’t seem interesting upon reading about it.

I think this would even be a valuable task for those who feel we have found ourselves and know what we want – because if we haven’t figured out how to get there, maybe we’re supposed to be doing something else.

I don’t know who said, “when one door closes, another one opens” but if that’s a true phrase that we should live by, we have to be careful to understand that it doesn’t say “when one door that leads to destination A closes, another one opens that still leads to destination A.” Maybe the other door leads somewhere else, entirely. Somewhere we never thought we would go. Somewhere we never dreamed of.

This place may be amazing… but it may be terrible. It may lead to more trials and tribulations that we have to endure to prepare us for what we will find behind the next door.

Maybe finding yourself isn’t just knowing who you are and what you want. Maybe it includes knowing how to get there.

Another saying I like is “life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” This means we have choices.

You’re not lost, you’re right here. Maybe you don’t know what you want. Maybe you do, but you don’t know how to get it. Maybe you struggle with making decisions. That doesn’t mean you’re lost. It means you have options. Choices. Power.

We’re all on a journey. Sometimes it’s easy, most of the time it’s hard. It’s a hell of a lot easier, in my opinion, if you’ve got someone to go through the journey with. But if you’re like me, and you’re going it alone right now, just remember that so far, you have survived every single bad day that you’ve ever had.

No matter how bad things are today, think about all of the bad times that you survived. You made it – you’re still here. And I know that some days that isn’t enough. Some days you’d rather not be here than be here with your bad memories and pain and sorrow. But just like happy moments don’t last forever, neither do sad ones.

Tell yourself whatever you need to hear and believe to keep going.

You will get through this.

It is okay.

You’re exactly where you need to be – and if that place is not where you want to be, remember where you’ve been. You’re not where you used to be, and you’re not where you’re going. You have time. Things will change. You will get there.

Your Motivation Comes from Within You

I watched an excellent film last night, Ask Me Anythingwritten and directed by Allison Burnett. Britt Robertson gives an amazing lead performance as recent high school graduate, Katie, with a dark past who takes a gap year before college and chronicles all of her secrets on an anonymous blog. There are many light moments as well, as Katie is a hilarious character, but as she sinks into bad habits to cope with the traumas of her life, she reveals much about the way we think and act as humans.

You can find the film on Netflix, and I highly recommend it, it’s very eye-opening.

One of the characters in the movie makes a list of 10 bitter truths, as he believes them to be:

  1. Complete honesty is a complete lie
  2. Marriage is sacred only to those who have never been married.
  3. Money is more integral to happiness than romantic love.
  4. Every human being is a contradiction. Some hide it better than others.
  5. Never underestimate the tendency of human beings to act contrary to their own best interests.
  6. Were it not for the fear of getting caught, most of us would behave like savages.
  7. All sex has consequences, most of them dire.
  8. The older you get, the faster time flies until months pass like days.
  9. There’s no such thing as living happily ever after.
  10. Everything gets worse.

I certainly don’t agree with everything on this list, but I think the point of it being brought up in the film is what follows – the character who writes this list continues to say that if young people knew these truths about life, they would give up. They wouldn’t bother to go to college, pursue careers or relationships, volunteer, become champions for global causes, or try to change the world.

This makes a lot of sense.

Take religion, for example. Many people do not believe in a higher power. They think that religion was created to get people to think and act a certain way, and that the Bible and other religious texts were more or less written by cult leaders to persuade us.

It’s kind of like when you’re a 6 year old girl, a boy at school picks on you, and your mom tells you it’s because he likes you. This may be true, but it may also just be what you want to hear because it makes you feel better.

Maybe God isn’t real, but I choose to believe that he is because the alternative – believing that we simply exist just to exist, and were not put here by any higher power for any actual purpose – is too much for me to handle. I can’t live that way, I would go crazy.

The way I see it, if I die and find out that God is real, I’m safe, beyond having been skeptical of him at times. If I die and find out that God isn’t real, nothing bad happens to me in the afterlife, and I lived a fulfilling life on Earth to the best of my ability. It’ a win-win.

It’s all in your perspective.

 

We tell ourselves and each other what we need to hear to keep going, but that being said, we also tell ourselves and each other what we need to hear to quit, either because we are scared, or jealous to see someone surpass us… there are countless reasons, but at the end of the day you have to decide for yourself what to believe and what to pursue.

I choose purpose. I refuse to believe that there is nothing more to my life than becoming a corporate robot, working the same 9-5 job that I hate for 20 years, marrying someone who does the same, buying a house, having 2 kids and a dog, and then watching them grow up and repeat my life.

Some people aspire to the corporate office job and white picket fence life thing, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I am just not one of those people. I want a job that I love, not a job that I’m great at but tolerate. I want to wake up in the morning and be excited for work, feeling like I get to go there rather than I have to go there.

Another one of my favorite quotes from Ask Me Anything is “your generation is addicted to attention” which I think is sadly true.

“If you don’t post it, it didn’t happen” seems to be the slogan of today. When you go out to eat with friends, are you really enjoying each other’s company? Or are you all instagramming your plates and checking in so everyone else knows that you went out to dinner?

I’ll tell you one thing – the way I decide rather to pursue a friendship or not, is by how much time I spend on my phone when we’re together. If I stare at my phone the entire time you’re talking and I’m not waiting on an important call from a family member, it’s because your conversation is not interesting and I do not want to be with you. If I put my phone down and am truly engaged in what you have to say, I hope we will become best friends.

We are addicted to attention, and it’s sad. Whenever I tell people that I have a blog, their first question is, “Really? How many followers do you have?”

You know what? I don’t have a lot of followers, and I don’t care. My goal isn’t to have a lot of followers, it is to hopefully help someone. Someone who is struggling through life, like I am. Someone who feels completely alone and doesn’t feel like anyone understands them. Someone who is searching for direction and doesn’t know where to find it.

That can be one person.

If I touch one single person in my lifetime by something I wrote, be it here on this blog, or my novel if it ever gets published, or a song if those are ever heard by somebody else – that will be enough for me. That is what’s important to me.

Maybe it’s all pointless, but if you believe that, you’ll never reach your goals.

If there is something you want to do, make a plan, and put it into action. You might not make it. You might spend your entire life trying. So you do need to ask yourself if you’re okay with that, or if you’d rather refocus your efforts on something else. If you choose something else, there is nothing wrong with that.

The key is to stop looking at life as wasted time.

I feel like I wasted the last 4 years by going to college instead of working on creative projects like music and my book, because I spent a lot of time on those in high school and that is when I last remember being truly and consistently happy. I wasn’t necessarily working toward a career in music or writing, but those were things that I loved so I spent my free time on them. I have since lost sight of that, now that I’ve reached a point in my life where I have to start looking for a career, I spend my free time wishing I had a desire to do something in corporate, because I live in St. Louis and I have good opportunities that have nothing to do with entertainment, rather than just working on my music and writing for fun like I used to, and then seeing what I can do with it when it’s finished.

Your motivation isn’t going to come from outside of you, it comes from within you. You can get a little push here and there from a friend, family member, or coworker or whatever, put people are just as quick to tear you down as they are to build you up.

What do you want? What’s holding you back? What changes are you going to make to get there?

Focus on the Important Things

Last week I hung out with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. We got to talking about relationships and stuff, and he mentioned how I always seem to date guys who don’t treat me right and end up angry, to which I replied something to the effect of, “yeah, but one day we’ll catch up and I’ll say I finally found someone great!”

My friend shook his head, laughed, and said, “I’m hoping that one day we’ll talk and you’ll not mention a guy at all. You’ll tell me you’re doing good, working on your book, loving your job, and made some new friends.”

Until he said this, it never really occurred to me how badly I always seem to want a boyfriend. It’s not that I go out looking for them, I guess it’s just easier… when I’m dating someone I talk to them all the time about everything, and don’t have to worry about scheduling time together because it’s just understood that we will see each other every weekend.

With friends, I feel like I’m constantly reaching out, trying to coordinate schedules, find a place we both like to eat, or a movie we can agree on seeing, and for some reason I’m always the one doing the planning and it makes me feel like I’m annoying them.

But my friend is right – I’ve been too focused on being alone and being sad about it that I haven’t been focusing on things like my book.

I’m 23 now, and I feel like everyone around me is getting engaged, but the reality is some people are still going out partying every night, some are still trying to find their first full time post-college job, others are working, but still searching for meaning, like me, and others seem to have everything together and have already moved to the next phase of life – marriage, kids, etc. I just have to remember that all of these categories exist, not just the last one.

I reactivated my Facebook a couple of weeks ago, although I was planning to stay off of it for a year, I needed it as a communication tool since I’m now the president of my sorority’s alumnae association. A lot of people are more easily reached by Facebook than email. However, I want to note what a difference the 3 months without it made. I did not reinstall the Facebook app on my phone, I only access it from my computer, and the urge to check it frequently is completely gone. I probably get on Facebook once a week, I check my messages and post in the sorority group, and I get right off. I’m not scrolling through my feed for hours looking at other people’s lives like I used to, and it feels so good.

I had a really great conversation with my dad yesterday during breakfast. For the first time in a while it was just the two of us, and the conversation wasn’t awkward or abrupt, it wasn’t angry or uncomfortable, and it lasted a while. We talked about the bible and work and life, and I feel like he really listened to me and understood where I was coming from, and I understood his perspective as well and really appreciated the examples he provided from his own life.

These are the important things – the conversation with my dad, my ability to get on and off Facebook in less than 10 minutes without comparing my life to someone else – these are things I wanted to improve on that I have improved on, and these are the things I need to focus on.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Maybe things aren’t happening as fast as you’d like them to, but that’s okay. I wanted to be past chapter 10 of writing my book by now, but I’m not. I’ve gotten distracted, I’ve wasted a lot of time sleeping in or stressing about other things – but I’m not going to let that setback stop me. I’m going to make new deadlines for April, and work harder to follow those.

If you’re setting goals and having a hard time reaching them, take a step back and write down all of the things that you have reached. They don’t have to be big. Maybe you slept in 6 days this week instead of 7. Maybe you refrained from online shopping. Maybe you got out of your comfort zone by trying a new food or reached out to someone you really miss for the 3rd time hoping they’ll finally respond and connect with you.

Setbacks are okay. They happen. We all fall short at times. But we have the power to get back up and to start again.

Just stay focused on the important things.

You’re exactly where you need to be.