“Happiness”

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” ― Albert Camus

A dear and incredibly wise friend of mine posted some very interesting food for thought on social media. She said, “Happiness is too fleeting and trivial a thing to be the main goal for something as massive and wondrous as life.” Being naturally inclined to have deep discussions, I posed back, “What makes happiness trivial, and who says it has to be fleeting?” We fleshed out the thought back and forth, and it just really made me think  about the way we romanticize this idea of “happiness.” We tell ourselves that the best thing to aspire to is happiness, but how do we know when we’re there? Are we ever really there? In telling ourselves that happiness is the pinnacle, are we discrediting any unhappy experiences as not worthwhile? Should the take home be that anything that isn’t what we perceive as happiness isn’t as valuable? There are many, many quotes and cliches about this subject. As a culture inundated with images of perfection, happy smiling faces, and true love, we lean away from discomfort. We only talk about struggles once they are over, and we have a happy outcome. Underdog stories only inspire us if they result in victory. But isn’t there something valuable in accepting defeat, understanding loss, and feeling pain? Without those things, we wouldn’t even have a barometer for what “happiness” means.

I am always perceived as a very happy person. It’s the compliment I get from people I meet and people who have known me a really long time. They will tell you how positive I am, and that I always know how to cheer people up. I am also clinically depressed. I only recently accepted this and started taking medication to treat it. But I’m a great example of someone who isn’t really sure what “happy” feels like, but knows what it looks like. If we tell ourselves that truly being happy is the only end objective, what are we telling people like me? Wouldn’t be less pressure to just let happiness be a pleasant treat along the way? Like stopping for ice cream on the way home from school, having a candy bar in the middle of a long work day, or hearing your favorite song during a long commute. If we took the emphasis off being happy, wouldn’t it be easier to achieve? What’s wrong with aspiring to be someone great, rather than just someone who’s “happy”? (Not that the two are mutually exclusive, mind you.) I want to help people, to inspire them, to empower them. And it turns out, I don’t have to always be happy to do that, nor am I done once I feel “happy.” Does that make me a cynic or even more of an optimist? Even I don’t know. But that’s the beautiful thing, I don’t have to know everything. And neither do you.

This week’s 5 things I love about myself:

  1. I love the mole on my chin. It’s the same mole that my mother and her mother have. It’s an accent mark that makes me a part of something bigger.
  2. I love my love. My heart goes zero to one hundred. I love hard and fast, and even if it doesn’t last, I never regret the heartbreaks.
  3. I love my hair. Okay, sometimes I bitch about it because it gets crazy, but I love it because my curls come from my dad, who I loved more than anyone or anything.
  4. I love that I get bold when I’m drunk. Yes, I kiss people I shouldn’t, and yes, I sometimes foolishly text my exes. But drunk me is unfiltered me, and I’ll never be ashamed of that.
  5. I love the me that plans and outlines steps for everything… and the me that panics and does nothing on the planned out list. I need both of these components for balance. (and I’m only a little sorry that this makes me 30 minutes early or 10 minutes late for nearly everything.)

Planting Self Love Seeds

“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self love deficit.”
― Eartha Kitt

A friend recently issued a challenge on social media that everyone should try to name 50 things they love about themselves. As a person who struggles with self acceptance some days, this much self love seemed impossible. Truthfully, it still does. But every journey starts with a choice to move forward, no matter how gradual the progress. My personal goal is currently to name 5 things a week for 10 weeks. I challenge anyone who actually reads this to try the same, obviously adjusting the goal as you see fit. Maybe with enough practice the task won’t seem as daunting. Stay tuned here for a weekly update of how I’m doing.

This week’s list:

  1. I love my legs. Toned without conscious intention, killer in heels, long but not overly so, strong and soft at the same time.
  2. I love my tattoos. Each one holds a meaning for me and decorates the canvas of my skin.
  3. I love my extensive vocabulary. I’m seldom left searching for a better word, and when I am, I make it a point to find it. I like expanding my eloquence and developing stronger communication skills.
  4. I love my sinful enjoyment of foods that are absolutely terrible for me. I’ve had such a difficult relationship with food (and still do at times), so feeling comfortable feeding my body things like cheeseburgers and loaded mashed potatoes is a treat that I cherish.
  5. I love my ability to get emotionally invested in the lives of fictional characters. The way I can just immerse myself in a fictional world as a means of escape is powerful. I’d like to thank my parents for this, for always encouraging me to read and never discouraging my love of television and movies.

That’s where I am this week. Let me know if you join in on the challenge, I’d love to see what everyone else loves about themselves. May we all learn to plant seeds of self love that bloom into a garden that we don’t mind exploring leisurely.

Beautiful Little Darling

“The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.”  ― Fred Rogers

This is an open letter to someone I love. That someone could be you.

Beautiful Little Darling,

You are magical. Every inch of you was designed to be loved, from the top of your head to your cute little toes. All of your freckles create a map of how wonderful you are. I know you don’t believe this, but it’s true. I know how hard it is to hear this when other voices, like the ones on TV and the ones in your head, are telling I’m wrong. Sometimes even the people who love you most forget how incredible you are just by virtue of being you. They forget this, and they forget to remind you. I’m reminding you.

You are fire, elemental and uncontrollable. I want you to feel passionate about the things that make you think and feel. Never be ashamed of the things that make you feel alive. I want you to be hungry for more and to never feel guilty for wanting. You should never stop asking for the world, Little Darling. Although I love you as you are, I want you to never stop growing into who you are meant to be- for you are bound for greatness.

You are golden. Your worth is not definable by your beauty, your brains, or your success. You are worthy simply for existing. You deserve love because you are you. You do not need to ask for love to receive it. You do not have to make yourself more palatable for this world, sweet Darling. You owe it to no one to be anything other than who you already are. Anyone who does not love you as you are does not understand your value. At times you will feel afraid of being alone, Darling. The quiet will make you question your heart. Do not feel lonely in these times, dear one, instead I hope you grow to love the comfort of your own company.

You are necessary and irreplaceable. This world cannot make do without you. Sometimes the pressure to leave may feel like fog, obscuring any reason to stay. You may feel like one of a number, unimportant. I want you to know, beautiful Darling, that I understand you. We are cut from the same cloth, you and I. I want you to know that I need you. You are vital to me, and I can never stop loving you.

I want you to hear these things, Darling. I want you to know this implicitly. You are magnificent. Nothing about you is broken or ugly. Nothing needs to be altered. You are one of one. I will never stop cheering for your happiness. I hope someday to hear you cheering beside me.

Signed with infinite love,

Me.

The Going Rate

“You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, something not everyone knows how to love”- Warsan Shire

I was listening to music while driving to my internship the other morning, as one does, when it struck me how so many of the songs talked about love. More specifically, I was suddenly aware of how they talked about flawed and somewhat damaging perceptions of love and relationships. From Reba to Selena Gomez, no one was free of toxic love. It got me to thinking about a video I watched about “the price of admission” in relationships. (link to the article and video here)

I started thinking about what sorts of things we tell ourselves we want when we’re looking for someone to date. Some of us progress through stages of what we’re willing to accept in a partner. Maybe in the beginning we’re looking for someone who matches all of our special snowflake little tendencies, a prince or princess charming, or an idealized romcom fantasy human. Sometimes we’re just looking to fill a perceived deficit, to make something we see as broken into a whole again. A number of people probably label behaviors that are actually emotionally abusive as “costs of admission”, in order to accept actions that don’t feel like love. It’s curious what a person will tolerate to feel like someone cares, if even briefly. Movies and songs that glorify toxic relationships certainly aren’t helping the issue, either. If asking for an ideal match is too much- How do we actually learn what the going rate for love is? And how do we make sure that no one is paying too much?

At work one night we got into a conversation about relationships. As it usually happens in these conversations, someone brought up the sage wisdom that “you have to love yourself first in order to receive love.” I take issue with this wisdom because self-love is seriously FUCKING DIFFICULT. It’s nearly a full time job to try to do the thing, sometimes. It’s easy to say “oh, you should just love yourself.” Accept your flaws. Know your worth. All of that. But for me, and others like me, our brains are sending us an onslaught of messages to remind us that we’re unworthy or hard to love. Of course when I put all of this together, I started thinking- what if the problem is that we don’t want to pay the price of admission to love ourselves? If we can’t afford to love ourselves, can we really afford to love someone else? 

I do want to learn to love myself and all that, but maybe I just gotta keep counting my pennies until I can afford to do so.

25 Things I Have Learned in 25 Years.

“Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”- Sylvia Plath

In a few days, I’ll officially be 25 years old. In that time, these are some of the important lessons I’ve learned. I’ve decided to dump them out on the internet because maybe it saves someone else a quarter of a century of fumbling around. In no particular order:

  1. Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon. No matter what. Even if you fail all your classes, even if you have to take a job at McDonald’s to avoid being homeless, even if cute humans shatter your heart with feels. It sounds ridiculous, but sometimes you need to remember that you don’t have control over everything.
  2. You should probably just borrow that book/movie before you decide to buy it. Libraries are fucking great for that. So much better than having to periodically purge all the shit you don’t care about but spent money on anyway.
  3. Pretending you like or don’t like something doesn’t make you any cooler. It makes you an asshole. A lying asshole. Sincerity is the heart of the truest friendships. Listen to twangy  country music, read fanfiction, just do what you fucking want to.
  4. Every single person looks kinda dumb while running. Everyone. No one looks cool.
  5. “Unattainable” people are unattainable for a reason. Pursuing them will only result in the curb-stomping of your heart. No, really. You think I’m being dramatic, I can tell. People who make you feel like you need to be better in order to deserve them are not the ones for you, little dear heart. They’re just not. No matter what the rom-coms are telling you.
  6. Keep tampons everywhere. Just like in every bag, in your car, at your house, with your family. Everywhere. You only miss them when you really need one. Also true for pens and hair ties.
  7. There is so much freedom in not listening solely for the purpose of response. Ever notice the people who irritate you most are usually the people who can’t let you say a thing without having something similar to talk about? Just listen to people. You’ll connect so much better.
  8. You’re allowed to not like the taste of vegetables, but it’s worth it to try them all for the sake of finding at least one or two that are edible to fend off scurvy.
  9. Learning that something you used to say is offensive doesn’t make you an asshole, but knowing that and continuing to say it DOES. Looking at you, R-Word and “Gay”. I sometimes wish I could go back to every person who heard me say these things and just apologize for being twat. Here’s that apology now: I’m so sorry that I didn’t know.
  10. No feeling will ever compare to being freshly showered and sleeping in freshly laundered sheets in your birthday suit. Make time to do that whenever possible.
  11. Compliment people whenever possible. It’s great. It makes them feel great. It makes you feel great. It’s just wonderful. There’s literally no downside.
  12. For the love of God, don’t ever expect anything you post on the internet to remain anonymous. It won’t. And if it’s not just your story to tell there’s even more of a chance for the wrong person to see it. Maybe save those things for processing in therapy. Save yourself the hassle. Looking at you, Livejournal and Tumblr.
  13. Horizontal door handles usually mean push, vertical mean pull. See how I just saved you from running awkwardly into doors? Public servant.
  14. Public speaking becomes infinitely easier a) when you care about the topic and b) when you pretend you’re explaining it to a friend.
  15. Travel. Just fucking go places. Even if you suck at budgeting and end up eating PB&J for a few weeks, you can’t replace those experiences. And while you’re in a new town, make sure you actually get out and walk around some. There’s no worse story than “I’ve been to X for a day, but I didn’t explore…”
  16. Never drink alcohol when you’re sad. It’s a natural depressant and will only make you text people you shouldn’t and say things you regret. That withstanding, never regret what you did while drinking. Yeah, you kiss people you wouldn’t have the courage to while sober, you do silly things like dance with strangers and try to adopt cats, but unless you’re a mean drunk, you probably have nothing to regret about what your Id wanted to do.
  17. Learn a little about new trends. Unless it’s your brand to be the friend who doesn’t use technology, it’s a little weird to be the only person who doesn’t use Snapchat or Instagram. Even if you don’t use it, maybe just try to understand the basics.
  18. Don’t ever get too cool for selfies with your family. You’ll regret not having more pictures with them later.
  19. Figure out your damn bra size. Seriously. Even if that means buying approximately 41 and trying them on and returning them. The years I spent wearing the wrong size are laughable now.
  20. Don’t let the fear of being shot down stop you from trying. This applies to a ton of things from girls to jobs. Confidence is 80% of the game.
  21. The fastest way to make friends is to be genuinely curious about people. Everyone loves an opportunity to talk about themselves.
  22.  No matter what you’re going through, there’s probably a relatable quote. Take the time to Google for them for a pick me up. No one likes feeling like the only person to feel something.
  23. Take a jacket to the movies- it’s worth carrying something around to not get super cold and be unable to focus on the movie. Also, maybe sneak in your own snacks; movie snacks cost like a billion dollars, and they don’t even have jerky.
  24.  When choosing between doing the standard and trying something new, trying something new is seldom a thing you’ll regret. Within reason, of course. But you can never find new things to love if you stick to the regulars.
  25. Don’t keep toxic friends out of sense of obligation. It’s perfectly acceptable to put distance between yourself and anyone who doesn’t make you feel like your best you. I’m still working on this one, and that’s okay because everyone is a work in progress.

So there you are. And here I am, back in the blog game, hopefully new and improved. I guess maybe keep an eye here for more, I’m still learning how to do the thing the right way.