Since we’ve entered into my birthday week, I wanted to take some time today to share some insights on what I’ve learned over the past 18 months.
Yes, there is a reason I’m saying 18 months and not 12, see 18 months ago is when my life took a bit of a tumble (I always want to say flip turned upside down and then start singing the Fresh Prince of BelAir theme song #sorrynotstorry) and I’ve been on a bit of a journey since then. In case you’re new and you’ve missed me mention it, oh, about a hundred zillion times, in November 2012 my husband and I separated after 7 years of marriage. As a result, the past 18 months have had their fair share of ups and downs, but nearly everything has been an opportunity for growth and learning.
So, what lessons have I learned?
1. You have to love yourself first
I touched on it a bit in my anxiety series, but I really struggled with self-love. I looked a lot to external factors (friends, marriage, pets, shopping, etc) to make myself happy. Well, oddly enough, external factors don’t actually make you happy. They might band-aid an issue for a period of time, but they don’t fix it. At all.
I don’t really have a magic solution to learning to love myself, it kind of just….happened. It wasn’t all at once, it was more of a culmination of little changes over time that resulted in me (finally) realizing just how awesome I am.
2. Just because you’re friends now, doesn’t mean you’ll be friends later
I’ve had to let go of some friendships over the past 18 months. As a bit of an introvert, I wouldn’t say I have a ton of friends, but I can say letting go of these friendships has improved my life immensely.
3. People aren’t mind readers
For a long time, I expected people to know when I needed them. I expected my friends to know when I was down and to give me support. Well, guess what? I’m not the centre of their universe and I’ve yet to meet someone who is a mind reader <– truth!
That said, being upfront and asking for what I need (a hug, a coffee date, an ear to listen) works wonders. I’m no longer scared to trust myself and what I need and then ask for it.
4. I don’t need to apologize for being me
Sometimes I stand awkwardly in the corner and don’t talk to anyone. Other times I’m loud and say inappropriate things.
Both of these things used to get me down and stress me out and keep me up at night. Now? I work on being the best me I can be.
Sure I try to be socially appropriate, but I might talk about poop in a public setting – I’m a runner – we’re basically expected to talk about poop at least once a day.
I know I might not be perfect for everyone, and that’s okay. So long as I’m being the best me I can be, that’s all that matters.
5. My biggest strengths are also my biggest weakness
When I was in my former job, I had the opportunity to take a leadership course. In this course we talked about strengths and over-done strengths. We didn’t have weaknesses. I really liked this concept.
I am hugely loyal and I frequently put the feelings of others ahead of mine. Now, this can make me an absolutely wonderful friend or girlfriend, or it can put me in a position to be easily taken advantage of. Knowing this, I can critically look at situations and decide if I’m doing this willingly or if maybe, just maybe, this is a situation where my strength is getting the better of me.
6. It’s okay to just be me
Sometimes I’ll be reading a blog, or talking to a friend, or scrolling through Facebook and I’ll see something and then I’ll wondering if I should write about/do/be/whatever something. And then I’ll realize that’s just not me.
For a long time I tried to pretend everything was okay, and I ended up spending a lot of effort trying to be someone I’m not. That was exhausting.
I just realized this is pretty much the same as #4 but, eh, I’ve written it out now and I’m too lazy to delete it.
7. Forgiveness doesn’t mean “it’s okay”
This is something I’ve been wrestling with until just a few weeks ago. I’ve been harbouring resentment towards people and a situation and it was just getting.me.down. I really resisted forgiving because I didn’t want it to mean that I was okay with what happened. I wasn’t. But I realized that by hanging on to the past, I wasn’t allowing myself to move forward, so I needed to let it go.
I needed to take a deep breath say declare that I would no longer dwell on past hurts.
8. Few things are so important they can’t wait a day…or two
I’m….impatient. I’m impatient and I don’t like things hanging over me. Because of this I’d insist all problems must be discussed right this second. Yeah. It didn’t always work out so well.
Now? I realize that so long as I’m not going to die, I can probably wait a day or two to discuss something. During that day or two, something magical happens. The problem doesn’t seem as big or awful as it did at first.
9. Snow in May sucks
I guess it didn’t really take me 18 months to realize this, but it’s true. It sucks. And yes, I will complain about it even though I really don’t like complaining. This seems warranted.
10. You can be best friends with people you’ve never met
Eh. Yeah. That sounds like of creepy stalker-ish doesn’t it?! *shrug*
I mean, I’m not that creepy – just a little bit. I promise.
11. You’re not defined by your mistakes
Or, you’re only defined by your mistakes if you let yourself be defined by them.
Here’s the thing: everyone is going to say or do something at some point that they shouldn’t. I’m pretty that’s a rule or something.
If you dwell on those mistakes and keep reliving them, you’ll be defined by them. If you accept that you made a mistake, learn from it and move on, you’ll be better for having made that mistake.
12. It’s okay to say “no”
I used to think if I turned down an invitation, I’d never be invited to anything ever again. Well, it turns out that isn’t true.
I’ve learned that when I say “yes” I need to mean it and when I say “no” I need to mean it.
13. Less is more
Oh wow, that sounds really cliché, doesn’t it?
Strangely, it’s true.
When I was unhappy I used to fill my time with stuff and crap because the more stuff and crap I had going on, the less time I had to sit around and think about how unhappy I was. Except….none of that stuff and crap made me happy, either.
Over the past year I’ve realized what makes me happy: friends, running, reading, spending time with Merlin and I focus on those things. If something isn’t on my “list” then I’ll think twice before giving up my time for it.
14. It’s okay to admit what you don’t know
A sign of insecurity is always needing to be right. I never used to be comfortable enough in my own skin to say “Hey, that doesn’t quite make sense” or “Can you clarify what you mean?”
Now I have no problem admitting where I might fall short and asking for help. You know what, being able to say “Hey, I need help” or “Here’s what I’m struggling with” is freeing. I no longer have to pretend.
Here’s a relevent example: I just started teaching online again after taking a break of nearly two years. I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten, so I told my co-instructors that it’s been a while and I might have questions. That way we’re now all on the same page. That’s a good thing.
15. I’ll never, ever be able to remember lines from a movie
My friend Ann can quote any line from any movie she’s ever seen. On occasion I’ll figure it out, but most times I’m left going “ummmm”.
Sorry Ann, that part of my brain is obviously defective 🙂
16. Most bad days can be cured with wine, chocolate and Merlin purrs
17. I’m still picky about bananas
If you don’t know what I’m talking about – read this.
18. Tears are cleansing
Sometimes the only thing that will make me feel better is a good cry. I’m not a big fan of crying at work or in front of people, but at home for 5 minutes? It feels like my soul has been cleansed and I can approach the rest of the day just fine.
19. A run can turn my day around
So long as I’m not deathly tired or injured, I do my best to get out and run. With very few exceptions getting out and going for a run will improve my mood and make my day better than it was.
20. I’ll never read “smart” books
Sometimes when a co-worker asks what I’m reading, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I read a lot (like only) YA books. But, I’m going to own it. Whatever. Reading is my escape. Keeping track of too many characters with made up names is exhausting to me (I’m looking at you, Lord of the Rings #sorrynotsorry).
21. Life doesn’t turn out how you expect
I think this is pretty much true for everyone. No matter how much you plan, no matter how much your cross your fingers, pray and try to force things to happen, it’s not always going to turn out in a way you expect. Guess what? That’s okay. It really really is.
My blog-crush Danielle posted the following to her FB page last week and I wanted to high-five her and give her a massive hug all at the same time because it is so.freaking.true! <3
Thanking God today for all those unanswered prayers from the past 28 years. I’m so glad my life turned out the way it has and not the way I thought it should.
22. There is no “right” time
This is something that I’m currently struggling with. Waiting for the “right” time or the “perfect” time to make decisions and do things. Guess what? It doesn’t exist. There’s aways going to be something that isn’t quite right.
23. Terrified + excited is a good combination
This is how I know something is right for me. When I feel terrified but excited at the prospect of something. Sometimes feeling like you’re going to cry and puke at the same time is just a sign of being a grown up and you just need to roll with it.
24. I am only responsible for MY actions
Believe it or not, I’m a pretty sensitive person. I can be quite attuned to other’s emotions and for a while I used to take responsibility for the emotions of others and do whatever I could to “fix” their problem. Well, it’s not up to me to fix other’s problems. I can only be responsible for me. For my actions or reactions – not others.
If someone tries to tell you that they did X because you did Y, that’s crap. You never forced them to do X, so don’t let someone crap on you because they can’t own their choices.
25. Criticism isn’t inherently bad
I used to believe any criticism was an attack on me. It isn’t.
There are things I do wrong. There are things I should do better. If no one ever told me they didn’t like it when I did X, I’d probably keep doing X without knowing it was offending them/hurting them/whatever.
The best way to learn and grow is to have tough conversations with people and then do better next time.
26. Life takes work
You can’t sign up for a marathon and expect to run one without training.
You can’t just show up to work and expect to be praised for your efforts.
You can’t start a blog, publish a handful of posts and expect to have companies knocking at your door.
You can’t befriend someone, never contact them again, and expect them to be there for you.
Life takes work. Sometimes that means going for a run in the rain/snow, other times that means putting in an extra 30 minutes at work at the end of the day. While you may not experienced instant gratification, your hard work will pay off.
27. We all have to do things we don’t necessarily want to do
I’m pretty sure this is a gold rule that all our parents and teachers glossed over. Life involves a lot of things we don’t always want to deal with, like doing the dishes, folding laundry and paying taxes. Ew.
I think my mom coined this one, “Sometimes we have to do the things we don’t want to do, so we can do the things we want to do”. This is how I approach a lot of things in life.
Sure, I’d rather chill on the couch with a glass of wine and watch Grey’s instead of doing laundry, but sometimes that laundry really needs to get done – so I have a reward system. (Yes, I’m turning 31 on Sunday and have a reward system – shoot me. heh).
Sometimes I’ll even combine tasks like watching Grey’s while folding laundry (I’m very careful as to where my wine glass is located!).
For most things, in the amount of time it takes for you to send out that Tweet complaining about it, you could nearly be done already.
28. No one will stand up for you, except for you
We’d all like to think that our boss, best friend, significant other, parent, sibling, dog, cat, whatever has our back. And…I’m sure they do, but they also can’t read your mind.
You can’t expect your boss to know you really want that promotion if you never tell him. It’s up to you to ask. You need to advocate for yourself. It may seem scary at first, but seeing the results will be priceless.
29. Keep your word
If you say you’re doing to do something – do it.
If you say you’re going to be somewhere – be there.
Yes, sometimes shit happens in life and you need to cancel or reschedule, and that’s okay. But you know what? That should be the exception – not the rule. No one wants to be known as the friend who always bails, or the employee who always hands in projects late. Don’t be that person.
Where ever possible – under promise and over deliver. Even if you know you can have that project into your boss by Tuesday, if you tell him Thursday and hand it in on Tuesday you’ll look like a superstar.
You really are only as good as your word.
30. Above all else – be kind
It isn’t easy to be kind all the time. Sometimes being kind means taking the high road. It means holding back the snarky remark or passive aggressive email because you know you’re better than that.
Yes, people will come into your life and sometimes those people will hurt you. Sadly, that’s a fact. But be kind. Resist the urge to “get even” or “make them pay”. You’re only stooping to their level.
Hold your head up high and rise about all the crap.
I feel like 30 has been a huge year of growth for me. Sure there have been some bummer times and tears and sadness, but I really don’t want to dwell on that. No, I’m not Susie-Sunshine, but I believe that putting negativity out into the universe really just causes negativity to come right back to you. So none of that for me please.
I want 31 to continue to be awesome.
I want to run my ultra marathon.
I want to continue to run.
I want to continue to blog.
I want to be a good friend to the friends I currently have and be a good friend to the new people I will meet.
I want to put myself out there more (<– I’m not 100% sure what this means, but I want to be brave and I want to be bold).
I want to be okay with taking risks and following my heart.
I want to smile more. I want to spend time with my cat.
I want to be wise with my money.
I want to be debt free.
I want to (maybe?) buy a home.
I want to run another marathon.
I want to PR at the half marathon.
I want to be more involved in the Calgary running community.
I want to go to a blog conference (but first, I need to pay off that pesky debt!).
I want to learn how to ski (again).
I want to try cross-fit.
I want to live the best life I possibly can.
Tell me about one of the lessons you’ve learned in your life!
I’ve worked hard at becoming a better person this year, and thought I’d list the books/websites that have made a difference to me – just in case you might want to read….
- The Gifts of Imperfection
- Daring Greatly <– I recommend this book to everyone
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts
- Marc and Angel Hack Life <– read their site and buy their eBook. I’ve spent the past week and a bit reading through the eBook and I’ve basically wanted to quote every.single.thing I’ve read. So instead, you should just buy the book – you can also download it in audiobook form if that’s more your style.
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