Everyone’s trying to run away

“I’m going to run away,”

were words that I used to say a lot as a kid.

the concept was pretty solid:

step 1: attempt to slam bedroom door.

step 2: get bedroom door stuck on carpet, preventing a satisfying slam.

step 3: pack backpack.

step 4: realize that backpack will not fit entire zoo of stuffed animals.

step 5: admit defeat, cry, decide that it is easier to hide in the closet or under the bed for hours than follow through with my threat.

Had I gotten past my front door I would have realized that I’d be walking at least a mile and a half before even making it out of my development.  Thanks, suburbia.

In high school I was still trying to run away.  This was when I realized the limitations of my town, which constrained me to sleepy residential roads framed by county roads packed with cars.  This was when I spent a lot of time in the woods, or out on the dock, or just sitting in my driveway.

Reading journal entries from that time make me yearn to go back and hold that girl’s hand, tell her that in ten, twelve years she’ll be sitting on her couch in Berkeley, windows open, sunlight and light flower smells wafting in, writing this entry and feeling okay.  Or, dare I say it… good.

Everyone’s trying to run away.  And it’s so easy to push away from a life you don’t want without knowing what you’re running towards.

But things are, despite it all, always getting better.   There’s no need to go anywhere; just ride it out right where you lie.

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Life isn’t fair / Towards a millennial manifesto

If you were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, congratulations!  You’re a millennial.

Being a part of this generation has many implications, almost none of which are very positive.  Recently I’ve been inundated with articles like these, plus many more about how to motivate your millennial child to get out of your basement or make a plan for their lives.  We millennials are portrayed as passionate loose cannons who feel deserving of accolades but are unwilling to work our way up, as dreamers that cannot apply themselves, as technology obsessed, unfocused and pampered.  We’ve been ruined by the adults who told us that everyone is special and wonderful in their own perfect way.

There’s a grain of truth in all of this.  Every kid on my 5-6 year old soccer team got a medal at the end of the season.  I’ve been told at various points in my life that I am a gifted writer, creative, mature beyond my years, a fast learner, an empathetic friend and daughter.  This mantra of specialness has allegedly made us into entitled brats, or so the media says.

But by being taught that everyone is special,  we were also taught to see everyone the same.  I don’t want to veer off into some middle-class white girl tirade about diversity or how I never saw color or religion because frankly that’s not true and never will be.  What I did see was that if I had something special to offer the world, so did everyone else, no matter how externally different they might seem.

My mom was born with a birth defect that left her physically and mentally different.  She couldn’t look after us without help from my family, couldn’t play too rough on the playground, couldn’t finish college.  I watched her be discriminated against in the job market and stared at by strangers.  I watched people see her struggle to get a shopping cart or reach something on the top shelf and then awkwardly look away.

Growing up my parents were frequently telling my brother and I that life isn’t fair.  I didn’t understand it at the time.  Why CAN’T life be fair?  If I do my homework and follow instructions and behave myself, why shouldn’t good things like stickers and candy come my way?

What isn’t fair is that I was given a perfectly functional body that I spent years abusing, despising, because I wasn’t thin enough or blond enough or good enough, while my mom, with her sweet, kind personality was given a body that has been attempting to hold her back since the day she was born.

This is what millennials need to grasp even more so than the fact that we aren’t special.  Life. is. not. fair.  And everything that we’ve been given in our lives, from the shoes in our closet to the safety of our neighborhood, is a gift that most days we don’t even recognize.  Our minds are occupied with who posted what on Facebook, hungry for the latest technology or concerned about progressing through the milestones of college-marriage-children.

So this is what it comes down to, my fellow wandering millennials–

Be grateful for the things you have.

Work towards what you want, even if you aren’t sure you’ll want it forever and ever.  Just pick a direction and go.

Ignore the haters, the nay-sayers, the dream-crushers.

Carry yourself in a way that exudes confidence, not arrogance.

Refrain from judgment.

Engage those who are different from you.

Measure your worth in the good you do, the people you help and the care you take to truly see the world through another person’s eyes.

Eternal Return

I fell into a wikipedia black hole today and stumbled upon Nietzsche’s idea of eternal return– basically, that time is cyclical (non-linear) and everything that is happening now has happened before and will happen again.  

One of my close friends who I’ve known since I was thirteen took his own life last week.  Grief is described as a linear journey, a march through Kubler-Ross’s five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).  Denial carried me through until I landed in Philadelphia and Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold’ came up on shuffle.  Anger surprised me because I’ve always felt that individuals have the right to choose to die in the face of intractable illness, believing that the people close to me were exempt.

I’m finding that grief, like time, isn’t linear.  I feel normal one moment and the next I’m thinking about something funny he said to me or the way he laughed.  I’m just starting to believe that he’s truly gone forever, although I feel like I lost him a few months ago when he stopped responding to my text messages and attempts to stay in touch.  It’s impossible to shake the feeling of guilt, of responsibility, though I’ve tried to take that negativity and apply it to talking to my friends about how I’m always there for them.

If time is cyclical then maybe it’s not so romantic to think that I will see some part of him again.  If the universe is host to such infinite possibilities, I’d selfishly pick the one that kept him here with us.

22. Become more emotionally aware/mature

“We must be our own before we can be another’s.” 

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve always gotten a lot of comfort from quotes.  Someone, maybe a long time ago, maybe in a place far away from me and in a social position way different from mine, put pen to paper and summed up thoughts that might have taken me two thousand words to explain in just a few sentences (or shorter.)  So I’m going to be working through number twenty-two on my list through quotes, by deconstructing and reinterpreting them in the context of my own life.

You have to love yourself first.  I’ve heard that a lot since I was a teenager and my gut reaction was always yeah, I guess I love myself, check that one off the list!  This Emerson quote is a more elegant way of saying the same thing: be comfortable in your own skin before you bring someone else into your life.  It’s always seemed like a good relationship ‘prerequisite’ to me, but only recently did I realize that it’s essential.

First, realizing that I’m worthy of being loved and am, in fact, completely desirable.  My teenage years were awkward; I was used to being considered ‘weird’ and that’s something it took me a long time to grow out of.  But finally I woke up and realized that I can shape my life into whatever I want.  I can be a vegetarian, can run a few miles every day, bake, dance, read.  I can be a person that I would find attractive and worthy.  And, in becoming that person, I gained a sense of confidence and independence that made me unwilling to settle for anyone less.

Right now I think my self confidence is at an all-time high.  I DO love myself and in turn I’m able to take better care of myself than I have in the past.  I’ve shed most destructive behaviors and significantly dialed back the negative voice in my head insisting that I can never change.

I like to think of it in cliche, Oprah-esque terms: I’m dating myself.  I love my own company.  I love looking good, being in shape, engaging in activities that make me happy.  I don’t need to be in a relationship right now.  Would it be nice?  Yeah, definitely!  But I’m content to wait for someone who is my equal, who complements my personality and pushes me to succeed.  I know what I want and more importantly, I know that when I meet him I’ll feel like I deserve all the wonderful things to come.