Every year on my birthday I like to celebrate my “Blirthday” which is a not-so-clever hybrid my blog birthday and my own birthday. Today In it 4 the Long Run turns 3 years old and I turn 24.
This year I wanted to share the 3 lessons that 23 taught me.
I sat on a bench outside YogurtLand after work. I ate my yogurt alone in the parking lot of a New Jersey strip mall. So this was life after college. I lived alone. I knew virtually no one. And I celebrated my 22nd birthday with a sad and melty frozen yogurt.
The following year felt like a series of comically disastrous hurdles into “adulthood.” Every day felt like a new experience of learning the hard way how not to do something. How to get rid of bird mites, how to find a roommate on Craigslist, how to get car insurance, how to shovel your car out of a Boston snowpocolypse, how to find a new doctor, how to make friends in a new city, how to not feel like a total idiot as the youngest person at work, just to name a few.
I had gone from feeling on top of the world as a senior in college, to feeling like a little piece of chewed gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe.
But I trekked right through 22 with the same stubborn, passionate, goofy gusto I bring to every match, even if I got the wind knocked out of me a couple times.
In a way, I’m truly grateful for my sad solo froyo date that wrung in such a challenging year. It set 23 up to be one of the best. Not because all these amazing things “happened” to me, but because I learned the attitude that I would need to make my own amazing things happen for me.
The 3 Lessons that 23 Taught Me
1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
We’ve all heard before. Most people are well aware that growth comes from discomfort in some way. Whether you’re training your body or mind it’s the tough stuff that makes you strong. But all these cliches aside, this year was clear evidence that the comfort zone is indeed a dangerous place and getting out of it breeds miraculous things.
Last year I stayed in, I closed off, I took the easy path. As a result I barely met anyone in Boston. I allowed my routine to run my life instead of improving it. I did the same things and got the same results (no surprise there.) As a result I was pretty miserable. I struggled a lot with depression in the first half of the year because I felt like I was going no where.
It wasn’t until last September that I had a mini wake up call. I wasn’t happy with my life or where I was going. I knew I had to change my job, where I lived and what I was doing.
Fast forward several months I quit my job in Boston and moved back to Nantucket to work at a coffee shop while I focused on building the blog and a freelance career. I didn’t expect Handlebar (the coffee shop) to be such an incredible source of positive challenge.
Each day I was forced to move outside myself and engage with others. As a result I’ve been happier than I can remember. I’ve met so many wonderful people and people I consider dear friends. All because I leaned into discomfort and change and let it work its magic.
2. Learn How to Love Yourself
I know what you’re thinking. I went from 0 to woo-woo real quick. But guess what? Some of this woo-woo nonsense is the real flipping deal. The truth *in my experience* is that when you can fully embrace the unique, crazy, weird, awesome, spectacular, flawed human that you are, you can get on with your damn life and do some amazing things.
It wasn’t until this year that I realized how scared I had been to love who I was. It’s going against all the rules society teaches women. We’re taught to constantly be picking our flaws apart and trying to “fix” all these problems. In subtle ways we’re told that self love is selfish or arrogant.
But my friends it’s the opposite. When we get on with our damn lives and can fully love ourselves we have more space and energy to give to others. I’ve been happier in my own skin than I’ve ever and as a result I’ve been a much better friend, a much better daughter and sister and employee. Before I was scared to date because I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I wasn’t. Once I realized “oh wait, dude, I’m actually kind of awesome, cool. That’s all set.” I was able to focus my attention on the other person because I wasn’t worried so much. Turns out that’s way more fun anyway.
Rather than try to “fix” my flaws, I’m just aware of them. I know that I can find people who compliment me and balance my strengths and weaknesses. I’m less worried about being everything to everyone, and more worried about being a kick ass version of me and doing things that no one else can do like I can.
Self love can be scary. I was afraid that if I started just accepting who I was that it was like “giving up.” I don’t even really know what that means but that’s just how it felt. However, surrendering and “giving up” on trying to be things (I never was supposed to be) has been insanely liberating.
I’m not detail oriented, or overly cautious, or always practical, or great with following up, or naturally organized. I’m also not naturally thin, or interested in makeup, or going out to crazy parties, or spending time/money on clothes. I’ve found people who help me with things I need help with and I’ve let go of things I never need to be. It’s opened up the space for who I actually am.
3. Just Be Honest
I’d hardly have called myself a compulsive liar before this year, but last fall I had a bit of a wake up call. I heard a friend share her story of how she was fired because she had lied about giving away product from the place she worked. She wasn’t fired because of the transgression, but rather because she had straight up lied about it.
Obviously, as a 23 year old with a decent set of common sense I know full-well that lying isn’t ok. However, in my efforts to please people, I came to a realization that maybe I wasn’t as truthful as I believed myself to be. And in that way I was doing one of the worst kinds of lying, lying to yourself.
After hearing her story, I’d catch myself exaggerating little numbers that I didn’t have to because I was trying to tell people what I thought they wanted to hear. Convincing myself I knew how to do things or had experience with something I just didn’t. Like most bad habits, this wasn’t conscious or deliberate deceit but non the less it wasn’t ok.
And to try and stop it I realized I had to deal with why I lied about these things. And what do you know it all came back to self love. In subtle ways, I bent the truth to try to be someone I thought I was supposed to be or live up to unrealistic expectations I had set for myself. It all came down to not believing I was good enough.
This year, I’ve been relentless in telling the truth even if it means saying “no I don’t know how to do that,” or “yeah, that didn’t go as well as I had planned,” “yes, I made a mistake,” “no, I’m not ok right now.” The more I pushed to tell the truth even when it’s hard, the more I realized that it builds more trust and respect than any amount of achievement could.
I began to understand that messing up isn’t the problem. Lying is. When you make a mistake, make it fast. Don’t hide it. Just work on fixing it and not making it again. The more you try to cover it up or act like it didn’t happen the more of a scar it will leave.
I’m still a people pleaser, I like making other people happy. I don’t think that will ever change. But now I love myself enough to be confident even when I do the wrong thing. I know that I’m human and people are ok with that. What’s far worse is trying to pretend that I’m too good to fail.
23 has left me equal parts confident and humble. Hungry and satisfied. I’m content, I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m happy.
I hope that 24 brings
- Plenty of travel and adventure
- Taking my 2 businesses to the next level
- Serving this community more than ever
- Continuing to push myself out of my comfort zone
- Shedding my expectation of what my life “should” be like and embrace the awesomeness that is
I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for being on this journey with me. This blog is truly something I cherish and the connections I’ve made with you are something I could never replace. Your attention, your interaction, your kindness and support mean the world.