Thursday, December 25, 2014

From darkness to the light...

Thanks to a beautiful gift I received for Christmas, I can complete my yearly holiday tradition of moving from old journal to new. While filling in the first page, I figured out that I had created my own small solstice ritual without even having realized it.

The whole point of this season, (no matter what tradition you follow) is banishing the darkness and embracing the light: be it in the form of lighting lamps from oil that wasn't meant to last, welcoming a Messiah as the light of the world, or celebrating another turn in the wheel of the year.

From here the days get longer.

The light lingers.

What has that got to do with writing?

For me, writing in a journal is cathartic. I can say and feel whatever it is that I want with no filter. I can freely express whatever thought pops into my head, no matter how cruel or inappropriate. It usually keeps these thoughts from spilling out of my mouth. (Usually.)

The downside, is that the pages I fill often bear witness to the crappy person I can sometimes be - the poor choices I make, the way I hurt people. It is a chronicle of my lowest moments and times I feel utterly lost.

Pages upon pages of my handwriting have been dedicated to these moments, both good and bad, to the point that each journal I fill is heavy with more than just ink. Every fear, every tear and every scar is etched there, to the point that carrying it around is like carrying around the entire year in my bag.

I have spent many a day burdening myself with carrying around the last year, condensed into the pages of the journal I filled.

The whole point of the winter solstice, of Christmas, is to disperse the darkness and embrace the light - to rid yourself of things that burden and no longer serve. Every year, I rid myself of the thoughts of the past year and give myself a blank canvas to fill again. This is just the first Christmas that I have recognized it for what it was.

Most people would think to start anew with the first of the new year. I don't think that's necessarily wrong. If making a resolution and starting fresh with the new year is your thing and it works for you, then by all means, go for it.

For me, starting with a new journal and a fresh outlook is like embracing the light and ridding myself of the negative thoughts I carried in the last year. This is a chance to think new thoughts and write new words on new pages - to break the cycle and not carry thoughts and habits through to the new year and the time of year when the sun rules the sky.

Christmas has become a season that is just as much about family, friends and spreading love as it has become a time of reflection. Winter time (and Christmas especially) is a pivotal moment when we can look back at where we have been and look forward to where we can go. It's almost like standing in the center of the seesaw. You can either step back and live with the habits and thoughts that have troubled you, or leave them behind in the darkness and step into the light.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The one thing that all women should do throughout their lives

STOP READING AND BELIEVING LISTICLES THAT TELL YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO DO OR SHOULD BE DOING WITH YOUR LIFE.

Yes, I meant to yell at you.

Just stop it. Stop wasting your time with lists that tell you "22 things that all 22 year olds should be doing" or "the 25 things every 25-year-old woman should own" and all that other horseshit.

Yeah, I said it. All of those "articles" (which is a term I use very loosely) are just telling you anecdotes and presenting them as facts. In reality - the only things you need to worry about doing by the time you're 22 is being 22, whatever that means for you. I say this so many times in a week it's almost ridiculous, but anecdotal evidence does not a fact make. 

Now, that doesn't mean I would condone you not having a job and not contributing to society in some sort of way - because I personally think that you can't get away with that kind of crap after the age of 17. Even if you're in school and studying your butt off and volunteering in your spare time, do your thing. If you're 22 with a GED and working, do your thing. If you're 22 and working two part-time jobs, do your thing.

The key here is doing your thing.

I'm 26 and just starting to figure out how to do that and not feel like shit about it. I'm a college graduate. I went to a great high school and got a great education. I live in an apartment with two roommates, pay all my own bills, all that "fun" adult stuff that I have to do. I work two part-time jobs to do it, which totally sucks sometimes, but I'm doing my thing, and not anyone else's.

The important thing is that all those listicles don't teach you anything. Nine times out of ten, they just make you feel like garbage for not having it all figured out, or not having it all together. The person who wrote that list? That person probably doesn't have it all figured out and is just as confused as you are.

There's nothing wrong with being confused. There's nothing wrong with taking the time to figure it out. There's nothing wrong with not having it all together. There is something wrong with doing nothing, though. There is also something wrong with making yourself feel badly because it seems like everyone else you know has it all figured out. (That last bit I'm still working on myself.)

So instead of reading one of those stupid lists and making yourself feel badly, take those 10 minutes and do something constructive with it. Text a friend, call your mom, take your dog for a walk, read some of that book that's been sitting on your bedside table for months that you just haven't bothered with (which are all things I need to be better at, also), but don't waste your time and your precious energy on reading something from some schmuck who really has no place judging you (or anyone else) and then feeling badly about yourself afterward.

All 22 year olds are not the same. No list is going to cover all the bases of what you could be doing with your time, especially a list only 22 points long. No list is going to take everyone's different life into account - those lists are written from a very narrow point of view. there are no study groups, no demographics. It's one person looking at what that particular age should look like through a very narrow lens, then touting it as fact.

So get out there. Do your thing. Make your own list of what you should be doing. No one else can write that list but you.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

If you aren't learning, you're doing it wrong.

I'm 26. Depending on who you are, you might consider me mid-20s. You also might consider me late-20s. Either way, I'm closer to my late 20s than I am my early 20s, that's for sure. Not that I'm lamenting that fact.

Actually, I'm kind of enjoying it. Here's why.

It might be hard to believe, but you don't actually stop being fun when you're in your mid-to-late 20s. You just start having fun in different ways. There's nothing wrong with that.

In my early 20s, fun was going out drinking, partying and making friends with people I met in the bar bathroom.

In my late 20s, fun is happy hour then going out to dinner, dinner parties with my friends.

Maybe it's because I can't handle a hangover like I used to (might as well admit that fact now) or it's just exhausting to party like that. (Also a fact.)

As I have aged, my tastes change. We all know this. The thing we aren't told growing up is that our time becomes something we want to spend in fulfilling ways.

Personally, I spend a lot less time drinking cheap beer just for the sake of drinking it. I spend a lot less time in crappy bars with bad music. I spend more money on quality ingredients than I do on a crap-ton of bad food.

Time, more than anything else, is a huge investment. It has becoming increasingly important to me how and with whom I spend my time. I have been dedicating more time to my health - going to martial arts 3 times a week (when I can and am not working) and trying to eat better.

There are just some things that you should outgrow: binge drinking is one of those things. I don't mean you should stop because it's "not cute" or unattractive, but it's detrimental to your health, people.

Outgrowing the person you were in your early 20s is like outgrowing playing with Barbies. It's just something that happens.

I'm sure that you've seen listicle after listicle from websites that tell you "13 things you start doing in your late 20s" or "22 things that you should be doing at 22". Here's what I have to say to those listicles: STFU.

What you do at 22 and what you do at 26, 28, 32, and so on is YOU. Your choices are yours. There are no rules to follow. There are no directions to read.

I have chosen to spend my time and money outside of work focused on my relationship, my friends and my health. These are things that matter to me, and should have always mattered to me as much as they do now.

But when I was in my early 20s, I spent a good chunk of my time screwing my life up in several ways. I picked up the pieces. Now I'm just putting them back together.

Not that there is anything wrong with doing that. Your 20s is a great time to mess everything up. You don't have a ton to lose, really. So if you're going to make mistakes, make them now. The price you pay for them now is a lot smaller than later, I believe.

In your 20s, there is time to rebuild yourself and who you are. The building and establishment and learning of self is one of the most rewarding things that you can spend your time doing.

Knowing who you are is by far the most important thing in the world - more important than money, fame, your job, everything - because it is the one thing that your life will always revert back to. When you're in a morally compromising situation, knowing who you are will help you make the right decision. When your life gets hard and you aren't sure what to do, knowing yourself is how you make things work. When you have a fight with your significant other, knowing yourself is where you start to make things better.

I spent a lot of my late teens and early 20s not being sure of myself. I let other people's opinions dictate who I was to be and what I could do. Now I have learned who I am and how to be that person. Sure, I still screw things up occasionally, but that's life.

Your only real job is to live it. If you aren't learning from it, you're doing it wrong.