(Also, I realize there are a lot of words in this post, so feel free to just skim and read the bolded parts. No troubles, Bubbles.)
1. I made having a pet a priority.
Kitties make me so happy. So, so happy.
I learned that I can learn things!, about me, about work, about people, even in a job that doesn't require my specialized degree. I learned that at times working as an administrative coordinator is the best arrangement to support my freelance writing career. I have loved (and sometimes hated) the 8-5 schedule. I have learned to be on time, to get organized, that people are depending on me so I shouldn't drop the ball. I learned that sometimes a tough coworker or boss wasn't the problem, maybe I was.
I learned that all jobs are super important, and can be rewarding if you have the right attitude. (And free coffee isn't too shabby a perk when you're a barista).
3. I realized that complaining neither speeds things up nor makes me feel better.
4. I went to graduate school (before I had kids).
The parenthetical here is significant because both of my parents -- and my grandmother!! -- went back to school after they had kids, and I can only imagine the stress and struggle of raising kids and writing a thesis at the same time. I respect these people to the utmost, but phew-ee am I glad I checked that box off as a single person.
5. I decided to get on the eating bandwagon.
Praise the Lord I never had to deal with an eating disorder, but as I once heard a wise young woman phrase it, I am still struggling to overcome "disordered eating." Don't ask me why, Guys, but for whatever reason I cannot get it through my head that calories are needed for emotional and -- oh yeah, physical -- survival. I am slowly, slowly learning to take the time to power through the awful waiting period of ordering or making food and then eating it, even when alone, even when sad, because I know that it will turn that mood around.
6. I kept hydrated.
I got countless drinks -- alcoholic and otherwise -- with family and friends, which helped me through the hard moments, the boring moments, the stuck moments, and helped me enjoy and celebrate the good moments. (Not suggesting alcohol as a coping mechanism, but rather: surround yourself with people who love you, and the easiest way to do this is to grab a coffee together. Only make it Irish if you are in a good place.)
7. I fought for my relationships with my parents and siblings.
These guys. Who wouldn't fight for them?
8. I became brave enough to throw my hat in the ring.
I had to set aside my jealous complaining to get there, but I realized that if you don't apply for the job, don't enter the writing contest, don't pitch yourself to a publication, you won't get published. If you put your name in the mix, you have a chance.
And you never know when you might get that internship that is your ticket to Los Angeles and an adventure in the sunshine.
9. I lived (mostly) alone.
It's not for everyone, but I loved it, 95% of the time.
And living with others is super rewarding and fun, not to mention good for the mental health. (So excited to kick off this new decade with a new roomie!)
10. I started a blog.
11. I kept writing, even with little to no audience.
While the blog changed my life, make no mistake it does go months without buzz in response to posts. This is part of the writing life they don't tell you about. You get one great compliment that spurs you toward the profession, but you don't realize that the praise doesn't come every day.
Writing, I heard multiple times from great writers I respect, is done only one way: it just has to be done. You have to do it over and over, to practice, to get better, to improve your vocabulary, to erase clichés, to spot weaknesses and work your muscles.
No one is going to make you do it. That part's up to you. And when you least expect it, someone will take notice that you're doing it, and -- hopefully -- thank you and ask you to keep at it.
12. I learned to weigh when I wanted something for the title and recognition versus when I actually wanted it and the responsibility that came with it.
I have daydreamed about lucrative publishing jobs. Crippled myself with jealousy when friends got promotions. But I started to learn the difference between really wanting something and just wanting others (or myself) to think it sounded cool or impressive.
This goes for travel, too. I have a genuine desire to travel, but I have to ask myself when I just want to have the most passport stamps for the sake of competition, and when I actually want to go to Peru or Tuscany.
13. I kept going to church, even though a good percentage of the time I didn't want to.
14. I listened to lots of different music.
I didn't limit myself to a world with, or without, Justin Bieber. Friends and music played a huge piece in helping me survive my twenties, and without a diverse library of tunes I could have been in some real trouble.
15. I became OK with tears -- my own, and those of others.
HALLELUJAH, I learned to cry! After college, the real world and its boredom and sadness broke me. I became a crybaby, and in turn began to experience the catharsis of letting it out, of feeling a pure, honest emotion. I also fell into a new level of community.
Honestly, I think it feels so good to cry. Especially compared to its bitter, can't-hardly-think-about-it opposite, which is feeling utterly depressed with no ability to cry. UGH.
In getting comfortable with my own salty discharge (Seinfeld reference? Anyone?), I became fine with those around me shedding some tears. I understand what it feels like to be frightened by another's tears, or his sadness, but I am happy to now understand the comfort in being near it, in it. Carrying each other's burdens is a true phenomenon. And really, there's no need to be afraid. It's just some salty water coming from the eyeballs. What should frighten one more is her choice to be absent when someone she loves is suffering.
16. I studied abroad.
17. I took the leap to move away from my geographical roots, and I learned to stay in one place.
The after effects of moving to Los Angeles have literally required therapy, but it's been so worth it. I felt in my bones that I needed somewhere bigger, with sunshine, where people my age weren't getting married and having babies.
Being far from my family has caused me to sob, to feel left out, less than. But I learned that some of my thoughts about my lack of worth are lies. I learned to be happy where my feet are planted. And after years of moving around in my youth, I learned to keep those feet in the sandy beaches until further notice. And damn does it feel good to have conquered and come through to the other, happy side of it.
Photo credit: Michael Martens
18. I danced.
In the middle school gymnasium. At Kari's wedding. Without a date at freshman Homecoming. In Alex's living room, to no music, in a heart-patterned dress. With the Girl Scouts at the Father-Daughter square dance. Freeing those feet freed me.
19. I used my library card more than my credit card.
20. I decided to sing so that people could actually hear me.
Save for at the Brewer children annual Christmas Eve show, I never, for years, let people actually hear my singing voice.
Then came Namibia, my semester abroad in college, where oftentimes we only had the radio in a hot, dusty van to keep us entertained. And I let my voice belt. It relieved the stress of constant close quarters with my American comrades, cured homesickness by joining in on the chanting of tribal pop songs from back home, and gave my vocal cords courage to sing in another jungly, scary, fun land of music: karaoke venues.
21. I didn't get married.
And by and large, I remained single.
22. I discovered that retail therapy is a real phenomenon.
And when I needed a little pick-me-up, I went and picked me up a red shopping cart and a coffee at Target and strolled the aisles until I felt better. Which, usually, I did.
23. I kept in touch -- and reconnected -- with old friends.
24. I listened both to others' advice and to my heart.
When I first told my brother I was considering journalism school, he told me I should be a nurse or a pastor instead.
I didn't take his advice.
Yet he paid me a compliment that day that I've kept close to my heart ever since: "I think you have a pretty good grasp of the concept of grace," he said.
It meant so much to me that he saw that in me, and bothered to say it.
Meanwhile, I've had my moments where I've wondered -- after the fact -- if getting a journalism degree was a good idea, the best use of funds. And when I see my name in print, I think, "Yes, it was."
Decisions are going to be hard, even when it's just selecting the pad thai versus the massaman curry for dinner. My best advice to you is to both listen to your heart and to those who love you (praying = also a good idea). It will be aggravating as hell at times, but it's worth it to keep your own ego in check and to make yourself wiser than you could otherwise be. I am ever grateful for the countless mentors in my life, who have helped bring me here.
25. I FINALLY learned to tame my email inbox.
Delete, delete, delete things, folks!
I have just become ruthless with myself when it comes to email. File it in a folder or delete the conversation. Decide if you're going to actually take that volunteer opportunity, that writing job, that dog sitting gig, and either craft your response and send it or just save yourself the headache, politely decline, and delete the thread.
Also, at work I keep a "positive feedback" folder, where I stash away particularly nice emails to remind me on bad days that people are kind and care about me and my work. In my personal email, I save sweet conversations, to show when people were there for me, made me laugh, etc.
But beyond that, anymore, I am the queen of deletion! (Still working on "deleting" the clutter in my apartment....)
26. I went to therapy and considered medication.
I say "considered," because while I made the decision to take psychotropic medication, it is not for everyone. But I think the choice to at least meditate on the possibility is one that several of us could benefit from (and is nothing to be ashamed about; it is my goal in this world to get people to view Xanax in a similar way to the way they regard insulin).
27. I learned to recognize -- and pay heed to -- the various types
After a freak illness in high school followed by a scrambling to catch up on schoolwork, I learned just how imperative sleep is.
Since then, I've recognized social burnout, work fatigue, the need to take a day off from exercise, etc.
Clear your calendar. Sleep in your car at lunch. Call in sick. Get a massage. Relay to your partner that you need him to handle the kids for an hour. Do what you gotta do. Just make sure you rest. Or you will run out of steam and you will be unhappy. Trust me.
28. I decided (sometimes) to stop complaining and instead figure out a way to go after some of the things I wanted/was envious of.
I also decided to at least try to quit playing the who's-most-busy who's-more-tired who-has-the-least-or-most-money comparison game.
All this does is create contention and closed ears, and doesn't get you anywhere. Jealousy is natural, but more and more I try and urge myself to shed the jealousy and replace it with thoughts of:
"What can I do with what I do have?"
"Where can I cut costs to save money for that dream vacation?"
"Is this goal actually impossible, or am I just frightened to go after it?"
29. I finally got text messaging on my phone.
30. I proved that 30-year-old virgins do exist.
And that there are men in the world who will respect your choice to wait.
Look at you, you made it to the bottom of the list! Good job, you deserve a snack! All right, over and out! Time to celebrate 30 years! THANK YOU for being a part of my life as a reader of the Daily Bailey!