Personal Growth… What is it good for?

Absolutely everything…

Here’s an experience that I will never forget: when I was in my early teens my mom made me read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. As someone who has been an enthusiastic and avid reader my whole life it was strange to be forced to read a book; forcing e to sit at the table until my plate was empty was normal, forcing me to clean up after myself was (and oftentimes still is) normal. Bur reading? Reading has always been and will likely always be something I love to do, just like writing. Hell, I even bring books to social events just in case. But that book in particular was a different story. The books I read for school were for a grade, the books I read for pleasure were self-explanatory, and so I found no purpose in reading that one. My mom wanted me to, sure, but why? In my mind I was already a “highly effective” teen, whatever the fuck that meant. I was good in school, not really rebellious aside from my love of heavy metal and my lack of religious beliefs. I didn’t go anywhere or do anything because of strict parenting and for the most part I was okay with that. A book on improving myself was boring and unnecessary.

That was then.

Honestly, if I could go back in time and make my teenage self read that book I still wouldn’t. Not because it was a bad book, I’m sure it isn’t. I’m sure it helped someone who needed it, but I don’t think it would have made much of an impact on my life. I never finished it and being forced to read it at all made me dislike books in the personal growth genre as a whole up until about a month ago. A whole nine years of my life.

Truthfully it took me feeling like I hit rock bottom to actually pick one up. I had a general sense of dissatisfaction with where my life was and no idea at all as to where it was going. I felt stuck in my unhappy situation. I had nightmares about being trapped in the house or having my mouth suddenly glued shut when I was trying to say something important. When I woke up my prison was less literal, my silence my own doing and not the work of some invisible magic glue. Still, my reality was the same. Every day. I think a lot of us know what it feels like to wake up every day feeling unhappy with where we are in life. Whether you wake up in a place you don’t want to be, you wake up broke, you wake up single, you wake up to do a job you hate, or all of the above plus some. A few of us found our own way out of the cycle of unhappiness on their own, and if you’re one of those people then I am so proud of you. Really, I am. I am applauding you right now even though you can’t hear it. That’s awesome.

Some of us are working on it. I am one of those people and if you’re right here with me then I’m proud of you too. We should all be proud of ourselves for attempting to better our situations. Whether you quit the job you hate, are trying to find an affordable place to live so you can finally have the peace and quiet you need to move forward, finally grew the gonads you needed to ask that person out, are trying to pay off debt, or even just drove past McDonalds even though you’re hungry because you know you have food at home. Amazing. Keep going.

But there are some of us who are still stuck. Some of us don’t even know where to begin when it comes to making their quality of life better. I was there. We’ve all been there. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re one of those people because going from being stuck to pulling yourself out of the quicksand is rough. It takes a lot of strength, energy, and motivation. How I found that motivation is by doing the exact thing I spent nine years thinking was a waste of time. I picked up a book on personal growth. I was in a “Better or Bust” mindset, forcing myself to either find a way to start getting my shit together or let depression and anxiety sink me down further and further until I reached a point where suicide became an option…again. But I couldn’t let myself sink that low. I knew that if I allowed it then the chances of me living to see twenty-three were slim to none. Being the person that I am, I knew that if I could find the time to lay around feeling sorry for myself then I could also find the time to learn from someone who actually made it out. Sure, some of the books feed people some self-entitled bllshit and some of it is so unrealistically positive that it goes down more like a spoonful of sugar instead of the medicine a lot of us really need, but it was better than nothing.  Nothing is what I was doing, and by just reading a book I was taking a first step forward toward actually doing something.

I’m not saying that your life will suddenly and miraculously do a complete tailspin by reading a few chapters of You Are a Badass. Reading is a step in the right direction not the full solution. Treat it like you would treat getting good advice from a friend (notice I said good advice). Actually do the exercises that the books suggest, even if they make you feel stupid. Do I feel like an idiot when I look at myself in the mirror, beat on my chest, and repeat positive affirmations to myself every morning? Yes. But did I notice myself starting to change for the better as a result of doing it? Also yes. That change is what is keeping me going. That change is why this blog exists. Could I have figured my shit out without ever picking up a book to begin with? Maybe. Maybe not. But why learn the hard why when there are thousands of people who have already and are trying to pass that advice down to me so I won’t have to? That’s just immature and illogical.

There is a page in the works on this blog where I’ll put my own personal suggested reading, but don’t let that stop you from looking for yourself. Your struggle is different from mine. How you learn is different from how I learn. Maybe you’re more of a podcast listener than a reader or maybe YouTube videos are more your style. Learn your way, but please learn. Learning inspires growth, and growth will get you far from where you are right now. If where you are right now is nowhere in comparison to where you want to be then what do you have to lose? Even if you start moving forward only to fall back down, you’ll notice that you won’t be as far down as you were when you started and that in itself is an improvement.

So I’m leaving you with homework: whenever you have the time, take your first step. Find a book, or a podcast, or a video, or an app that will help you and inspire you to get off your ass and start moving toward where you want to be. You won’t regret it.

 

Just DO it!”
-Shia LaBeouf

 

 

 

Dating? In THIS Social Climate?!

This is a post about a four letter word. I don’t know why, but the concept of dating has almost ceased to exist in our generation even though we now have a million and two different ways to find love. If that is even our goal anymore. We swipe right to fuck. We slide into DMs to fuck. We meet up and have a great time over dinner… to fuck. But when actual emotions and commitment become involved, holy shit. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve personally been told “I’m just not looking for a relationship right now,” I wouldn’t have to decide between a cheap bottle of wine and gas money for the next two weeks. We took the dating game and made it harder to play than Jumanji.

Just one question though…. Why?

Is it because we as a generation are afraid of the future? Afraid of commitment? Or are we just lacking the basic values that we need to get this right?

 

A few weeks ago I decided to take a day to take myself out on a coffee date. I got dressed up, my makeup and hair were on point and I wore a really nice but really comfortable pair of shoes. I took myself out to one of my favorite coffee shops just to get some quiet time in to read and write and just enjoy my own damn company. So I sat at one of the outdoor tables with my iced Americano and opened my book. Not even a full ten minutes later some random man decides to occupy one of the empty chairs at my table – of course the one directly beside me.

“You look lonely,” he said as he creepily leaned toward me. I wasn’t. “What’s such a beautiful and sexy young lady doing out here alone?” I gestured toward my book in hopes that he’d catch the hint and my RBF would tell him to fuck off. But of course not. He stayed planted in that seat for a solid twenty minutes just to keep telling me that I’m beautiful and sexy and that he wanted to take me out. I gave him absolutely no feedback. I looked up from my book maybe three times during the whole one-sided conversation. It may make me sound cold and I’m pretty sure I can hear a few guys yelling somewhere in the distance… something about why they don’t bother to try anymore, but I had my reasons:

  1. I’m taken.
  2. Being called beautiful really doesn’t pique my interest.

I admit that I’m a person who grew up kinda ugly but got more attractive with age. I cut my hair, cleared my skin, and got a better fashion sense. People rarely gave me a second glance in high school and then WHAM. All eyes turned to me at once at around seventeen. I never liked the attention at all to begin with, but I was even more unhappy with the particular type of attention I was getting. Those people knew basically nothing about me and they never wanted to. They just wanted me in their beds. Some were successful – most weren’t. Most of the successful ones only got the chance because I was particularly drunk or bored, sometimes a combination of both. Except for one guy, but he’ll come up again later.

The type of attention I was getting almost made me completely call it quits when it came to dating. I saw myself moving forward in life alone. Moving to New York to become a Big Time journalist and living in a loft – just me and maybe like a hundred cats. I was perfectly fine with that outcome and that option still hasn’t completely left the table. That’s the first piece of very important information that I think some may have completely forgotten.

It’s okay to be single.

“Easy for you to say. You have a boyfriend while I’m over here dying of soul crushing loneliness.”

Okay, true. I get the pleasure to very sensually reach across the table and stick my index finger in my boyfriend’s nose (it’s not gross, it’s affection… unless I find gold in the mine). But so what? I haven’t always had him and it’s not guaranteed that I always will.

Dating is a game of chance. There’s a fifty percent chance that we’ll stay together, get married, and adopt two hundred cats.There is also a fifty percent chance that we’ll get sick of each other and call it quits. I’ll get my loft in New York and a hundred cats. What do I lose? The ability to pick his nose… and a hundred cats. So in total, not very much.

Don’t get me wrong, I care about him. He means a lot to me and it’s a pleasure to be with him. If he dumped me right now I would probably cry, have a few anxiety attacks and waste the next month’s worth of free time in bed eating py and drinking a lot while binge watching Netflix. But will I die? No. I’d eventually get up, shower, and remember that I’m an independent and intelligent woman who loves herself more than anyone else but my mom ever could. Then I would proceed to better myself, further my education, and make enough money for my loft and hundred cats. IF someone else happens to stumble into my life, cool. They’d better be ready to deal with anxiety and depressive episodes cause boy, I’m full of ‘em. But am I going to doll myself up and sit at a bar looking sad until somebody walks up and bus me a drink, then shove them into a garbage bag and hold them hostage in my loft until Stockholm Syndrome kicks in? No. One, that’s illegal. Two, that’s not what I want.

Which brings me to my next point: know what you want and what effect having it will have on your life. Just knowing that you want to be with someone isn’t enough, because that’s how you end up in a mess (I mean, do you want fuckboys? Cause that’s how you get fuckboys…) I’ve seen people go through so much unnecessary drama and heartache because they either didn’t know what they truly wanted or they settled for what seemed to be okay.

Know what you want and don’t settle for anything less because you deserve all of the happiness in the world. I used to tell my family that I wouldn’t date anyone until the Universe showed them to me in a really extravagant way. I’m talking clouds parting and cherubs singing and a random fuckin’ unicorn kind of extravagant. Obviously that isn’t literally what happened when I met my bae to be (did I just call him that? gross…) In reality I thought he was really annoying. But then one day the Universe tapped me on the shoulder and went “You know that person you weren’t looking for? The fun one with energy, ambitions, and the ability to introduce you to new things in life? Well…there ya go!” And I was like “What? HIM?! You’re joking, right?”

A thing to know about the Universe… it has a sense of humor without actually having a sense of humor. Like one of those people who say hilarious things but when you look at them they’re being dead serious. And that’s why you really need to know what you want, because if you say “I just want a relationship! It doesn’t matter who with!” Then here comes the Universe with the musty skater boy who makes rape jokes and is uncomfortably close to his mother. And if that doesn’t teach you what you want then you’ll keep getting what you probably don’t as the Universe keeps dropping shit off like an outdoor cat bringing dead birds into the house.

The truth is, everything you want is out there. The companion, the money, the car, the house, the cats; all of it is out there waiting for you. You just have to know what you want and be prepared to put in work to be ready for it. Or be ready to have a shit ton of dead birds on your porch… your choice.

Get Your Sh*t Together.

     This one is going to be a tough pill to swallow for some. Hell, it took a lot for me to even come to this point of understanding so I know it’ll be hard for others. Before I jump on in, Im going to need you (yes, you) to agree with me on something that we all know is true but probably don’t want to admit….

We are now too old to expect for the things we want or need to be handed to us with no effort on our parts.

     Can we agree on that? If so, awesome! You’ve already got your adultin’ pants on. If not, that’s okay. This post will be here for you when you’re ready to stop letting your mom buy your clothes from Baby Gap. The rest of us will move forward. You can catch up later.

     Now, for those of you who are joining me at the adult table, I’m about to get a little personal. Some will judge me, and that’s okay. Some won’t, and that’s okay too. I just hope that this helps to get my point across in order for you all to learn this lesson the easy way. I took one for the team and did it the hard way, so now you don’t have to.

     Last October I made a mistake that got me kicked out of the family apartment. The details of the mistake don’t matter. I was completely at fault and too stubborn to admit it back then, so instead of apologizing I packed up my stuff and moved five minutes up the road to Gradma’s house where I had a little more freedom, and a little less space. Grandma made breakfast every morning, sent me to work with lunch, and dinner would be cooked, plated, and in the microwave by the time I got home.

Nice.

     Where the problem arose was money. Grandma would come a-knockin’ for my third of the bills after I’d already gotten paid, payed my bills, then blew the rest on Friday night booze with my friends. Every. Single. Time. She came to me one day and asked me a question that I answered quite stupidly: how do you expect to stay somewhere and not have to pay for it. My immature ass said “watch me”. I packed whatever clothing I thought I would need into my gym bag and left. I willingly chose the life of a nomad: sleeping in grungy motel rooms on nights when I had money, and sleeping in the car in a variety of twenty four hour parking lots when I didn’t. Logic would have said to just pay my bills, put my owed third to the side, and if I had enough just buy a pitcher of cheap beer when going out with friends, but no. I wanted my three glasses of Liquid Marijuana every Friday and I would have preferred to live on the street than give up the face tingling feeling it gave me. When finances got really tight I would take what I could and sell it at a local pawn shop in exchange for just enough to fill the gas tank or just enough to pay for another night in the motel room. Leaving didn’t make my financial situation better – it made it worse. I wasn’t putting any good out into the universe so no good was coming back to me. The borrowed car had to be returned (and by then it was pretty trashed, mid you), making me spend money on Uber on top of everything else if a friend couldn’t give me a ride to wherever I was planning to stay for the night. I ended up hitting rock bottom, and then digging myself a little lower every single day. It took me getting to the point where I’d just had enough to decide that something had to change. And it had to change immediately. I had to get my shit together.

     The first thing I did before I had to give up the car was drove my ass to the people who could help me figure out what the fuck was wrong with my head and how to fix it. Therapists, psychiatrists, primary care physicians all helped me take care of myself so I could reach a place of physical and mental well-being. I got myself a gym membership (that I barely use now but will change in the near future), and planners. The planners are one of the most important things that I’ve ever bought because they took away one of my biggest excuses that was leading me down a hole that I would find it hard to get out of, and that excuse was “I didn’t know”. In both planners I keep track of where I have to be, what time I have to be there, and what I need to do on any given day. I use Wunderlist to keep track of daily tasks as I complete them and keep notes of when bills need to be paid, when the schedules of those around me would affect my own, and other things of that nature. Now instead of ‘I’m going to be late for work because I didn’t know I was supposed to be there today.’ my excuse would be ‘I’m likely going to be a little bit late because of who I am as a person.’ and that just sounds awful; so unless I have a more valid reason to be late (ie: I cried all of my makeup off and didn’t want to show up to work a hot mess. My dog peed on my clothes while I was putting him in his crate. Traffic is always bad at three o’clock on a Saturday…. ect.) I tend to be on time.

     These changes didn’t make everything better immediately. I still had things within myself and with other people that I had to work out. I tried to apologize to the people I’d wronged, which didn’t work out too well but that’s a different subject for a different post. I had to suck it the fuck up if I couldn’t afford to go out drinking every Friday. The way I saw it, why spend a shit ton of money on public intoxication when I could spend less money just buying a bottle of alcohol from the gas station and drinking at home; sometimes with just my pets, sometimes with friends. Doing that left me with:

  1. More money.
  2. Less trouble if I hadn’t had enough to eat or had to go to work early the next morning. (I still try to avoid drinking if I know I have to get up early, but that’s for obvious reasons.)

     Getting my shit together is still an ongoing process. I’ve most recently picked up some self help books, created a vision board, and started meditating on a daily basis. All of those things combined worked absolute wonders for me, but my not work for everybody. My best advice when it comes to getting your shit together is to do what works best for you. We all lead different lives, have different goals, and are fucking up in a plethora of different ways. I’m finally getting my shit together. Are you?

 

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

-E.E. Cummings

Don’t Be A Mobster.

   Back in highschool I used to be a writer on Tumblr. I made a lot of cool friends that way – friends that I still talk to years later. I felt that those people had a deeper understanding of me than even the friends I went to school with every day. I was by no means popular, but that was okay because I didn’t want to be. Looking back,  was a much lamer version of myself than I am right now. I would go home every day after school and immediately get on AIM to message people who lived far, far away. I would write with them, converse with them, we would talk about our lives and somehow even from a distance we would just get each other.

     I had one friend in particular that I’m going to call Stephanie. She was my absolute best Tumblr friend and we would talk almost all the time Even though we never met in person we would text, Facebook message, and sometimes even fall asleep on the phone together and wake up the next morning with the other still on the line.

     Stephanie had a particular dislike for a girl I’m going to call Aiden, another writer on Tumblr that she would constantly gripe about. ‘Fuckin Aiden did this’…. ‘Aiden did that’…. ‘ You wouldn’t believe what this other person said Aiden said about me’. Aiden, Aiden, Aiden. Because Stephanie was my friend and because I’d heard nothing but bad things about Aiden, I’d grown to hold a certain level of disdain for her, myself, even though I never met her.

     One night I was writing with a person I had an on going plot with when they sent me an out of character message, asking if they could vent to me about a few things. Of course I was down for listening, so I gave the stranger my phone number and within moments I got a phone call from a girl in a different state. In all honesty I don’t remember what the actual venting was about, but I do remember that we started talking about plenty of other things after that, including plots that we had with other writers and friends we’d made through other writing groups. Of course I mentioned Stephanie, and after a brief pause the girl on the other end of the line said: “OH, I know her…. She doesn’t like me.”

“Wait….. Aiden?” “Hello, yes, that’s me.”

     I’d just spent hours upon hours having a fantastic conversation with the very person that my best friend thought was actual Satan, and she almost had me convinced too.

     As Fate would have it, it wasn’t long before Aiden and I became besties. We shared the same interests and liked the same style of music, the same bands, the same personalities on YouTube, and we would always introduce new interesting things to each other. We talked, we texted, we FaceTimed, and eventually we even met in person. We’d travel between states to go to concerts together. Even though my days of writing on Tumblr have long since passed and adult life has made keeping in touch more difficult, Aiden is still to this day one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I still talk to her about stupid things I get myself into and she’s always willing to be the Mom Friend. She tells me about the fuckboys that hurt her and I threaten to beat their asses.

     But…what if? What if I’d let Stephanie’s low opinion of her influence my emotions that first night? What if when I found out who she was I immediately decided never to talk to her again? I would have missed out on so many awesome experiences, not to mention being friends with one of the smartest, most amazing and inspiring people I know.

     I’m not saying that you’ll always love the people your friends choose to dislike. I’m saying that you don’t know a person until you know the person. And sometimes it’s not just the one friend. Sometimes entire groups of people decide to band together against this one person. Why? Because Jenna hath declared that Johnny is awful so now even people who haven’t met Johnny all agree that he’s a big racist asshole who thinks too highly of himself and have all vowed to never talk to him? Did Johnny say or do something to personally offend you? Did he take a big piss in your bowl of Fruit Loops?

     Mob Mentality is all the rage and using your own knowledge and judgement to make decisions is becoming more and more rare with each passing year. Social media is worsening the issue but it is not new at all. I mean, take Joan of Arc for example. One day Pierre Cauchon looked at Joan and all of the things she was doing (which were great if you didn’t already know) and decided, “I don’t like her. She must be a witch.” And so the people who didn’t know Joan but knew Pierre went “Well if Pierre says she’s a witch then she’s gotta be. Let’s kill her.” After they killed her it literally took the Pope to hear of her story and go “what is wrong with you guys? She was no witch, she was a saint.” And now everyone sees her as the badass that was Joan of Arc.

     I’m not saying that Jackass Johnny is Joan of Arc, but he’s still a person with a story. A human being who lives on this planet, breathes this air, and feels very strongly about certain things. Johnny could be awesome as shit, but you’ll never know until you sit down and talk to him. Or Johnny could actually be a big racist asshole who thinks he’s literally better than everyone else, in which case then he is confirmed to be Jackass Johnny. If that’s the case then you still don’t have to gather once a day for the  Johnny’s A Jackass support group. That would be like repeatedly listening to a song you already know gives you headaches. Why would you do that?

     You don’t have to like everyone. Actually, you’re guaranteed to meet people that you don’t like. But you should at least give them a chance. Who knows? You may meet your own Aiden.

“Share your smile with the world. It is a symbol of friendship and peace.”
-Christie Brinkley

What Are You Even Doing Here?

To be honest with myself and anyone who may be reading this, I am probably the last person on Earth who should be blogging about being an adult. I’m a twenty-two year old college drop out who still lives with her parents… and on most nights I usually just drink and read books to my pets. Truthfully, the only adult-ish things about myself, aside from my legal ability to drink alcohol, are that I have a job, own a car, and pay my own bills (although not without the occasional help from mom to make sure I don’t have to choose between having car insurance and starving to death). Outside of that I don’t know the first thing a bout what the actual fuck I’m doing. I watch people who graduated at the same time as or even after me. They post wedding pictures, or pictures of their kids with funky numbered stickers on their baby fat bellies. I see college graduations and first homes. And it seemed for the longest like the ability to level up into adulthood came late for me… just like puberty.

My first question to myself was “what am I doing wrong?” and the answer was another question. “What are you even doing?” Don’t get me wrong here; I don’t envy anyone who is married with kids. My kids are my pets and that’s how it always will be. Hell, even my kitten talks back to me too much for my liking, even if I am probably wrong about what she’s saying. (‘Meow.’ ‘No, you are not hungry. You literally just ate. You just see me eating. Shut up.)

I don’t envy their lives, I envy their progress. Their ability to go out there and get shit done while I get the munchies and debate on whether I want to be adventurous and make mac n cheese or just eat another pack of un-toasted PopTarts.

In an attempt to gain some clarity one day, I went to the person who seemed to have her life the most together. I’m talking about who I like to call “an adultier adult”. Mid-thirties, successful parent, successful at work, happily married, and an overall cool person. I walked up and shared a smoke break with her one day, and while we stood outside I couldn’t help but think about how badly I seemed to be failing. My struggle with anxiety and depression seemed to be effortlessly ruining every aspect of my life, I sucked at my job, I never wanted to go home because my mom always seemed to be disappointed in me, and the guy I was sleeping with wanted to keep sleeping with me…. but not date me.

My lungs were full of smoke and my mind full of doubt when I looked to my left and saw her standing there. A success story in the flesh. I just had to know.

“How old were you when you finally knew what the fuck you were doing?”

I still don’t really know what sort of answer I was expecting. Did I want her to tell me that the answer to life is 37? Did I want her to tell me that I’d known soon enough or understand when I’m older? Maybe. But the answer I got is the one that I really needed to hear.

She laughed. She laughed HARD. And then she said: “I still don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. I don’t think anyone does.”

What a disappointment. But also, what a relief. Does that make sense? We are all collectively lost. We may not all be struggling in the exact same ways, but we’re all struggling with something. We may not all be uncertain about the same things, but we’re all uncertain about something. And that’s what makes life worth living, because if we knew everything about our lives then would would be the point of living them out? It would be like reading a book and already knowing how it ends.

Now, months later, I’m starting to really feel a shift in my life. Things are changing. Do I know what I’m doing or where I’m going? No, not really. But maybe that’s okay. I’m doing something. I’m going somewhere. That’s a start.

 

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.”
-Deepak Chopra