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Thursday, May 5, 2011
25 Things I've Learned in 25 Years (but mostly since adulthood)
1) Age really is just a number, but the years do start to fly by more and more quickly as you get older. Really, it's the company you keep that allows you to act like a child when you need to rant, a teenager when you need to be silly, and an adult when things need to be serious...I'm so glad I have friends who let me do all of these things--and with style.
2) Being cool doesn't mean you have to follow the crowd; in fact, much of the time the opposite is true. Don't hurt others or disagree to get what you want in life, but don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Also, it doesn't matter what other people consider fun--or even what you may have once thought to be so--find the activities that you most enjoy and embrace them, without losing the ability to compromise.
3) Hangovers DO exist. In college, I could literally party until 6:30 AM, sleep from then until 8 AM, and be up, ready, and at work by 8:30 AM. Looking back, I know I had to completely reek of whiskey and beer, but then again...who didn't? With the exception of a few times--mostly when I mixed a bunch of liquors in a single night--I just didn't get hangovers. Usually, I had a headache that was more of an annoyance than really painful, and typically it was gone within a couple of hours. Now, however, my hangovers last all day and often well into the next night, and usually they pop up after I've been awake for a few hours and think I'm in the clear. Sneaky little bastards. What's more--this isn't really a big deal to me anymore. If I want to drink, I do it in moderation and try to end the night kind of early, drink lots of water and take aspirin before bed, have another glass of water and two more aspiring waiting for me in the morning, and make sure to always eat something substantial before I drink. Occasionally--read, perhaps 4 times a year--I go all out, even knowing about the hangover to come. It's simple really--I just do it before a day off at work.
4) Most of the time, I really like to clean (especially laundry because of the fresh scent and easy feeling of accomplishment). For the most part, I've found a way to enjoy the actual act of cleaning, but it's more than that. I really do feel better coming home to a clean house after work, because it's a great feeling and it also means that I can spend my downtime reading (or watching movies or the occasional TV show) with a glass of red wine.
5) I love to read, and I normally like to spend time with other people who enjoy it too. In reality, this is something I've known all my life, but it has become so much more apparent in the past few years. Just a couple of months ago, my dream of starting a book club--or rather, one that will actually last--became a reality. Even more exciting is the fact that it's a long distance book club--with Iz, Karen, and Jamie. For one thing, finding out what others like to read is always fun, and I always like to try new types of books, but it's hard to branch out on a whim. Naturally, having others pick books for you 3 out of every 4 months is refreshing and interesting, and I still have time to read other things that I am interested in as well. The greatest part, of course, is that I get to keep in touch with my friends a little more, even if it's just for an hour on Skype every month and exchanging e-mails. It's a nice addition to friend time.
6) Reality TV is the devil. Yes, I watch Dancing With The Stars, and sometimes other shows will be on in the background as I'm cleaning, but for the most part, I can't stand them. For one thing, they are about as unrealistic as you can get, and there is enough drama in my own life (even if there's not most of the time--by choice) without adding fake drama on top of it. When The Real World, one of the first reality shows, first came on the air, the "reality" was a lot more real. Of course there was editing and leading questions, but 7 random people really did have to live together in a house and get a job and find out what happened. Now, however, they stage it so that there is usually a flamboyantly gay guy who has to live with a (typically Southern, which is so stereotypical) homophobe of the most extreme kind. Or, there's the over-the-top racist with a overly tempermental black guy (I'm not trying to be racist here, as I've seen it happen with other minorities too, but this seems to be the most common). And of course, there are always at least one--but usually more--slutty girl who drinks too much and hooks up with all the guys (and sometimes the girls) in the house. Actually, there is a lot of sex in general, which is a GREAT example for the targeted audience of teens and young adults. More than anything, I miss the sitcoms of the past that were so awesome that viewers became a part of the life of the show, and felt as if they knew the characters (ie Friends, Will and Grace, Seinfield, I Love Lucy, Laverne and Shirley, etc). There are a few of those still around, and I think (and hope!) that they are making a comeback, but in the meantime I'm really sick of the fact that there is, quite literally, a reality show for everything you can think of--families of multiples, little people, the Kardashians (don't even get me started), people who drive trucks in bad conditions, BRIDALPLASTY, and the list goes on. Where's the creativity? I miss that most of all.
7) Quoting classic, cult, or generally crazy movies is an art form. If, upon meeting somebody for the first time, I can start a quote of a favorite movie and they can finish it--we're soulmates. Not that it's the end all be all of deciding a friendship, of course, but it just means we'll get there faster. Many of these now "older" movies are entwined with my childhood and fond memories, and I love when others see it that way too, or at least where I'm coming from concerning this topic. I know, it's weird, but then so am I. FYI--the same holds true for singing Disney songs.
8) It really is the little things that matter in life. Calling to say a quick hello, sending a letter, offering to buy somebody a drink at work, making an extra espresso shot, doubling back to give a quick hug, letting somebody over in traffic, taking five minutes out of your day to listen to somebody talk about whatever they want, bonding with a stranger over something random (like a book, purse, movie, drink, whatever), complimenting somebody on something little such as a new hairstyle or their shoes, going out for a drink with an old friend just to catch up, writing a letter (a personal favorite of mine) instead of just writing on their Facebook wall or sending a text message, drinking a cup of coffee and watching the sun rise, drinking a glass of wine as the sun sets, hammocks and porch swings, homemade iced tea and lemonade, using a family member's recipe for a favorite dish (like my Nanny's peach cobbler), getting off work at the perfect time to feel the warmth of the sun and the wind in your hair, driving with the windows rolled down and cheesy music blaring, scarves, not having to explain yourself to an old friend--because they just understand, memories, the perfect margarita paired with chips and salsa, good makeup and/or hair days, the smell of fresh cut grass, rainy days with no responsibilities, traditions, becoming friends with your parents and siblings, long walks in pretty weather, swinging like you did before anybody told you it was for children. I used to think only the big moments--birthdays, proms and dances, graduations, getting a new car or house (which is nice, don't get me wrong), and the like--were the parts of life that would mean the most and stay with me the longest. Many of them do, but those little day to day ups and downs, laughter that requires you to catch your breath and tears that subside when others catch you, impromptu sing-a-longs or dance numbers and unexpected heart-to-hearts--these are the spice of life, the memories you wrap yourself in when the world just doesn't seem to understand, the in-between moments that make you who you become.
9) While I may be scatter-brained and have an almost laughable short term memory at times, I have an uncanny long term memory for the things that truly matter. When people think it doesn't matter, or that my grief has shielded kind words and words of wisdom, I remember. The hugs that allow me to breathe and think of the important things are etched in my memory. Late night gab sessions and the laughter of friends forms the melody that lulls me to sleep at night. Every time somebody told me I was worth it, or that they loved me, or that I am strong or brave--these have kept me sane and ALIVE. Years of hearing what others thought I did not--because I continued to feel the need to hurt myself and acted on these impulses--have allowed me to begin to like AND love myself. The act of healing from my pain and past will follow me throughout my lifetime, but I know I can overcome much more than I was believed possible of myself, because I remember. Small acts of kindness, simply listening to me, a quick hug, and those who tell me that my past and life has helped them--these things have saved me. I don't take anything for granted, because I remember my past and I understand that nothing lasts forever. I will continue to tell people that matter so much in my life that I love them and that I care about them and I will never stop thanking the ones who have stayed in my life--and silently the ones who have faded away--because I remember.
10) You are never to old to act like a child. Catching lightening bugs, dancing in the rain, curling up on the couch with my parents, watching home movies (a favorite past time of mine when I was little), quoting every line of "Dumb and Dumber" with my brother, chasing down the ice cream truck to get a push-up pop, drinking too much of my mom's sweet tea...oh yes. Kids have the right idea about quite a few things, and it's okay to sometimes just act like a kid.
11) Red wine is amazing. For years, my mother tried to get me to like red wine, but I always found it too bitter. Now, I love it. It doesn't hurt that (in moderation, of course) it is very good for you.
12) Holding on to the past is pointless, but neglecting to learn from it keeps you from growing as a person. I try now to remember fondly those things that I never wanted to end, but I remind myself that we can only go forward and clinging to those things only results in sadness. Yes, I loved high school and adored college, but I can't ever go back. That also means that nobody can take away my memories, and I think a part of me feared that for a long time. Plus, there are a lot more memories to be made, and knowing that, I can look to the future eager to see what comes my way.
13) My parents made both me and my brother get jobs at the age of 15, telling us if we wanted a car when we turned 16, we had to earn money and pay for our own insurance and gas, as well as the things that we did for pure enjoyment (such as going to movies with friends or buying "toys"). At the time, though I liked my job, I hated having to work and my parents for making me do it. We also knew that they were only going to buy us one car, and if we wrecked it, we had the buy the rest on our own. If we made big mistakes, like getting a DUI for instance, we were responsible for paying for them both monetarily and legally. When each of these things happened to me, I ranted and raved that I should have to pay for a mistake anyone could make. Yet, when I worked my butt off during the summer of 2005 to save money to buy myself a car, I took great pride in buying one at the age of only 19. Looking at the potential consequences of what that DUI could have cost me--the life of others or myself--instead of stewing over the idea of giving all of my money to the court system, I am grateful that my parents made me pay for everything myself instead of caving and letting me keep my money. For one thing, I learned that if somebody doesn't really have to feel the sting of making a mistake that big, they won't ever learn to own up and be responsible for anything significent. Paying hundreds, thousands, of dollars for it ensured I wouldn't ever want to do it again--and that's stuck with me. That holds true for most things. When you have to spend your own money, it makes you sit back and really consider what is important to buy and what is merely for fun. Obviously, I'm still not perfect with my money, but I have learned to be much more responsible with it. Leaving college, many people have to learn to live in the real world and pay bills and balance out expenses for the first time as everything hits them at once, but I had already been dealing with things in the "real world" for a long time. It was a lucky one up on my generation. Oddly enough, that first job had one more lesson in store that I only just now began to really see--it is important to treat yourself. Almost every paycheck, I buy myself something that is just for fun--a movie, earrings, ice cream, drinks--without compromising my ability to pay my bills. It's important to be able to enjoy the money you spend countless hours a day, week, month, year earning--and it keeps you from getting fed up and buying something extravagant and expensive that you may not need. A nice perk is that I have made friends at my jobs, and kept up with many of these people. Yep, good job Mom and Dad.
14) I am strong, brave, and hardworking. Believe you me, these were tough to learn...and I'm still learning them. Truth is, you can't go through what I have and not have a little something extra. I've learned to laugh through the pain and never, ever be ashamed of my scars and stories. They make me who I am, and I kind of like that person.
15) Driving stick shift beats letting an automatic car drive you anyday. There are few things that I enjoy more in life, and I don't mind looking like a bad ass behind the wheel. From a practical standpoint, I feel so much safer knowing that I can drive almost any car if the need arises. But mostly--it's just fun.
16) The less I worrry about my weight (and calories consumed versus calories burned), the better it actually becomes. I know this seems obvious, but for a girl who thought of virtually nothing else for about five years, this is a big step and revelation. Even though science and nature taught me that, in reality, starvation actually causes your body to hold onto weight and working out too much causes the breakdown of muscle in your body and the retention of fat for survival....I didn't live in reality. My mind saw what it wanted to see, and that image of myself as a huge monster of a person overrode what was really there--a little girl quite literally killing herself. Now, I tend to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm not--though not all the time--and while I very much want to start working out more, it's to feel stronger and healthier instead of trying to disappear. With a degree in psychology and ten years of living with eating disorders under my belt, I'm very aware that these problems will never really go away--I'm not that naive and I also know that believing they will only leads me to relapse time and time again. But, on the flip side, I now have another weapon in my arsenal--knowing what healthy feels like. And no matter what the disorders will try to tell me, I know a secret--I have fought and won time and timer again, and I AM STRONGER THAN THE DISEASES.
17) Cutting, though it may feel as if I am relieving pain that has no other way to escape, is never a true solution. After all is said and done, I have to wake up the next day knowing that I have scarred myself, and the emptiness has not gone away. It has been a year and four months since I have cut myself, and that is a wonderful gift I have given myself--and all of those who suffer with me. Though I'm not ashamed of my past, I do not want it to be my future.
18) Creativity is fading in this world, but it is not lost forever. As those reality shows creep up the ratings and almost all of the movies as of late seem to be based on books instead of new ideas (not always a bad thing, but often it is), it's hard to find creativity in the arts these days. There is still beauty everywhere, however, and if you look for it, the foundation comes from an often unexpected source. I'm so glad I work in a bookstore, because I am constantly surprised by what, often young, authors create. In my heart, I believe there will be a resurgence of creative voice, and in the meantime, I'll be listening for it.
19) Though I don't regularly attend church, I'm not against it as I once thought I was. I still believe that God is everywhere, but I would love to find a new, strong place to worship that isn't bogged down in politics and hypocrisy. It will be a challenge for sure, but I think it's possible. Church used to represent only preaching and judging to me, but now I see that it is simply a place for believers to gather with others who also love God. I don't think you have to attend every Sunday, and I won't, but I think the loving friendship I have with God can be strengthened at the right place and with the right (for me) people.
20) I really don't like humidity, but my love for the South (usually) overrides that dislike. Loving the south is nothing new to me, but I used to love it blindly. Now I see that, as with anywhere else, it has flaws--but there is so much more here that I wish people took the time to see. Southern hospitality is real, racism exists here just as it does everywhere else and we don't hold the reigns on it, true art--especially in literature--is abundant here and we and we are both appreciative and proud of that fact, and we aren't all rednecks here--but there's really nothing wrong with people who love their country music, their trucks, and their mamas. But seriously, the humidity is a killer.
21) Support the military, even if you don't support the war. Obviously, I learned this through having a brother who, as a Marine, went to both Iraq and Afghanistan and defended the freedom many of us take for granted. Not for a second will I hesitate to admit that I'm very much AGAINST the war and the government's take on it, but the men and women who fight to keep me free? They are, and always will be, HEROES. In the past, before Brent went to war, I thought of soldiers and the war as a unit, but now I know that these heroes are brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandchildren, uncles and aunts, somebody's best friend, and somebody's hero long before they put on that uniform. Growing up, my brother was my hero. Now, he's America's hero. In this case, I'll share.
22) Mental illness is very real, very scary, and very dangerous. That being said, our society is grossly over diagnosed and over medicated. There should be no shame in having a mental illness, but it shouldn't be something we strive to discover within ourselves to avoid living. After I was diagnosed with clinical depression at 17 and hospitalized at 18, I avoided going to a therapist until I was 24. For one thing, I thought once diagnosed, nothing could or would change and that was it. My last diagnosis was a combination of ADHD, depression, and anxiety. Once put on the correct medication for ADHD, the symptoms of my depression and especially my anxiety decreased signifcantly in severity. Though it took nearly a month of waiting and hours upon hours of testing, I'm so grateful for what this has done for me. The issues are still there, but they aren't everything to me anymore. A lot of people bitch and moan about the time it takes, and the money it costs, to go through all of that; for me, it was well worth it to feel like I should have felt all along. So, if you think you have a mental illness, go for some tests. It's not a death sentence, I promise. On the flip side, don't go looking for a problem that isn't there. Sometimes, life is hard--and medicating yourself against reality isn't the solution. Allowing yourself to live, no matter how hard it may be.
23) Silence is golden--sometimes. For years I hated to be alone, afraid of what I would have to face within myself when the chatter around me stopped. Parties, games, practice, reading whatever I could find even if it didn't interest me--these were my ways of hiding from the darkness. Always a social butterfly, I do still love to be around people and try new things and see the world through another's eyes. My friends mean the world to me, and my family is a ridiculous amount of fun (most of the time HAHA), but now I don't mind being alone; indeed, sometimes I prefer it. Yes, I still spend much of the time reading or watching movies, but I take the time to find the things that interest me. Dark thoughts often creep into my mind as I once feared, but I'm not so afraid of them anymore. They are mine, and if I have to work through them, so be it. As it turns out, I'm not my own worst enemy, but instead a strong ally.
24) My friends are just as amazing as I always believed, but not just for the reasons I once thought. They are funny, smart, beautiful, honest, caring, feisty people, but they are not perfect. For a long time, I put them on a pedestal because I believed they had saved my life time and time again. In many ways, they have and continue to do so. What I found in the past few years though, is that it was unfair for me to put my life in their hands--both for me and for them. Of course, they knew that. By loving me despite what I put them and myself through, they didn't save me --they showed me how to save myself. They are still my angels, my sisters, but now I see that, sometimes, I'm their angel too.
25) Arguably the most important thing I've learned these past 25 years is that... I still have so much to learn. I also have so much to teach and give to the world. I don't think we ever stop learning, and that's a beautiful thing. Some lessons will be simple and straightforward--just the other day at work I learned that the word "wert" means "thou were"--and others will be metaphorical or spiritual, even confusing. I will learn things that I only understand years later, and some things I will never completely understand. Of course, that in and of itself is a lesson. Without a doubt, I'm so glad that I'm 25. For weeks, months really, I dreaded the day because it just sounded and seemed so OLD, but I'm just old in (some aspects) of wisdom and young in spirit, drive, and, truth be told, AGE. Now that I'm here, I wouldn't really want to be younger. I like that I prefer to stay at home with a good book or have dinner at a friend's house over partying until 5 AM. And I like that I still have the spirit that compels me to, every so often, party until 5 AM. I like understanding more about the world, and in turn myself, and that only comes with age. I like that the opinions of others are important for other reasons now; instead of judging my worth through the eyes of others', I'm beginning to embrace diversity of mind, body, and spirit. Most of all, I love that I'm alive and loved and always, constantly, learning.
1) Okay, so I think I'm technically 17 in this picture, but it's close enough. I remember my Junior Prom fell on May 3rd because I turned 17 at my Prom after midnight--but I can't remember when Senior Prom fell. At any rate, we'll say I was 18. Oh man--I had such mixed emotions at this time in my life. On the one hand, I was totally stoked about college--and I'd known for a long time that I'd be heading to Ole Miss--and couldn't wait to branch out. But I also knew what I was leaving behind and how I'd never find a place quite like GPS anywhere in the world, and I could only hope that my friends and I would stay close. Of course, we have.
2) Cotton Ball; Summer 2005. It was so awesome to be back in Chattanooga, with my GPS girls, and any excuse to dress up--especially in a wedding dress!--is fine by me. I knew at the time that it was basically an excuse for the "rich folk" (which I was not--I was invited because I attended GPS) to get wasted among friends and not be judged. I also knew it was deeply rooted in tradition, and even if people had long ago forgotten--or at the very least, ceased to care--about what it represented, I loved feeling so deeply Southern, so very Gone With The Wind.
3) Just a couple of months before I could legally drink, and I'm CLEARLY drunk here. Even though it's a terribly unflattering picture of me, I like it because it's from when I lived with Kristin. Since she is one of the friends I regularly keep in touch with from college--and with the exception of maybe Meredith, I think the college friend I've stayed in touch with the longest (I mean, REALLY kept in touch with and not just the occasional FB chat). I was 20 and a sophomore in college, and I didn't think life could get much better. It could, and did, but only after some tears and fights.
4) My 21st birthday--May 4th, 2007. I'm holding my first legal drink--a jolly rancher martini. We (me, Kristin, and Jessica) were at Old Venice, and I was so excited. Kristin had already given me my pink flask, and I had hours of drinking, friends, and fun ahead of me--most of which I remember.
5) Once again, I'm not technically 22 yet in this picture, but it was within a couple of months and is one of the best pictures of me with Elise and Lauren, and they were the people I hung out with when I was 22 anyway. Elise, Lauren, and I are at Parrish's--which has since shut down and "reopened" down the square (but it's not the same at all, hence the quotations). We loved this bar, and we celebrated many late nights and happy hours there--once, I even studied for an exam there over nachos and beer...and made an A--and it holds some of my favorite memories of all time.
6) Ah yes, age 23 and a pool shark--at least I look like one. Jessica (NOT the same one from the 21st birthday story) and I actually visited Chattanooga for Spring Break for some reason, and this was at a place called Coyote's. It was sleazy, rundown, and my parents told us not to go. We had a blast.
7) Erika's wedding in March 2011. I'm 24 and with my best friends from GPS--see, we did all stay in touch! The wedding was in California and I almost didn't get to go, but everything fell into place right at the last minute and I had the time of my life. Though I typically don't dance at things like weddings, and even told my friends I wasn't going to, our group actually started the dancing and ended it that night. Lots of liquid courage, and since I'm such a light drinker now, that led to a complete lack of inhibitions. Amazing.
8) My 25th birthday--May 4th, 2011. After working in the morning (and yes, I requested to), Caroline took me out to eat--and for a delicious margarita as you can see--at Taco Mac. Even though I'm celebrating with a bunch more people on Friday, it was very sweet of her to take me out on my actual birthday because my parents had to go out of town. I had a wonderful day, surrounded by friends and getting love from the ones who live far away. I'm truly blessed, and very, very loved.