I felt completely honored, terrified and intimidated when my 14 year old niece recently told me that her and her friends read my blog.
I guess I am no longer supposed to care what 14 year olds think of me.
In fact, I know I am not.
But I cared when I was 14- and I care at 39.
14 year olds are brutal.
14 year old girls are especially brutal (not that 39 year old girls are easy….)
But once I started thinking about my precious niece Taylor (Taylor, I realize that calling you that is probably totally uncool (as is my use of the word “uncool” which you have already told me before)), I started thinking about what life looks like through her eyes and those of her friends.
Over the Christmas holiday, I had two shopping experiences that gave me a little perspective into the lives of girls today. For those of you with children- and particularly girls- I need only say the names of the stores I visited for you to understand- Justice and Hollister. Wow. Talk about having a moment where you have to accept that you are an adult and no longer cool (I know, I know, Taylor… poor word choice).
SO much sparkle. SO “skinny.” SO dark. SO loud. SO sexy. So…. just SO.
“Why is this so expensive? You can get the same thing at Marshall’s without the label for half as much.”
“Those shorts could not even cover their butts.”
“That is heinous.” (repeated several, several times)
If my niece had witnessed me in Hollister yelling these old person edicts to my mother over the booming music and straining to see the sizes on the clothes in the dark, she would have run in the other direction. Run. And I would not have blamed her a bit.
But- I have to add this part just to get some slight bit of “coolness redemption”- rest assured that they got their pink/sparkly/tight/short/ overpriced items as requested. (Now it is their mothers’ jobs to be the tyrants and prepare for the “I hate you”/ “You don’t understand ANYTHING”/”People wear stuff like this ALL the time” battles.)
This shopping reminded me not only to be thankful that I did not grow up in a time when the jean choices were skinny versus super skinny but also that while I have no idea what it is like to be a teenager in some ways, I still know exactly what it’s like in other ways.
I remember wanting so badly to fit in and to stand out, wanting to be smart but not too smart, wanting to be nice but not too nice. Wanting ultimately the freedom to be who I was and have everyone (including myself) be okay with (and perhaps even a little excited about) it.
Truth be told, that could describe me at 14 or 39.
The difference is that at 39 I have had a lot more time and life experience to figure out who I am and to work on being okay with it.
And while Robert Fulghum may have learned everything he needed to know about life in Kindergarten, I think my version of that book would need to be titled “All I Know I Learned From Lots of Mistakes, Bad Break-Ups and Great Friends” because I am definitely still a work in progress.
Even so, there are certain themes that have jumped out at me so many times that even I cannot ignore them (in spite of many attempts to try).
And, Taylor, when you told me that you and some of your friends read my blog, I realized that maybe this was the place to share a few of those “truths” with you. If nothing else, I think these counterintuitive truths are proof positive that God has a sense of humor….
1. You are unique and amazing, but we are also all the same.
I really do believe that God made only one you and there is no one else on earth exactly like you. (Remember your amazing light? If not, see http://www.andguest.com/let-it-shine-by-lori-r-keeton/ ) You should celebrate that and feel special every single day because of it (and I strongly recommend wearing a tiara from time to time to drive the point home). However, you also have to realize that in spite of our each being different, we are also the same.
This concept really hit home with me when I was listening to a counselor who spoke on alcoholism. She said that the way you can tell if someone is truly improving is to figure out if they go to their AA/recovery meetings and see what they have in common with everyone around them or what they believe makes them different. Until they can not only accept but embrace their sameness, they will not be able to truly get better.
Anyone who has experienced the joy of hearing “me too” when you tell someone something about yourself that you find embarrassing or shameful can appreciate what she is saying. We are healed by our commonalities- not our differences.
But (one of) the crazy things about adults is that we punish ourselves with our sameness and our uniqueness. We look at other people and say “God- she is so much thinner/richer/smarter/better than I am” but then when we go through a bad break-up, we cry to our friends about how quickly he or she will move on to someone new (with the unspoken assumption being that we are easily replaceable because we are nothing special). In essence, what makes someone else different from us makes them better-and what makes us the same as others makes us worse. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
When you find yourself doing this, stop. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Learn to see and to celebrate both your uniqueness and your sameness– and do the same for others.
2. The incredibly “popular” people that you feel so insecure around are the most insecure and unhappy of all.
“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Love that quote by Margaret Thatcher. It is so true.
You know those people who constantly tell you- either directly or indirectly- how smart and accomplished and happy and rich and generally amazing they are? (Those people you compare yourself to and always believe you fall short? See Number 1 above.)
When you are younger, these are the queen/king bees who terrorize the smart kids and dominate the social scene. They set the trends and dictate who matters and who doesn’t.
When you grow up, these are the people who cannot wait to tell you about their new beach house or their one of a kind ___________________ (piece of art, car, statue, whatever) or their latest victory at work.
They are the people whose lives you covet because they seem to have it all (at least that is what they tell you).
Guess what? Are you ready for this one?
They are the most miserable, insecure people of all.
Their green grass that you are so convinced is greener than yours? It’s astroturf.
I know, I know. It looks really green. (And man yours is looking so brown in comparison.)
But it’s not.
Think about how many times you have turned on the news or opened the paper and there is a story about some seemingly perfect family and about how the husband murdered the wife or their child has been arrested or overdosed or a million other things.
And everyone they interview says “I had no idea. They just seemed like the perfect family.”
Guess what? There’s your first clue.
There is no perfect.
And the more someone tries to convince you that they are, the more they aren’t.
And the more they need to sell you on their happiness, the less you should buy into it.
When you find yourself envying these people and getting sucked into the fairy tales they tell you, stop. Why? Because the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Take all that energy you put into envying their lives and water your brown grass instead. You’d be surprised at how much they wish their grass looked more like yours.
3. Forgiving the people who hurt you is the best revenge.
I really hate this one. I hate it in the same way I hate overly cheerful people (especially in the morning). It is the God’s honest truth and so I feel compelled to say it, but I also know how maddening it is when you are so angry at someone and ready to plot the world’s greatest revenge against them and one of your goody two shoes, always composed friends chirps in with this forgiveness crap. Trust me- I get it. And I am SO not “that friend.”
I guess my version of this one would be “After you rage and vent and curse and cry and get all that toxicity out of you, then forgive the person who is to blame for it.” That’s a little less offensive, don’t you think?
I don’t recommend you forgive them because it is the “right” thing to do or because it is what it best for them. I recommend it for one reason only- because it’s what is best for you.
Anger is a really powerful emotion. It uses up a lot of you. It radiates from you. And it keeps you stuck.
I am sure you have met people who carry anger and bitterness around with them like it’s a designer handbag. They might as well also carry a sign that says “Stay away from me. I am going to dump my toxicity all over you if you even get near me.”
Staying angry at someone is more or less inviting them to retain a huge role in your life. They are in your thoughts. They impact your actions. They bleed over into your new relationships. They keep you from feeling fully present and fulfilled in any given moment.
That’s a whole lot of space to give someone who has already made it clear that they don’t value you the way they should, don’t you think?
So stop…. Why? (Surely you know the answer I am about to give. Say it with me….) Because the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
And when you consciously decide to forgive them- to release all the could have beens, should have beens, and “I can’t believe they’s- you are taking your life back from them. (And no, you don’t need to send them an ugly text to tell them that. I promise.)
You are also making room in your life for people that will value you. People who actually deserve space in your head and your heart.
And I know the nagging thought in the back of your head that is keeping you from letting it go. I do. I know because it nags me too.
And here’s the answer to it…. You can stop worrying about them getting what they deserve.
They are getting what they deserve- they have already gotten it and will continue to get it. It is their life. It is waking up every day and being who they are- and who they aren’t. It is being someone who is too stupid or scared or insecure to do what they need to in order to keep people like you- people who love and value them- in their lives. Do you know how sad that really is? It is far sadder and a far worse fate than anything they could ever do to you. That, my friend, is their karma. And they will do it all by themselves so you can just let that go.
I read a quote the other day that said “They can’t realize how amazing you are until they realize how amazing they are.” It’s the truth.
Forgive them. Dump that useless anger and make room for the people who love themselves enough to truly love you. Let that be YOUR karma.
4. You cannot be happy with someone until you can be happy alone.
Yep. I know– I am not crazy about this one either. But as a 39 year old single person, I gotta say it might just be the one on this list that I know best of all.
Being alone is hard. It gets old.
I get tired of doing everything for myself.
I get tired of being a plus one, a third wheel.
I really do want someone who is “on my team.” (And yes, I am convinced that is what a good relationship is supposed to feel like.)
But, I am not sure that I would have been a really good teammate at 25 or even 30. I still had a lot of “chameleon” in me. And some doubts about who I was and what I could and could not do. I still had a healthy dose of the “rescue fantasy” a la Richard Gere coming to rescue Debra Winger in the factory in “An Officer and a Gentleman.” (I get a little teary every time I watch it…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfnqDdpp9cs ) (Taylor- I know you have no idea who these people are, and they seem old and out of style. But just imagine it being Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez and you get the idea.)
Who am I kidding? I still want Richard Gere to show up and rescue me….
But, had it happened that way, what would we talk about once I was safely away from the “factory”? What would I have to feel proud about? When someone asked me about ME, what would I say? If he treated me like I was average, would I know that I wasn’t? And if one day he was dumb enough to leave me to go and rescue some other damsel in distress, what would I do?
Bottom line- there is nothing sexy, interesting or rewarding about being a supporting actor or actress in someone else’s story.
And the people you will attract if that is what you are looking for are not going to be lead actor or actress material- trust me on that one.
So…. (do I even need to say it? ) Stop it. Because the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
5. Endings are beginnings.
“The last chapter has not been written.” I cannot tell you how many times my mother has said that to me over the course of my life. Disappointments, break-ups, failures. Times when I would swear my broken heart was going to kill me.
She said this to remind me- over and over again- that the state of sadness and loss I was immersed in was temporary. The storm was going to pass. The sun would shine again.
And every single time she has been right.
I would be a liar if I said that the pain of all endings eventually goes away. There are just some endings that will always hurt. Always. But as I get older, I realize that the pain is so great because the person or the experience was so amazing. And you can’t forget that gift in all your grief.
When I say the Lord’s Prayer, I often find myself stumbling a little over the part that says “Thy will be done….” I try to just sort of gloss over that part, hoping God is too busy to notice that I am a little hesitant to let His will take precedence over mine. Let’s face it, giving up your plan for your life is tough- especially when you cannot see what God has in mind for you.
Of all the truths, this one is probably the hardest for me because I still don’t see what God’s plan is for my life. And I am not sure any of us ever do. But, I do know that is where our faith comes into play. You have to believe that God knows best and will lead you where you are meant to go. You have to try and approach all of life’s uncertainty with excitement over what could be and will be rather than disappointment over what isn’t and won’t be.
So Taylor, I may not understand the allure of shopping in the darkness (not to mention loudness) or what terms are currently popular. I definitely don’t have an appreciation for how much harder it is to be a teenager today with Facebook and Snapchat (I can’t lie to you, Tay. I just had to google “new app where you send pictures to each other fast” to remember the name of that one) and all the other advancements that will cause you grow up so much faster and more exposed to the world than I was at your age.
However, I do understand how overwhelming the world can seem and how hard it can be to find “you” in the midst of it all (but I can also promise you that the journey to finding the true you is worth it).
You will forget a lot of the things I have told you, and you will have to learn many of them for yourself (Just ask Mimi how many times I ignored her advice and had to go and “learn” it on my own….). That is okay.
No matter what, I always want you to hear me cheering for you when you try and applauding for you when you succeed. Even more importantly, I want you to hear me yelling “Me too, me too” whenever you feel like you are alone- in your doubts or your fears or your mistakes.
I cannot wait to watch your story unfold as I know you were made to be an amazing leading actress.
And just remember- the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
I love you, Taylor Rebecca.