Well, my birthday just passed. I’m 25! Again! For the *mumble, mumble* time! I thought it might be a good time to reflect. So if I could talk some sense to my 20-year-old self, here are some things I’d say:
1. LEARN YOUR LESSONS THE FIRST TIME
Albert Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Don’t be insane. Learn your lessons ~ you’re not meant to be a journalist, he doesn’t love you, bar hopping & mixing different kinds of drinks is a bad idea ~ the first time and move on.
2. “THE FIRST TIME SOMEONE SHOWS YOU WHO THEY ARE, BELIEVE THEM”
Maya Angelou said this one & it’s true. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache & time if you stop making excuses for other people’s bad behavior and instead see them for who they really are, the first time.
3. WHAT YOU DO IN THE WORLD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HOW YOU LOOK
Stop looking at “beauty”/fashion magazines filled with Photoshopped women who aren’t real. You can’t compete with a figment of somebody’s imagination. Nobody can. Stop trying. Sitting around looking pretty will not get you where you want to be. And in 10 years, very few people will even care what you look like. Go DO what you were put on this planet to do. Go write novels.
4. HIDING YOUR LIGHT SERVES NO ONE, LEAST OF ALL YOURSELF
You’re really smart. You always have been. You’re also blonde & a female. People will expect you to be dumb. Don’t play into that. Let your light shine. Some people will be intimidated by you. That’s about them; it has nothing ~ I repeat, nothing ~ to do with you. Don’t dim yourself to their level. Let your light shine bright.
5. LISTEN TO YOUR HEART EVERY TIME
I mean it, listen to your heart every single time. The only times in your life that you’ll really get into trouble is when you let your head talk you into or out of something. Go with your heart every single time.
6. IT’S YOUR LIFE, REMEMBER THAT
Your life is not your dad’s expectations or your mom’s hopes. It’s not what your grandmother wants for you or your grandfather wishes you would do. It doesn’t belong to your best friend, whom you’re afraid to let go of, or the guy you’ll date for two years who will shatter your heart. It’s your life, and when all is said and done, you’ll be the only one responsible for your own happiness. Remember that every time you make a choice.
7. PEOPLE WILL COME IN & OUT OF YOUR LIFE
People come & people go. Say what you need to say ~ always. Then be willing to wish them well and let them go.
8. DON’T SETTLE
You know what you want. You know what you have to do to get it. Don’t believe you can’t have it. Don’t make excuses or assign blame or accept good enough. Don’t take anything less than everything you want.
9. DON’T LET FEAR DERAIL YOU
Grab onto somebody’s hand, hold your breath, & keep going.
10. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE
Sometimes it may feel like that. Some days it may feel like that a lot. But it’s never too late. You’re still breathing, so it’s not too late.
If you could talk to your younger self, what would you say? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle, you can live as if everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein
When I was younger, I wholeheartedly believed in miracles. I saw my life as a series of miracles. Breathing. The sun coming warm through my window. The leaves changing color in the fall. Running & feeling inside my body. Reading books & getting lost in the story. Writing for hours. But then things started to change, and as the years went by, so did my belief in miracles.
I got married. Everything fell into place perfectly. It was a series of little miracles: meeting him in an unlikely way, having him propose two weeks (no joke!) later, me listening to my heart instead of my head & saying yes, having a tiny but lovely wedding. And then we started living together. His dirty dishes all over the house. Ditto, his dirty laundry. Snoring. Me being a night owl, him liking to get up at the crack of dawn. The way he was used to doing things & was inflexible about doing them differently (i.e. my way). Um, not such a miracle then.
My body, miracle of miracles, made two beautiful people. I got to feel them kicking inside me. I got to be there when they took their first breaths. I got to hold them & have them fall asleep on my chest. I got to watch them grow & change & learn. I got to experience their wonder & see how life looked to someone brand new to it. And then they grew up some and started talking back. And not listening. And being loud. And fighting with each other, then sometimes with me. So yeah, not such miracles anymore, it didn’t seem.
I wrote my first novel in total anonymity, holed up in my little writing room with not one person waiting for it to get done. A miracle because I got everything I needed to write that book when I needed it. I’d jot notes in my journal like I need someone who knows about schizophrenia and a week or so later, I got introduced to a woman who had lived with an adult schizophrenic & who graciously answered all my questions about how it was to be with him when he was off his medications. That kind of thing happened over and over again while I was writing that book. I’d been nervous: writing it had seemed daunting and I’d been unsure of my ability. Four years later, it was done. A miracle, for sure. Then readers loved it. And so did critics. And it won an award & a grant. All miracles, too. Then the rejections started rolling in. And readers started asking for my next book. And the pressure mounted to write something not only just as good but even better the next time. Okay, maybe not such a miraculous thing after all.
AND THE POINT IS . . .
A few years ago, I realized I was happier when I was younger. At first, I thought it was because I had less responsibility & more free time to do things I loved. Maybe it was some of that. But, too, it was because all those years ago I saw life as a series of miracles. If life isn’t a series of miracles, then it’s just a series of random happenings. And if it’s just a series of random happenings, then where’s the wonder? I believe Einstein was right. At least for me, not looking for the miracles stole my joy. And I’d rather be happy. So now I make a point of looking for & expecting miracles. Like most things in life, it’s a choice & that’s the way I choose to live.
How do you feel about miracles? What’s your choice? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” ~ Vince Lombardi
I love Lombardi’s quote because everybody ~ and I do mean everybody ~ gets knocked down at some point in their lives, flattened to the point that they don’t want to get back up. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. When it happens to you, the most important things to do are these: 1. get back up & 2. learn from it. Early on, rejection used to do that to me, knock me flat. Here are some real-life examples:
Over the past 10+ years, I’ve been rejected over 100 times. I stopped counting at 100 so I don’t know exactly how many. Some of them were fabulous (“This is beautifully written but not for me”) and some were less stellar (“I wasn’t satisfied at all with the ending”) & some were downright mean (“With all the awards you’ve won, I expected it to be so much better.” ~ although, in my defense, she only read the first 5 pages before rejecting me). What I could’ve learned is that I’m not a good-enough writer and my work isn’t publishable. What I learned, though, was in some cases, I simply sent my book to the wrong person because he/she didn’t represent my genre. In other cases (like the ending), my manuscript really did need work. And finally, while everyone is entitled to their opinion, that doesn’t automatically make them right or mean that their comments have helpful value.
I once caught the CFO of a company I worked for in a lie. A big lie. One that I thought might affect the company in a very negative way. So I reported it to his boss. Two days later, I got fired. Technically, I got fired for “job performance” but quite frankly, my performance had never been an issue until I pointed out that the head of finance was lying. Can you say shoot the messenger? Well, I could’ve learned to keep my mouth shut & my head down. But instead I chose to learn that I don’t ever want to work for a company or a person that supports/encourages dishonesty. Because, really, if they’re lying to each other, you know they’re also willing to lie to you.
I once got dumped because I gained some weight. Yeah, it was a lot. But still, his parting words to me: “I’m just not attracted to you when you’re fat.” Ouch. What I took away from that, after I picked myself up off the floor, was that I don’t want somebody ~ anybody ~ in my life who can’t see past what’s on the outside (how that came out of my mouth at the time was: “I don’t want anymore !*^&#$@ shallow *!$@)^ jerks”). And it’s not just weight either. It’s also scars, skin color, birthmarks, birth defects, handicaps, whatever. I could’ve learned imperfect/different people are unloveable. What I learned from that experience, though, is how to spot the jerks and kick them to the curb after insensitive comment number one. That way, I didn’t have to waste anymore of my time. I also learned how to spot the good ones, and then I married one of them.
AND THE POINT IS . . .
Once I started turning rejection around & seeing what I could gain from it, it wasn’t nearly as bad. Was it great? No. Was everybody’s rejection helpful? That’s a no, too. Did I look forward to it? Not a chance. But at least it wasn’t the devastating, knock-me-over-with-a-feather experience it once had been. I know I’m venturing into Oprah territory here, but really if you look at rejection as a lesson ~ what’s in it for me ~ instead of a personal failure, it eases the sting a whole lot.
So what have you learned from rejection? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
Grand Prize Winner, Grant Winner, & Silver Medal Winner