My one year anniversary of independence is quickly approaching.
Last year, on July 1st, 2012, I loaded up my car (and a few others) and bounded down I-70 as quickly as I could. Speed limits were not holding me back and neither was the constant ringing of my phone from family members who didn’t get to say their final goodbyes. As much as I denied it to those who asked, I was leaving for many more reasons other than to start school. My friends, and especially my family, knew I wasn’t coming back.
(It sounds melodramatic, but for those of you who have kept up with the blog, you know this isn’t the case.)
Since July, I’ve been lonely and uncomfortable in my own skin more times than I’d like to admit, but that’s because I have been challenging my typical ways of thinking and trying new things, and sometimes found myself faced with situations I never thought I’d encounter. Whether these situations were full of joy and laughter, or left me weeping, they ultimately helped me discover myself.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned this far:
1- I have a voice that deserves to be heard (and so do you). Anyone who makes me question my right to have an opinion, doesn’t have a place in my life. While I’m not confrontational or anywhere near the aggressive end of the personality spectrum, I’ve found more effective ways for me to express my emotions, voice my thoughts, and de-stress. This blog is the perfect example. Some can’t handle my honesty, and that’s okay. They’ll come around, or they won’t. But for the first time ever, I’m comfortable (not scared) to say what needs to be said, and that’s liberating.
2- It’s important to play up your strengths AND accept your weaknesses. And as a single girl, living alone in the city, it’s especially important.
For me, I can’t solve even the smallest of car issues. When I first started driving, I dated a mechanic who took care of all my car problems. He was nice enough that even after our breakup, he didn’t mind keeping up his role as Mr. Fix-It. However, moving over 60 minutes away and dating new people, he no longer offered any solutions.
When winter hit, I, legitimately, didn’t think I would survive. My dingy cavalier couldn’t handle the frigid temperatures and my freshly manicured nails weren’t about to pop the hood to diagnose any problems. Luckily, no matter the problem, my car was able to make the short trip to the neighboring mechanic service. It was in their lobby that I realized I COULD survive; it was all about working my strengths. I smiled kindly at the man behind the counter, explained what my issue was, and asked for help. I’ve been in their lobby three times since the icy days of January, and have yet to spend a dime. I may not be a pro at fixing cars, but I can be quite charming… And that gets my car fixed.
3- People mirror how you treat yourself. This is probably the hardest lesson I have had to learn, but as the oldest sibling and a bit of a workaholic, I often prioritize my needs (and wants) at the bottom of the list. When I notice that this is where I fall on someone else’s priority list, it’s heartbreaking, but when I devalue my needs and wants, how can I expect anyone to else to think they’re valuable? Like the old saying goes, “we accept the love we think we deserve.”
This lesson is a work-in-progress, but I’ve acknowledged it, and hey, that counts for something.
4- People also fail (sometimes on a daily basis), so it is important to trust yourself. When people don’t do their jobs, you are your only ally. It doesn’t matter what regulations or codes of ethics are put into place, people still fail to do their jobs. For me, my life would’ve been (and be) a lot easier if one of my teachers did what they were supposed to do as mandated hotline reporters. All the signs they needed to see were clear, but for some reason (a reason I’ll never know), nobody ever acknowledged them. In fact, a large part of my family works as educators, and they failed to step in, also. I’m not placing blame; I’m just noticing that people don’t do what they’re supposed to do. I’m over it now because I (me, myself, a singular noun) picked up the pieces and did what I had to do. But it still sucks knowing that people you thought highly of, aren’t as great as they could be. And I know from my education and social work courses that these statements are valid (see Lesson #1: I have a voice that deserves to be heard).
As a girl who never thought the word independent would be used to describe her, I’ve failed (yes, I recognize that I’m not perfect) to realize how many things I’ve done by myself before I only had myself to rely upon.
5- I don’t need people to understand my choices. I like it when people are supportive and accepting, but I know I can’t please everyone. I also know that NEED and WANT are two different words. So while I might want someone to understand why I did something, I don’t need them to. That being said, when someone doesn’t understand my choices, it shouldn’t steer my direction. People don’t understand what they don’t know. And, after all, it’s MY life; I’m going to be the one dealing with the consequences- good or bad- of the decision. And considering how other people have made decisions that have made my life suck, I try not to do things that impact others in negative ways.
I’m still learning how to say no, how to not let stress tie my intestines into knots (literally), and how to embrace the moment. Even with these lessons to learn, I’m proud of what I HAVE learned.
This year, on July 1st, 2013, I will pack up my car again and move further into the city. But this time, I’ll follow the speed limit and answer my phone; I’m not running from anything anymore.
Happy one year anniversary to me! I did it.