“I hope you don’t mind the question, but how old are you?” asks my friend Rachel. We’re sitting in a quiet coffeeshop, her feet curled up on the chair. We’re sweaty, sipping iced coffees through a straw, wondering about it all.
“Not at all. I’m twenty-seven. About to be twenty-eight in a few weeks. Why do you ask?”
“I guess… I don’t know. I just feel so…. twenty-five right now,” she says. “Does that make sense?”
Totally. It shouldn’t. But it makes perfect sense.
I start to mumble through my explanation of why I understand, and I try my best but it sort of comes out garbled and unclear. It’s not until after I get home that I start to mull over that conversation again and unpack it into what I actually think and believe. The things that I think I needed to hear at twenty-five I think I can articulate now, at the infinitely older and wiser (ha!) age of twenty-seven. In the few years since I felt so twenty-five, I …
I guess started to relax a little bit more. I guess I started to like myself a bit more.
I have to remind myself of this a lot, but it’s easier now. I’ve never thought to write it down, but putting it on paper suddenly makes a ton of sense to me.
1. Not everyone is going to like you. That’s okay. Like yourself anyways.
2. Not everyone is going to like what you write. That’s okay. Write anyways.
3. You are never going to be able to keep everyone happy. There are too many projects, too few hours in the day, too many balls to keep juggling constantly, and too much pressure to get everything right. Do your best to meet expectations that are reasonable. And then figure out how to not sacrifice your life, your health, and your personal welfare for the sake of keeping everyone happy. Try your best. But: when there is so much pressure to please everyone, it seems impossible to forgive yourself for failing to meet up to unrealistic expectations. Forgive yourself anyways.
4. Not everyone is going to want to date you. Not everyone you date is going to want to keep dating you forever. That’s okay. Date people anyways.
5. Not everyone is going to believe in you. Why should they? It’s a huge world out there, full of the tiniest handful of success stories and immensely more stories about failure. This one is the hardest for me, but: Feel like a failure? That’s okay. Believe in yourself anyways.
I don’t have this down to a science. At all. I get discouraged and I beat myself up. I used to go home from parties and social functions and lie in bed, replaying the evening in an endless and terrible loop, continually certain I’d said or done the wrong thing, that I’d inadvertently offended the wrong person or I’d made a complete horse’s ass of myself without even realizing it. It took me awhile to figure out that my entire line of thinking was patently untrue and didn’t help anything in the long haul. You know what I’ve started to do, instead? I just go to social events and talk to people anyways. It turns out everyone else has probably felt that way at some point, too.
There are tons of things that I wish I were better at. I wish I was a better daughter, and called my parents more. I wish I was a better sibling, and called my brothers more. I wish I had more hours in the day to spend on working, on creating, on writing, on cleaning, on cooking, on exercising, on exploring the city in which I live, on connecting with old friends, on finding connections with new ones.
Instead of beating myself up about not doing all of those things, I’m just going to acknowledge they exist. I’m going to acknowledge there are a finite number of hours in the day, and that I have so many needs that need to come first. I need time for sleep, and for quiet, and to write, and for work. I need time set aside to pursue those goals, and I won’t magically have that time appear overnight. I’m going to take a deep breath, and just try to do as many as I can, with patience for myself, with acceptance of my shortcomings, with love for my successes.
Not everything is always going to work out in the way that I thought.
I’m going to keep going, anyways.