This upcoming Monday will mark 26 years on Planet Earth for me. In preparation, I've been watching Planet Earth all night while I edit pictures and thank God I'm not a caribou. They do not seem to have a high success rate of being alive for long. Not for 26 years, anyway! Not like me.
I've been thinking a lot in the past week of things that I've learned in the past 26 years, and how many of them were very unexpected. As a teenager, I was smart enough to recognize that I didn't know everything - but I almost thought I knew what I would come to learn as an adult. Like I'd read enough book reviews or something, and knew what was going to happen, even though I didn't really understand and hadn't read the book yet.
I was so off. Like if from reading the back of the book, I thought metamorphosis was the process of turning a cat into a butterfly, instead of turning a caterpillar into a butterfly. I knew that getting older would change the way I saw things, but I don't think I expected I would be so much myself still.
Here are a few things I have learned to be true after 26 years of life:
1. I'll never stop wondering if I should get bangs, and I'll never stop regretting getting them.
It doesn't seem to matter how many times I have seen myself with fresh cut bangs. Every few months, right when my bangs are about to stop being awkwardly grown out and could gracefully vanish like Bilbo Baggins, the nagging question of "but did I look better with bangs?" comes blundering into my mind with brute force. And I always say, "Yes, I think I did", and so I cut my bangs, usually while I am half asleep, and immediately remember, "Oh. No, no I didn't". It is best for me to just accept the fact that this cycle will never, ever stop.
2. Being lonely and alone is better than being lonely in a relationship.
There is no point in a relationship if you aren't able to be yourself, and there is nothing lonelier than trying to be someone else so that someone will keep you around. That made up person you are pretending to be may not be lonely, but the real you will be. This is true for friendships and romantic relationships. Thank God for the people in your life who love you for you, and let the rest of them go. They very well may be worth it for someone, but not for you. I'm incredibly thankful for the people in my life who have taught me what true love and friendship looks like; it's made it so much easier for me to identify the counterfeits.
3. Pizza isn't always the best therapy
Sometimes actual therapy is the best therapy (I'm sorry, pizza. I love you but I got needs, boo). Pizza is definitely a very, very beautiful thing, but it's not going to make you confront your issues and work through them, tell you you're not crazy, and you're going to be fine, or help you believe in your ability to press on when things get hard. Actually it might do that last one. As someone who has never been through any severe experiential emotional trauma, but through plenty of average life trauma, I can safely say therapy is for everyone. No one is "normal", and everyone needs help figuring out who they are and why they tick the way they do, and sometimes you know who you are and why you tick the way you do and you just need someone to remind you that who you are is okay. Anyway, it has been one of the most helpful things I've incorporated into my life at times, and I recommend it to pretty much everyone.
4. It's nice to have places where everyone knows your name
As much as I love the idea of living in a big city, it's really nice sometimes to walk into the local pizza place and know they already know what I want. Or they've got a 50/50 chance of being right because I've only ever ordered two things off the menu: a "purple cow wing" slice, or a tuscan chicken salad. Sometimes I go straight there after the gym. Will I get the salad because I'm being healthy now? Or will I get a slice bigger than my head because I just "earned back" all those calories? There's no way of knowing. And actually they don't know my name, so this point is invalid. They just know what I order. I am probably known as "that girl that pretends to be healthy sometimes by ordering a salad covered in cheese". Close enough for me.
Also, the Green Onion (more on them soon, as they're one of the places I want to talk about in my upcoming "I Believe in You-tica" series) is a great little bar where I am thankful to have made some friends. When I first moved back to NY, my friend Shannon and I were both living with our parents, and it was somewhat of a refuge for us since we were both feeling weird about being back in our hometown and neither of us had our own places to hang out at. Now that I'm more established, I'm not there as much as I was then, but it's definitely nice to know I could walk in any given night and see a familiar face.
5. Kindness is magic, and contentment is really good too.
I thought that from being around kind people, I'd learned to be kind. But really I was just mirroring what they were showing me. I moved back to New York thinking I could teach all these hardened hearts how to be kind, and unfortunately I'm a pretty good mirror, because I felt my heart harden, too. It's taken this whole year to recognize that I wasn't really trying to be kind, I was trying to make other people kind, which is a super good way to make people annoyed and to cause myself become calloused.
If you want to be a kindness magician, you have to be okay realizing not everyone is going to want to also be a magician. And that doesn't mean they won't appreciate your super awesome magic tricks, but they also might forget about them and hire a really scary clown for their birthday. You can't make people magicians when they want to be clowns. You just can't. And, you might not be that good at magic. Maybe you're only good at a few tricks; but maybe a few people will be inspired to learn a few tricks, and you might never know, and you have to be okay with that, too.
6. "I can't make you love me if you don't"
I am pretty sure Bonnie Raitt wrote this song to me, from the perspective of a mushroom. I used to hate tomatoes and have somehow acquired a taste for them. Pickles, green olives, onions, the list goes on and my love only grows stronger. But mushrooms, no matter how hard I try, continue to repulse me. I don't know why; maybe it is their similarity to slugs, or the way they are not a fruit or vegetable but a fungus. I'm not sure. Either way, I have yet to see the charm many others have been enchanted by, and I genuinely do hope that my eyes are someday opened to the beauty of the mushroom.
That's it. That's all I've got. Thank you and goodnight.