13 Things I Wish I Knew at 19

  1. Don’t fall in love with the first person you meet with similar interests. Remember when you were in Grade 12 and you didn’t believe your teacher who said you would find people who thought like you did? Remember how you couldn’t imagine finding someone with the same weird way of looking at the world? Rest assured that he was right. You will find a group of friends who will love you for you and allow you to be you and grow in your passions and mistakes and see you through it all. But before you meet this group of friends you will meet one person who will introduce you to everyone else. You do not need to devote your life to someone who listens to the same music, has the same fashion sense, and shares the same fears you do. You two are not alone in your ways of experiencing the universe. Please never date anyone who makes you feel like you are.
  2. Everything in moderation. This has always been your kryptonite. It will continue to be your downfall for as long as you let it. You do things wholeheartedly or you avoid them altogether. I promise you there is a middle ground. It is possible to eat two Oreos without eating the whole container. It is possible to go for a run and stop before passing out. You have a very all or nothing way of looking at things and it will be incredibly difficult to find a middle ground but I promise you it will be possible. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Sometimes it is okay to mess up. Wake up with a hangover, stay up all night reading a book when you work at 6am, eat something with little nutritional value and enjoy it. It will help you remember that you are human too and not a pariah for being vulnerable. You are loved all the same, but for the sake of your future self, continue to grow into the person you hope to be someday. You are already well on your way.
  3. Feelings aren’t facts. When you’re older you will learn first hand about the wonders of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). You will learn to retrain your brain and how much hard work this is but I promise you it will actually work (most of the time). One of the main things you will learn from CBT is that while your feelings are completely valid (whether they are negative, positive, toxic, indecipherable, etc) they are not fact. Just because you feel like the worst person in the world, not worthy of your friends, and an unloveable bag of garbage, these are not true facts. Google cognitive distortions. Your brain is a muscle and can be trained to think differently. You will need better armour. You have the skills to make it.
  4. While it is possible to drink away memories of a bad relationship it will take more cherished memories with it. Ho boy, do you need to learn this before it’s too late. Remember when you freaked out in your Clinical Psychology lecture that said that your precious IQ could drop because of depression? It turns out that your health teachers who told you drinking would kill brain cells were also telling the truth. Diving head first into a bottle of gin will lessen the impact of a broken heart but it will lessen the impact of everything else too. Flat affect is a thing and it sucks. So does losing your ability to retain information or cherished memories. Your heartbreak is real and your feelings are real but please find some less destructive ways of handling the pain. I recommend returning to that journal that you have been neglecting lately, taking nature walks, and listening to music. When you move out of residence discover the healing qualities of a bubble bath and scented candles. Talk to your friends and listen to your friends when they need to talk. Take time to be alone and take time to be in community. Never stop writing.
  5. If you love someone when you are in their presence and hate yourself the moment they leave, walk away. If you spend your every waking moment thinking about how to spend time with someone and second guessing what they think of you, hit an all time high when you finally see them, only to come crashing down when they aren’t at your side then the relationship is unhealthy. Your world should never revolve around one person. That is a lot of weight to put on someone, and a lot of unneeded stress to put on yourself. They are not an angel or a devil. Neither are you. They are not a salve to every hurt you have faced so far. They are human. So are you. Which brings me to number 6.
  6. Stop waffling. If you want to date someone, ask them. If you want to break up with someone, tell them. Don’t spend months debating the pros and cons of each action. If it is something you truly care about for more than two weeks, if it is something you want to do when you’re not angry, upset, or tired, do it. It might be a mistake. You are allowed to make mistakes. You will learn from them. Your friends won’t tell you this but they don’t want to rehash the same should I shouldn’t I conversations with you for six months anymore than you want to with them. Do the thing or don’t do the thing. Don’t destroy yourself over the what ifs.
  7. Tell people you appreciate them as often as possible. Loving someone is not a weakness. Caring about people doesn’t make you a loser. Tell your friends how much you care about them. Call your grandparents and catch up on their lives. You will wish you had when you can’t anymore. Show your friends how much you care. Make plans and commit to them. DO NOT DOUBLE BOOK YOUR LIFE. There is nothing more frustrating for everyone involved when you make plans with someone only to make plans with someone else at the same time. Give yourself adequate time between events to do both or start saying no. Get better at keeping a schedule. As much as people love being told they are loved they love being shown it even more.
  8. Mindfulness is a skill that takes a long time to learn let alone perfect. Start now. I say this in love. Your friends will agree. You are terrible at existing in the present. You are constantly thinking about the past, worrying about the future, and spending too much time in your own head. You have a habit of only half listening, forgetting important details, and losing focus. Fear not. These habits can be changed. It takes time and practice but it can be done. Learn to be in the moment and when you figure it out send me a letter because I still have no sweet clue.
  9. Don’t hurt yourself in anger and expect that it will teach someone else a lesson. People are often surprised when you say of the Seven Deadly Sins you struggle the most with Wrath. The problem is you direct all of it inwards. He didn’t text you back? Time to run at the gym for 2 hours. Got a C- on your English paper? Time to beat yourself up about it mentally and physically. Don’t know how to handle the overwhelming wave of emotions you are feeling? Hurt yourself in some secret way that no one else will be likely to notice and then become more angry when they don’t mention it. This is no way to live your life, love. Your feelings are valid but they don’t get to control you. Find healthy outlets for your anger like going for a long walk or writing about it. If someone has hurt you talk to them about it. People are not mind readers. Which brings us to point 10.
  10. Don’t be afraid to miss someone. If someone breaks your heart, and you break theirs, don’t be afraid to show you are hurting. Do not do this with the intention of causing further pain but as an acknowledgement that there is a pain. If you keep it all bottled up inside and never show them that you grieve them, that you miss them, that you are sorry, then they will tell themselves that you never cared. You know this is not true but actions speak louder than words and you need to find a balancing point between showing you did care and not causing further damage. It will take a lot of trial and error. Apologize and love yourself in the process. You will get through this and it is part of being human.
  11. Don’t hate the rebound. Don’t feel the need to commit to them either. This will apply to both yours and to your ex’s. If you fill the need to use someone new to stop the bleeding then acknowledge that they are a band aid and not a new limb. Do not tell them you love them if you do not. Don’t treat them like garbage either. You are not obligated to hate the person that your ex dates next. They will likely share many of the same qualities you do and that is because you are both people worthy of love. Self care is also important though as are your feelings. You do not have to make this person your new best friend in the name of staying in touch with your ex. This can lead to a lot of pain and confusion. Allow time for you both to heal. Proceed with caution and allow yourself to make mistakes. Apologize.
  12. Just because one of your friends doesn’t like someone doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Seriously. You love your friend for a reason. If you know them long enough there are also qualities about them that drive you up the wall. Perhaps it is these qualities that draw your friend to this third person that you can’t stand to be in the same room with. Your feelings are valid. So are theirs. Explain to your friend that you care for them dearly and you are glad they have other friends, but you are not drawn to them in the same way. You will learn to share and delegate events and tasks. It will also be much easier to put up with this friend’s friend when it is necessary if it not a daily occurrence. Your feelings are valid. So are those of your friends.
  13. Just because someone else misused your body doesn’t mean everyone else has a right to it. You are so so loved. And I am so so sorry he hurt you. It’s a complicated pain and it manifests itself in weird ways. I can tell you that an ineffectual way to stem the bleeding is to throw yourself at everyone who passes by. Their seal of approval or indifference does not make or break you. You are an unbreakable person with moments of brokenness. You are loved. You owe them NOTHING. You are NOT damaged goods. I promise you this with my whole heart. I love you. You are loved. And baby girl, you deserve to be loved.
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Inviting People Into The Mess

As anyone who has ever lived with me before will tell you I am not a clean person. I will leave laundry on my bed until it gets worn, there is enough paper lying around my room to make your own journal, and if I don’t leave conscious and continuous reminders I am unlikely to sweep let alone mop until I come home and realize just how bad everything has gotten (again) and go on a wild dance party cleaning spree. Since university I’ve learned to keep it short of a toxic waste dump by staying on top of dishes or at least keeping them out of non-eating places and I keep a pretty good handle on laundry being cleaned if not actually folded and put away. So in this way and in many more figurative ways I can be a pretty messy person.

I have lived in the city for just shy of four months. In these four months I have made one new friend. I have been to her house on several occasions to watch hockey, cook together, borrow books, watch movies, and other things that friends generally get together to do. She has not been to my place and I have always given the completely valid excuse of “it’s a dump”. About once every two weeks I go on a previously mentioned cleaning spree but by the time I want to show people “look! I have done the thing!” it has inevitably fallen into entropy again. C’est la vie.

I have reconnected with a couple friends since moving to the city. One of them has been to my apartment a few times to pick me up and hasn’t been eaten by any Star Wars related garbage monsters. Yet. Recently we have committed a day of the week to getting together to catch up, make food, and watch movies. She is an excellent hostess but I always felt guilty for not having her over to my place. This last week we met at my place and for the first time she was there for longer than ten minutes. I had planned to clean after church but ended up not getting home until an hour before they would arrive. After a much needed shower I had about fifteen minutes to get the house in order. Needless to say it was not the most thorough job and I apologized as I walked them to my door.

And you know what? We had a great time. Yeah, the apartment wasn’t very organized and I had to get a little creative with dishes to make supper with. But we worked on colouring pages they had brought and watched Two Towers while eating nachos. It was a great visit. No one died in the Messy Apartment Sinkhole of 2016 and on my next day off I had sufficient time to make my house a home again and all is well.

It is only fair that I warn you that I am overly fond of making allegories and Life Lesson connections out of everything. I’m also really bad for getting into a rough spot in life and suddenly thinking of ten friends I want to reconnect with but not wanting to be asked “and how are you these days?” I genuinely want to know how things are with them without making it about me or divulging that things are less than great. I never stop to think “hey, maybe it isn’t all peaches and cream with them either.” I think there is a fine line to walk between only talking with someone when you need to unburden yourself and genuinely wanting to reconnect with someone who comes to mind when you’re at your lowest. For me, I try to make a list of people that when I get out of this slump I will reach out to.

To be honest though I’m still not sure if this is the best plan either. Maybe, like with a messy apartment, sometimes you need to welcome people into the mess before you are able to clean. I spent this summer working at a home ready meals and pizza counter in my hometown’s grocery store. The part I hated the most about the whole ordeal was running into old classmates and having to admit that I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I quickly came to learn that they were still trying to figure things out too. People I hadn’t talked to in five years were suddenly stopping by to chat and letting me into their fears and questions as well. On good days when I let myself reach out to friends I had made at university I found out that they were still confused as well. It didn’t matter if they had found their dream job, were in grad school, getting married, or just as lost as I was everyone had things they were still trying to figure out. Everyone gets tired. Everyone doubts themselves. Everyone has some good in their life they wanted to talk about as well (most days).

One of the things I’m trying to do in 2016 (and tried in 2015 and probably tried in 2014 as well) is to be better at intentional community and keeping in touch with people. This way it is like reading the book of my friends’ lives and not just the spark notes/greatest hits. It allows me to be there for them when things are going great, when they’re going poorly, and when they don’t really appear to be going anywhere. Like I said, I’m working on it. It also allows me to show them my life as I try to figure things out, experience highs and lows and all the plateaus in between.

What I think I’m trying to say and honestly might have said by now is to let people into the mess. If they let you into their mess as well see what an honour that is. Celebrate, cry, and let yourself have gray days together. And don’t forget that dancing is a great way to get yourself through many a cleaning day.

V

 

Sorry For The Fire We Couldn’t Put Out: An open letter to anyone who cares to try

(Warning: this is a lot of angst/ramblings and not directed at anyone in particular. I promise blog posts will be more concise from here on out.)

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the good days and the bad. I’m sorry for the days when I gave us both hope. I’m sorry for the days I frustrated you, lashed out, still felt I had something to prove. For the days I still didn’t know what that was. I’m sorry this apology is in past tense. I sit imperfect, tense, and apologize for a future of the same.

I thank you. I thank you for being you. I thank you for loving me. I thank you for being there. I thank you for caring. I thank you for staying. I thank you for not giving up.

More than anything I apologize for resenting you for the above. I apologize for the times I spent hating you. I apologize for the days I felt like a caged rabbit, heart thumping so fast and blinded by the instinct to kick at anything within reach.

I am sorry for and thank you for the dreams you gave me of the future. I thank you for making me reconsider my self imposed solitude. I thank you for visions of a future where we work out. Where I allow my body to make the changes that come with a healthy pregnancy and we have beautiful children together. Where these friendships last and I am not forced to rethink who I am every four years. Where my future does not consist of a Great Dane, cluttered book shelves, and long lonely drives into town for work. I thank you for daydreams of waking to the ocean breeze through the window and kissing your neck as the sun rises over the water. I thank you for connections all over the world. I thank you for keeping in touch from hundreds of miles away. I thank you for giving me space in a town fifteen minutes wide even when I hated you for it.

I’m sorry for hating you when you don’t meet my silent needs. I’m sorry for expecting you to fix me even as I adamantly insist that I do not need to be fixed. I’m sorry for projecting my hopes and dreams on you. I’m sorry for expecting you to rescue me from things I’ve never breathed a word of to you or anyone else.

I’m sorry for this fire that picks up again with a chance breeze. I’m sorry for these embers and a heart forged by fire. I don’t blame you, my parents, my upbringing, or anyone else. It’s all me and I know this and I’m sorry. I’m working on it except when I’m not. I apologize for the times when I’m not. I apologize now because I damn well won’t at the time.

Know this. I do love you and thank you for loving me. And while it may ignite flames that I swore were merely coals I thank you for leaving when you did. When you do. For the time you spent, for the investments that did not come through. Because these too are lessons that needed to be learned. This too is life.

And it catches up to us all in the end.