Why Friendship is so Important

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I am a very relationship oriented person.  I love the connections that I make on any level, and I am very dedicated to seeing my closest relationships grow and flourish.  However, I haven’t really realized how important true friends are until lately.

Today, I was telling my best friend about some heart-wrenching revelations that were made apparent to me by certain circumstances this morning.  Without skipping a beat, she said “ya need me to kill him?  I’ll be right over.”  We laughed and moved on, but the sentiment was clear: she has my back.

Beyond hypothetical murder, my best friend has been there through it all.  We live an entire country apart and she’s seen me through a mistaken marriage, a much-needed divorce, a sketchy re-establishment of my single self, and several other relationships that ended with heartbreak.  Not to mention several moves across state lines, job hunts, and just recently being laid off.

Not once have I felt like she wanted to get rid of the friendship.  Not once has it crossed my mind that it would be easier to just let our relationship fade into yearly Facebook greetings and random “how are you?” texts.

We are solid.  And in a world of uncertainty, there is nothing more important than knowing 100% for sure that someone, somewhere out in the wildly rolling waves of life, is keeping the lighthouse lit just for you.

Friendship, real, true friendship, is a priceless gift that cannot be sold for any price.  So, what is real friendship and why is it so important?

Real friendship is honesty.  Honesty in all of its forms.  I once asked my friend “do you think my shorts are too tight?”  She answered to the affirmative in record time.  They have also made their feelings quite clear on how I was treated in various relationships while still allowing me the freedom of making my own decision.

Honesty is giving the gift of our pure, unadulterated thoughts.  Having honesty in our lives is incredibly important because it is only when we see our surroundings clearly that we change or enhance them.  This quality in a friendship is necessary in our daily lives because when we are able to completely open up to someone else, we can completely accept ourselves.

Real friendship is trust.  One of my friends has reason to mistrust her man, but the thought of having to watch him with me has never once crossed her mind.  She knows without a doubt that I would never in a million years do something to betray her trust in that matter.  I share an Amazon Prime account with one of my friends, and never once has the thought occurred to me that she would use my card or do anything underhanded with the information.

If you have trust with someone precious to you, that covenant needs to be protected at all costs.  So many times we focus on having certainty in romantic relationships, but having a relationship unfettered by romance yet still safely anchored in utmost confidence is priceless.

Real friendship is support.  God knows how many times my friends have heard me rant and rave about how this or that isn’t fair, or about how this coworker hurt my feelings, or about how he lost the best thing that ever happened to him.  Never once have they made me feel like they aren’t 100% on my side.  Sometimes, being on my side means reeling me back in and making me realize that I’m being a bit ridiculous, but they always bring me down with love.

Having a support system in your life is so. completely. necessary.  We love to think that we can do it all, but the hard truth of the matter is we cannot.  Or, rather, we cannot if we wish to stay sane.  People who are there for you in your darkest, most pathetic hour are the individuals who make up the foundation of your life.  If that stone isn’t pure, the whole thing crumbles.

Real friendship is laughter.  I cannot tell you how many times I have laughed until tears ran down my face and my abs nearly cracked from being contracted for so long.  I have sat with my friends and burst into giggles over the stupidest memes and the most relatable stories, and inserted hilarity in the place of tears on so many occasions.

Laughter is such an amazing release, and if you cannot truly laugh until your air supply runs dangerously low with another person, you are not completely living.  In order to completely experience life, we need to share all emotions with another person, and gaiety is the best emotion to share.

If you do it right, your true friends are going to be with you for life.  No matter the status of any other relationship in your life, friends are the pilings on which our pier is tied.  No wave, no matter how wild, can knock down something solid.  And no pier, no matter how beautifully fit together, can last without a sturdy steadiness beneath it.

Our relationships in life are our only lasting legacy.  While we are alive, our true friends are our main source of sanity, issue reality checks, hand over tissues, contribute to late night musings, and overall make our lives enjoyable.  If you’re smart enough to make these relationships a priority, they will give you back tenfold on your investment.

So relish in your wine nights.  Share secrets.  Listen.  Be there when the universe is crumbling at their feet and beside them when they conquer the world.  Love them.  Appreciate them.  Keep their confidences and let them keep yours.  Support them.  Don’t be afraid to need them.  Together, the world will unfold before you.  And when it does?  Hand in hand, go kick some ass.

 

It Takes a Village

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Yesterday I chaperoned our end-of-the-year 8th grade dance. ¬†Well, merely chaperoned is an understatement. ¬†I’m in charge of our 8th grade end of the year activities, and thusly I’ve been prepping for this event for months. ¬†In addition to making sure that the students ‘left room for Jesus’ during the dance, I also spent several hours setting up the event and an hour afterwards tearing it down (AFTER, of course, a full day of teaching).

What made an impression on me, however, was how many people stepped up to help me out. ¬†I’m used to doing things on my own, and while I vaguely knew that people had volunteered to help, it was overwhelming HOW MUCH they helped; it was truly awesome to be able to trust the people around me to step up and help me get the job done.

All of this reminded me of the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”. ¬†As teachers, we have thousands of children to raise, and I am lucky to have an amazing village of teachers around me to help shape the children in our care. ¬†However, I feel that this saying applies to more than just raising a child; it also takes a village to provide the catalyst for success, motivation, and fulfillment.

This is not a very popular idea.  In America, there is a glorified image of the Lone Ranger taking on the world all alone and rising to the top.  Yet in reality, this type of win could only be achieved by stepping on the people below you in the fight to get the top, and you are limited by an unsavory reputation and the smell of burning bridges behind you.  However, if you truly cultivate a village around you, your potential is unlimited, and you and your village will progress together.

The original village mentality was built around survival.  If one person was out of line or there was a rife in a relationship, that threatened the very existence of the village.  It all came down to trust, and if that trust was lost, your membership in that community was called into question.  This guaranteed that the village members toed the line-their survival depended on it.

Today, we don’t need a village to survive. ¬†But I would argue that we do need a village to thrive. ¬†And while social media has done us a disservice by bringing to life the paradox of ‘the more you share the lonelier you feel’, it has opened up the possibility of being able to hand pick our village.

This is an amazing opportunity, so I’m going to repeat it: we live in a time where we are able to individually choose our village. ¬†We are able to actively search out people who will add value to our lives. ¬†This includes people who expose us to new information, pick us up when we stumble, and help us discover the tools we need to keep growing.

This, of course, comes with a flip side of the coin. ¬†In order to choose these individuals as your village, you need to bring something to the table. ¬†Gone are the days where you might happen to be born into the village where the best cloth-weaver resides, and where you can pick up on her skills by exposure. ¬†Now, in order to take advantage of someone else’s years of practice, you have to be able to contribute to their lives in some way.

It is a harsh reality, but it is true: if you do not bring value to anyone, no one is going to chose you to be in their village unless it is by happenstance.  I believe that this is why so many people stay by their hometowns and have the same friend circle throughout their entire lives.  People have a need to belong no matter what level they are on, but if you want to belong to more than the Friday night local bar club, you have to infuse your being with value.

Just as the top villages of old worked their ass off to make sure there was food, water, and shelter, the successful villages of today work just as hard to make sure that their minds are in tip top shape.  And the concept of striving for full potential is just the same as scrambling for survival; every single person has to be at the top of their game or the whole network suffers.

The ability to choose your village is a privilege that many forgo, simply due to the lack of effort or lack of preparation.  Actively seeking like-minded people is a foolproof way to light your own personal fire while getting the benefits of helping other people light theirs.

Take the time to think about who you admire, who you can see is creating your type of success, and who you want to be as a person.  You cannot simply run up to these people and create a shortcut to prosperity-achieving ANY kind of personal goal is always through hard work.  If you put in the arduous work, it will show.  And once it starts showing, the people you seek out will be attracted to you because YOU can help them, too.

It truly takes a village to become the best version of yourself. ¬†Don’t shun the idea that you need help to get to where you want to be. ¬†While you’re waiting, strive to become the best version of you on your own, and when that is achieved, there will be people who come into your life to skyrocket you to heights you could have never even seen if you stayed in your own bubble. ¬†Strive for more than survival–seize the chance to thrive!

 

The Three Most Annoying Words in the English Language

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I had a nice little chat with two different friends yesterday. ¬†I was detailing the horrors of the end of the school year, and lamenting that I wasn’t as far along with my real estate classes as I would like. ¬†I was, of course, expecting the sympathy to start rolling in–HA. ¬†I should have known better.

They both, in so many words, said “Sounds like a bunch of excuses.”

This, obviously, was the exact opposite of what I was wanting to hear. ¬†Aw man, that sucks! ¬†Yeah, you definitely have your plate full, I wouldn’t be that far along either. ¬†That is completely understandable. ¬†THAT’S what I wanted to rain down upon my ears.

But instead, I got “quit slacking”. ¬†“It all comes down to you.” ¬†“Sounds like you aren’t working hard enough.” ¬†So that was cool. *insert sarcasm*

But the most annoying part…the part that sucks….the part that I hated to admit was:

They were right.

I DIDN’T actually have any excuses. ¬†I legitimately was kind of being a slacker. ¬†And as much as I like to think of myself as a driven person who won’t quit until success is reached, I kinda sorta have to admit that lately, that hasn’t been the case.

“You are right”. ¬†Those three words can cause even the most seasoned life veteran to cough and stutter before spitting them out.

No one likes to hear that they are wrong. ¬†They especially don’t like to learn that they’re wrong in a direct, straight-to-the-point matter. ¬†With witnesses. ¬†And it SUCKS to have to swallow your pride and admit your downfalls to yourself, much less to the person casually pointing them out.

I know that if I were to have talked to any of my other friends, I would have gotten what I wanted-soothing words of affirmation that would assure me that there was nothing wrong with what I was doing, and I should just keep on keeping on.

And yet, I feel that this would have been a disservice to me. ¬†We don’t need people to encourage us to keep curling the 5 lb weights that obviously are a better fit for the tiny 80 year old woman in Silver Sneakers class. ¬†We need people who are going to yell in our face as we struggle to put up the 20 lb shoulder press, and encourage you to go for that last rep before our arms fall, exhausted, but our pride swells, elated.

Of course, this last metaphor would be a lot more effective if you’re being yelled at by a 220 lb jacked trainer rather than your 115 lb friend who loves Zumba and Yoga. ¬†Likewise, we need to have those friends in our lives who are living what they push us to do.

The two friends who called me on my shit?  Both male.  Both extremely hard-working.  Both putting in long hours towards their differing goals, so much so that most people would think them slightly nutty.  Both headstrong, very smart, and driven from within to succeed.

So yes, it was extremely annoying to have to admit that they were right. ¬†But I would rather have friends who push me to my breaking point and help me reach beyond rather than ‘friends’ who are content floating down the Lazy River.

“You are right” are the three most annoying words in the English language. ¬†But they are also the most necessary words to hear in order to move forward with your life and your goals. ¬†If you never feel the need to admit that you were wrong about something, then you have never felt the impact of growth.

Growing.  Changing.  Evolving.  These are all symptoms of realizing that we do not know everything, and we are better than our excuses and previous mindsets.  If the people that you surround yourself with have never ever made you say those annoying words, than you need to find yourself some other friends and mentors.

Flourishing as a person is not easy.  But it is infinitely better to go through the pain of mental reorganization and realization of temporary failure than it is to skip blithely along with the mindset of your youth unchallenged.

“You are right” is annoying only because of our pride. ¬†Set aside your ego, and those words become words of discovery, words of new beginnings, and words of positive change.

In today’s society, we have become so accustomed to others patting us on the back with a ‘there there’ and moving on that we instantly become offended when people try to point out how we could improve. ¬†Straight-shooters are seen as assholes. ¬†Individuals who keep it real are snubbed.

But stop and think about it. ¬†Who really cares about you? ¬†The person who nods their head and agrees externally while rolling their eyes and shaking their head on the inside? ¬†Or the person who stops you in your tracks and says ‘wait a minute dude, you’re selling yourself short’. ¬†I know who I’d want on my team.

So challenge yourself to truly see what you are. ¬†Call yourself on your own shit. ¬†If you actually care about the people around you, be (wo)man enough to call them out when they aren’t serving themselves well. ¬†The quick slice of a knife always heals faster and less ugly than the slow degradation of flesh. ¬†And the sting of reality is substantially better than the suffocating cloud of self-deception.

Embrace the annoyance.  Relish the feeling of those words on your tongue.  Love the effect of pushing yourself to constantly be more.  At the end of the day, the moment of irritation and ego deflation will fade away in the bright light of fulfillment, and you will thank god that someone took the time to call you out.

 

Appreciation is a Powerful Drug

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Last weekend, all of my friends got together and had an amazingly fun girls night-without me. ¬†Whomp Whomp. I had prior obligations, and while I was sad that I couldn’t be there, I know it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

What made this event stick out to me, however, wasn’t the fact that I was missed out, but the fact that they all took the time to tell me that they wished I was with them and to make sure I knew that they would have rather had me join in the fun.

Now, having a group of girlfriends is probably old hat to most women my age, but I haven’t yet had this experience: I grew up fast, working all the time, and I was married throughout college, the time when most people are forming solid friend groups for life. ¬†This show of appreciation for, well, just being¬†me made me feel amazing.

This got me thinking: how often do we take the time to let people know that they are appreciated simply just for existing in our lives? ¬†When do we take the time out of our day to write a text, drop a note, take advantage of a pause in conversation just to say hey…you’re awesome. ¬†Thanks for being in my life.

Polite habits are ingrained (or should be ingrained) in us from childhood.  Say please and thank you.  Write a thank you letter when you receive a gift.  Make sure that if someone does you a favor you pay them back somehow, someway.

Yet we rarely take the time to appreciate people just for being them. ¬†And let me tell you from one who has received an abundance of ‘just because’ recognition lately: it feels damn good.

When it comes down to it, appreciation is simply showing that you notice and you are grateful. ¬†Writing a thank you note for that brand-new wedding crock pot is a formalized way of saying Hey! ¬†I liked this thing you picked out for me. ¬†I am really happy that I don’t have to go get one myself. ¬†Thank you!

When you tell someone ‘thank you’, or ‘miss you’, or ‘wish you were here’, it’s saying that you notice them and you’re grateful for what they bring into your life. ¬†You observe what they do when you’re around, and you care when they are not around.

There are so many people in your world that deserve appreciation.  

That barista that makes you coffee every morning?  It would make her day to hear a heartfelt greeting and sincere words of acknowledgment on how much she kicks ass every morning.

That office lady who always greets you with a smile, no matter what?  It would mean the world to hear even the smallest affirmation of  how well she does her job.

That coworker who keeps his head down and just does his job-but does it well?  He would love to hear that people notice his dedication.

No matter how much we tell ourselves that we can give ourselves our own props and it doesn’t matter how other people notice, when push comes to shove, this is complete and total bullshit. ¬†While we can, of course, keep going without cheerleaders and can accomplish anything we want sans pats on the back, the truth is, receiving that acknowledgment and recognition from others around us can act as high-octane gas in our fuel tank.

Sometimes, our encouragement just serves as as a touchstone for others on their journey, a sign that they are doing what they need to do.  Other times, our confirmation can be the push that sends them soaring beyond anything they dreamed they were capable of, that little rev on the engine that sent them shooting beyond the mark they made for themselves.

We never know where anyone is in their life journey. ¬†So seek out opportunities to appreciate others. ¬†These opportunities can be as big as letting someone know that you think they’re doing such a great job that you’re going to recommend them for a promotion, or as small as saying thank you to the random stranger who holds open the door for you.

There are so many situations that we fail to take advantage of; appreciation opportunities are actually quite frequent; you simply have to pay attention:

Tell your friend that you miss them when they aren’t there.

Tell your spouse that you feel lucky to be married to them, just because.

Tell your coworker that they are doing amazing, especially when you can see they’re having a tough day.

Tell your boss that you appreciate his communication.

Tell your mailman that you appreciate his service.

Many times we tend to think “well, it’s just so-and-so’s JOB to do that. ¬†I don’t need to acknowledge anything”. ¬†Who the hell cares? ¬†It’s MY job to teach, and guess what my favorite thing in the world is: hearing ‘thank you’ from a student. ¬†People may be getting paid to do something, but money exchanging hands should not be a determining factor for with-holding gratitude. ¬†Besides the light that you will bring to others, it also serves to make YOU feel amazing.

Take the time to reflect on who actually is a help to you, who makes you feel amazing, who is there for you when shit hits the fan, who makes you laugh, who knows you inside and out, and who is doggedly keeping your life running in the background. ¬†After you’ve realized all the amazing people that you know and who is true gold in your life, take the time to sincerely tell them ‘thank you’. ¬†And then, every once in a while, just so they don’t forget…tell them again.

The Gifts my Ex’s Gave Me

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Breakups suck.  In the moment, it always seems like your world will never be quite right again, and there will always be a part of you missing.  Yet I have gone through enough separations to know that this is not the case; eventually, you will feel whole again, and you will even be able to look back on the relationship with fondness and not pain.

My most recent breakup has led me to contemplate all of my past relationships. ¬†When you’re in smack in the middle and full of new love, they seem amazing. ¬†When they’re removed from your life, you sob in wrenching pain; eventually, months later, you wonder what you ever saw in them and roll your eyes at your past self and her choices. ¬†But for me, years down the road, I am thankful for all of my failed relationships because they each have shaped a part of who I am.

None of my ex’s were rich; they didn’t buy me fancy clothes or whisk me off to Europe in their private jets. ¬†But in their own way, they each gave me gifts that are immeasurable in value, even if their presence in my life was not meant to be.

My first ex gave me the gift of heartbreak. ¬†I lived several states away from my high school boyfriend, and as brief as our relationship was, I was devastated when it ended. ¬†I was SURE that I was going to marry this boy, and I lamented as most stereotypical teenage girls do, writing very bad poetry and pouring my heart out in a song (that I years later found, shuddered at, and promptly deleted). ¬†And yet all of this innocent heartbreak soon healed, and I found that I was able to move on with my life just fine. ¬†It’s partly because of this early, necessary, over-dramatic heartbreak that I am able to move on from all of life’s storms that seem to keep coming my way because it taught me that pain is not forever.

There will be people in life who cause you immense amounts of agony.  And yet, this hurt is able to be overcome with time and personal growth.  It is those moments of overcoming this pain that we discover our true unshakable ability to keep marching on.  When we are in the trenches of more suffering, we can remember how we persevered before, and muster up the courage to burst through yet again.

My second ex gave me the gift of freedom. ¬†I grew up very conservatively and extremely religious. ¬†While I am thankful for the solid foundation that this upbringing gave me in terms of values, I am also very thankful to not possess such a narrow-minded view of the world anymore. ¬†My ex-husband was the opposite of conservative, and while most of his ideas are way too radical to be contemplated in the realm of reality, being around someone who opposed my views so violently caused me to question why I subscribed to certain world-views. ¬†It’s because of him that I have been able to rebuild what I believe and have been able to be so empathetic and compassionate to others in turmoil around me.

Anyone who causes you to question who you are and what you believe is a valuable person.  Sometimes, this self-questioning leads to a more solidified stance in what you think.  Other times, such as in my case, it causes a shaky foundation to crumble, leaving room for constructing one that is more solidly built.

My third ex gave me the gift of experience.  He was almost 18 years older than me, accomplished in so many things, and had a zest for life that drew me too him despite the age difference.  Growing up in the Midwest, I had never dreamed that there were so many simple and varied pleasures to enjoy.  Eating cucumber sandwiches on the beach, gambling in Vegas, drinking wine on the sand while the sun goes down, completely feeling the music at a rock concert one day and an acoustic performance the next.  Because of him, I have a thirst for experiencing ALL of life, and I eagerly grasp any opportunity to try something new.

Sometimes, meeting someone with more experience than you is intimidating.  It can make your life seem pitiful and pale in comparison.  However, if you jump at the chance to listen to their stories and allow yourself to get caught up in the whirlwind, you will inevitably end up with way more interesting stories than standing on the sidelines watching.

My most recent ex gave me the gift of inspiration. ¬†Before I dated him, I was established in my career and going with the flow of life. ¬†But when we met, I saw in him a drive and a passion for more than the status quo, which quite honestly seemed a bit much at first. ¬†Yet as we spent more time together, he influenced me by example. ¬†He’s the reason I started this blog, started exploring my options for other side careers, and started striving to exceed my own expectations. ¬†It’s because of him that I feel that I have a renewed purpose in life, and I can feel that energy trickling into all facets of my being.

There are those people who come into your lives at the exact right moment and with just the right tools to spur you on towards greatness in your own journey.  Sometimes those people get to stay with you, and you get to do that for each other for many amazing years together.  Other times, those people touch us briefly before spinning off into the universe, too caught in their own destiny to stay.  Either way, their inspiration is valuable, and no matter how brief or long the encounter, you have to be grateful for their impact on your life.

Some of us get lucky and find our missing puzzle piece right out of the gate.  Those people get to grow and learn together, help each other out along the way, and build an amazing lifetime of memories together.  Others of us have a more rocky path; we are the ones who reach our hands out again and again, only to have them slapped down by those we desire.  We can choose to ache with each dismissal or to take each experience as a lesson in what we truly want and deserve.  With each rejection comes a stronger assurance that eventually, our hand will be taken with gentle strength, and we will finish this journey together with someone who is worth every bit of pain and sorrow along the way.

 

Quilting Happiness

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Recently I had a conversation with someone where they helplessly said “I don’t know…I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m just not happy with anything in my life.” ¬†Hearing that broke my heart; living unhappily is such a terrible existence. ¬†And yet, so many people live the majority of their lives in a permanent state of misery.

Sometimes, this misery becomes so ingrained that it doesn’t even feel like misery. ¬†I had no idea that I was living such a wretched existence until I separated from my ex-husband and felt little inklings of happiness stretch like tentative rays of sunshine after a storm. ¬†While I certainly knew I wasn’t ecstatic, I had no idea how bad that life really was while I was in it.

In this moment, if you were to ask me if I was happy with my life, I would unequivocally answer “yes.” ¬†This may seem strange if you know my present circumstances: recently laid off, freshly single, one million minor crisis’ happening at work on a daily basis. ¬†And yet, overall, I am joyful.

This got me thinking: WHY am I so happy? ¬†What is it that I, or anyone with a constantly positive state of mind, do or don’t do that contributes to this feeling of joyful contentment? ¬†After some contemplation, I settled on several key factors:

Have a reliable, positive, and multi-leveled network.  This is such a big component because we as humans are wired to interact with others.  However, you cannot have all surface acquaintances or all deep bosom buddies; our connections need to be varied.  I have a couple of extremely close friends, several good friends, and lots and lots of positive shallower connections.  Going through my recent breakup, I lost one of the major keystone connections in my life, and had he been all that I had, I would have been completely at a loss.  However, with the help of my close and good friends as well as my continued positive interactions with everyone else, I have been able to stay afloat and keep my spirits up.

Putting in the time and effort to create and maintain these relationships may seem like a burden, but I firmly believe that if you do not have quality relationships in your life, it is impossible to be truly happy.  However, these relationships must be reciprocal; you cannot simply mooch off of someone else, and you should never allow someone to mooch off of you.  When both parties put in the same level of effort, that is when this piece of happiness falls into place.

Exercise. ¬†As much as we like to deny the hard science of how our minds work, putting in some sweat equity on a daily basis is a serious piece of the happiness puzzle. ¬†Although starting a workout is pretty much the worst thing ever, finishing it is one of the best feelings in the world. ¬†Your endorphin’s are kicking, and anything that negatively effected you throughout the day simply fades away into a haze of “ahhhhhh that was awesome”.

And lets face it, it’s hard to be happy when you don’t like what you see in the mirror. ¬†Presenting the best version of ourselves physically primes us to be the best version of ourselves mentally. ¬†It’s difficult to be miserable when you reach for something and notice a little baby bicep flexing as you bring it back. ¬†Hard work is hard freakin’ work, but it seriously boosts your mood to see results.

Work towards something specific.  Throughout my entire life, I have always had something to work towards.  First, it was my degree.  Then it was finding a job.  Then it was my Masters.  Now, I am working on getting my real estate license and have plans for an admin credential and possibly a life coach certification within the next ten years.  The point is, I am never resting on my laurels.

If you are working towards a specific goal, it is obvious if you have achieved it or not.  And working to get that accomplishment tucked under your belt gives you a sense of purpose, which contributes to happiness.  If you know you are on the road to achievement, you feel excited about getting up each day and have the gumption to persevere through the rocky patches.

Actively seek improvement.  I am constantly looking for ways to make myself a better person and teacher.  If I hear of an awesome teaching strategy, I try to implement it in my classroom.  Outside the confines of my work, I am constantly reading all different types of books and online articles as well as listening to podcasts on various topics.  I love getting into deep conversations about the world.  All in all, I am always trying to be better than I was before.

Truly desiring to make yourself better requires a humble acceptance of yourself as you are right now. ¬†However, acceptance does not mean stagnation. ¬†Just because you have accepted that you have slid into the ditch does not mean that you stay in the ditch. ¬†Seeing yourself grow and looking back to see how much you’ve changed for the better is a big piece of long-term happiness.

Love the majority of your day. ¬†There are very few parts of my day that I dislike. ¬†I love breakfast. ¬†I love jamming to my tunes as I drive to work. ¬†I love getting organized for the day. ¬†I love interacting with my students. ¬†I (usually) love the gym. ¬†I love writing blog posts. ¬† I’m ok with learning new real estate things (although I’m not going to lie, I’ll be pumped when it’s over). ¬†The only things that I truly hate about my day are when I have some students act like a-holes, or when something goes awry that I did not forsee (usually traffic-traffic puts me in a TERRIBLE mood).

If you genuinely LIKE/LOVE 80% or more of your day, it is highly unlikely that you will be unhappy. ¬†So many people tie themselves to jobs, people, or circumstances that they hate, and then wonder why they are miserable. ¬†If you find yourself unhappy with something, make moves to change it. ¬†Money, “security”, and comfort are NOT worth a constant state of misery.

Be ok with YOU. ¬†You have to be ok with who you are as a person before you can truly settle into a state of contentment with your life. ¬†I recently went through a period of time where I thought that my career goals and life aspirations were not good enough because I saw other people passionately pursuing other things that seemed ‘better’ or that might bring in more money. ¬†My happiness severely diminished during that time. ¬†When I mentally slapped myself and replanted my foot firmly on the soil of MY dreams, my joy returned.

You are a unique person.  It is impossible to accomplish the exact same thing that someone else has accomplished, so it is silly to even try.  You know what gives you joy, you know how you want to live your life, and you know what gives you a sense of purpose.  When you fully embrace what YOU want, not what the yoga masters, hardcore businessmen, or spiritual gurus tell you to want, THEN you can embrace your personal happiness.

Overall, your happiness is like an old, hand-pieced multicolored quilt that has been in your family for generations. ¬†It blankets everything. ¬†It is handmade. ¬†No one else has one just like it. ¬†Sometimes, a square or two might come loose, but if it’s a quality quilt, those squares aren’t completely lost and there are still enough squares to cover up with until the damage gets repaired.

If you find that you are unhappy with your life, take stock of all of the pieces. ¬†Magnify those squares that give you joy. ¬†Mend the squares that let in the draft. ¬†Sometimes, an entire square might have to be replaced, and that’s ok. ¬†Happiness IS something that you have complete control over, no matter how much we lie to ourselves and argue that we do not. ¬†Take charge now; in the end, our money will be spent or given away and our possessions will break or change hands. ¬†It is only the intangible-our relationships, our integrity, and our happiness-that we will get to keep for all time.

The Hard Lessons Stick

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Once you get past a certain age, you tend to think that you have pretty much completed the “School of Hard Knocks” curriculum. ¬†The difficult lessons that made adolescence and young adulthood so tumultuous seem a part of the distant past, and your strides start to become a little big bolder now that your confidence has leveled up.

This is all great, until you take one of those bold steps right into thin air and find yourself flailing like a startled chicken all the way onto the cold, hard ground of reality.

This week, I learned one of those hard lessons. ¬†Since starting the interview process, I’ve switched over to using my blog e-mail. ¬†I was proud that I had a real, professional-looking e-mail attached to my very own website. ¬†I credited myself as the author of the site in my e-mail signature. ¬†And with those two deft yet devastating choices, I wrote myself out of a potential job offer.

You see, the last blog post I wrote was by far my most popular post.  It received over 150 views, and it reached over 1,000 people on my Facebook page, garnering several positive comments along the way.

That last blog post was also about sex.  It clearly lived up to the stereotype that sex sells.  And even though the message upheld the position that sex is to be respected, the content was deemed controversial enough that a scheduled observation was canceled.

I was devastated.

Being told that my blog was something that made me unworthy of a certain position felt like a slap in the face. ¬†The few people that I told at my school site expressed shock and sympathy. ¬†And eventually, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t the best fit for that site.

But this whole experience taught me some fucking valuable lessons:

  1. Know your audience.  Just because you are involved with/proud of something does not mean that everyone you interact with needs to know about it.  I have been writing my blog for five months now, and it has become something that I look forward to writing every week.  I am proud of my fledgling writing abilities, and I revel in the positive feedback that I get from others.  However, there is a place to share my pet project, and there are definitely places to keep it separate.
  2. ¬†Be discreet when needed. ¬†Don’t give others any information that could potentially be used against you. ¬†If I had not been prompted by my ego to use my blog e-mail to apply for jobs, no one would have been able to find my blog, and my future job site could have remained in blissful ignorance. ¬†If I had thought about it for longer than .2 seconds, I would have realized that I should probably reserve this part of myself for non-professional settings.
  3. Everything worth doing in life has a price. ¬†I refuse to censor my writing in order to appease the great swathes of faceless people I MIGHT meet who could POTENTIALLY have a problem with what I’m saying. ¬†One of my fellow blogger friends told me “I take it as a badge of honor when people are haters based on my writing. ¬†It means I’ve done something right.” ¬†While I am cut from a slightly softer cloth and would rather everyone love everything that I do, I am realistic enough to know that this is not the case. ¬†If you never receive any push-back, you simply haven’t taken a stand for anything.
  4. People will rally around you.  This was a positive lesson that I learned; so many of my friends gave me support through their words and actions, and I received an overwhelming feeling of simply being loved by the people who matter.  When the shit hits the fan, those people around you who truly care about you will be there to help you along the tough times.  And those are the people whose opinions REALLY matter.

Looking back, it’s clear that the choice that I made was dumb. ¬†Like, really dumb. ¬†Like, why-on-earth-would-you-do-that-that’s-so-obvious-it-hurts dumb. ¬†But it was invaluable because it taught me that I am still learning. ¬†I don’t know everything yet. ¬†I still have the potential to make massive mistakes. ¬†I hate admitting these things to myself, but I have to bandage my pride and stride on a little wounded for a while. ¬†It means that I have to carefully consider my actions without blithely assuming that I’m going to choose the right course. ¬†And it means that sometimes, I might have to change.

As much as it sucks to have lost a potential job, the very fact that the stakes were so high makes it a lesson that will not be easily forgotten.  Just like a baby touching a hot stove VERY quickly learns that hands and flames do not mix, the lessons later in life that burn us are the ones that stick with us and fuel our moves to avoid that feeling in the future at all costs.

And so, we must embrace the times when we fall.  Children receive scraped knees only when they are daring to move beyond their limits.  And yet they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and keep running simply for the pure joy of running.

Dare to admit when your misstep has caused something to shatter.  Dare to push back the flap of skin to examine the shard of glass resting in your flesh, and allow yourself to fully feel the pain as it is pulled out and slowly heals.  Most of all, dare to use that scar as a badge of living and a reminder that you WILL pick yourself up and keep going.

Because after all, life is a series of mistakes for everyone.  The hard lessons are only given to those brave enough to step outside their comfort zone.  So boldly step, thoughtfully reflect, and through it all cling to the realization that bone is stronger after it is broken.