Are there deadlines that one must meet in life? You come of age at a certain time, you become a legal adult at a certain time, you ability to drink alcohol legally occurs at a certain time, and you are deemed a senior citizen at a certain time (even if you don’t feel like one).
But what about..
an education, a career, a marriage, a house, a baby, many babies?
It seems as though society “expects” certain things. Timelines. Deadlines. Acquisitions. Quotas. It puts a lot of pressure on you. Society doesn’t have to be the collective. It could be your parents, your friends, or your peers. It could be your significant other. Or it could just be that voice inside your head.
So by 30 years old, do you need all of the above to be considered “on track” with your life? I hope not. Otherwise, I’m one serious rebel. I deviate so far from the track that my life train has derailed full speed without a brake system.
Expecting things and making deadlines to reach in your life means you might set yourself up for failure. Leave the deadlines at your job. It is awesome to set goals for yourself, meet them, and sometimes exceed them. That’s great! I’m not saying live life like a free-spirited gypsy soul wandering aimlessly and living life with reckless abandon. No. Everyone needs to strive for what they want.
But it can really dampen your spirit if you happen to not meet certain life deadlines when you want to. Everyone you know is either engaged or married, has children, maybe five of them, at least lives together in an apartment or might even own their own home by now, has forged a successful career after completing their college education.. I could go on.
And here you are, attending graduate school with people that are still practically teenagers (thanks to those five year accelerated degree programs that didn’t exist when you were fresh out of high school), living in a dilapidated bungalow the size of a shanty with no insulation that’s propped up on cement block stilts, no wedding band, no babies (besides your fur kids), and no career to speak of. You still make under $25,000 a year.
Maybe it’s not kids or a house or marriage that you expect. Maybe it’s finishing that novel of yours and getting it published, maybe it’s a travel adventure you want to take, maybe it’s a cross country move, or even just the ability to live financially independent and secure. Whatever it is, just keep striving for it. The time and the date and those years are all merely numbers to give us structure to our days, not to inform us that we are too late for life.
If I held grand expectations for my life that fit into the perfect puzzle of time, I’d be diving into the great depression right about now wondering where I’ve gone wrong in life, drowning in a sea of failure. But I’m not.
I’ve decided to live expectation free.
I am not you. I am not them.
I will not compare my life to the lives of those around me. And neither should you. Even despite all they will say, can say, do say. In fact, it’s none of their business how you live your life. To be honest, if they’re not in your life to support you, you should shed the heavy weight they throw down on your shoulders with their judgments, opinions, and those damn expectations I’ve been talking about.
As one of my favorite quotes goes: “Everyone is fighting their own battles, try not to be a cunt.”
It’s the truth dammit.
There is nothing set in stone somewhere with the rules of life for all to follow. And for those who don’t succeed in meeting them means you have failed. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not where you thought would be today. What battles have you overcome? What ones are you still fighting? As long as you are moving forward, that is all that matters.
Just like Dory says in Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming.”
Love the person you are because you fought to become her or him.
Never rush things. All things worth having are worth waiting for.
Too much of our time can be wasted comparing ourselves to others. Sometimes we even wish we were someone else. Or had a life other than our own.
Please stop that. Um.. right now.
If you can accept who you are and who you aren’t, what you have and what you don’t, and that all great things reveal themselves as they should, it will simplify life. Time has a way of working things out. Don’t rush it. When you expect less, life gives you so much more.
One of my greatest freedoms is not caring what anyone else thinks. It’s hard to do, it took a long time to get here, but the struggle was worth it.
When I told you earlier that I have yet to meet those “life deadlines” I failed to mention it doesn’t bother me in the least. It used to, for quite some time before now. I won’t lie to you. But life and all it has brought me thus far, has given me the ability to let the expectations go – along with the opinions of my peers, the lives of my friends, and that nagging bitch of a voice inside my head.
I say – good for them. Whether they worked hard for all of it or had it handed to them on a sliver platter, or even just got lucky, it is theirs to have.
And what is mine, is mine. Therefore I embrace it all in the glory of everything that is opposite, different, out-of-the-box, and upside down from the “norm.”
True bliss is defined by the individual. That means you can create happiness out of anything or anyone – so live unguarded – don’t be left wanting. Some of the best days of your life haven’t happened yet.
Believe in yourself and the path you walk down no matter how off-beaten it might be.
I served him lunch in the basement of a church in a fancy section of Manhattan.
Part of my volunteer job for that day was to clean up the tables and remove the leftover food that our guests didn’t take with them. I had been told by the staff that because the food had been put out and possibly touched by human hands, I needed to throw what remained in the garbage regardless of its condition.
This man overheard my instructions.
He said in a quiet and kind voice, “Excuse me miss, are you really going to throw all that bread away?” I told him I guess I had to. “Well shit, I just don’t understand that. You’re here feeding the hungry, and whatever is leftover, even if it’s perfectly good food, goes straight into the garbage.” He didn’t say it in a nasty way. He didn’t hold it against me or the church. He understood the sanitary side of the request. He just sounded sad.
Before he left the room he stopped and turned around. “Can you do something for me miss?” I smiled and nodded.
I didn’t answer right away so he kept talking. “It’s just that.. we’re not the only ones who are hungry. It’s cold out there and they struggle to find food just as much as we are. Not only the birds, but all of the animals. I know they’ll appreciate it. That’s got to be better than throwing it all away. It’s a shame that’s all.” And he walked away.
He was right. It was a shame. A shame that the instructions were given without hesitation in front of people who had nothing to eat but the meal we served and nowhere to go after they left the church. A shame that I’m about to toss a huge basket of edible and most likely untouched bread straight into a billowing black plastic bag headed straight to the landfill to rot. I got the reason behind throwing it away. I did. But I still felt like an asshole. I thought..
This story is just one of many small moments I took home with me. I just got back from an alternative spring break service trip sponsored through my university. Each day, our team volunteered at a different food pantry or soup kitchen all throughout NYC.
I’ve been home for over a week and I can’t get that man’s face or his words out of my head. “Please feed it to the birds.”
It made me more conscious of how wasteful our society can be. We throw good food in the dumpster at the end of the day if it doesn’t sell, not just there, but everywhere. We keep religiously to expiration dates, buying more than we need at the time and throwing it out because package tells us it is time to. We toss clothes and household items that could be donated and reused straight to the curb for the garbage man to take off our hands. We might not recycle.
We might buy more than we need of anything at all just because we have the money to. And sometimes we buy more than we need even when we don’t have the money, just because we feel we have to. We believe we need much more than we actually do and the “want” inside all of us takes over. Sometimes the “want” runs wild.
I’m not saying become a pack rat and hoard everything you come in contact with right down to the toothpick you picked the spinach out of your front tooth with last week. That’ll just get you featured on that show Hoarders once it all starts to accumulate.
I’m also not saying to spray your lawn with your leftover taco fajitas so the squirrels can have a fiesta by moonlight. That’s just an invitation for creatures of all kinds to form a conga line in your back yard and creep on the down low near your back door. I didn’t say build a wildlife soup kitchen through your doggie door.
Become more aware. Ask questions about yourself and about our society. It will challenge all you knew. It will make room for what you know now.
Is it something that you need or just something that you want?
That question can be posed in a thousand different ways for all different types of scenarios throughout your whole life. It’s not just about waste.
I bet you’ll find there are a shit ton more wants than needs. Life doesn’t always need to be complicated. Some things are meant to be simple. Less is more. And when there is less, you naturally stop wasting, even if it’s just stopping you from wasting your money.
Even the smallest moments in time, less than a minute of an interaction with someone or something, can teach you a lesson or challenge you to think differently than you might have before this moment happened.
For me, that moment meant so much more than a small request from a homeless man pleading for me not to be wasteful in the basement of a Manhattan church serving lunch to the hungry every Tuesday.
I will carry his words with me in my heart.
And whenever there is bread leftover in my life..
I will feed it to the birds.
“What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us; what we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal.”
It’s easy to lose yourself in a world full of unjust judgments and unrealistic expectations. Being anything outside of what the societal masses deem “normal” could mean facing rejection, maybe every day. Everyone wants to fit in, everyone wants acceptance, even to a small degree. It’s our nature.
That is why you need to remember that there are people out there in this big ‘ol world who will love you for exactly who you are. So take off the mask and find those people. They are the ones who bring out the very best version of your original self. And they want the real you.
Copies are boring. Conformity kills the creative. Average is just.. well.. average. Average doesn’t get noticed. You can’t influence the world by blending into it. Stand out and make your presence known.
Once you figure it out, being yourself becomes effortless. It’s keeping up with the chameleon versions that get difficult to manage. Trust me, I know from personal experience.
You shouldn’t strive to be one of many in the sheep herd, getting lost in the shuffle of white fluff, uniform and unrecognizable, bleating your monotony through grass-stained teeth.
I say: MAKE ME A LION.
You were created under the pretense that there will be only one you. Don’t waste that God given right by morphing and shape shifting into a copycat version of someone else. Authenticity is a dying art.
Everyone is going to judge you in some way, shape, or form. It’s going to happen all of your life. Better to be judged for who you really are, then to not even recognize your own self in the mirror, or worse, be recognized by anyone at all.
Stop giving a shit about what others think about you.
Let them judge.
It’s a long fall from atop their high horse. I hope they tuck and roll.
The person I am today would kill to throat punch the girl I was once was. Back then, that girl should have just worn a jester hat, maybe even a red frilly vest. Hell, throw that bitch a mini accordion. Dance monkey, dance.
Your identity resonates with you for your whole life. It encompasses all that you are within your social life, your family life, and even your professional life. Stay true to you. It means everything. The sooner you find yourself, keep him or her around. You will realize that you are happier and that you stay happy longer, without trying. You and those who love you, the real you, will thank you for it.
If I could go back to Stephanie in the past, I would tell her all that hard work to fake herself: the façade, the theatrics, the circus side show in its entirety, meant nothing. A full-time job of unpaid and strenuous work just to get everyone and anyone to like you.
I cannot believe that as an introvert, I tried so desperately to be a full blown extrovert. This social butterfly who said and did all the right things to avoid being different, to cloak my quirks and my awkwardness, to avoid judgment, to avoid missing out on the party when all along I was missing out on my own life. I couldn’t have been more unhappy.
The same held true for molding myself to fit into career paths I would never love, just to make money, or gain status, or get the approval of others who thought they knew what was best for me, those who couldn’t accept me for who I really was inside and what I really loved to do.
Complete and utter shit show.
Hammering a square peg into a round hole.
An express jet flight to Fakeville.
If they aren’t people out there who dislike you, or don’t understand you, or challenge you, or question your motives, or who have an opinion about your lifestyle, then you’re doing something wrong.
You’re not here to please everyone.
This is why I choose to stay true to who I am, even if it means somebody doesn’t like it. Maybe I won’t make a friend because of it, maybe I won’t land a job because of it, maybe I’ll piss people off temporarily or permanently, maybe I’ll get obvious judgments disguised in hushed whispers about my choices, my clothing, my alternative lifestyle. But remember, I am a lion.
And a lion doesn’t concern herself with the opinion of sheep.
So I want to know what makes you different my readers. Tell me something about yourself that makes you stand out, something you’re proud to roar out loud.
Shit happens. Unexpected shit happens more. But you’ve got to know your game plan. You’ve got to know your next move. You get hit, what’s your counter move? Unsure? Slow reaction? Caught off guard? Well then what happens next might be your TKO.
You’ve got to be ready for what life has in store for you. You need to kick ass. In order to do that, you might need to hustle. You might need to work one, two, three jobs. You might need to sacrifice. You have to know how to take the hits and keep getting up, keep coming back for more.
Don’t expect all good things to just fall gracefully into your lap or come express delivery to your doorstep by an angel with golden wings riding a purple unicorn who crop dusts a glitter trail of success and good fortune from its ass.
You’ve got to hustle, stick and move. Especially when life graces you with circumstances that make for rocky roads, unbeaten paths, and a light that tends to flicker out when you need it most, when it’s meant to light your way.
This makes me thing of one of my favorite quotes by H. Jackson Brown Jr:
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
Brown couldn’t be more true. You only die once, you live every single day. Hustle to get to where you want to go, hustle to achieve your dreams, hustle to do the things you love whenever you can, hustle to live life as you choose, despite circumstance. Fuck fate. You make your own destiny. You didn’t choose the life you were born into, but you can take control of the life you live now. Maybe you have to work harder than others. So what? You don’t know the strength of your own capabilities unless you test them.
Push your boundaries.
Fear is only a state of mind. Never let it decide your future. It is nothing more than an obstacle that stands in the way of your progress.
I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become. Remember that.
Grow a lion heart.
It’s important to know who you are, where you came from, but ultimately, where you are going. Whose to say you won’t be the next da Vinci, or Thomas Jefferson, or Mother Theresa. We all have the same amount of hours in a day. The scary part is that we all don’t have the same amount of time on this Earth. Make it count. Hard work pays off, even if you have to do more of it than anyone else you know.
If you work hard, good things will come to you. It might be hard to believe that but there are people out there who are living proof of it. Keep a kind heart, don’t let hardship define you or change you in a negative way. Count your blessings, few as they may seem. They still exist, even in darkness.
If life punches you in the face hard and unexpected,
get back up,
and countermove that shit.
**P.S. I, dear_introvert, want you to leave a tidbit comment of your favorite inspirational quote or person. Or maybe there is someone or something that motivates you? What is your driving force?!! Please share:: let’s keep the “kick-ass” & the “grab life by the balls” inspiration going!
Tattoo sessions are hours spent between artist & client.
Between the moments of silence, drown out only by the buzz of the machine, conversations happen.
I’ve found my perfect tattoo artist. His presence is minimal. It reminds me of a calm before the storm. His voice is soft and his manner is professional. These aren’t just tattoos. This isn’t just work. He’s creating art. It just so happens the canvas is my skin. He’s serious and dedicated. I like that shit.
For my first sitting, we spoke a total of 20 minutes. He worked for five hours. Not once did I feel awkward in the shared silence nestled amongst the hum of his needlework. As he inked, a small lamp glowed from atop his forehead, illuminating my inner leg. His canvas. I spent my time peering up at the ceiling, picking animal figures out of the plywood board nailed there. I soaked in his selected artwork displayed on the walls of this alternative office cubicle.
The second sitting I longed for the spark of conversation. I found my comfort zone, ever small but present, so I sought after chasing my curiosity.
A confirmation of life perspective occurred in those moments.
The specific words exchanged are for me to keep.
I just want to share the perspective.
What motive drives you when the choice is made for your college education? For your career path? If it is money, you’re wrong. You need to choose with your heart, be led by your passion, and the money will follow.
If you do what you love, there is money to be made. Just as much as if you wake up every morning in complete dread, knowing you are on your way to a job you loathe.
What are you willing to exchange for the price?
You love what you do, it is passion. You hate what you do, it is work. It will always and forever be work. There is a way to do what you love and make money at the same time. Realize that sooner than later.
Driven by the almighty dollar, $100,000 in loan debt, and only now do I see the light.
It’s too late to go back. I had to accumulate more debt to get where I truly want to be. A means to an end. If I found a job in my undergraduate field, I don’t think I’d be happy trekking down that forsaken career path.
As a self-proclaimed introvert, why in the hell would I get my MA in Communication Arts you ask? Like I said, a means to an end. A degree in higher education puts flare on my resume. I worked hard to learn everything I could in the world of communication with the time I have to complete this degree.
Do I need to communicate all the time and whip myself into a fake frenzy inside extrovert façade land for the communication professionals folk? No.
I love to write. I love photography. I have an imagination.
I have a passion for the creative side of anything and everything. I love to work and I work hard. If I love what I do, I work harder.
If I can cultivate a career from that, it will be a happy one.
There is an artist. He is passionate about art. He is really, really good at what he does in every medium. Job prospects were bleak, a degree in fine art weighed lightly, choices needed to be made. Give up and chase this almighty dollar through factory production lines? Give in to all the voices condemning an artist’s life to struggle and poverty?
He found a way.
You find a way.
If you dream it, if you wish it, if you love it, it will come.
Opportunity knocked. And here you sit with your head lamp and a tattoo gun, needling forever ink into my skin canvas with a delicacy only a true artist can acquire. We talk about life. How similar your views are to mine, a confirmation of perspective. You are rich by your own standards. You wake up every day and do what you love.
I only hope to find the same.
This polar vortex is the devil in frozen form. It’s presence was unwelcomed in the first place and the fact that it has decided to stick around for more than a few days, is really cramping my style in the bungalow.
Problem #1: The bungalow sits alone on a hill on a mountain. Snow drifts and wind gusts threaten to tear down its beaten and rotten guts on the daily. Picture Dorothy’s house in the eye of the tornado. I go to sleep in Pennsylvania, I expect to wake up in Oz.
Problem #2: Its constructed like a mobile home, complete with the sparse cement bricks holding its compact structure up off the ground. Where’s the problem you ask? Well, in order to ensure warmth and comfort, that would require adequate insulation underneath. There either never was any of the glorious pink fluffy stuff due to saving a buck on its installation, or the many woodland creatures who take refuge beneath me have stolen it all for their own bedding supply. Also, the wood skirting that is meant to cover the barren wasteland beneath it crumbles like soup crackers in my fist. My woodchuck resident, whom I named Sir Francis Peddington, takes a small chunk away with him every time his fat furry ass goes to and fro.
Problem #3: This all leads to the current issue at hand: frozen drain pipes which makes for a useless kitchen sink. I managed to find a glorious solution via Google, a mixture of Drano crystals and boiling water meant to un-freeze the pipes. Oh it works, up to a point. WARNING: it also causes severe skin irritation, corneal burns, and respiratory distress from the lovely chemical smoke it produces, much like a nuclear mushroom cloud. This all would have been super successful if not for the original location of the freeze, many feet from where this girl can gain access. The landlord’s solution: disconnect the kitchen drain pipe from the main pipe and just let my water flow straight into the ground outside the bungalow. Easy. Sorry Roto-Rooter.
Okay, I can see how that would save them money and give me my sink back. Quick fix. But then there’s that pesky polar vortex that just won’t go the fuck away. Water freezes instantaneously. The ground is frozen. Is there a possibility of a soon-to-be dirty dish water frozen pond about to form?
Now if only rabbits and squirrels knew how to ice skate.
I can teach them and then turn around and charge an admission fee to help pay my heating bill.
There’s a thought.
Shit, I hope they tell their friends.