Twenty-five things I didn’t figure out in my twenties.

ralph waldo emerson quoteIt was validating and somewhat therapeutic to write my previous post, describing some remarkable experiences in my last decade. If you haven’t read it, please take the time as it provides context for this subsequent list. I’m damn proud of my accomplishments and weird and wonderful things my life has included. And I have so much left to do, and infinite things to continue working on. So without further ado…

Twenty-five things I DIDN’T figure out in my twenties.

  1. if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you therePresence. I am okay at this occasionally, but it does not come natural to me and if anything I get worse at it when life gets crazy (in a good or bad way) or when I overwhelmed, irritated or tired. I struggle with this with my kids, with my spouse and with myself. I worry, project, stress and distract.
  2. Shaking off negativity. I get caught up in bad moods and pissy perspectives and holding grudges. I sometimes get stuck there–in a way that is detrimental not only to the situation at hand but ultimately to myself, my health, mental clarity and possibly longevity. 
  3. Travel. I have been to a few amazing and inspiring places in recent years. But there are so many places I haven’t been! Hawaii, Vegas, Europe, Florida, to name a few I’d like to get to in the near future.
  4. Combat sedentary lifestyle. In the last three years I have transitioned from at SAHM/student to full-time office life. I know that those hours spent sitting, and many more spent driving, are extremely detrimental to my overall health and well-being. I workout 3-4 mornings a week, but I only get occasional short walks in aside from that and often spend whole work days sitting at my desk, in meetings or in my car only to come home exhausted and sit at the kitchen table and in the recliner. I need a better balance between these worlds and to find a way to infuse more activity into my 10-hour work days.
  5. Consumerism. I like stuff. I especially like new stuff. And the process of acquiring it. I like thinking about stuff I want and looking for new things to get that maybe I didn’t even know I needed (ahem, clothes/shoes/etc). I don’t like occupying precious head space and spending limited time, energy and money on things that don’t really matter (except they do). And I don’t like buying into (pun intended) the capitalistic, hamster-cage, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, infrastructure of the modern day social stratosphere. I expect in future years and decades to tease out multiple factors, benefits and consequences to this particular tendency or priority.
  6. Technological boundaries. I hope that I am one with practically the rest of the world here when I say I have no freaking clue how to proceed through life with all these tools–and the vastness with which they provide access to–literally at our fingertips. What you do and don’t say, when you do and don’t use, how you use, how often or intently. I need my phone something fierce, usually in a way that can’t be great. I love it for what it can do, but not for the dependance it cultivates. I worry about how it affects my brain–literally wiring and functioning being changed in a way that has yet to be fully determined. And I worry for the future of our society and our future generations. Yet, how do we stop?
  7. Giving. I’m always that person who meant to get a birthday card but forgot or didn’t ever get a chance to (or didn’t make it a priority). Or so badly wants to buy a great and thoughtful gift but can’t think of anything right. I especially want to be giving to those near and dear in my life, but also to infuse generosity into my daily experience. I now have more than enough and it’s time to loosen my grip. I need to make time and head space for thoughtfulness.
  8. Professionalism. I want to know how to combine professionalism with authenticity. I do not want to leave my self at the door when I enter the office. Receiving my MSW outlines ethical and professional expectations–some that I might not completely agree with or feel comfortable striving towards. I will forever be pushing to bring my whole story and past experiences as a client/patient/consumer into the social service world, and finding that line of appropriateness. And my current experiences/reality. I struggle with assimilation in a world I don’t fully agree with. I want to be there, and succeed there, and yet continue to grow there–and ultimately change it there.
  9. meyers-briggs personalityLife as an INTJ. One of the great blessings of my twenties was learning about my personality type. I’ve already written about being an introvert, but I am more than that and am still learning how my innate tendencies affect my daily life and how to best work within this–and fight and grow myself outside it if/when necessary. I am also increasingly able to recognize things that are unique to me for my personality/perspective and while there are many pros to “being me”, I’m seeing now some re-occurring challenges. For example, I have incredibly high expectations. I hold a grudge. I tend toward the critical. I like to analyze. This serves me well in some contexts and can/will bite my in the ass other times.
  10. Spontaneity. I am such a planner it’s kind of gross. Spontaneous things can be stretch for me, but I strive to not limit my world and options down as a result of how I tend to be. I’m okay with knowing and acting as a planner, but I’d like to do a better job of leaving space for other things.
  11. grow in all the places growthStrengthen weaknesses. In my life thus far, I think I’ve put ample time into understanding (and sometimes exploiting) my strength s and weaknesses. That is a destination to arrive at but not the end of the journey. It is the work of a lifetime to strengthen ones weaknesses, explore their origin and existence, and ponder their place and possible options to alter. I believe our weakness makes us human and our vulnerabilities are as integral to our whole selves as the areas in which we excel. And yet, how easy would it be to go through the next sixty years wearing my weakness on my sleeve, or holding it up as a shield, or meandering through life with a predetermined crutch. My weak spots need to be worked on.
  12. Satisfaction. I am eternally unsatisfied. This allows me to be motivated with internal drive to spare, but it also undermines happiness and contentment.
  13. Marriage. Yes, I’ve been married five years. No, I have no idea how to do it “right” or what does/doesn’t “work”. I know only that I am incredibly blessed with an attentive and loving spouse and we each have flaws and it seems like this partnership thing has both ups and downs and things get both easier and harder as the years pass. It is so easy for this relationship to take a backseat to kids, work, extended family, friends, etc. Another potential peril of our current season, that I know will ebb and flow as we grow and years pass. How to be independent and in partnership? How to expect and appreciate? How to be a product only of what I know and yet make and take a different road?
  14. Mothering.  I fully expect to never figure mothering out. Maybe if I’d had more children I’d feel confident in handling ages 0-5 at some point (though I greatly doubt it). As it is, kiddos grow and change as fast and you can find your footing amidst the chaos. Such is life, but parenting somehow highlights this reality. I will likely not know how my parenting pans out for another 15-20 years–which is sometimes a tough pill to swallow.
  15. Health. The many facets of health (food, movement, sleep, stress, mood, connectedness, spirituality, etc.) are daunting at best. Talk about a delicate balance if one ever even arrives. I actually don’t believe optimal health is possible within our current society. So much of it is all about mitigating the damage. For me, this process can be occasionally lonesome at best, or theologically divisive at worse. Community and connection is inherent to health, so how to find that within the confines of bucking some general aspects and expectation of the modern day world is a challenge I have yet to overcome.
  16. Body acceptance. I am so happy and relieved to find myself in a place where I hold something beyond disdain and disgust toward my body. So, so happy…and somewhat amazed. I’m far from perfect and general “kumbaya”. I no longer feel consumed with a desire to see changes, but I know I’m still pushing, sometimes searching, focusing on the next thing or another hurdle to jump. This might not be bad, this might feed my desire to be fit and dedicated, but it’s not acceptance and (if that’s a real thing) it takes much more mental energy than I imagine acceptance would. I also fully recognize this may actually get harder with age, as the culturally anointed female body becomes less attainable, as age is more of a factor alongside size and shape.
  17. thankfulnessGratitude. Always, always, always can work on gratitude and strive for thankfulness. I know it, and appreciate it as a life truth, and still struggle to entirely integrate it. More gratitude!
  18. Recovery. I could write about the things I have so not figured out around “recovery” for weeks or months. I don’t know if I’m doing it right or wrong. I don’t know what the measurements of each would even be. I don;t know if behavior trumps thought/feeling or is it’s the other way around, or some combination of the two. I don’t know how to sit with the 12-step model and it’s choke-hold on the addiction industry. I don’t know how not to internalize those messages that I do not believe to be best nor beneficial. I don’t know how to judge the consequences and potentiality of “now” for “a year/decade/lifetime from now”. I don’t know if I believe in thinking too much about that. Because I grew up without any touch point for “normal” substance use behavior, and have no set point for myself in that regard, and question if there is even such thing in this society, I am not confidant assessing my motivations for a drink, my decisions to imbibe or abstain, or stopping after two or five. I have no compass for the consequences either. It’s an interesting world– and again I refuse to accept any shame or ideas of failure. I seek only to keep talking about it, thinking about it, being engaged and aware, because the worst possible thing is hiding and festering judgement.
  19. The importance of relationship. I tend naturally toward the driven, productive, orderly, efficient “side” of things. Relationship doesn’t work like that. It happens more naturally–yet somehow often intentionally in the grown-up world. I easily make friends (after a warm up time) in situations like school, work, extracurriculars where you see the same people regularly. Building and maintaining relationships are much harder. I suppose some of that is crazy life-with-little-kids time/energy constraints, but prioritizing relationship and understanding the importance of time and experiences with people even if it doesn’t help me check something off my list is vital.
  20. Power and Privilege. The last decade brought me some pretty serious socially sanctioned success. I am a heterosexual, (upper?) middle class, white, able-bodied female in a nuclear family in suburban America. I work for the government; I oversee the funding on multiple different organizations. I likely don’t truly understand the power that comes with being me, the doors that have and continue to open based on my status in this world. I won’t accept guilt or shame for this space, but I do accept responsibility to leverage my privilege, power and access and utilize it for better. And that is absolutely and day-to-day, year-to-year thing as it is so easy to spin around the latest crisis, get protective of personal gain and/or revel in fear of risk.
  21. Balance. I generally profess to be good at this, or maybe I am saying that I strive for it, prioritize it, understand the immeasurable importance of it? But dear god, I don’t have it. At least not all the time. I want it desperately, but I don’t know if it’s actually possible. Perhaps it more about managing imbalance than actually achieving balance. I’ve figured out I need and want it and a number of things I can’t have it with (i.e. late nights, over-scheduling, addiction, bitterness, laziness) but I am still seeking the nirvana itself. Also: I’m a Libra. So that may be my astrologically-inclined lifelong thing.
  22. Life phases. I totally get that I may look like a know-it-all idiot who doesn’t have a clue what the next 5-10 years hold. I feel like that with the girls growing up. I sometimes think that about new parents–all those worries seem so quaint and cute. But that is such a necessary stage, and likely so is any I am currently inundated in. The thing I am just understanding about life phases is that they change. The present is so definitely not the always, and must be appreciated and savored for all about it that is great and joyous and beautiful, but also for the hard and the sad. Looking forward to is great, but living for later does a great disservice.
  23. Priorities. How does one go about prioritizing their life? I do not know the answer, though I strive for a balance between immediate and long-term rewards/outcomes. The sweet spot is when they can come together: working out benefits me immediately in mood and for life is health and vitality; spending time with the kiddos benefits our present and (theoretically) their/our future. The tough thing is when priorities conflict and that inevitably happens. I don’t know how priorities “should” work or “should” ebb over days or decades. I do know that priorities are truly the foundation this life is built upon.
  24. retraining your mindPeace. I so desire peace in my life–and I’m not sure it’s an attainable thing. I know meditation is something that does wondrous things in this regard. And I need to get there. I want a piece of that pie. I want to walk down that path and see where it leads. I think this particular area also plays into spirituality and the “afterlife”. I truly don’t know what I do/will believe in that regard. I know I have been so blessed to not have had death touch me too closely up until this point. I am terrified of facing it, yet I am also eager to face that fear and be stronger and more certain (maybe? maybe only more certain of the boundaries of my own control?) for it. I desperately hope that with time and age and experience comes some sense of peace to replace my at times frenetic attempts to fill this life, value this life, LIVE this life, and count the days, minutes and years until it ends in some finite way.
  25. Write. I’m not so melodramatic as to say that writing makes me whole, or is my reason to rise in the morning or something. But it is important for me. I believe it is a strength that I have, and in that way it is something of me and mine that I can share with others. It has played a role in my life up to this point and will continue to be a part through the totality of my life–exactly what role remains to be seen.
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