Monday, December 8, 2014

I've My Own Sword, Thank You

"There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." - Winnie The Pooh

Before the Austenian type heroes captured my attention and the leading men of Golden Hollywood made me swoon with their declarations of undying devotion and love through song, I sat in my living room or the theater, buying what Disney was selling 100%. 

1. Good will always triumph over evil in the end.

2. Every girl has a prince/champion who will fight the world and go to the ends of the earth to be with her.
3. Singing is essential to life.

Those 90 minutes had me fixed to the television, oblivious to all else around me. I forgot that Robin Hood was actually a fox. He had an accent that even my six year old self swooned over. I felt chills when Maleficent was in dragon form trying to kill Prince Phillip, and exclaimed, "Now you shall deal with me, O prince! And all the powers in hell!" When Beast died for that brief moment, my tears welled up and spilled over, just like Belle's. It was our tears together that made him return to human form. You can imagine that I cried when Mufasa was trampled. I was in the grotto when Ariel tells King Triton, "Daddy, I love him!" I loved him too. 

We all want the story where evil is vanquished by good. The princess gets her man. I loved that there were songs/scores for every single moment. What I've learned, however, is that while good really does win out over evil eventually and singing does make life better, sometimes the girl doesn't have a champion fighting the world off for her. She has to pick up the sword, wield her own shield and fight her own battles. You can easily feel down about this- and by that I mean I can feel down and get frustrated that I'm out here in the world fighting my own battles. I've realized something though, and it has helped a great deal.

Perspective. These girls who are mooning over their soulmates and ending up with them are SIXTEEN years old. EIGHTEEN years old. Maybe one or two have made it into their twenties. In my teens, I was not pining away for my one true love. I was trying to not be awkward and failing miserably. If you want to compare me to a Disney heroine- try Mia from Princess Diaries. Seriously. Before the makeover. That's how I felt. (Disclaimer: I am not saying you can't meet the love of your life in your teens. My best friend and my sister both did that.) More perspective. These fairy tales stories are just that. Fairy tales. And from another era completely. Girls were married by 16 if not sooner. 

I spent years wondering when I could start my life. I wanted to know when my champion fighter of a prince would waltz into my life, sweep me off my feet, and take over for awhile. That's when I realized that my life had started. Maybe not the part that I expected to start, but life was happening all around me and I was missing it. I was too caught up in the whens and what ifs to notice my life was in full swing. Most importantly, I was not seeing that I was okay. I didn't need someone else taking on the world on my behalf. I had developed a trait that I had never thought I wanted or needed. Independence. It was the same independence that had led me to travel across Europe, mostly alone. It had carried me when I took that summer camp job and again when I moved halfway across the country and back. All the opposition, difficulties, and pain that came with these things was not championed by some prince. I stared it all in the face, and I was the one who found the inner strength to overcome.

Do I still love Disney movies? Of course, I do. If I have children, will they be allowed to watch Disney movies? Absolutely. There are lessons that can be learned from Disney. (Besides, the movies are just fun to watch!) I just never want to forget that while it might be nice to have someone face the world for me and take on a few dragons, I am not incapable of facing my own battles or finding the inner strength to fight.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Why I Won't Define Myself as Single

It seems like my newsfeed is always full of links to an article or blog post that either a) berates singles for not understanding married couples or b) explains how to deal with people who don't understand the single person's plight and triumphs in living up the single life. I typically ignore these posts, partly because the posts are lengthy (i.e. 25 reasons being single is awesome), but mostly because reading them doesn't make me feel better one way or the other, and it also doesn't change which box I check when doing my taxes. I'm single. Some days it's hard; most days it's easy. Reading an article that analyzes the mid-twenty something and why she's single, why she should be lucky she's single, etc should not influence my decision to accept where I am in life.

I've recently started shifting my thoughts and attitude in regards to being single. There came a point when I had been to enough weddings and later baby showers for friends and family that I could either spiral into a deep depression and feel miserable or I could learn to accept that I'm actually okay and being "just" me is not the end of the world. I had to give myself a pep talk, and occasionally, I still do. It is something like this (looks at self in nearest available mirror): 

"If you aren't happy about your situation, do something about it. Find your happiness. Don't make "woe is me" comments and wallow. Take in the world around you and see what it has to offer. I cannot guarantee you will be in a relationship someday, but I can tell you that these moments right now will never happen again. Embrace life- every minute, every second- and find happiness in the small things. Travel. Write a book. Make new friends. Look for opportunities to flourish and grow as you- just you. And regardless if this brings you the love of your life or not, don't despise this moment in time. Don't expedite your life and miss the now."

I also like to remember this quote from Audrey Hepburn, full of grace and wisdom, humility and compassion. She said, "Nothing is impossible! The word itself says, 'I'm possible!'"  When I remember that, facing the world as "me" doesn't seem so scary. It is quite possible to enjoy life independently and not constantly wonder if the next person who walks into the room will be my future boyfriend. 

If I find myself quickly scrolling past the pictures of couples or articles about why I'm single and my friends are not, I don't feel discouraged. Instead, I feel hopeful and excited. I don't need another person to define who I am. I also don't need to wait to start living until I am in a meaningful relationship. As Dr. Seuss said, "Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Turning Failure Into Something More

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” - Maya Angelou

Had I heard this quote two years ago, I would have cross stitched it on a pillow. I’m not going to lie. If you had asked me then if I ever wanted to leave home again, I may have said yes, but on the inside, I knew that I could not face the world. I had tried that thing called “independence” and “leaving the nest” only to end up trampled and broken. I put on a brave act and talked of my big plans to move to the next city after a short respite at my parents’ house. Still, deep down I knew that I was just trying to save face. As Phoebe said, "And I don’t want to lose face! That’s a very serious thing in my culture!”

As appealing as striking out on my own again sounded at times, I held a secret fear that I tried to keep at arm’s length and not examine too much. There were times that the fear would come to the surface through the need to prove myself to others, salvage my remaining dignity, or pretend I didn’t care when I actually cared too much.

I was afraid I would fail...again.

“And I misspelled in front of the entire school the word ‘failure.’” - Dwight Schrute

Failure. It’s only a word, but it settles like a brick in your stomach and puts an ache in your heart. It's the “lack of success” and is associated with words such as “defeat” and “nonfulfillment.“

This past February, I had one of those hard-to-admit-to-myself moments where I realized that I felt like a failure. No one wants to admit to anyone, including themselves, that they feel like a failure. I realized that while I had been attempting to put my life back together, I did not feel successful for various reasons. Something was holding me back.

“One of the most courageous decisions you’ll ever make is letting go of what is hurting your heart and soul.” - Brigitte Nicole

The past. It was right there, ever present in my life. It's easy to know in your head not to let the past define your life, but stressful/traumatic situations from the past have a way of latching onto someone in secret ways that aren't always visible at first. I had used that fear of failing to stubbornly persevere through many situations only to end up flat on my face anyways. I was letting my fear keep me from moving forward in life. Sitting at my parents' house seemed safer than letting the world trample my heart again. 

"It's funny how some distance//Makes everything seem small//And the fears that once controlled me//Can't get to me at all"

I had just seen Frozen. Like nearly the rest of the world, I was immediately in love with "Let it Go." The lyrics hit my heart in such a way, and I could not help but feel goosebumps on my arm when I heard the above mentioned part. That was it. Let it go. Let go of all the fears and frustrations. The pain and even the indifference I felt towards my past. I had felt a fear of failing my entire life and had never stood up to it. Not anymore. As Idina Menzel belted out:

//I’m never going back//The past is in the past//

The past is in the past. 

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again. Only this time more wisely.” - Henry Ford

So here I am, seizing an opportunity and starting a new chapter in my life. It's a small step, moving out on my own again. I'm not moving to another city or state. I'm not changing jobs. It may seem like nothing to most people, but for me it is taking a step forward, looking to the future. I will fail at many things in this life, but I won't let that define who I am or what I can do.