I just got back from dinner with my roommate, who is a total academic warrior. She and my other super-human roommate just finished up their first semester of business school at NYU. As we clinked our cheap glasses of wine together in a celebratory fashion, we mutually realized, “Holy shit. Time is flying.”
Only a few short months prior to our dinner tonight, we were standing on a snowy street in Boston. It was a Sunday in February, and in a rather nerve-wracking way, we agreed to move to New York together if she got in to NYU and I could get a job by June. We were both terrified, but excited at the prospect of a major life-change.
And here we were tonight, sharing pizza together at our favorite spot in Gramercy, celebrating the very raw fact that chasing after a goal and reaching it can be mighty intoxicating.
At the end of every year, people reflect. I always look back over my past 12 months and think, “What have I accomplished this year other than picking my nose and showering semi-regularly?” I think we’d all be surprised to find out just how far we’ve all come regardless of our age or life circumstances. Although we may sometimes have to think really hard about the type of growth we have experienced, both through positive moments and burdening challenges, there is never a year that goes by where nothing was gained at all.
Unfortunately, because humans are inherently cynical to a point, often times our negative experiences can grow to be the ones that stick out the most in our minds. We tend to let the things that have hurt us the most, or pushed us the hardest define us. Those are the moments that stay top of mind because they left a deeper impression on our brain and have forced us to conjure up strength that we may not have otherwise known we had.
In just the past day alone, I can recall saying to several different people in varying contexts, “You’ll be okay, breathe. This is only temporary.” And where did I learn that saying from? All of you, who have said it to me so many times along the way. And tonight, during my pizza fueled life-talk with my roommate, I realized that this is, single handedly, the biggest lesson I’ve learned in 2014.
All things are temporary.
Grown-ups tell us all the time, “walk it off,” “look at the big picture,” “with time this will fade,” “this might feel like the end, but it’s not the end,” and my personal favorite, “the sun will rise tomorrow whether you like it or not” (that one came from my dad, duh.) And never before in my life, as the anxiety-ridden, diabetic, crazy person I can be sometimes (or always), did I actually believe in the power of time until this year.
A few years ago, I was “famously” quoted (amongst my friends) for screaming, “IT’S OVER!!!” at the top of my lungs once when we found out a guy friend of ours had a girlfriend. We were all single and we were all crushed. But of course, I was the one to voice our devastation regarding the one less eligible bachelor in our lives. I was the person that always fell for hard stops and finish lines. I was never one for endless possibilities or opportunity for evolution. I used to dread change and spontaneity. It made me nervous. What’s the quote? “But what if I fall?” “Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
I think I’m starting to realize the beauty of the potential to fly.
It was so petty at the time, but now, looking back at it, recognizing this could be one of the most important pivots of my young adult life. Realizing that, in fact, uhhhh nope, no, it’s not over. Nothing is ever truly “over” has eased my sense of perpetual angst when navigating unfamiliar territory. I blame a little bit of my diabetes diagnosis on that lingering ‘tude. A sideswipe and unexpected news of a life long disease will do that to a 16-year-old girl. But maybe, 10 years later, I’m finally putting the final few pieces of my puzzle back together.
2014 was a year of extreme change for almost everyone in my life. New jobs, big moves, grad school, marriages, break-ups, scary diagnosis’s, deaths, births, you name it. And it all happened way closer to home than it’s ever happened in my whopping 26 years of life. But the one theme that continued to reign true, was the temporariness of all things “bad.” That regardless of how hard one day was, the next day would show up in all its glory, ready to help move us forward. That despite whatever fear or anxiety dominated one day, the next one would arrive like a puppy; tail wagging…completely oblivious to our challenges, licking our faces, demanding love and attention.
Just a year ago, when someone would say to me, “Chin up, this will get better.” I’d say, “Fuck you, what do you know?” not realizing how much of an asshole I was being. At the time, when things felt rough, I blamed everyone else. I had no ability to see how much control I had in making things better for myself, or that I was the one subjecting myself to a scenario that was causing stress in the first place. I didn’t realize how much of my happiness had everything to do we me independently catalyzing change. And though that’s an admittedly terrible attitude, I could never really convince myself to believe the statistics, cyclical nature, or patterns of change that happen in everyone’s lives very organically. Not to say that all things get better all of the time. But to say time doesn’t heal at least most types of wounds, would be naive. Before this year, I could never really confide in the power of fate, hard work, or just letting things go that were out of my control. I was too busy and self-absorbed to pick up on the fact that in just a few days, or week’s time…pain faded.
Since moving to New York, where I’ve been forced to stand on my own two feet, take care of myself, start a new job, and make new friends, I’ve begun to find ways to remind myself just how temporary fear or misery of all shapes and sizes can be. But also, how significant joy and pride can be. Just today, I sat in a Christmas gift swap with my girlfriends from work and proclaimed, “I didn’t even know you nerds existed 6 months ago. Here’s a present, Merry Christmas.” and, to be honest, it was a pretty rad feeling. We don’t celebrate those types of accomplishments enough.
This proof has showed up in more discreet ways, too.
“Libby, you have a low right now. In no more than 15 minutes, you’ll feel better.”
And boom, in 15 minutes, I feel better. Every single time.
“Libby, you’re really short on cash right now, but you still have a job, which means there will be more money coming in a few days. Sit tight.”
And boom, 6 days later, a pay check would arrive.
“Libby, it’s just a meeting. In an hour, you’ll forget it even happened.”
And boom, in an hour, I’d forget it even happened.
I’ve observed some role models of mine kick off their shoes and let life rip lately. So I, too, have been inspired to work really hard to get my ass in gear. I’ve made some sacrifices, left a lot of comfort in the dust, and started fresh in many aspects of my life. I’ve busted my butt to go after some things that really matter to me. I don’t believe in handouts, I believe that if we all take responsibility for our own happiness, the Universe dishes out a little favor or two along the way to keep us all motivated…to keep the wind in our sails as we move along through our respective journeys.
No one is going to take tests for us, or finish reports at work for us. No one is going to patch up broken lines of communication between friends for us. No one is going to take us to the doctor, or pay our bills. No one else is going to set our alarms and make us go to the gym. No one is going to call our boyfriends and tell them we’re sorry. That’s all on us. We have to take care of ourselves and keep our own lives in as much control as we can. We have to order our own test strips, and shake our fists at insurance companies over the phone. We have to travel across town at annoying hours to see people that matter to us because, well, it matters to us. We have to show up to our own lives so that we can grow and learn and move onward and upward. This way, when we get into places where we are struggling and we are hurting, we can know that we did our best to do what we needed to; we don’t win ’em all. That our healing isn’t up to us anymore. It is up to time. We have to know that if we can just keep moving…or swimming, as Dory would say, we’ll end up in a better place. We have to learn our lessons by doing. Kinesthetic learning. Everything in life is kinesthetic.
This too shall pass is very real. The good will stick. It doesn’t always, but it certainly has the ability to if we let it shine within us. The good should be primarily what we’re in control of. Who we surround ourselves with, the types of things we’re involved in, and the way we choose to spend our own time, should be what produces good in our hearts faster than rabbits produce other rabbits. And though it’s not always that easy or hunky dory, it’s a pretty simple concept by nature.
It’s the “bad” we don’t always get to choose. The bad sweeps in uninvited more often than not. But it’s also proven that if we let it go, “bad” can fade. It can crumble. It can disintegrate. And once we’ve realized that we’ve survived that cycle enough times, we can continue to build confidence in ourselves. We can realize going in to this new year that we are all tough as nails. That one final exam won’t ruin our whole holiday. That one argument with a loved one just was a misunderstanding. That spilling coffee on your shirt is laughable. That having a high or low out of the blue is always correctable.
Perspective, perseverance, and patience. The power P’s (I just named them that) have ruled a greater portion of my brain throughout the last year. We have to learn to trust ourselves the way we learn to trust others. We have to learn to believe with all of our being that we’re just doing the absolute best job we can to live the best lives we are able.