I recently hit a milestone age…40. Or as my dad likes to say, I have begun my 41st year. If all goes well, I could easily have another 40 years of my life to live. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about who I want to be over those next 40 years. I found this quote from one of e.e. cummings’ poems, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you are”. As I think about that, I realize how true that is. It takes courage to allow yourself to stop being a certain part of yourself for certain people. To live for yourself instead of living for those around you.
I was watching Shameless the other night, and one of the characters is a recovering alcoholic. He went to a new sponsor and started to talk to her about an ex-girlfriend’s problems. The sponsor told him she wouldn’t be his sponsor until he was ready to start focusing on his own problems instead of the problems of people around him. Something about that rang true for me. I think I take on other people’s problems to avoid looking at myself. I tell myself it’s because I am a giving person and I really don’t have many problems, but it’s possible I may be lying to myself. What is closer to the truth is I would much rather help other people with their problems than to focus on my own. Because as soon as you start focusing on yourself, you realize there are some things you need to change and that takes effort. I don’t want to do that anymore though. I want to really start to look inward and understand myself instead of losing myself in other people’s problems or trying to be what they need me to be to them. Because at the end of the day, those people move on and I am left wishing they would give me the same level of effort I’m giving them.
The healthiest relationships I have are with the people that need absolutely nothing from me. I don’t obsess about them and they don’t obsess about me. We are just happy when we get to see each other, have a good time being together, catching up, then we go about our days. They require very little time. In a good way. The people that suck your energy away or control your moods, what are you really getting out of that relationship? The ones that just keep taking and leave that negative imprint on your mind. They do nothing to contribute to your happiness. For a moment, you feel as though you have helped them through a problem, but then you realize very quickly that they wouldn’t be there if you needed the same.
As I am now in my 40’s and I begin my 41st year, I want it to be about finding my own peace. I think if I do that, I will be a better person to the positive relationships I have in my life and I’ll finally let the negative ones go. I will be more confident in who I am or who I hope I’ve become. I want the people that have coined me as bitter, negative, cynical…to see me for who I really am when I am at my best and not weighed down with other people’s shit.
Thinking about where I am in my life, I am grateful for all that I have accomplished. I am also grateful none of it was handed to me. I earned it. I like to play it off like I was lucky, but luck only gets you so far. No matter how many times I have been knocked down, no matter how many times I wanted to give up and walk away, I’ve kept fighting. I don’t give myself enough credit for that. Other people could have done the same, but they made choices in their life that led them down different paths and I refuse to feel guilty about that anymore. Or try to say well, if they had the advantages I had, they could be in the same place. I put myself through college. I delivered newspapers when I was in 6th grade. I convinced a pet store to give me a job at 15. Every promotion I have gotten has been earned. So yes, anyone could have what I have, if they work hard and move forward with a kind heart. I say “kind heart” because without kindness leading the way, I would not have built the support system that I have.
So this is my courage…I refuse to apologize or downplay the achievements I have had in my life. I refuse to become a lesser side of myself because other people are struggling with their own shit. Don’t worry, I’ll love you through it if you need me to, but I am not going to be a lesser version of myself. And for those that think of me as negative or cynical, I am going to try to overcome that perception (and hopefully you will see the change). I want to be a positive influence in people’s lives. I want to be inspiring. I don’t want to suck energy from anyone. I refuse to be that person. However, at the end of the day, it won’t be about what other people choose to think about me. It’s what I think about myself that will and does matter. I want to look inside myself and see someone I am proud of, someone who has the courage to grow up and become who they are.