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Day 8 – Friendship

(So, I said this writing challenge wasn’t essential, and yet here I am doing another installment of said challenge. Sigh.)

I’ve never been good at friendship. I was always the shy, quiet one off to the side by myself, or hovering at the edge of the group, wishing I could join while simultaneously wishing I was anywhere else. As I got older, I’ve learned to make friends better, and more easily, but also learned to care less about having a lot of friends. The proverbial quality over quantity, if you will.

This past weekend, I went out with friends to celebrate a birthday. We got to discussing our friendship, and I offhandedly replied that I wouldn’t miss them too much if we stopped being friends. Naturally, it caused shock and outrage in the birthday boy (in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have said that during someone’s birthday dinner, but we were having a deep, meaningful discussion, okay?).

But that’s my truth. You would think that someone who’s struggled with making friends her whole life would cherish the few friends she had more closely. For me, it was the opposite. I think I’ve learned to not hold anything too dearly, for they could be taken away at any time.

Until the last few years, it was hard being my friend. You can always rely on me to help when you need it, but I would never ask you in return. I will listen to all your troubles, and give sage advice. But you will never learn anything about me. And until recently, I wasn’t very empathetic; I didn’t know how to deal with your feelings, and I shut mine down. Or I would overreact when I couldn’t suppress my emotions any longer.

It’s awkward for me when someone values our friendship more than I do. My default is to believe I’m the one who values our friendship more. (Because of my confidence issues and whatnot – people actually wanting to be my friend? What?) I tend to be the one to plan outings and events; it makes me feel like I’m always the one initiating things. But I’ve come to realize that’s because I’m the only one who cares about planning. I am a meticulous planner; only recently have I learned to adapt easily to changes in plans. What we did probably didn’t matter to my friends so much as who we were with. And I think I’ve become more like that as well.

Which brings me back to the not missing friends part. I’ve come to accept that things are what they are. People will come in and out of my life; perhaps the universe only meant them to be here for a specific reason. Once their purpose in my life is fulfilled, they move on. And, if they were meant to be a part of my life, they will come back one day.

As an adult, making friends is harder. But I am better at making friends now. I know who I am and what I value. Because of that, I can choose to spend time with people who enrich my life. I can develop deeper, more meaningful connections with those people, instead of wasting time on superficial relationships.

I won’t miss you, because our relationship has been woven into the fabric of who I am.


Edit: How interesting! Following on the heels of my epiphany on friendship, Eric Barker wrote a post on making close friends :).

Second edit: I’ll be continuing my 500 word challenge over on my Tumblr, so head on over to check out the rest!

3-Month Blogging Update – Find the Essential

Find the Essential

I launched my blog with trying to find the essential, and I have to say, I’ve failed miserably. Well, no, let’s use some positive language – I am still working on figuring out what is essential. My problem is, I want to do too much, and I’m too easily distracted. It’s not completely my fault; our world today is full of distractions, designed to draw our attention. Everyone wants our attention. Which makes it all the more imperative that we find the essential.

To quickly recap the principles and steps of Essentialism:

  • First, we explore our current pursuits and pare down to what is most important to us.
  • Secondly, we work to eliminate the non-essentials that keep us from achieving the life we want to live.
  • Then, we figure out how to execute habits and a positive mindset to achieve that life.

I started off the year thinking I knew what I wanted. The thing was, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted. As with all aspects of my life, I have vague ideas of what my goals are and how I was going to achieve those goals. And I often let my goals change over time (by “time,” I mean within one to three months). That’s barely enough time to fail at something! That’s not even enough time to get started, much less enough time to start failing. But something else will pop up about a month into each new endeavor, and I’ll get distracted by the shiny packaging.

Let’s evaluate. I didn’t explicitly say what was essential. The only thing I decided was that I wanted to read. Reading is essential to me. Great! I like to read. So what am I doing with that?

Wild Beauty and How to Judge a Book by Its Cover

Wild Beauty Judging a Book By Its Cover

You all know I will judge a book by its cover – I will judge the hell out of it. I spend a lot of time with the books I read. I will admire it on the bookshelf at the library, I will run my fingers over it when I’m deciding which book in my pile to read next, I will have a moment of silence closing the book after each reading session. Having an unappealing cover makes it less fun for everyone all around. There are also so many books out there that the cover needs to catch my eye, unless it has such superb content that I don’t care what the cover looks like.

Wild Beauty is not one of those books. But it has such a beautiful cover, I didn’t care what was on the inside. I saw it on Instagram and thought, “I must read that book.” And just like when you shallowly date someone for their looks instead of for who they are inside, it was a very short-lived relationship. I admit I was using it selfishly; winter was too weird (I live in Los Angeles – it was 40-90°F this past winter) and I was missing spring.

Day 7 – Start

Sooooo, I’ve been slacking on that writing challenge, haven’t I? I always start things the same way: jump in with both feet and a lot of enthusiasm, not considering all my previous obligations or the level of time commitment needed for a new venture. Not the best way to live life. I’m working on it, don’t judge.

I’ve never written a letter to my younger self. Isn’t it a pointless exercise, when it’s too late to change anything? It’s not as if my younger self could actually use any of this advice. All it would accomplish is to make me rehash all my mistakes and regrets and wish I could do it all over again. That’ll lead to a downward spiral of misery that will last a week.

But if I had to say one thing, it would be… START.

Start.  NOW.

(Fair warning: I’m going to say “start” so many times in this post, it will no longer look like a word in any language.)

There’s a proverb generally attributed to the Chinese, specifically attributed to Confucius – though who knows who said originally said it. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” It’s always been more depressing to me rather than motivating like it’s intended to be. Being a cynical pessimist for most of my life, it would lead to thoughts like, “Why didn’t I start 20 years ago?” (never mind that the first time I had this thought, 20 years ago I wouldn’t have existed) and “Well, what’s the point in starting now?” Safe to say, I had a lot of non-starters.

But I’m turning over a new leaf this year. Being a cynical pessimist didn’t pay very well, so I’m switching careers. I would like to try my hand at being a realist, occasionally even freelancing as an optimistic realist. (It’s too much to ask of me to become an optimist right off the bat.)

So why the letter to my younger self?

My whole life is essentially a variation on a theme. I keep coming back to the same regret: that I didn’t start earlier. No matter the regret, not starting was always part of it.

Putting words to paper has always been a significant part of my life. Yet I didn’t start taking writing seriously until this year. I didn’t start dancing until it was too late for me to be a professional dancer. And I didn’t start cherishing my relationships until people started dying.

It’s easy to say “start now,” much harder to follow through. I heard something on the radio today (I’m paraphrasing cuz I can’t remember it verbatim): The days are long, but the years are short. We live by the day, and we remember by the year. It gives the illusion that we have time, that we have time, that we still have time, until it’s too late, and we no longer have time.

Why now?

I guess this post serves two purposes. One, as a letter to my past and future selves. To my past self, an apology. To my future self, a reminder to start now. And two, I recently learned about a word-of-the-year exercise that people do. Essentially, it’s setting an intention for the year, by using a single word. I hadn’t picked a word; I was already trying to do too much, did I really want to add something else on top of that? But some of the best things in life, I’ve stumbled across accidentally, and this is no different.

START.

My intention for the year is to start. No matter what it is, whether it’s some passing fancy or the greatest passion of my life, I’m going to start. The second half of last year, “now” resonated very strongly with me. So it’s fitting that I work on “start” this year. Here’s to reducing regrets.

What would you tell your past and future selves? What is your word of the year, and why did you choose it?

5 NPR Podcasts for Inquiring Minds

5 NPR Podcasts for Inquiring Minds

Every now and then, I listen to podcasts. Not regularly, because I’m a visual learner, and my mind often starts to drift when I’m listening to audio. But I do follow eight podcasts (nine, if you count the one my sister sends me every few months), five of which are by NPR.

I didn’t start listening to NPR until a few years ago. In the beginning, I merely followed them on Facebook and would read the articles (again, because I’m a visual learner and I love reading). I don’t recall how I got into their podcasts, but I ended up following these five because they had interesting content that I could listen to while running errands or doing chores. Sometimes, I would even find reading material from the podcasts. So in no particular order…