Day 4: Age #GIG2017

 

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I mean….that’s true. (Have to throw in an Office meme wherever you can.)

Perhaps this is an odd subject for a month of expressing gratitude. I completely understand that. But bear with me. At least the idea made sense in my head…

I generally find the concept of age very interesting, mostly because we tend to throw such a fit over it. The first assumption is the obsession so many have to prevent aging, to deny the years they’ve spent in this world like it’s a scab to try and cover up. Or, more appropriately, a wrinkle.

Or there’s young people longing to grow up as fast as possible. I’m still appalled by the stark difference between middle schoolers when I was one myself, to what that demographic is now, essentially a social media savvy group that knows how to apply makeup perfectly, wear clothes meant for those twice their age, posing on Instagram like full-time models.

We have a pressure to want to move forward to what comes next, when we can vote, when we can legally drink, until we get to the point where we want it all to stop. We regret wanting to rush through life until we’re left only with our nostalgia and efforts to revert back to the “glory days.”

I feel very awkward about this concept, mostly because I’ve never felt I resonated with the age attached to my existence. I’ve always had difficulties relating to peers in their priorities and interests. Even now, when I take the time to realize I’m only twenty years old, I’m outright appalled. Only my slow (very slow) transition to looking less awkward (as a disguise for always being awkward) would prove I’ve changed much. Most people who meet me even comment on the fact they wouldn’t guess I’m only twenty.

Although we don’t consider it, there are many different ages we possess: our physiological and emotional ages can be very separate from one another. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you aren’t mentally mature, and vice versa.

We will all face many struggles in our lives, but when those actually transpire and how we react to those experiences dictate how we grow and “age.” So maybe you’ve had a rough time but you hold grudges, you assume victimhood, and you keep falling into the same mistakes time and time again. You didn’t necessarily learn the lesson you needed to from that. Maybe it will take more time for you to reach a conclusion and move forward.

I do find a sense of comfort in calling myself an “old soul,” but I also see my mental age originating in my tumultuous personal journey I continue to walk every day. The emotional toil I’ve taken has aged me. Some might see that as a travesty that I never really got to experience the sense of feeling young and wild, but here is where my gratitude comes in.

I am grateful for every aspect measuring my existence. I’m grateful for the times that has passed in my short life and the promise that brings to what might come tomorrow and every day I’m granted. I’m also grateful for maturing emotionally, that I can view the world from a perspective that tends to see beyond the momentary circumstances, to find gratitude in unlikely places, to seek and understand like-minded souls that resonate with and support me.

My gratitude doesn’t overlook the challenges. The times I’ve felt isolated in a crowd of people who I should in all rights be able to connect with and enjoy exceed any digits. Or the existential crisis we all face trying to figure where the heck we’re supposed to be, what direction to go, a traveler whose map just blew away in a harsh breeze.

But I’m grateful for every bit of existence I can grasp. Rather than fearing the physical effects of aging, I want to celebrate every year that may pass, every moment that comes my way. Much easier said than done, but time has a way of rushing past the second we start thinking we’re stuck, that things are taking forever, that we’ll never move on from one stage and go onto the next. I’ve done that enough already.

My gratitude now will hopefully become a motivation to realize the simplicity of this exact moment, never being any younger, currently being the oldest you’ve ever been. What a strange illusion time is. Anxious tendencies have me worrying about fictional scenarios years in advance, but this age, this moment, is beautiful. I am grateful for the past and all it has taught me. I am grateful for the promise of the future and all the lessons it will continue teaching me.

But today, right now, I’m grateful for this moment. Typing on my computer. Listening to Regina Spektor. Wearing orange pants. A student among others sitting in the library with headphones in their ears. Preparing for a class in ten minutes. And just doing my best. Wanting to make a positive impact.

How do you feel about age? What role, if any, does it play in your mindset?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Smart Plans?

At first glance, it’s easy for others to judge us. How we interpret their judgment and reactions to our lives is another story.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking between classes and work when I ran into one of my professors. I don’t have a class with him this semester, so I haven’t actually seen or talked to him in a year. We spent a few minutes chatting about my previous few months in Canada and how that was and what other people we know are up to.

Then, the classic question students hear far too often comes up. Need I say it without you probably guessing what it is?… “What are your plans after graduation?” 

As background information, I’m technically graduating a year earlier than originally planned. By age, I should be at a junior status, but I’ll be getting a diploma in May, or at least whenever they mail it to me. That fact alone is not widely known by peers and faculty, so that generally ends up with others giving me funny, confused looks. Don’t even get me started on trying to explain it when I’m in any interview setting.

But besides that obvious deterrence from the norm, I continue to confuse people by my answer to the tired old question we’re all curious to know. Obviously in a quick conversation, you’re not about to lay out your life plans and goals so everything sounds cohesive and well-thought-out. Instead, you have to somehow fit the next step on your journey into a short snippet and hope for the best.

Generally that isn’t too hard for a lot of students. The typical answers involve graduate school or having a job lined up after they graduate. I’m not one of those people though. My answer to the question sounds something like me saying I plan to take a year to volunteer abroad somewhere.

I think most of the reaction just comes from hearing a plan that isn’t the previous two I mentioned. You don’t hear a different answer every day. Not only that, but when I can only keep it vague as I figure out plans for myself, understandably people might have more questions than positive comments.

I overthink everything. These situations don’t help with that. That quick exchange with my professor was just another instance of me questioning every single word and nonverbal signal in what was probably not even five minutes. I automatically assume that what I’m doing isn’t right, that it isn’t smart, and that I’m letting people down by not living up to my fullest potential.

You don’t have to be in my shoes to empathize with this feeling. We can lives our lives however we choose, but if your decisions don’t follow society’s step-by-step guideline, you feel like an outcast, like you’re doing it all wrong. I can’t pinpoint, but I’d have to imagine this discrepancy has probably squandered plenty of people’s true passions and ambitions, just knowing that it might deviate from others’ expectations.

At the end of the day, you aren’t living your life for anybody else besides yourself. It’s not your job to please others. Don’t let outside opinions stifle your dreams, as cliche as that sounds. It’s not easy to live differently from others. Stand firm in your beliefs and gut feelings. You can certainly take others’ advice into consideration, but their role is mainly to provide support for the journey you wish to build.

If you’re spiritual like me, this deviation might be something you classify as a calling, a higher being directing your path down an unknown trail, but you have faith knowing God (or whoever) won’t steer you wrong. Even if you feel out-of-control, there’s always somebody who has your back.

Maybe you’re at a place in life where you feel plain lost and directionless. Maybe you had a very elaborate plan for yourself in mind, until an unexpected event flipped that plan on its head. Maybe you’re doubting yourself think everything is going wrong.

No matter what you’re feeling, there’s a reason you are in this exact place at this exact time. You’re meant to be here. You have a purpose, even if that isn’t clear to you right now. It will be, in its own time. Even if you feel unstable, you need to trust in yourself and in life’s grand plans that you’ll be okay. Without fully knowing it, you’re preparing for whatever will come next. And this next place bears no consideration into what is common, what others see you doing, and that’s okay. Believe in yourself. Believe in the loved ones that support you. Believe in God and the universe and life that everything flowing as it should.

Have you ever been in a place where you feel lost, or others question your decisions? How were you to overcome that uncertainty?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Behind Closed Doors

Never underestimate the power of change. Even simple change. Sometimes a mere change in your surroundings, life, or mindset can have immense benefits.

I have held off talking about this particular topic for a while now. My dad and brother are probably sick and tired of my constant updates about my situation, but admittedly, my mind is overly nit-picky. I have certain (probably unreasonable) standards for myself, and usually the most insignificant of details is what grinds my gears.

This school year, I’m living in an apartment off-campus with one roommate, a roommate who happens to be an ex. Which, right off the bat, people probably are already pointing out an obvious problem here, but that’s not even a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

I established early on that I wanted distinctly separate spaces for each of us. I see my home as a sanctuary away from the stress of the outside world (if that means I have some hermit tendencies, well, so be it). Only for certain people and in certain moods am I willing to sacrifice my space and standards of living (again, selfish? Probably. I’m just way too picky for my own good).

How the apartment is laid out, you walk into a living room/kitchen space, go down the hall to a bathroom and bedroom, and a large back room finishes it off. My roommate took the back room, and I had a desk set up in the living area. We each had a twin bed in the bedroom and we obviously both use the bathroom.

I never actually realized it as I went about my day, but I essentially was never truly alone. Since my desk (the spot I am at 98% of the time) is the living area, I was always subject to hearing whatever was going on in the back room as well as being around him if he was in the kitchen or going out the front door. This also meant I knew when the kitchen and front door were being used and essentially would need some cleaning, making me paranoid of whatever mess might be left over and being generally on edge 24/7.

In complete honesty, the last few weeks, I have been at one of my deepest depressions in a long time. Just really not in a good head space. Every single aspect of life left me overwhelmed and yet I had zero motivation to do anything. The bare minimum in class, even if that meant putting off my own health, was all I could muster.

And yes, I’m still working through that phase right now in hopes that I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but last weekend, some magic happened. Magic in the form of a roommate’s idea and a mother’s words. First, when coming back between class and work on Friday, I was taken aback to see my roommate’s bed no longer in the bedroom. He then told me that he realized that I truly have never had any privacy in the apartment, figuring that moving himself completely to the back room might help. Also, when I was at work, my parents came down to the apartment to puppy-sit, and my mom (aka my savior) was really honest with my roommate in my fragile state and some of the little things I’ve confided in my family but haven’t explicitly detailed to the roommate (confrontation is not my strong suit).

After some serious self-care (which looked like washing my face and showering after not doing so all week), I walked into the bedroom, closed the door, and I don’t know what it was, but I immediately felt a difference. I relaxed for the first time in what felt like months. I hadn’t actually talked to my roommate since moving in, and we actually had conversations. I actually slept in later than 5 AM and felt more rested and not like a zombie. My creative mind felt like it was waking up from a long hibernation.

We introverts truly, desperately need alone time to fully recharge. Regardless of your temperament, we all need an environment that supports our well-being. In my case, that means having a room where I can close a door and be in my own space, a space where I’m not constantly spinning around worries about how clean the kitchen is or being aggravated by any minute behavior of my roommate differing from my own preferences.

Don’t underestimate how your environment affects you. If you’re in a space that drains you, constantly around others that don’t benefit your mind, it’s time to change things up. Maybe you’re somewhere that doesn’t allow for much dramatic change, but even simply adding some fun decor or going to a place away from home that can provide you with peace can really help. And, most importantly, self-care all the way. Do the little things that make you happy, in a space that supports your motivation and productivity. A change of scenery can be the push you need to reevaluate your attitude and mindset to better reflect how you truly want to feel.

Where is your “happy place”? What elements in that space make it your sanctuary to recharge and ground yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie