Every year since I became an adult has been exponentially better than the last, in particular from about 25 on. The last year carried many significant events that thrusted me forward psychologically, spiritually, whatever you wish to call it, through good times and bad. I’ve never felt more grateful, more genuinely happy from the inside out, more excited by each day’s possibilities. I like myself more, this having little to do with my external circumstances, my looks, my income or my possessions. I feel a light emanating brighter and brighter each day. Not only do I feel this so potently within myself, but I see it so much more in the eyes of others. I love me more and that has led to my tolerance and love of everyone else. Boy does life change you if you let it.
It’s been 10 years since I graduated high school. I have no use for the past anymore as I feel I’ve learned, I’ve appreciated what was, and now I’d prefer to surrender to what is. What is interesting when observing how much I’ve changed is how much more I feel like myself, my old self seems eons away. And what’s even more interesting is the dynamic with friends from the past. Everyone changes, but not necessarily in the same direction, nor should they. I love my old friends, and a few have grown right with me and are still major bright spots in my life, but I can tell some of them think I’ve drank some sort of KoolAid, my happiness makes their eyes roll, because they’re clearly confused what happened to their cynical bitch of a friend they knew and loved before.
I didn’t hate high school. I certainly didn’t love it. It’s such a concentrated group of insecure, immature, unhappy, selfish people. I include myself in this group. No judgment. We were in our teens, hormones raging, independence booming, self-confidence questioned around every corner. I had a great group of friends in both high schools I attended. They were funny and smart, less concerned with being popular, more concerned with fulfilling their academic and extra-curricular activities, having fun and surviving each week. Very few of us were having sex, drinking and no one I knew did any sort of drugs. I never thought of myself as innocent or naive, but clearly I was. I was filthy in my mind, had a dirty fucking mouth, and was skeptical of most new people who came my way.
From about 16-22 I connected with people who most resonated with my sarcastic views. I was and am a very loyal, loving friend. That I can honestly look back and feel okay about, but how I engaged with those I deemed unworthy of oxygen was less impressive. I had such little patience for the ignorant, unintelligent, unfunny, superficial or any other quality I felt too negative for my presence to tolerate. This was my skewed view. I didn’t give these poor souls a chance to prove me wrong. Sure, I felt perceptive and smart enough to decipher between the “good” and “bad” pretty easily, why waste time? But how I engage with people now is so much kinder, so much more open for them to surprise me. But then, I lived in the bitter barn, quasi happily, proudly, fuck off or I’ll bite you with my words. Tons of fun I was.
What my judgmental eye tells me now is how my lack of self-worth manifested into this staunch defense mechanism, defending the truth, defending the funny, defending the righteous, but at what cost? Burning a bridge, making someone feel small, negatively permeating my bad juju into the room. I was always first to stick up for what I thought was right. If someone was making fun of a fat person, a person of a difference race, religion, or background, here came the facetious feline to save the day. I had no concern for tact, for the very simple law that violence of any kind breeds more violence, so to fight fire with fire was just as stupid as the bigots I was aiming to defeat. Oh the irony.
Me and one of my closest friends used to have this joke, this rule: 3% of the male population are dateable. 1% are gay. 1% are taken. So that leaves 1% for us to find, approve, wrangle and dominate. So many men/boys who weren’t my friends irritated me. I felt every word that fell out of their mouths was scripted. I was in no mood to play a role. Love me for the harsh bitch that I am. Truthfully, my insides were a damn marshmallow. I could cry at the drop of a hat. Animals, people who were suffering in some way, made me bawl. I felt so guilty and helpless. Why them? So I had compassion in my heart but it was encased, locked and shrank in size until real love came into my life and slowly chiseled that guard away.
I had little tolerance and understanding for differences then. Not basic differences. I grew up being taught to accept people as they are. I didn’t care what color someone’s skin was or who they loved, but if they seemed inadequate mentally, any semblance of patience I had flew out the window along with any potential connection with this person. In college, I felt nauseous by sororities and fraternities. It’s still not my thing, but who fucking cares? Plenty of normal, nice people join and it’s not my business what they do with their money and time. Just because I’m a lame ass who doesn’t party doesn’t mean everyone who does is a douche.
Entering the world with this very sharpened lens, assuming most people will disappoint me, waiting for them to just say the wrong words, created an outside experience that reflected my inner reality. People suck. People are stupid. People are assholes. Mediocrity thrives. The weak survive. Being alive is just meh. That was precisely my experience. It didn’t occur to me then to change my internal rhetoric, work on improving myself and then maybe give others that same permission. It took some amazing friends, close family members and my very open and loving man to show me the tiny flickering light I had inside me.
It is terrifying to be loving all the time, especially to a cynic. My ego does not want to be proven wrong. My ego doesn’t want to let go of my previously touted “strengths.” It doesn’t want to move on from those friendships and it certainly doesn’t feel comfortable unless I’m critiquing the world around me, especially judging myself. Nothing I did ever satisfied me. No accomplishments in school, no acquisitions that I earned, no opportunities I seized. I still carried myopic vision and until I saw the world with truly open eyes, the cycle would repeat and I’d stay forever the same.
The only thing constant is change. I finally recognized this, saw that the periphery of my life was in ceaseless, transient motion. Things, people, situations flew in and right back out. Something in me resisted this by staying rigidly the same within. I am cynical. I am sarcastic. I am left brained. Athletic. Organized. Timely. Efficient. Everything else is sub par, nothing to be learned from them. Except everything. I voluntarily imprisoned myself in my own labels! I did this to myself and it trickled out to others and then sprayed right back in my face. I’ve had great friends throughout my life, again, I wasn’t a total C, but just comparing how I feel inside now when engaging with the outside world, I can feel how foreign my old self used to be. Instead of feeling empathy, seeing how alike I was with my fellow man, I saw only differences. Forget learning from these unique characteristics, I had all the information safely stored in my head, recycling the same garbage opinions over and over, shackling myself tighter to my skeptical beast of an ego. I had to break free.
I’ve written about this subject before, but seeing myself with new, fresh eyes fills me with enthusiasm to share, to maybe connect with others on this issue. You do not have to be who you were forever. Changing for the better, meaning opening yourself to new people and experiences, and daring to love yourself can and will only affect you positively, regardless of any questions, confusion or even resistance you may feel from people in your past. This is who I am now. I love being alive. I am so grateful to breathe, walk, eat, laugh and love each day. I have met some amazingly fascinating people in the past few years, in particular since deciding to open my mind and heart and never close it again. People have burned me and bummed me out but those are just individual cases of assholes. Yes, negativity is everywhere, particularly if you look for it. If you choose to see the goodness in yourself and in those you hold dear, then that will give hope and space for more to enter your life. And more have.
I still find myself carrying strong convictions about certain things. Disingenuous people still irk me, but I seriously give very little energy toward it. I accept it now, just as I accept myself as flawed but doing my best. There’s already too much light in the world for darkness to survive. You have to work really hard to remain in the shadows. I feel life is so much easier now that I’ve dropped my bad attitude. The responsibilities of adulthood don’t elude me, I still feel challenged throughout my days. I merely extracted some good trust in myself. I can handle the good and bad, on my own, and I have a damn good group of people to carry me should I be too weak.
I am working to give time, energy and even money to people, situations, goods and services that sit right with me, that feel good to contribute, but fully accepting the rest that simply do not. Who cares? It feels shitty to allow negativity to fester within me, regardless if I’m making jokes about it or even if I’m right. It’s so repetitive, boring. Been there, done that. Yep, stupid people suck. What a wise, original thought. “Thanks for sharing, Danielle. We all needed to hear that little gem come out of your brilliant mind.” I am no longer defined or confined by who I was. That poor girl. I’m having much more fun now and I think those surrounded by me are as well. I have given myself space to be me and that has opened a portal for others to do the same. I certainly hope people feel encouraged by me now, rather than how I used to be.
My new friends wouldn’t recognize the old me. The competitive, sports loving, time obsessed, funny but sometimes at the detriment of others, loving but only specifically, accepting of very little, open to even less chick. I am certainly not perfect or 100% positive all the time. But I’m pretty damn happy. I know this because I can see the discomfort in others who haven’t felt their own light yet. My hope is they will but I’m alright either way. I’m stupefied to be alive!
I can’t express emphatically enough how much better your life will be and feel once you surrender the past to the past and give way for a new, smarter, healthier you to emerge from that rubble. The only person that can trap you is you. It is not the world that is fucked up. It is each of us. As we wait for the world to give us what our egos think we deserve, we’re stuck simmering in our own pessimism, our own fear, our own doubt, our own frustration. Unglue yourself, trust yourself and just say fuck it! Smile, feel the life that you are. You are breathing! You are perceiving, receiving, and conceiving at almost every moment. Get out of your head and enjoy it. YOU DESERVE IT. Stop waiting for the outside world to change so you can finally be happy. Change your internal compass, clock and mood, and let the world try to reject your contentment, your openness, your positivity. It won’t happen. It can’t. The laws of physics won’t allow it. Yes, this is scientific. Think, feel, speak, do good. It’ll reflect back accordingly. The world is a mirror, shine bright during the short time you can.