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Monday, January 19, 2015

Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Young

A friend of one of my kid's is going through a tough time right now. I remember being her age, and I remember ... vividly ... the pain she feels right now. I've compiled a list of things I wish I knew when I was her age. Some of these things fit her situation and some of them have nothing to do with her. Some of these are things I learned firsthand, and some are things I observed and learned by watching others. Either way ... I think there is some good advice here:

I wish I would have known that when a guy rejected me, it really didn't have anything to do with the kind of person I was. He rejected me for the same reason I rejected others ... I simply wasn't interested in a relationship with them. Some of them were really great guys, but they just didn't do it for me. My rejection of them wasn't because they weren't good or lovable, it was because I knew they weren't right for me. The guys I rejected moved on to find someone who appreciate and love them in ways I never could ... and the guys who rejected me allowed me to be available when the love of my life walked in. I owe them all a giant thank you. That Garth Brooks song is right ... some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. By the way ... God always answers your prayers ... it's just that sometimes, the answer is "No".

I wish I had known that if someone is asking me to change, then it's time to move on. It's a good thing to desire an alcoholic to quit drinking ... it's an entirely different thing to ask a shy person to be the life of the party, or asking the class clown not to act silly. There is something everyone can improve upon, but if someone is asking you to change who you are, neither of you will ever be happy. Pretending you are something you're not might work for a while, but at some point, you will both realize you are fundamentally not right for each other ... and how many years will you allow someone to take from you before you realize they aren't the one? How many great guys will you never meet because you're so busy trying to please someone who doesn't appreciate you?

I wish I had known that it's okay to be alone. I wish I had understood that there are much worse things than being alone. It's worse to be in an abusive relationship than it is to be alone. It's worse to be in a relationship where the other person is using you so that he isn't alone than it is to be alone. It's worse to hold onto a relationship that isn't fulfilling than it is to be alone. When you stay in a bad relationship, or a relationship that isn't working, you're cheating yourself out of the opportunity to meet someone who can make you happy. Trust me ... there are worse things than being alone. Much worse things.

I wish I had listened to my friends and family when they all said the same thing about the same person. Unless there is something seriously wrong with your friends and family, they want you to be happy ... and if all (or many) of them don't approve of your choice of a friend or guy ... there's probably something to their concerns. It's like the old adage says ... where there's smoke, there's fire. If your friends and family are seeing smoke ... you need to look for the fire. Better yet ... run away from the source of the fire.

I wish I had known that there is nothing wrong with my body. People are rarely as fat or ugly as they think they are. In fact, you might even have a body others are envious of. I wish I had known that if someone is making disparaging remarks about my body, then I should ignore him and walk away ... for good. I wish I had understood that them pointing out my flaws and imperfections was their way of deflecting the conversation away from their flaws and imperfections. It was to keep me looking inward and not out ... at them ... and seeing the things they were trying so hard to distract me from noticing.

I wish I had known how hard it was to find friends as an adult, and that not having friends at any given time isn't the end of the world. It's lonely, but it's not because of the kind of person you are ... all it means is that at this particular point in time, you are not around the kind of people you want to or can be friends with. Once you get out of high school, and later college, life gets in the way of having friends, but no one goes through their entire life without friends. Sitting at home on a Friday or Saturday night when everyone you know is out having fun doesn't mean that you are not fun. You won't spend every Friday and Saturday night alone forever. If you're in college, spend those nights studying and getting ahead. The people you are around right now will scatter to the wind in a few years anyway. Trying to fit in with people who don't like the things you like or like to do things you don't enjoy is exhausting ... and trying to be friends with people who aren't like you will only make you more lonely.

I wish I had paid more attention to the compliments and less attention to the criticism. It's true ... you can't please all of the people all of the time. There are a lot of cruel, petty, jealous people in the world who enjoy being mean and making others miserable. You don't have to pay attention to them, and you shouldn't pay attention to them. If the criticism is fair and deserved, and given in the spirit of making you a better person, then take it to heart and try to work on it ... but if it's simply to point out something someone else just doesn't like ... let it roll off of you and forget about it. The people who know you the best know your fears and insecurities, and they can use those to hurt you. The ones that do that don't deserve a place in your life. Understand there is generally a lot more truth in the compliments than in the criticism.

I wish I had taken more time to do things to make myself happy and I less time trying to please others. I wish I had moved on when I realized I was doing things to make them happy, but they never, or seldom, reciprocated. All relationships, friendly and romantic, are give and take. If you're the only one doing the giving, you may as well leave now. It's not going to get any better. In fact, it's going to only get worse. If you are a few weeks, or months, or even years into a relationship and you aren't happy ... you never will be. You might be lonely for a while, but it's better than throwing away years of your life on someone who clearly doesn't care about your happiness. We've all heard it, and it's true ... happiness comes from within. If you are not happy with yourself, you will never be happy. Someone else cannot make you happy. They can buy you things or do things that give you moments of happiness, but it won't last. You have to understand that who you are is good enough, and that someone will love the things about you that someone else hated. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. There will be times in your life that precious few swim by and you'll be tempted to cast your line and take your chances, but you'll end up being sorry. Some fish are rotten ... and just because you can no longer smell the stench doesn't mean they don't stink.

I wish I had known that if someone is lying to or accusing me of cheating, then they are probably doing that to me. People who lie or cheat all the time assume everyone does. In fact, that's how they justify their own lying and cheating ... "Everyone does it!" Well, everyone doesn't lie and everyone doesn't cheat. There is a big difference between telling someone they don't look fat (when they kind of do), and telling someone they were at the library studying or working late or "with the guys" when they were with another woman. A small, white lie to spare someone's feelings is a totally different animal than a lie intended to deceive and manipulate. People who lie and cheat look for the keywords they use when lying or hiding their cheating behaviors. If they hear any of those keywords come out of your mouth, they pounce. If you're together long enough, you'll learn the things you can and cannot say, and you'll work so hard at not setting them off that the truth comes out sounding like a lie. You rehearse what you will say in your head (devoid of the words you shouldn't say!), and an innocent, truthful explanation sounds contrived and rehearsed. Remember ... they rehearse their lies, so anything that sounds rehearsed will come off as a lie to them.

I wish I had known that parents are people and they make mistakes. They are running from their own ghosts. They have skeletons in their closet they are desperate to hide. They have demons they are trying to exorcise. Some people get two really great parents. Some only get one. Some don't get any. Who your parents are is no reflection of you or the kind of person you are. If you are one of the lucky ones to get two really good parents, count your lucky stars, because you'll probably be spared some of the bad decisions people who weren't so lucky will make. If you only got one good parent, listen to them and tune the other one out. The good parent is the one who really loves you and has your best interests at heart. The other one doesn't like themselves, and they will take out their anger and frustration on you. Misery really does love company. Don't be their company. If you didn't get any good parents, you've got a tough row to hoe. You might be stuck with the parents you got while you're a child, but you don't have to let them influence you your entire life. You have the right to distance yourself from anyone who is toxic to you ... even family. Especially family, because the pain a parent can inflict is more damaging than the pain from anyone else. If they aren't the kind of people you want in your life, you don't have to allow them in, or you can give them limited access. It doesn't matter if you are three or thirty ... the abusive parent is always wrong. Always. When someone reads that a three year old was beaten black and blue, no one wonders "What did they do to deserve that?" ... and you shouldn't believe that you deserve whatever abuse your parent dishes out ... regardless of your age. Accept them for who they are ... damaged people who don't know how to be happy. You have the right to protect yourself from anyone who hurts you. Don't believe the venom they spew and don't allow them to steal your joy.

I wish I had understood that the family you come from and the friends you choose influence the decisions you make, but ultimately, the decisions you make are yours ... and you can't blame them on anyone else. You might have made better choices if you had had better parents or if you had chosen better friends, but not everyone with bad parents or questionable friends make bad choices. You control your destiny. You control the direction your life is going to take. You are the reason your life is good or bad.

And finally, I wish I had known that if you try to take the easy way out, you're likely to find the detour will take you down the steeped, gnarliest, most frightening path imaginable. The easy way out is often more painful because it's a cop-out. Remember, it's the "easy" way out ... not the right thing to do. There's a difference. A huge difference. Doing the right thing can be extremely painful. Leaving someone you (think) you love is hard, but if you know they aren't right for you, or they are no longer the right person for you, you owe it to yourself to leave. If you know you aren't right for each other, they know it, too ... and the sooner you sever the cancerous limb, the sooner you can start to heal.

I hope this helps, sweetie. I love you :)

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