My 40th birthday is approaching at a rapid rate, and while I’m pretty excited for what the next decade has in store, I’ve also been taking stock. Like, hey Beck, are you better off now than you were 10 years ago and what have you learned? What are you still learning? What are you sort of thinking about learning but don’t want to devote your time to yet? What do you not care to ever learn? And believe it or not, these are helpful categories by which to live your life. I mean, don’t start categorizing your life this way if you’re nailing it. You do you. But for me, I work well with lists. And repetition. And at least thinking about self-improvement, which is step one. Oh, and spoiler alert: I’m terrible at taking my own really helpful advice, like, 75-80% of the time. So do with that what you will.
Basically, if I look back over the last ten, five, or two years of my life and I’m more or less making the same mistakes without any tangible improvements anywhere, um, wtf. What’s the point? I’m not saying change your personality every few years – that would make you a psychopath or a politician. Neither are things you should life-goal. But if everyone else is always the problem or you’re 15 pounds heavier than you’d like and it’s been a decade? Either change it or embrace it, but for the love of God, please stop talking about it. Which is what I tell myself every single day. And then I eat cake to silence that know-it-all voice inside of me and she is happy and full and lulls off into a deep, dark sleep.
Sorry, I’m back.
Anyway, since I’m trying to get and keep my compass straight, one of the ways in which I’m choosing to do this is by sharing, which holds me accountable and gives you something to read and judge and feel superior to! But since you’ve all volunteered to be here, you guys are the best captive audience. You chose this! You signed up for this! (hears Road Runner sound as readers run far, far away from the blog as they yell “just tell me about your underpants! You’re not Oprah!”)
Well, that was nice while it lasted. Hi mom and dad! Thanks for continuing to read.
So today I’m looking back at question one: are you better off now than you were 10 years ago and what have you learned?
Well, let’s assess: Ten years ago I was picking up the pieces of a seriously failed relationship with a seriously wrong guy who I was seriously in love with for reasons I struggle to remember now, which is good and bad. I was pretty sure I’d never have kids and wasn’t really keen on the idea overall – why on earth would I want to commit my life to diaper duty and raising little humans when I was living paycheck-to-paycheck in a rundown one bedroom apartment in New Jersey with my cat? To be fair, I’m pretty sure the little humans didn’t want me as their mom then, anyway, as “hot mess” does not a good mom make.
But the end of that relationship was a turning point for me. One that would either define me or not: it was my choice. It was messy and humiliating and raw and haunting. And, if I’m being honest, it took me longer than I’d like to admit to really, truly get past it. But holy crap, even I got tired of hearing myself be sad after a while, though my friends and family were too kind to say that first. And I decided that I needed to do something tangible, I needed to set a goal and stick with it, and I needed it to work. God, did I need it to work.
Meanwhile, during this time, I was in the first year of a job that I desperately wanted as my career, yet struggled to find my footing with for a while before getting it right. However, the silver lining is that this job was filled with really incredible people who have stayed friends long after leaving those four walls. Not the least of whom was CB. And since I had a lot more free time on my hands all of a sudden and a lot of demons to chase me all over Hudson County, I decided to take up running with him and some others who took to the Hoboken sidewalks each day at noon to run and talk and get some fresh air (I made up the “and talk” part because CB did not enjoy the “and talk” part most days. He’d prefer I’d “and not talk,” but he had the added luxury of being way faster than me, so he would literally just run away.)
|Sadly, one of the best post-running pictures of me.|
Um, and when I say that I “took up running,” I mean that the first few months I ran it was hard to tell because I looked more like a sweaty, doughy, pale girl who was speed-walking wrong. Thankfully, my coworkers were too nice and encouraging to admit that I really should just stop and go have a doughnut. Instead, we struck up conversations and friendships and, before I knew it, I was running! I mean, I was still sweaty and doughy and pale, but I wasn’t speed-walking wrong anymore! And I was starting to feel better.
Sure, there were still days there where I’d run so fast and hard and alone, even while surrounded by friends, because life isn’t a movie and emotions aren’t black and white. But the alone days receded into the background over time and a handful of friends and coworkers signed up for 10ks, half marathons, and full marathons almost solely because, I think, they felt bad for me. And my “leadership skills” (which my daughter’s cartoon has taught me is a nicer word than “bossy”) were persuasive as hell.
Before I knew it, I’d finished my first marathon. And it was just shy of two years after what I thought was the end of life as I knew it. And, in all honesty, it was. THANK GOODNESS. And like that, my story was changing. Goal set; goal reached. Hmmmm……
What did I learn? I learned that heartbreak is real and you can’t fake your way through it. I learned that friendship is real, and you need to lean when you need to lean. I learned that my family is strong, supportive, and fiercely protective and they listened to me cry and make mixed tapes through my feelings for a way long time. I learned the bumper-sticker truism that you can’t control what happens to you, but you sure as hell can control how you respond to it. I learned that some people lie. I learned to believe people when they show you who they, good and bad. I learned that crying isn’t the worst thing and laughter doesn’t go away. I learned that the depths of some people and their willingness to help will humble you, and you won't know how to ever say thank you, and they're fine with that. I learned that everything is temporary. I learned that cats are great company. I learned that hard work does pay off. I learned how to live alone. I learned how to be scared and do it anyway. I learned that there’s always a next chapter. I learned to find my voice and how bad it feels when you don’t use it. I learned how to run! And I learned when to stay.
And you know what else I learned? That I’m terrible at dating. Like, really bad. Like, when friends are feeling down they ask me to re-tell stories they’ve heard 50 times about various dates I’ve been on over the last 10 years. Like, there’s a reason I stayed home with my cat and watched all five seasons of Gilmore Girls on Friday nights, you guys. Like, I’m epically bad at it.
Oh! Which taught me the very important lesson that I still exercise routinely: PLEASE look at who you’re texting before you hit send. Please. I’m begging you.
But that’s a story for next time…..