28 has always felt to me like the “year you become an adult”. Self-fulfilling prophecy or not, I’ve never felt more grounded and able to deal with the crazy complexities of living. In the last few weeks, I’ve witnessed myself making more mature choices, being more relaxed about the insane whirlwind that is life and enjoying myself a whole lot more. Fall is always an introspective time for me and I thought I’d take stock of what I’ve actually learned in the last decade of being officially an “adult”.
This is a non-exhaustive list of the most important things I’ve learned (uhhhh: am still learning, big time!) in the last 8 years or so:
Learning to love myself.
It’s been about working with the belief of “I’m not good enough”. It’s about hiding, about punishing myself, about being hard on myself.
The tendencies are still there, but some things have truly shifted. I actually care for the person inside now, I’m more patient with her, more receptive to all her conflicting needs and desires and emotions… She’s complex and beautiful and not one part or the other. She’s a whole and she deserves respect. So do ALL of her parts. Even the nastier ones. They all have something to say that’s worthy. And really? She’s here for a reason, so I better take good care of her.
Learning that my thoughts aren’t the truth.
This has been about the degree of attachment to my thoughts being the truth: “I have the answer”, “that’s right”, “that’s wrong”, “I should be this way”, “I should be more like that person”. For a long time, these thoughts were “undercover”. I had no idea that they were playing in my head. It started with getting to know what was there… and then… questioning them. I’m learning to identify the thoughts and to question them. Generally, I try to ask: “Are these thoughts serving me? Yes? AWESOME! No? Let’s see if we can release”. Application is less than perfect (it will likely be for the rest of my life haha), but I have that much more space to question my thoughts before they send me in a spinning hole of doom.
Learning that vulnerability & courage are everything.
This is about not letting fear run the show. It’s there. It wants to protect me, it wants hide me away safely and it’s always going to show up when I do something cool. So. I accept and I proceed. Using the courage to do something that scares me. Opening myself up to judgment or failure by being vulnerable. Because it’s worth it.
This has also meant surrounding myself with people who have shown themselves to be trustworthy to receive me in my more vulnerable moments.
Learning that there are many aspects of me here to stay. Acceptance is key.
This is about getting to know my tendencies. One example is my tendency to hide when things get difficult. Another is that I have a mind that enjoys analysis a lot (and judgment…). I’m quite emotionally sensitive. Relationships are a source of great happiness and great difficulty… none of that has changed since I was a kid. The things I’m working on and healing now are the same things I was working on and healing 5 years ago. And that’s OK. Every time I get to know myself a bit deeper. Every time I get to love myself a bit stronger.
Learning there’s an infinity of forces influencing our behaviour and to stop fighting & to trust instead.
As much as I’d like to believe that I’m “In total control of myself”, it’s just not true. There’s a whole world around me happening and it influences me. World events. Personal events. Internal events. Relational events. Astrological events. There’s the tiny things I see in a day that prime my brain a certain way. I’ve chosen to believe that it’s all serving me. I’ve decided that there’s no use getting all huffy puffy about things we have no control over. My philosophy these days is to have a vision and ride the waves with that point in mind, using my intention and attention to navigate the crazy world. Also? To let go when things aren’t working out and I’m pushing too hard. Things are always working out for me.
Learning that if I’m not being creative or inspired in some way, I’m not fully happy.
This is a bizarre one to learn. It was so ingrained in me that my sister was the “creative one” and I was the “intellectual one”. Turns out that was such bullshit. I’m super creative. She’s super intellectual (Hi Hanna! I love you!). It felt almost forbidden to claim creativity for myself, but I know now that I need to be creating in some way. I mean it in the most broad sense: Creating new connections in my brain, creating a new way to think about things, creating little things, creating delicious suppers, creating new friendships, etc. The important part is that I am creating together with life. There’s giant joy for me there.
Learning that nobody else has it figured out either.
There was a moment where my brain lit up and said: “You mean all of those people out there making big decisions, running countries and governments… They don’t have it all figured out EITHER?” That thought changed everything. It scared me, because those people are in charge! I hope they have the answers! But also empowered me completely. If they don’t have all the answers either, we ALL have the power to create the world we want.
Learning to pay attention to what makes me feel good & to value that.
Ok, well I aspire to have learned that. I’m working on it. I’m still really believing that it’s important to work hard, and to put lots of effort and to sweat and try and : “No pain, no gain”… but it’s losing its grip on me and I’m learning the habits that make me feel good AND allow me to put my best work out there. Slowly but surely.
Learning that there’s tremendous power in consistency.
Making my bed everyday. Getting up at the same time. Consistently showing up for my clients. Consistently preparing good meals for myself. Consistently meditating. Because once isn’t enough. Practice practice practice.
Learning that failing is a good thing.
This has been about realizing that trying is better than not trying. Done is better than perfect. I used to not even try anything interesting for fear of even trying! I’d sabotage projects so that I could say “Yeah I know what’s wrong with it” (I still do that!), or I wouldn’t even start. Now, … you put something out there and you give it a life. Sometimes it’s a sad pitiful life. Sometimes it thrives and then crashes and burns. It’s OK. You learn each time. In the meantime, you’ve gone out there and tried something interesting.
Learning that sharing is indispensable to my health.
I’m the biggest sponge, so I can accumulate knowledge forever. BUT if I keep it all to myself, I eventually get kind of funky feeling and borderline mean and resentful. The energy just needs to flow. Give, Receive. Learn, Teach. Love, be Loved. Share, share, share. Life isn’t meant to be lived by ourselves.
Learning that my emotions are nothing to be afraid of.
I used to have four basic ways of dealing with emotion: 1. Repress and pretend it’s not there. 2. Explode in balls of incomprehensible tears & frustration. 3. Get super freaked out. 4. Analyze, analyze, analyze.
I still do all of these (Oh yes, yes, yes and it’s not all bad), but I’ve learned to embrace my emotions and let them live and dance within me. They all have their unique intelligences and I love them for it. Packing fear onto each emotion just makes things more complicated.
Learning that there’s tremendous power in how I define myself.
Whatever I finish the sentence “I am _________” with defines how I see myself, which opportunities I see and how I will act. I gotta be really careful and vigilant to not go back to “I am not good enough” or some variant thereof.
And there’s SO MUCH left to learn!
There’s also a TON of things I haven’t learned yet. I’m not comfortable with needing others. I’m not comfortable with my physical body a lot of the time. I’m not totally empowered in my relationship with pleasure. I’m blocked at all sorts of levels… BUT
I’m curious to see what the future will bring. With this foundation, I’m feeling pretty strong. Life’s gonna throw all sorts of curve balls at me. All sorts of challenges… some internal, others external… and I’m going to need help, but I’m grateful for my younger self for putting me through the rigorous training she did. She was on some sort of mission it seems! If you’re like that, I’d love to share. I’d love to help work through whatever’s up for you. I want to suggest a “give-back” call. It’s on the phone. You and me. 30 minutes. I’ll listen.