Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve reflections

Today is New Year's Eve---a day of reflection on the past year.

I actually wasn't planning on writing a post today until I found myself lying awake in the wee hours of the morning making a mental list of all the things that didn't pan out the way I wanted them to this year.

I know, I know. It's an awful thing to do to myself. But I still found myself doing it.

While today is a day of reflection on the past year and hope for the new year, I also think it's a day of ruminating on years gone by for some people. We find ourselves thinking about all the things we didn't do, all the things that didn't happen, all the people we didn't please (including ourselves), all the mistakes we've made, all the lessons we have yet to grasp, all the obstacles we have yet to overcome, all the old habits we have yet to kick to the curb---the list goes on and on.

These thoughts have left me feeling a bit anxious and defeated this New Year's Eve. Old emotions are being evoked and old thinking patterns are popping up and saying, "Remember me?" 2012 is about to be gone forever, and I can't help but wonder if I truly made the most of it.  

And this is the part where I'm supposed to tell you something inspiring in case you've been feeling the same way. I should be telling you to let go or be kind to yourself or focus on how far you've come, rather than how far you have left to go.

But the truth is, I'm still trying to do those things myself.

<3 Madison  


Friday, December 28, 2012

Dear Teen Me

I was in Barnes & Noble yesterday (best store ever) when I came across a book called "Dear Teen Me." I browsed through it a little and thought it was very interesting and a cool idea for a book.

Every time I go to B&N, I come out feeling inspired or creatively fueled in some way. There are so many different books, journals, etc. It's like a writer's paradise.

So naturally, when I came across the "Dear Teen Me" book, I was all, "Oooh! I wanna write a letter to MY teen self!!!!"

After contemplating on whether or not I should put my letter in a Microsoft Word document or share it on here, I ultimately decided to share it on here.

I haven't been out of my teenage years for very long, but I definitely learned a lot during that period of my life. So this is what I would tell my teen self:

Dear Teen Me,

Choose your friends wisely. Girls who gossip about you, give you dirty looks and never save you a seat at lunch are not your friends. Your real friends will be there for you when you get your heart broken for the first time or need to vent about how horrible your 9th grade physical science class is. (It's pretty horrible.) They will lift you up and make you feel free to be yourself. Choose them.

It is possible to get straight A's. Your mother will be proud when you make them. She might not buy you anything expensive or reward you in some huge way for your grades, but you will still make her proud. You will also make yourself proud. And that should be reward enough.

Throughout your teen years, you will meet a few boys who hug you, cuddle you, tell you you're pretty, flirt with you in the middle of class, and basically make you feel really attracted to them. And then they will never call, never return your texts, lie to you, kiss other girls in front of you, go behind your back, and basically make you feel stupid for ever thinking they liked you at all. I'd hate to break it to you, but guys like this won't change. They won't write you long, sincere apologies or toss pebbles at your window or tell you how wrong they were for hurting you. They will just keep hurting you. (Taylor Swift songs will be a great comfort to you during these times.)

You might spend a lot of your time thinking, "Love sucks." But guess what? Love is not supposed to suck. If it sucks, it's not love. One day you will meet someone who adores you---extreme awkwardness and all. He will transform you into an even better version of yourself. He will tell you he loves you and mean it. He will be your best friend. He will open you up and chip away at your walls. He will make you wonder how you ever got so lucky.

But in the meantime, live your life and adore yourself. Stop pining away for assholes. Stop fearing that you will die alone with nine cats. Nobody wants or needs nine cats, and you're not even a cat person. Let love come to you when it's good and ready. Let it happen naturally. It's okay to be boyfriend-less. I promise.

I know it seems really scary, but try to stand up for yourself and others more. If you see someone being relentlessly picked on, speak up. Even if all you can muster is a quiet, shaky "leave him alone."

Don't let everyone copy your homework either. If a large, intimidating dude asks to see your homework, go ahead. Get on his good side. I wouldn't want you to get your face rearranged or anything.

But if the girl who makes fun of you and is only nice to you when she wants to see your homework asks for your homework, it's okay to say no. People might make fun of you even more, but at least you stood your ground. That's something to be proud of, not ashamed of. Just stand up for yourself. You'll only be treated like a doormat if you act like one.

Stop trying so hard to please people who won't even be in your life after high school. 98% of the people you're going to school with will drop off the face of the planet after graduating, and you'll never hear from them again. They are not worth pleasing or impressing. You're not really that cool, and you'll probably never be cool. I'm sorry. Being cool is overrated.

And lastly, you should probably know that after high school, you're going to hit a rough patch. You're going to be scared. You're going to be confused. You're going to be under immense pressure to make your family proud. You're going to have a brutal falling out with one of your best friends. You're going to cry a lot and carry around a lot of anger. You're going to get pretty depressed.

I'm here to tell you that you will live through all of that. It may seem as if there's no end, but there is. Nothing is permanent. This confusing, horrible phase in your life will ultimately lead you down the right path. Everything will turn out okay. Trust me.

Be who you are. Feel what you feel. Forgive yourself. Forgive others, even if they don't apologize. Be nice to people. Listen to your gut. Make your mistakes. Learn your lessons.

Just enjoy being young.

your 20 year old self

What is the single most important thing you would tell YOUR teen self? Leave me a comment and let me know (if you want).

<3 Madison 


Friday, December 21, 2012

Miscellaneous thoughts

Sometimes I can't seem to pick just one topic to blog about. Sometimes I have various little thoughts running through my mind and want to randomly share all of them.

I frequently find myself writing posts where I just spew random thoughts. But you guys seem to like them, so that's good.

Here are a couple of previous examples:

So I decided to start calling these posts "Miscellaneous thoughts." (Because I never know how to title a post that's about several different things at once.) If I ever write another post like this, I'll probably just call it "Miscellaneous thoughts (Part 2)" or something like that. 

Okay. Here we go. 

~ Hold on to the loyal people in your life. The people who stood by you even when you tried to push them away. The people who know who you really are when you lose yourself. The people you can always count on, no matter what. You need these people more than you know.

~ Smile at strangers. Exchanging a smile with someone you don't know is a very simple, yet very rewarding gesture. We should all smile more. Like Buddy the elf. 

~ Love > Fear 

~ Dogs are amazing. I don't know if you're a dog person or a cat person or a fish person, but dogs are amazing. I recommend getting one if you can. 

~ Be charitable when you can. But don't ever beat yourself up for not having a certain amount of money or resources to help a certain cause or whatever. All help is good. Like I said, when you can or when it's possible, be charitable. 

~ Say yes more often. (But not to drugs or gang initiations...)

~ Don't create a problem where there isn't one.

~ Cultivate joy, not stress---especially this month. Remember the reason for the season.  

<3 Madison 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Defining success for yourself

When you think about society's definition of success, what typically comes to your mind?

Money? Fame? Notoriety?

One thing that really bothers me a lot is the widely held belief that the above things are what make a person successful. So many people put an immense amount of pressure on themselves to succeed on a large scale in order to feel worthy. They tie their self-worth to their level of success. It's a shame.

I have a completely different perspective on success. To me, progress equals success. Happiness equals success. Gratitude equals success. Personal fulfillment equals success.

If I'm happy, grateful, making progress, and feeling proud of myself regardless of whether or not anyone else is proud of me, I think that's a successful feeling.

I don't make a whole lot of money, but the fact that I'm even getting checks in the mail in exchange for doing something I love makes me feel successful.

I don't get thousands of page views per day, but the fact that I even get page views at all makes me feel successful.

I don't get hundreds of adoring emails per day, but the fact that some people even take the time to send me nice, heartfelt emails on a pretty regular basis makes me feel successful.

Helping people makes me feel successful.

Laughing on a daily basis makes me feel successful.

Waking up each morning and embracing my life just as it is makes me feel successful.

Doing something every day, no matter how big or small, that helps push me closer to my goals makes me feel successful.

Choosing happiness and fighting for that happiness makes me feel successful.

What makes YOU feel successful? Are you defining your own success?

<3 Madison


Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I don't want to look at the long haul

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." ~ John Lennon

I sort of hate it when people ask me questions such as...

"Where do you see yourself in five years?"
"Where do you see yourself in ten years?"
"Where do you see yourself in twenty years?"
"Are you ever going to get married and have kids?"
"Are you ever going to buy a house?"
"Are you ever going to *insert other non-applicable inquiry here*?"

I always clench up at questions like this. I don't see how people answer them.

How am I supposed to know how my life is going to end up? Do I look like a psychic?

It's okay to dream and have goals and visions, but anytime I've allowed myself to sit in one place and map out my future, my future has turned out to be completely different from what I planned.

Life rarely turns out exactly the way we plan. At least, that has been my truth. People always say to plan ahead and be secure enough to know exactly where you want your life to go. I disagree. How can we possibly know where our lives are going? How do we know for sure if we've found the right person, the right job, the right path? We can't know for sure. Things can change in a heartbeat, and the future has yet to arrive.

My life looks absolutely nothing like I planned for it to look five, ten years ago. There were so many things I thought I knew. I could've sworn I had it all figured out.

But I didn't. This seemed like a terrible tragedy at the time, but now it's a blessing. I'm proud of myself and my life. It's not perfect, of course. (No life ever is.) But I've turned out just fine so far. I'm alive, I'm well, I'm learning and I'm human.

Thinking about the future makes me crazy. I can't do it. I can barely even bring myself to think about where I'll be or what I'll be doing tomorrow. I could get hit by a bus for all I know. (And I sort of almost did one time. Note to self: Look BOTH ways before crossing the street.)

So I don't plan ahead. I don't look at the long haul. I don't map out my future. I stay present and let life take its natural course. I take my life one day and one heartbeat at a time.

I don't want to focus on happily ever after...I just want to focus on happy right now.

<3 Madison  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Enjoying solitude vs. being a loner

"I don't want you to turn into a loner."

This comment was made to me the other day by a well-meaning person after I told them that I liked being alone. What I meant by that was that I typically enjoy my own company.

I think this person simply misinterpreted what I meant. I think when someone says that they like being alone, people impulsively think it means, "I don't like being around others."

When people think I'm a loner, it kind of hurts me for a few seconds. Because once upon a time, I was one. And I don't like slapping labels on anyone but myself, so I can comfortably say that there was a time when I felt like an awful loner. I would've licked a hot stove top before I went to a social function or greeted another human being.

But one of the main things I've been working on this year has been finding a balance between enjoying my own company and enjoying the company of others. And I, like many other people, feel a bit deflated when people don't seem to notice my progress. Or when I feel misunderstood.

When I gradually started easing my way out of my depressive state last year, I decided to spend more time alone in an attempt to reconnect with myself, get to know myself and figure out what I really wanted.

I did that. It worked, and it was a wonderful decision.

The problem? I got extremely comfortable with my seclusion and could not seem to pull myself out of it for the life of me. I became addicted to my solitude.

I alienated almost everyone who cared about me. I stopped picking up the phone. I faked illnesses to get out of participating in family functions. I turned down invitations to hang out with my friends. I never made an effort to meet or greet people. I was about as closed off as a metal door with four thousand chains around it. Getting me to come out of hiding was close to impossible. I pretty much never left my home.

You get the idea. I stuffed down feelings of loneliness because I didn't want to risk giving up my comfortable, solitary lifestyle.

But this year, I have made a lot of progress. Especially in recent months. I've been opening up more. I've started being nicer to people and seeing the good in them instead of assuming that they want to judge or hurt me in some way. I've started realizing the sacredness of love and friendship again. When someone I care about takes the time to invite me to something, I go. I've spent more time with people in recent months than I ever would have in my "loner" days.

But with all of that said, I still enjoy my solitude. And that's okay. I'm still working on maintaining a healthy balance and being able to recognize any resistance to spending time on either end of the spectrum, but I'm making progress one step and one social situation at a time. That's all that matters. All progress is good progress.

You can't define yourself based on what another person says or does. People usually mean well, and we're all misunderstood from time to time anyway. As long as we don't lose ourselves in the opinions of others, it's okay.

I have a solitary job. I would rather curl up on the couch with a good book or a good movie than attend a high energy social event. I only have a handful of close people in my life, but they're all I need and everything I want.

I'm an introvert, and I enjoy spending time alone. It's who I am.

And for the first time in a long time, I'm genuinely happy with who I am. :-)

<3 Madison