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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Learning How to Live

Live Your Life.  

Although maybe not that exact phrase, I've heard that sentiment often during my 34 years.  In many respects, the first years of life are decided for you.  I'm even bold enough to say that your teenage years are, in some ways, decided for you based on your interests, your peer group(s), where you go to school, the kind of family support you have, etc.  Most of us who have been blessed enough to go to college also know that, as those years go on, you finally start to figure out who you are.  Even if you don't attend college, those late teenage / early twenties years are a crucial part of the path you find yourself on as you enter adulthood.  You tend to separate yourself from your childhood, sometimes the friends you grew up and we all learn (some of us slower than others) that we can live on our own.  

I think the idea of living your life might be the hardest as you enter your young adult years.  I can't count the number of books, articles, and just random stuff that I've read about trying to figure out this thing we call life.  As I've said before, I'm not the most outgoing person in the world.  Unless you take the time to get to know me.  then you'll find that I'll talk your ear off.  Throughout the last year or so, I've gotten much better about talking to people in various situations but it is still really hard for me. 

For so many years, I've lived vicariously through my friends, my brother and sister and just people I could be myself with.  When I wasn't with my family or a couple of close friends, I was pretty much by myself, laying on the couch, watching TV.  Ever since I moved out of my parents house in 2006, most of my Saturday nights and Sundays have been spent cleaning, maybe working out (that has, obviously, increased over the last year) and then curling up on the couch to watch TV and fall asleep.  Not the most eventful or productive way to spend your late 20's and early 30's.  That's when most people are out experiencing the world, traveling, hanging out in bars, meeting new people, etc.  Not me.  

First, I will say, anyone who knows me would say that bars and dance clubs are not my thing.  A big piece of that is because I wasn't comfortable with who I was.  Inside and out.  Also, it's just way out of my comfort zone to be amongst this gigantic group of people I don't know, pretend they aren't there and just dance around like a fool.  Not that all of you that do that are fools...but, I think you get what I mean :)  You're comfortable enough with yourself to not worry about what other people think.  Not me.

Second, it's always been hard for me to make friends.  Many people would say, well, I met a lot of my friends at my job or in high school / college.  Long story short, college wasn't the greatest experience for me and I definitely did not leave there with lifelong friends.  Same with high school.  When I started working, I made a couple of friends but when people are already married and you have trouble with self-esteem, you often feel like the third wheel, even when no one even remotely tries to make you feel that way.

I got to a point where it was just easier to keep to myself.  I didn't have to venture outside my little bubble and I could put on a brave face and pretend to everyone that I was happy.  My family often encouraged me to "get out there" but, through no fault of their own, I don't think they understood how difficult that was for me.  My sisters would try to include me when they went out for girls night.  Sometimes I would go.  But, I was the person always staring at the clock, wondering when we could leave and trying to just blend in to the background.   Eventually, I just started not going with them because I was so uncomfortable.  But, keeping to myself is what got me into the position I was in a little over a year ago.  

So, why am I writing all of this?  Well, over the last year I've been so blessed with the people and opportunities that have been a big part of my life and all the changes I've been able to make.  All for the better.  When Renee' and I have conversations, whether they are over the phone or in person, there's a deeper meaning behind almost everything we talk about.  And I usually end up thinking about lots of different things for awhile afterwards.  That's the point, right?  Except when I bring up those big colorful balls that I love to hate ;)  But, I'm getting sidetracked.  

What kind of meaning, exactly?  Well, it's hard to explain.  Every conversation we have makes me think about my life, choices that I made/make and just happiness in general.  I think this is just part of the reason we are such good friends.  She brings things out of me that no one else has ever been able to find.  She knows that, to this day, I still spend a lot of time alone.  I struggle with forcing myself to go out in the world and be social.  Renee' tries to encourage me but I'm still pretty good at that whole excuse thing.  I never really related it to living my life.  I thought I was good - I'm pretty good at fooling myself...

After a recent conversation with Renee', I think I'm finally starting to get it.  Not saying it has made going out in public and being around strangers any easier but, at the age of 34, I think I am finally willing to try.  Slowly.  It might seem weird to the average person but, for me, I've needed someone to push me and help me see that it's okay to go sit somewhere by myself.  That just because I'm sitting there doesn't mean I have to talk to people I don't know.  I just need to be out among the living.  Instead of sleeping on my couch at 2:00 on a Sunday afternoon.  Yes, that happens almost every week...

This weekend was my first test of pushing myself to do things I don't necessarily want to do.... things that are out of my routine.  And we all know how much I love my routines.... feel free to make predictions on how you think it went,and how much effort I actually put in to finally "living my life" at the age of 34. I'll share the summary with anyone who is interested in my next entry :)

In the meantime, what does "Live Your Life" mean to you?  Think about it - I bet it will cause you to reevaluate some things in your life.