I have an idea of what I want to do with my life, where I want to go and how I want to be in this world, but getting there is hard.
I’ve had these thoughts before, and pursued my dream. While I may have achieved my goals, that didn’t ultimately bring me happiness. Still, time has taught me so much. It’s possible this time I could find success.
Today I have a better understanding of what holds me back, what I do to myself that leads to failure, or at the very least, failed expectations. I understand my mental health issues (well, still learning there) as well as the source of my insecurities — and the reality of others’.
The bottom line is, I won’t be happy if I compromise my future. So onward — commit to the future, commit to myself.
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for any length of time will sense the ‘tude there. I don’t love job interviews, in fact, like most people, I would prefer never to go through one again.
I’ve had some humdingers, too. The absolute worst was with a human resources intern, who apparently didn’t know the law. You can’t ask questions that will reveal age, and that includes the year you graduated from high school. At least, at that time and in that state, you couldn’t.
“Tell me everything you’ve been doing since you graduated from…what high school did you go to? Where the hell is that?” he asked.
“Are you kidding me?” I responded.
It didn’t get any better, and it lasted a whopping 45 minutes. I thought about putting an end to the misery early on, but given the number of inappropriate questions he was asking about my personal life, I held on. This was a phone interview, and I was betting it was being recorded. I took careful notes, and after our conversation was over, I wrote a brief and straightforward letter to the Human Resources Director letting her know I didn’t believe her intern reflected the best of their organization.
I never heard from that company again.
There are standard questions, and generally I know how to answer them, but sometimes I get tripped up. The one that always stumps me is, “what do you plan to be doing in five years?”
I’ve lived long enough to know two things: you can’t predict with any share of accuracy what you’ll be doing in five years, and employers are really asking, how long could we count on you sticking around? That brings up a host of questions you just can’t ask.
Then there are the “tell me about” questions. “Tell me about a time you had an innovative idea that saved lives and changed the world.” “Tell me about a challenging situation with an outcome that included rescued kittens and popovers.”
The interview usually ends with, “do you have any questions for me?” and of course, you can’t ask for the information you’d really like to take home and ponder. “What are the best and worst things your employees say about your company?” or “Tell me about the unwritten policies.”
I’m job hunting now, and I’m smart enough to know potential employers could read this post (as well as anything else I’ve written on this blog). To them I humbly say…rats, I can’t think of what to say. This blog reflects a part of me.
It’s not all of me, though, so I look forward to meeting you and learning more about the great opportunities at your renowned organization.
I have a recurring dream…one I hear many people share with me.
Or some variation of it. It’s the “education” dream, the one in which it’s finals weeks and you haven’t been to class all semester. (I think my first time through college, I may have actually lived that dream during my final term.)
My dream is a little different. In it, I have once again returned to college. I’m working toward a second bachelor’s degree (although in what is never clear). Yet try as I might, I continually fail most, if not all, of my classes. I cannot grasp the subject matter, cannot conquer the topic. Sometimes, I wait too long to drop the classes, and I know I’m going to get failing grades.
There is a sense of repeated defeat, a feeling I should just give in to the fact I’m not meant to have a college degree.
Except…I have one, a bachelor’s in journalism. At some point in my dream, I stop worrying about my current failures. I’ve already succeeded. Why am I even putting myself through this mayhem?
I’ve never bothered to determine what is going on in my life that triggers this dream, although the message is pretty clear. Don’t be afraid of the future. You’ve already proven yourself in the past, and you have the tools to do it again.
I like that I resolve this issue so easily while I’m sleeping. I think it’s experience talking.
I was talking to my cousin today. He’s more than 20 years younger than I am, which puts him in his mid-30s, old enough to have gained some perspective on life’s trials and tribulations himself.
He recently removed himself from a situation that was leading to trouble, and I’m proud of him. He has not only lived through some challenging times, he’s put those difficulties to good use in his life. He doesn’t want to relive what is best left in the past.
I’m sure when I was his age, I’d learned a few lessons myself, but when I look back on that era of my life, I typically see repeated failures. How will I view what I’m living through now in the years to come?
Hardly the question to fret over, I know. What I should be asking myself is, what are you learning from the past, and how are you applying it to your life today?
There are lessons I should be learning, steps I should be taking to conquer my demons. It’s not always easy to break convenient habits.
But I’m not going to repeat another class if I don’t have to do so. There are better ways I can improve my life.
I’ve spent some time, not a lot, but some, imagining what my life would be like now if I’d made different decisions.
It happens most often at night, when I’m alone and not much is on TV, none of the books I have appeal to me and I simply cannot play one more game of solitaire on my phone. I sit and ponder. What makes me who I am? My experience, my heart, my intentions, my choices? I suppose all of it.
Some of my worst decisions have led to the greatest breakthroughs in personal growth. Would I be a better person if I had not done such a foolish thing?
Or would I be making the same mistakes, leaving myself with a level of immaturity I can’t get past? Or is it those mistakes that led to the unwise behavior in the first place? How do our thoughts, actions, beliefs and fate all play together?
The consequences we face are sometimes unknown, unforeseeable. There are those seemingly small errors in our ways that lead to lifelong reminders of that one errant deed, and potentially catastrophic actions that pass by almost unnoticed…and we forget…until there is a gentle reminder, and we breathe a sigh of relief that it didn’t happen the way it could have.
There are those who face mental illness, and they sometimes make what seem to them like logical decisions based on misperception because of the way their brain functions. I’m not talking criminal behavior here, although that certainly does apply, but day to day actions that have an impact on happiness and quality of life.
I could overanalyze this, because here’s the bottom line: as much fun as it is to watch a movie where someone is given a chance to go back in time and change the path of their life, that would be a huge gamble. What if I hadn’t married the man who betrayed me and married the one who got away instead? You probably don’t know the second man any better than you knew the first when you married him. It could have been an entirely different sort of disaster.
I am who I am. If it hadn’t been this mistake, it would have been another. I still would be me. And I’m okay with that.
While my hand is healing, I’m bringing out some favorite posts from the past many of you may not have seen. This was first posted in December, 2015.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”
― W.C. Field
I can’t roller skate. Nor can I bowl, or do a pull-up. I don’t expect to ever be able to do any of those things, and they’re no longer important to me. At one time they were, and that stayed with me for way too long. But I’ve gotten over it and accepted my limitations.
I didn’t stop trying to learn how to bowl until I was in my 30s, when finally someone told me it was acceptable not to have that particular skill.
He didn’t word it quite like that, however. We were at a bowling alley with a group from church, and he was splitting his time between reading a book and talking to others. When I mentioned what a terrible bowler I was, he shrugged his shoulders and said, with a laugh, “Who cares? It’s not something I want to be known for anyway.”
Okay, a bit snobby. It did lead me to think, however, is this really me? Is it a goal of mine to be a better bowler, or is everyone else in my circle telling me it should be?
There’s a point where you ceaselessly persevere, and there’s a point where you say, is that even a skill I truly want to master? I had no real interest in bowling, I’d just been told over and over not to give up, I could do it if I tried.
But I couldn’t. I tried and tried, and my body would not cooperate. What’s more, I likely never would have gotten to a point where, even if I could hold my own in a game, I would have looked forward to it. I did not want to bowl.
Once I figured out that hanging onto a group of friends whose main activities I didn’t enjoy was fruitless, I was a lot happier. It took some time, but gradually I developed friendships with people whose faces lit up when they talked about doing the same things I wanted to do.
That’s not to say I’ll always avoid everything I’m not particularly good at doing. I would love to be able to dance, an old-fashioned waltz, perhaps, but it’s fair to say even at my best I won’t be entering any contests. That’s not my goal, at least not at this point. Right now I’d be happy to keep the beat.
(I have learned something about dancing over the years…call it sexist, or call it practical, but as we all know, men lead. With a strong lead, even a woman who isn’t a good dancer looks good. So half my battle will be finding the right partner.)
I’m not limiting myself only to friends who share my interests, either. Some of my best friends (a-hem) are bowlers, and good ones at that.
I don’t have to be the best, or even particularly good, at any given skill to enjoy doing it. I have my expert talents, and I have those I fumble with. It’s that mix of abilities and experience that makes me who I am, perfectly me.
I know you have a secret, and I’ve got an idea what it is. Whatever it may be, it doesn’t matter to me. You will always be my friend.
We’ve had ups and downs in our friendship, and I’ve taken the blame at times when I wasn’t at fault. I finally figured that out. But here’s the thing: I don’t blame you, either. Life is complicated, and the blame is widespread. You’re doing the best you can.
Once I was grocery shopping with my friend Pam and her then four-year-old daughter Macy, who was nearly jumping out of the shopping cart seat in excitement at every turn.
“Ooooo!” she’d say, “I want THAT!” Another few steps, “And that! and that!” In vain, Pam tried telling her they didn’t have the money to buy all those things. I decided to step in.
“You know Macy, there are lots of things I’d like to have, too,” I began. “I’d really like a new dress, and some shoes to go with it. Maybe some earrings. But I can’t afford it right now, so I just put it on a list for someday.”
“But I want THAT!” Macy insisted.
Pam sighed. “There are lots of things I want, too, and things Daddy would like,” she said, “but we can’t have everything we want.”
“I’d really like some new makeup,” I went on, maybe pushing it a little. “And a new car. Wow, I’d really like a new car. One with air conditioning.”
Macy was looking skeptical. With her eyes narrowed, she put her hands on her hips and stared at us. “What you two need,” she said sternly, “is a piggybank.”
We burst out laughing. Macy didn’t get anything she wanted that day, but she was the star of evening as we told the story again and again.
Since that time I’ve thought of that shopping trip and realized something rather important: Macy knew about saving money. As frustrated as Pam may have been with her daughter’s demands, when push came to shove, the kid had the answer. Mom was doing something right.
I wonder how many times parents get fed up with their children’s words and actions and wonder if they’re doing any good at all. They see other kids in the neighborhood seemingly doing so much better, maybe, or their nieces and nephews are the family stars. Is anything getting through?
It’s getting through. It’s all getting through. It may seem futile at the moment, but the words — and actions — are sinking in.
When I was about five, my parents decided to teach me a little about money. I’d been getting an allowance, a small amount, all in pennies. They brought me to the kitchen table, where there was a pile of pennies on one side, and a dollar bill on the other.
I was told there were 100 pennies, which were worth the same as the dollar bill. I could have either the 100 pennies or the dollar bill, but it was important I understood they were worth the same.
No problem. Got it. Give me the dollar bill. I’d never had currency before.
My parents were certain that in my fascination with that dollar bill, I’d missed the lesson. I hadn’t. I’d grasped it quite quickly, in fact.
You never know what’s going on your child’s mind, but they’re hearing every word. That’s a comfort and a warning, I guess.
You can’t be there to make decisions for them, and they’ll make some mistakes, regardless of all your good words. But you’re laying a foundation and they’ll be building the house, so make it a good foundation.
Because it never stops making a difference. You never stop making a difference.
I could use a little disruption in my life to change my focus, if only for a moment. Enough of a spark to take my mind off of that which usually occupies my thinking.
It might open me up to a refreshing change in my life.
It’s scary, and exciting, to think we could work to make our dreams come true. Scary, because we might fail. Exciting, because we might succeed. I know by now it takes more than a simple wish on a shooting star or a genie’s lamp. It takes action. I want to turn things around for myself, but first, I think, I have to change my thinking. If I don’t I’ll end up in the same situation I’m in now. The details may be different, but the resulting satisfaction, or lack thereof, will be the same.
The question, of course, is what part of my thinking needs to change? There is a large part of me that has grown in a positive way in recent years, yet I’m stuck in a place, physically and mentally, I don’t want to be.
There is a seed of thought of exactly where I do want to be, and I have to be willing to dream it’s possible. Then, I have to take the steps to make it happen. One at a time. If I think too far ahead, I’ll freeze up and it will never happen.
I’ll worry about roadblocks and setbacks, heartbreak and disappointment. Already I can hear this little voice in my head saying, “you’ve done this before, where did it get you?”
I think even the middle ground could be a pretty fantastic place to land.
It got me pretty far, actually. Just sometimes I fail to remember what I now take for granted.
If life has taught me anything, it’s that reality is usually a middle ground, not as terrible as we fear or as incredible as we hope, but in this case I think even the middle ground for me could be a pretty fantastic place to land.
As I write this my body is aching, I’m worried how I’m going to pay my bills this month and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in more than a week. Reality can sap the joy out of dreams if you let it, but today I’m not going to let it.
I’m going to wish on a shooting star, then take the first step to make my dreams come true.
I finally figured out what I was going to do with the next ten years, and what do you know, a few other people had some input into those ideas…people whose input matters. So the figuring is starting all over again.
But these are people who love me, so not to worry, right?
Yes, I’ve figured out a few things. Life is going to get you, one way or the other. You’re going to have good times, bad times and a lot of everyday, ordinary times.
You’re going to learn and grow (or not). You’ll think you’ve made it, only to find the rug pulled out from underneath you. You’ll think all is lost, only to have it given back to you again.
Those you think are for you will betray you and those you think could not care less about you will save your life.
It’s not all that mixed up, to be sure, or unexpected. But I made up my mind.. and forgot what I decided. And realized, it’s all a process leading to a destination we can’t imagine.
I’ve found life isn’t getting harder, or more challenging, or more difficult than I expect it to be. But it’s getting more difficult in ways different than I expect.
I seem to be able to divide my life today into several parts:
making the same mistakes with the same predictable results; facing the same problems but with new challenges; blazing new, hopefully more productive trails; and dealing with the unimagined, some of it wonderful, some of it sad.
Then there’s always the predictable, of course. My parents are aging; both will turn 80 this year. On my dad’s side of the family, that’s nothing. On my mom’s, it’s a little more meaningful. While today they’re healthy, the reality is, it doesn’t matter what you might reasonably anticipate, they are at an age when death might be unexpected, but you can never truly say it’s shocking.
I don’t worry about them dying, but I’m acutely aware they will someday, and I’m not looking forward to it. From time to time I’m made aware of the possibility that something I never thought of could happen, and one of them would be gone, just like that. I can’t dwell on those thoughts. Awareness it could happen is enough.
My friend Sandy, looking at family history, had no reason to believe her mother would live past her early 70s.
Now her mama is 90, and in reasonably good health, but little by little, her memory is diminishing. Sandy didn’t anticipate facing all the problems of finding care for her mother, who’s become increasingly incapable of caring for herself.
Fortunately, she found a good assisted living residence, and that will greatly take the burden off her shoulders. Believe me, she’s happy to have these problems, thrilled to have her mother with her. When she gets a chance to put it in that perspective. So often, she’s so tired.
She’s also dealing with the declining health of her husband, who’s doing well at this point but could turn at any moment. Or, live for years. That man is stubborn. In the back of my mind (okay, I have said it out loud once or twice) is the thought maybe we should worry a little more about Sandy’s health. She’s almost 70, but you forget it to look at her. If she died, a lot of things would fall apart for her husband and mother. Quickly.
That’s the sort of twist life seems good at turning. We expect her mom to go, we’ve been preparing, mentally, at least, for her husband to leave us, but one day she could just be gone without warning.
Many years ago my then-boyfriend’s childhood friend Dan had a rare form of cancer and was given months to live.
Because of his prognosis, he was asked if he’d be willing to take part in an experimental drug treatment. He did, and it extended his life long enough for another experimental drug program to come along…and then another. Eventually, Dan was cancer-free.
Dan had been prepared to die. He was left instead struggling with how to live, and floundered while adjusting his thinking.
Some days the little things throw me for a loop.
Today I reached over to scratch my cat Mimi behind the ears, and she cowered, terror in her eyes. I had no idea what was wrong. I held out my hand so she could sniff it, but she would have none of it. She walked away and sat five feet from me, staring in apparent deep contemplation.
That was three or four hours ago. Just now I got up from my desk and walked over to her, and she was fine. I have no idea what was wrong before, and I likely never will know. It upsets me. It’s never happened before.
If my cat is terrified of something, that’s not a little thing. Certainly not to her, therefore not to me.
I didn’t expect my life to be the way it is today,
and sometimes I’m at a loss with how to deal with the sense of sadness that surrounds me when I think of what I did expect and did want from life. Those moments don’t last, however, or dominate my thinking.
I’m proud of the skills I’ve developed in dealing with the pain and sorrow I’ve felt over the years, in the unexpected as well as absolutely foreseeable events that have transpired.
So now I’m going to cuddle with my cat. If she’ll let me.
When I was just under two years old, I feared nothing. Okay, not true. The only way I’d go down the slide was on my tummy, feet first, so apparently my fear of heights started early. But feeding ducks? Couldn’t get me to do that today (what if they bit me?) but as a toddler, if Grandpa told me it was okay, I was a trusting soul.
Admittedly, it took me a little bit to get into it, but once I did, I was all in.
Not too many people I trust that implicitly any more, I’m afraid. I’ve learned there’s value in counsel from many, and accepting the advice of one person in a life-changing situation, no matter how adamant they may be that they are right, is rarely the wise thing to do.
It takes me time to process things. Sometimes someone will make a suggestion and I’ll dismiss it out of hand. If they push it, I’ll push back, and get angry, defensive. I need time to think it through. Later I may come back and say, “hey, what about…?” and make the same suggestion they did only days before, frustrating the bejeebers out of them.
Other times I know I’m right, and I’ll push back, and that, too, will irritate my friends, who don’t see the difference. Not long ago I had a friend who, in all sincerity, thought I was taking a situation “too seriously” and not looking at things “the way they really are.”
I was living the situation; he wasn’t. I knew just how serious it was. He was frustrated because of my perceived attitude; I was equally perturbed by his stubborn refusal to accept my experience as valuable in evaluating the situation.
I struggle, daily, with important decisions. I seek advice from friends and family, and I look at past decisions, I write blog posts (some published, some not) about what I would or would not like to see happen.
There are aspects of my life I want changed now and things I want to change in the future. I lie awake at night thinking about what I need to do to protect my future, and worrying some things will never change if I don’t take baby steps.
Some days I take the baby steps, then I forget to do so again for months at a time, losing any momentum I may have gained.
Moving forward is an ever-challenging, often exasperating, sometimes exhausting, yet ultimately exhilarating practice. It can happen slowly, then suddenly speed up and leave you spinning.
I never want to stop moving forward, growing and achieving personal freedom as a result. For me, it requires re-evaluation every so often, and I’m doing that now.
Every once in awhile, life throws us a curve ball — a really cool, out-of-the-blue, unexpected, happy curve ball. Now, I’m not really sure that as a sports term, curve ball is the accurate phrase here, but you get what I’m saying. Something we didn’t expect.
Most of the time, it seems, those unexpected events knock you off your feet with their negative consequences. You don’t know what to do at first, you’re floundering until someone or something helps you get it together. In this case, initially I was cautious. If I celebrated, did I break the spell?
Then I thought, if this is good news, it’s going to stick. If it only seems to be good news, if it turns out to be something else, then why not enjoy the momentary sense of relief anyway? I’m certainly well aware things can change. It’s not as if they did, I’d be disillusioned or destroyed.
So I’m going to celebrate. Quietly, and just with the kitties. But I’ll have a good evening. Because when good things happen, we need to mark the moment.
Well, if not smart, curiously informed. Trivia is fun, if for no other reason than you feel superior to the rest of us mere mortals. It also can create pet peeves, so beware. Here are a few fun facts to get you through the week:
♦Smokey Bear fights forest fires. Not Smokey the Bear. Or Smokey da Bear.
♦A “jiffy” is 1/100 of a second. See you in a jiffy!
♦When the competition is between two people, the proper expression is “may the better man (woman) win.” When it’s between more than two people, you should say, “may the best man (woman) win.”
♦This is not a grammar rule, so teachers don’t like to hear it, but my favorite way to know when to use “it’s” versus “its” is this: “it’s” is the same as “it is.” Think of the apostrophe as replacing the “i.”
♦Back in the 70s we had “Jive Talking.” That’s not the same as when something doesn’t jibe with you. Yep, it’s “jibe,” not “jive,” for the latter expression.
♦And this is as political as I’ll get…”egghead,” a term with much the same meaning as “geek” or “nerd,” was used by Republican VP candidate Richard Nixon in the 1952 presidential campaign to pejoratively describe Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. I’ll leave it to you to compare and contrast political campaigns then and now, and I’m not doing it on this blog. But this could start some conversations for you.
Not long ago, a friend of mine told me he had a tremendous amount of respect for the way I’d handled a challenging situation a few years back. This was someone who, more than just about anybody in my circle, knew what I’d dealt with, and recognized the struggle I faced overcoming the pain and resulting obstacles.
He didn’t presume to know what I’d gone through, but listened and learned, and in that way was able to lend me the support I so desperately needed. It meant a lot to me. What was even more significant was his offer to help me move past my current situation and on to a life more suited to my needs.
When we go through a painful time, friends can either help or hinder us. Not everyone has the same gift of a heart that listens; some help in other ways, perhaps not as profound but ultimately part of what makes us whole again.
There are the friends who believe in you because they know who you are, and the friends who believe in you because the facts add up in your favor. The friends who just met you and say, “I’m sorry,” when there’s a setback, and mean it, but don’t let you wallow in self-pity.
The friends who call others fools for rejecting you because of rumors.
I don’t believe “all things happen for a reason,” because there is no justification for some behavior, some deliberate actions that hurt people for no sound purpose. (In particular, you can’t tell me the horrors of war “happen for a reason,” but that isn’t really what I’m talking about here.) I do, however, believe the character of a person is found not in their success, but how they handle life’s hardships, whether it’s their fault or not.
A young woman I know, about to graduate from college, had her heart set on a high-profile, prestigious career, and she was well on her way to achieving that goal when she was diagnosed with a chronic disease that will prevent her from pursuing that path. I don’t know her that well, but I imagine she felt stunned, confused, angry, perhaps a little lost. No one’s at fault here; illness is part of life. A painful part, sometimes, physically and emotionally.
While I feel for her, at the same time I believe in a way she’s lucky. I wouldn’t be foolish enough to say that to her now, and it may be years before she reaches that conclusion herself. I believe, however, she’s savvy enough that she will.
To face a setback like this when you’re this young, and to overcome it, which she most certainly will, brings phenomenal strength. It won’t be the last disappointment she encounters (I wouldn’t say that to her now either), although, perhaps being the first of its kind, it may be among the hardest.
I hope those closer to her than I am, those who know her better and know what she needs, are giving her the empathy and support to help direct her onto the right path. No doubt college counselors have seen this sort of thing before, the details different, the results the same, and they have practical advice. Her sister knows her better than anybody, and can put her arm around her and hold her. And so on.
Back in my twenties, I was living in Minneapolis, where, as you may have heard, it snows a lot in the winter.
If you haven’t lived in an area that gets a lot of snow, you may not be aware of one annoying aspect of it: shoveling out your car.
I was sharing an apartment with the best roommate I ever had, Joanne, and even though it was a two-bedroom, we had one garage space for the unit. That meant we alternated who got covered parking week by week, and if it snowed the week you had custody, it was a mixed blessing. You didn’t have to brush and scrape the snow and ice off your car, but you did shovel after snowfall.
Shoveling isn’t easy. It takes longer than you think it should, and snow is heavy. So when I headed out one morning after a six-inch snowfall the night before (which, with drifts, is a lot of shoveling), knowing what lay ahead of me, I wasn’t happy. In addition to facing the shoveling itself, I was dressed for work, which at that time meant a skirt, and I knew snow would end up sliding down my boots and getting my feet wet and cold.
I approached the garage stall, and was stunned to see someone had already done the job for me. But who?
Down the hall from our apartment lived a man, probably in his 50s, who worked for the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) team in some capacity. He had players over all the time, and I’m guessing he may have played at one time himself. Maybe he even was well-known, I have no idea. He was a nice guy, not in a weird, predatory way toward us young women, just genuinely kind.
He was walking out to his garage stall while I was standing there, staring at the cleared space in front of me. I knew he must have been the one to perform this kind deed.
“Did you…?” I asked him, pointing at my garage.
“Yes,” he replied with a smile.
“I can’t thank you enough. Really,” I said. “I mean, thank you.”
“We’re all in this together,” he laughed, and was on his way.
That has stayed with me. We’re all in this together. I try to implement that philosophy into my everyday interactions with others, even quoting him at times, which is often greeted with a little confusion on the part of others. Perhaps it sounds conspiratorial. It’s not. It’s a bond, an honorable one. We lend a helping hand, especially when doing so costs us less than its value to the other.