I used to think there would be a point in my life where I could say, “I made it.” I believed in happily ever after. In hindsight, I thought there was a place where I could achieve both personal and professional happiness and live in that fantastical moment forever. It didn't help that every woman I knew in her thirties or over seemed to have her life together. Now that I’m weeks away from 30, I learned to stop searching for this non-existent destination and to start appreciating each moment in my life, good or bad. Allow me to be transparent and share the lessons I had to learn to get to this point.
1. Protect your peace. For the longest time, I sat on decisions because I was worried about the feelings and thoughts of other people or saving money. I often found myself in situations where my brain felt cluttered and overworked. Usually when I felt like this, I disconnected myself by taking a solo vacation abroad. Traveling abroad was the only thing I could do to silence the expectations and input of those around me. In my quiet moments, I’ve come to accept that my peace is priceless. So while my decisions may discomfort others or cost me money, I would rather be at peace than holding in frustration.
2. Be direct. My therapist helped me with this one when she told me that several of the situations in my life were still present because I was passively addressing them. I was the queen of being passively aggressive, but the past year showed me that you can’t be petty and progressive. I learned this quickly when I had to get rid of a roommate. I had been unhappy with her for two years, but I put up with her because I wasn’t bold enough to tell her to leave and I enjoyed her help with the bills. I tried making points indirectly and suggesting house meetings to better our environment when I knew all along that I wanted her out. Finally I realized that my peace was more important than her comfort and my pockets, so I traded in a tense household for my happiness by having the uncomfortable conversation with her about final move out dates.
3. All relationships take work. Growing up in a two parent household, where I never saw my parents fight or argue, set my expectations for relationships really high. Subconsciously, whenever I experienced friction in any relationship family, friend, or romantic, I cut it off. Now that I have people in my life who unexplainably encourage, uplift, and challenge me, I’ve been forced to reflect on my actions and their perspective so we can work through moments of disagreement like a mature adults. Forgiveness and accepting my areas of growth are constant challenges, but I now know that no relationship is perfect, and after each person addresses the issue, we can all move forward with a better understanding of each other.
4. No relationships will work if you aren’t working on yourself. The biggest part of growing my relationships with others came when I started understanding myself. As I mentioned, I had a tendency to disassociate with people without a second thought. I had to learn that I had this habit and explore why. Once you are self-aware, you can see and empathize with the needs and habits of others.
5. Tighten up your circle. Many of the people in my life have been around for some time. When I bump into someone, we can pick up like we never left. However, 2016 revealed a lot of hidden agendas, mostly with my guy friends, or toxic habits of friends that I had to disconnect from for the sake of my peace. Sometimes, you have to love people from a distance, and if you are going to progress, you need progressive people around you emotionally, professionally, mentally, spiritually, and personally.
6. Stay in your own lane. I stated in the opening that I often looked at the women around me and how “put together” they were. Truth is, no matter how well off someone is, we all have our issues. We can see this most clearly with Beyoncé and Jay-Z. For me, there is a lot I want to do professionally, but if I spend all my time looking at what everyone else is doing, I will miss out on what I should be doing. There is enough room for everyone to be great. Tap into your purpose and focus on your own path.
7. Integrate alone time. Just like technology needs to recharge, so do we. Taking time to sit with yourself and process your thoughts is essential to being able to hear your own voice. Oprah said it best, "Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own." I used to have to go abroad to do this, now I can do it in my own home by responding to absolutely no one. Every now and then, take a day to be by yourself and listen to your thoughts.
8.Therapy is necessary. My life coach taught me this one when she said you need a person to talk to for different aspects of life. At one point I had a life coach, a financial advisor, a pastor, a sister circle, and a group of guy friends for male advice. I’ve gone to therapy three times over the past year because I found myself dealing with situations that were too much for me to process. So many of us need therapy, especially with the trauma we deal with in our communities personally, locally, and nationally. Working out, going to church, or attending a performance can be therapeutic, whatever it is, make sure you have multiple outlets.
9. Your physical space and mental space are connected. I don’t have any science to support this, so it’s just from my own experience. When my roommate moved out, we turned the extra room into an office, painted the walls yellow and white, and purchased all new furniture. This room is my sanctuary. I go there to pray, think, disconnect, write, and do anything else I need to do for me. Outside of this room, we did a nine hour cleaning and rearranging of our downstairs, and it feels like a new place. The energy is different. Keep your physical space in tact; it’s a reflection of your mind.
10. Faith and trust require action. In theory this sounds simple; you believe something and you act accordingly. In actuality, this is easier said than done. I realized that a lot of things in my life were stagnant because I wanted to maintain control. I could say I believe in God or that I want a traditional relationship where the man is the head of the house, but I would always make sure I handled every situation. This current journey of my life, leaving my full time job to work part time while I build a writing career, requires nothing but faith. I cut my income more than halfway, and I’m pursuing something that I can’t see. If that isn't faith, I don't know what is. At the end of the day, I’m taking a faith walk because my purpose was being confined in my full time situation, and now I am pursuing peace even if it doesn't make sense to others.
I’m sure there are more lessons to be learned, and there are days where I will want to be petty and sit in my emotions for a bit. All that said, I’m a work in progress and hopefully my lessons can help you too. Let me know in the comments!