Originally published September 2014
“I’m going to take a semester off and go find myself.”
I was twenty two and backpacking seemed like the appropriate young adult thing to do.
I discovered plenty of things; my love for the South African accent, how to gain weight in South-East Asia, how to lose weight in South-East Asia, all the different ways one can smoke weed, how good I am at being lazy, and how to make friends quickly. All great lessons. What I did not discover was myself.
Then, 3 and 3/4 of a year ago, after completing my useless and wonderful backpacking adventure and my aimless degree in English literature, I began my unforeseen career in retail.
“What do you mean you’re not going back to school?”
At this juncture I had to learn how to deal with the inevitable judgement that comes when you start making decisions for yourself. This is when I really started listening to my gut, or heart you might say.
Somewhere near the centre of your core there’s this truth telling thing that you can never seem to ignore for that long.
Then, after a few years of dabbling in management and defending stretchy pants, things came full circle when I realized that twelve years ago I already had the answer to the question, “What do you want?”
I was fifteen. I walked into my bedroom wearing a towel and saw my best friend sitting on my bed reading my diary.
“You’re a really good writer!” she exclaimed.
“Give me my diary back!”
“You should write a book one day!”
I snatched it back but never forgot what she said. Somewhere in me I knew that I didn’t want my words to just sit in an old diary on a bookshelf.
So that’s a brief history of how I got a little closer to finding myself. Along the way I’ve learned a few rules that I don’t like. A rule is defined as a generalized course of action, designed to establish some kind of order. I don’t even like the definition of a rule.
Maybe if I hadn’t started listening to these rules I would have found myself, or rather, remembered myself, a little sooner.
1. Weigh the pros and cons.
If every decision I made was based on a list of pros and cons I would have never done anything cool or taken any risks. Because the list of cons, or practicalities, would usually outweigh the pros.
Sometimes there was only one pro. Like, “it would be really fun.”
Instead you should watch this video every day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajMpfPYlHi4
2. Don’t sleep with him too soon.
It’s not so much that I don’t like this particular rule, it’s dating rules in general that I’m starting to dislike. I can think of more examples of people doing everything wrong and it turning out okay. Half the happily taken girls I know started off their relationships as a one night stand.
I am not telling you to go disrespect yourself. Just don’t worry so much about messing things up or making mistakes. You’re supposed to. You can do everything wrong, and it could turn out the way you want it to. You could do everything right, and it could fall apart.
So, learn the rules if you want but then I’d suggest breaking them and seeing what happens. And once again listen to your aforementioned gut. Not your sex drive. Your gut. It’s easy to confuse the two.
In fact, I probably wouldn’t have a blog if I had listened to too much dating advice. Or maybe I would, but it wouldn’t be this much fun to write. Nobody wants to read about the romantic weekend getaway I would have planned for my boyfriend of seven years. Or how he would have been the only person I had ever made love to. I’d probably say things like “made love” and you’d want to gag.
3. Turn the music down.
It’s not that I try to disturb my neighbors, but the “best nights ever” have started dancing in a kitchen to music that’s way too loud. And usually the kitchen is quite small. With 4 or 5 friends. Sometimes your mom and her friends are there too.
Find your happy place and go there often. Don’t listen to the people that tell you you’re too old for anything. I live for dancing around kitchens.
In summary, it’s not a backpacking adventure, career path, or set of rules that’s going to ensure your success or happiness. You get to decide what success means to you, and what happiness looks and feels like. Those rule makers don’t get to decide.
I’ll leave you with a quote that I saw at Chapter’s yesterday. I really wanted to buy the print but they didn’t have any left except for the display so I guess I was just meant to have a blurry picture of it on my iPhone.
Do what makes you happy and be done with all the rest.
Ps. You have my word that even when I’m madly in love with my future husband I’ll never write about ‘making love’ or our perfect weekend getaways. I’ll figure something else out.