Archive for category Lessons of Twenty-something Life

The past is gone. But wait, there’s more!

Whenever I think about the passage of time, I think in song lyrics — specifically this one: “The past is gone but something might be found to take its place.” (Thank you, Gin Blossoms)

Once I noticed that line hidden in obvious earshot in the chorus of the popular “Hey Jealousy,” I was drawn to it immediately. It’s true for everyone. The past is always gone. We can remember it all we want, but we’ll never get it back. The past is always gone. The lyric is true no matter who we are, but its emotional value depends on where we’re at in life — if we’re looking forward to exciting things to come or lamenting bygone times that brought us great happiness.

In each of our lives, there’s an element of both of these sentiments. In our twenties, many of us have exciting moments on the horizon of strengthening relationships, building commitments, succeeding in the career world in ways we find meaningful, adventuring and being ourselves. Yet many of us have moments when we look back and there’s no other way to say it: we plain miss college — miss our roommates and the closeness we shared, miss the $2 latte day at the best campus coffee shop, miss the atmosphere where friends and fun were two of the top priorities, maybe even miss a couple of our professors whose expertise guided us and an academic environment that taught us, if nothing else, how to learn about ourselves.

The further we progress toward 30 and beyond, the more marvelous moments our minds might stock up to recall with fondness. Maybe that’s why the lyric about the past didn’t strike me right away in college. Maybe, with a few more years behind me, I have that much more to miss.
The past is gone and that much is true, but the second half of what’s become my favorite Gin Blossoms line is just as true, too: “Something might be found to take its place.”
These words, to me, represent the hope and strength we need to move forward, even when we’re stuck in a moment of sadness for a past part of our life that we can never recreate. These words are a reminder that the best way to deal with the past and overcome nostalgia is to create a wonderful future.

Sitting here in the present of any particular moment, we can never truly know what elements of the future will take the place of the happiness — or the sadness or the struggles — of our past. We can’t always know, but we can find the answers. We can keep moving forward. We can do this. And we don’t really have a choice. Because “the past is gone but something might be found to take its place.”

The song doesn’t assure us that the future will be just as satisfying as the past. It uses the word “might,” which leaves a lot up in the air. But that’s what self-determination and free will are all about. Let’s use them to find our path and to find something new to take the place, not of everything in the past, but of everything we’ve loved. Let’s start now. Happy 2016.

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Growing up … One song at a time

If you’re like me, you’d love to find a band that gets you. A band whose songs speak to you — lyrically and musically — throughout your life no matter your mood or age. Whose music reflects you and enriches you and surprises you, no matter how many times you listen to it.

And if you’re like me, you’re not sure you’ll ever find that band. Blame it on father time. Blame it on growing up. Both are unavoidable.

Music is personal. Even when it’s pop tunes or anything mainstream produced for the masses, music is different for everyone who hears it because of our backgrounds and mindsets, our influences and preferences, and this is one of the miracles that makes us human. It’s originality in a nutshell.

But since we’re all so different, finding that perfect understanding with any one band and maintaining it for more than a couple of years is like finding earbuds that actually stay put — practically impossible, but worth a try all the same.

I won’t bore you with a historical listing of my favorite bands and why and how they’ve spoken to me at different times in my life. You all have your favorites. The ones that brought you through the awakenings and coming-of-age moments of middle school, the awkwardness and uncertainty of high school, the pressure and desire of college, the newness and overwhelming freedom of twenty-something life. Insert them here.

Then look at that progression. Try listening to your middle school favorites now. It might be good to reminisce for five minutes, but then I bet it feels pretty laughable. High school jams might seem shallow, hollow. And college tunes likely still resonate, but in a way that feels like something’s missing.

And it is. But it’s not the band, it’s you. It’s all of us. We’ve changed. We’re not the us we were 5, 10, 15 years ago — even if we’ve retained a lot of the same friends, hobbies, interests, habits.

The same can be said for any artist that ever sang a song. And that’s why it’s practically impossible to find a band whose progression through life and lyrics and notes will match ours. Because as we change, bands change too, and no one does it the exact same way. Originality in a nutshell.

But let’s not give up; there’d be no fun in that. We can keep progressing through artists and enjoying songs as they come to us and as they speak to us. There’s nothing wrong with that. And we can comfort ourselves with people who see our changes and change alongside us. Because better than a band, the ones we love can always find a way to understand us.

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One wish for a better world

I wish people weren’t so hypocritical. And I wish it most when it comes to our families.

There are times that bring families together. Births, birthdays, religious ceremonies, coming-of-age occasions, graduations, weddings, retirements, deaths. Aside from the obvious downer at the end, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Then there are things that tear families apart: insults, grudges, slights, distance, time, selfishness, laziness. I don’t know which is worst.

But families remain central to our lives, even as we progress through our twenties. Even as more time passes from the days when we lived with all of our immediate family, those relatives are a rock and steadying factor. Even as time progresses and some of us start our own families or come closer to doing so, those who raised us remain central.

Yet we let our families slip down our priorities list all too often, taking for granted that they’ll always be there for us. I’m guilty, that’s for sure. In fact, my family’s dependable presence and unconditional love are things I take comfort in assuming will be there forever, even when I’m not showing the most kindness, caring or consideration, even when I’m being selfish and putting my own thoughts, needs, wants and interests before those of the people who matter to me the most. Even when my selfishness takes so much precedence that I lose sight of the priorities I place on people, loyalty and dependability. Family is still there.

And when is this sad selfishness most apparent but at the time of a loved one’s death. Inevitably, there will be a lot of family time around a death, and this can be good and bad. Good because family can offer comfort that only those who truly understand you can provide. Bad because family time around a stressful and sad occasion can lead to old tensions flaring and new battle lines being drawn.

Also inevitable are the realizations. They’ll be different for each of us. Often they involve time. We’ll realize we should have spent more time with our families — the ones we were born into and the ones we choose. That’s what old people always say on those work/life balance surveys, anyway: they regret working so much and not spending enough time with their families. But why do we have to let this become a regret before we try to do something about it?

Time, I guess. It’s such a limiting factor that we blame it for our inability to balance our lives and put into order the things that are or aren’t important. Time is why we don’t see our families enough, but time isn’t the culprit. We are.

So if we value our families, let’s start showing it. If we love spending time with our families, let’s start doing it. Don’t wait for the next joyous occasion or tragic one. Don’t wait even for the next weekend. Keep the people who matter in your life central to it and do it now. Because you never know when it’ll be too late.

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Now open: Intro to caring for twenty-somethings

There could be a post-college class for twenty-somethings called Intro to Caring. Those of us who occasionally become self-absorbed, or who lack the confidence that we can adequately care for others as well as ourselves, our work responsibilities and our home lives – all at once certainly would benefit. Heck, I’d say we all could benefit from it. And luckily, it’s available if we’re listening. In a sillier world, it’d be a real class, and it’d be something like this:

Intro to Caring (CAR 101): Introduction to Caring for People and Property

Required for anyone who wants to have a car or a bike, house or apartment, bank account, furniture, decorations, clothing, dishes, a plant, a pet and/or a child.

Learn from a variety of sources sharing the best techniques in care for homes, vehicles, fabric, décor, wood, tile and other household materials, finances, personal health (physical and mental), houseplants, grass, trees, bushes, flowers and common garden plants, dogs, cats, turtles and fish, infants, toddlers, children, tweens, teens and budding college students. This course will cover basic maintenance all the way to advanced and precise care for all of the above living and non-living things.

Gain insight from experts about the best routines to provide proper care for all of the people and things under your purview in the most efficient, empathetic, cost-effective and appropriate ways possible. Offers plenty of opportunities for learning by doing and real-world experimentation. Take this course before living on your own, if possible, or at least before buying property (unless you’re playing Monopoly). Be sure to take this course before having a child, especially if maintaining plant life or a pet has proven challenging. Refresher courses are available in various specialties including household maintenance, indoor and outdoor plants, pet care and child care.

Pre-requisites: Birth, pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college (graduation from college preferred but not required)

Instructors: Your parents, grandparents, bosses and slightly older friends, with guest lectures by your favorite aunt, two of your funny uncles, that professor you never wanted to listen to but who was always right, your significant others (of the past and present, but unfortunately not the future) and your middle-school home economics teacher.

Cost: Full commitment to learning to best care for yourself as well as the people, places and things around you. Because that’s what it’s all about. And this is a course called life.

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The world is overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing

One of the tasks we’re forced to take on as twenty-somethings is the daily battle against becoming completely overwhelmed. We’re stuck fighting feelings like, “I can’t get everything done,” “I know I’m forgetting something,” “There’s just not enough time,” “My mind is about to explode,” or worse, “I’m not good enough.”

We are smart and talented, kind and well-meaning, and we are “good enough.” But we really can’t get everything done. None of our educations, skills, niceties or good intentions can change that. As humans in search of “progress,” we’ve invented far too many tasks for any of us to complete in a given day. And it seems we haven’t invented a good enough way not to let this bother us.

Why not? Well, probably because we’re too busy trying to stay afloat amid a raging sea of everything else that’s expected of us at this age.

We’re adults, so we have to manage our finances, our apartments, condos or houses, our work schedules, our family time, our sleeping and eating and exercising habits, our volunteer time, our carbon footprint, our car insurance and electric bills, our resumes and networking contacts and our down time – if we have any left. And by now we’re supposed to have well-formed philosophies on major topics like what comprises a life well-lived – you know, so we can use those philosophies to help us sort through the rest of the noise that complicates our very existence.

We’re Millennials, so we’re expected to be hip to social media, frequently posting updates on several sites. We’re expected to want mobility in the workplace, yet we’re expected to work long hours in complete dedication to our jobs and to serve as unofficial IT assistants, explaining every new technology or computer quirk to our older coworkers at their beck and call. We’re expected to love craft beer and maybe craft whiskey and fancy wine, too, and don’t forget sushi and kale, quinoa and matcha and everything organic – which we’re somehow expected to afford. We’re expected to love Netflix and Uber and Airbnb and be impossibly attached to our iPhones.

Obviously these expectations contradict, and so might many of the goals we set for ourselves on this quest to live the best twenty-something lives with the only chance we’ve got.
Do you feel overwhelmed yet? I sure do. And that’s just a quick list of the things we’re supposed to not only manage but master all at once. So I know this sounds compliany and it’s such a first-world problem, but at the end of this list, all I’ve done is further convince myself – the world is overwhelming. That must mean it’s time for the old mental trick of seeing the glass half-full.

So the world is overwhelming. OK. Guess what? So are the blessings we receive each and every day we’re able to live in it.

There are warm pink and purple sunrises and nice employees who greet you by name at the gym. There are cell phones and emails to keep in contact with family and Facebook and LinkedIn to maintain our friendships and build our careers. There are cameras to capture the beauty around us and long commutes to ponder life. There are always new foods and drinks to try and there is value placed on maintaining and expressing our individual tastes. There are choices to make and they’re much more freeing, thrilling and exhilarating than bubbling in a scantron.

The world is overwhelming. It’s up to us to make it overwhelmingly good.

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Becoming givers instead of takers

I’m such a taker in my family. As a kid growing up, I’ve taken endless love, support, food, money, rides home, bedtime stories, clothes, speaking habits, homework help, advice, – everything – from my parents.

As a kid, a teen, a college student and now a twenty-something growing up, I’ve always taken gifts from my family for birthdays and holidays, too. And while my parents started the tradition early among my siblings of giving each other Christmas and birthday gifts, I recently realized there are too many others in my family to whom I haven’t started to give anything. My aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents – they’re loving, wonderful family members, too, and that means they deserve more from me than I’ve been giving.

This needs to change. Twenty-somethings can get a bad enough rap from the vague eye of society without adding to it a reputation as selfish takers.

So we need to change. We need to give. I’m starting not with items, gifts or presents, but with time, well-wishes and friendly messages.

I’m texting my parents more often to say hi and give them quick updates on my life. I used to buy in too strongly to the notion that it’s “lame” to text your parents. I figured I’d let them get in contact with me, by text, email, call or however they chose. But now I see how silly that is. I’m 27, not a rebellious teen, and I want to maintain a close, positive, loving relationship with my parents. So I should handle it like any other relationship – as something that deserves my time, attention and caring. And as something that warrants me reaching out and starting the conversation instead of always waiting for that communication to come to me.

I’ve tried to “like” more posts by my aunts and uncles on Facebook, and I’ve started to comment more on the events and activities that form the fabric of their everyday lives (even though some of them post far too frequently about these everyday events and activities …) I’ve emailed my aunts, uncles and my grandparents more often, keeping them a little more informed about my work, trying to let them know I care. And it was my sister’s idea, but she and I even went to visit my grandparents one Friday when we both had the day off.

The type of giving I want to continue doing is not about things, but about caring and sharing time together.

So if all of us twenty-somethings can give more of our time and love, to our families and others, we can make up for accidentally being takers. So let’s get to it. It’s time to give.

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Loneliness lives, but it doesn’t have to win

I’ve been thinking about loneliness lately. It’s not usually seen as a symptom of twenty-something life, luckily, but it can creep in sometimes.

There’s the “leaving a family gathering” sad feeling that tends to crop up when you’re headed back home to an apartment empty of friends, roommates or companions, when you’ve just spent a day filled with siblings, parents, other relatives and that generally awesome thing called love. It’s as if you can feel the warmth of family staying where you were and the coldness of reality, work, chores and adulthood seeping back in to where you’re going. And all you can do is drive into it and face it. Be an adult. Get back to the “real world.”

Then there’s the “quiet day at the office” isolated feeling that can happen if you work for a small company or everyone else is at a convention or your desk is off in some weird corner where the heat and AC don’t seem to reach. It’s as though life is all about work and work is the only important thing in life. It makes time pass soooo sloooowly and lunch, or your shift’s equivalent of the glorious stroke of 5 p.m., seem an eternity away. But all you can do is type away, click away, call away, write, design, compute, calculate, plan, organize and otherwise work the time away and be an adult. Get your work done or else. That’s life.

Some of us might get lonely for our college roommates or our high school besties or the bunk bed we shared with our brother. Others might get lonely for a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner who’s deployed overseas or a sister who’s working a job seven states away.

Lonenliness isn’t inherent to twenty-something life, but it’s an unavoidable, occasional emotion for people of every age. So lately, I’ve been doing my best to guard against it.

The easiest ways are through texts, gchats, Facebook messages, emails or phone calls. But the best ways are through real, in-person get-togethers.

I know you’re reading this online and half of our lives are online and kind words sent electronically can help to ease the “I’m all alone” blues. But they’re not the same as laughter heard face-to-face or high-fives shared over hockey shootout victories or even tears shed over the loss of a person, a place or a phase.

So loneliness. It’s going to strike. And by now, we probably know when, and we probably know why. But let’s do our best not to let loneliness win.

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