Growing up is hard without self-realization but I think there comes a point in all our lives when we have to see the aftermath of where each of our choices has brought us. For me, it was a lot of emotional neglect and years of dissociation which left me insecure and struggling to properly take care of myself. I struggle on how to love myself. I also have a hard time knowing my needs and how to meet them. I’m old now, and still have a long road in becoming the woman I want to be. I had spent so many years trying to remain stable on my feet that I didn’t notice some of the deep down work I still had left that kept building until it became a giant garbage hole in my life. With each let-down, abusive comment, bit of self-doubt, and insecurity that internal garbage pile would grow and overwhelm me.
A mistake I made a long time ago was thinking if I just worked hard enough, I would be successful and life would work out for me. People aren’t compassionate to those who can’t help themselves, yet, I think we all struggle in that area and often we have to help each other to get to where we want to be. Just because you do a good job at the opportunities you’re given, doesn’t entitle us to a good life. Hard work does not equate success, it’s far more complicated. Additionally, hard work can’t just be in just one area of your life. If I clean out my living room and shove all of that piles of clutter into my closet, I realize when I open that closet door, the mess will erupt and I’ll be dealing with another issue when I could have just taken more time to clean and organize everything. This can be incredibly overwhelming and soul crushing to learn this, but, the sooner you do, the more prepared you can be. No one likes dealing with pain, disappointment, obligations or failure. Just because you disassociate from them, doesn’t mean they won’t pop up in another area of your life and ruin it.
It’s been over a decade since I decided to moved out of an economically depressed area in hopes of shaping a future for myself. When I look back to how many low paying jobs I’ve had to work, how many hours I’ve had to put into get to where I am, I have to question the worth of it all. As I sit here on the other side of that effort I am very happy where I currently am. Upon reflection, I know that I couldn’t have gotten my degree any faster than I did. I couldn’t have pushed farther than I was capable of emotionally, so I can’t say I failed and I am very proud of perserviering despite the many obsticales I had. I realize people say that and it’s easy to deal with things when life is good and your bills are paid, but you have to remember that your life is your legacy. It’s all about if we can figure out how to live that matters and that if the world has changed for the better, even slightly, because we have been in it. So, whatever you can do to fulfill that, truly, is worth the pursuit. Otherwise, you’ll hold regret, and that is the deepest feeling of all.
Over the years my motto has been to never settle and I am so glad I haven’t. When I look at the people I went to high school with who have families now, beautiful homes, fulfilling careers and have traveled the world, I’m not envious, I’m relieved. I had an opportunity to marry in my 20’s and didn’t. I didn’t want to hold myself back and miss out on valuable experiences. I also didn’t want kids. I was too young and inexperienced to settle down at that time. I have not, for a single solid day, regretted that choice. Also, I did research on home buying and chose not to do that when I was young. I realize people feel differently about that but I’m not handy. I had health issues and at times would have not been physically capable of caring for my home and I certainly wasn’t financially stable enough to afford the upkeep on one. Another big reason I didn’t want to buy a home was because I didn’t want to be stuck in an area I couldn’t leave if I got laid off and had to go to another state or county to work. Finally, and this was an odd one, I am so glad I have not worked for the same company for 15+ years without getting some other experiences first to make me more profitable and also less comfortable.
I’d much rather be laid off in my 30’s than in my 60’s. I’ve see it all through my career where people will stay at the same company for 20 years thinking they’re retire only to be laid off right before they have the opportunity or, because they stayed in one place for so long, they’re making at least thirty thousand dollars less a year than those being hired in with more skills and experience. When you stay with a company for a long time and you don’t grow your skill-set you become expendable. Loyalty does not entitle you to remain employed. It used to be more valuable to keep someone than to train a replacement, but, not now. It’s much more valuable to bring in someone more efficient and let a computer train them than keep someone who’s main contribution is maintaining bad habits. I also wanted to fee like I was making a contribution and had the ability to lead. I was on both sides of the table in my career, at different periods, and I can assure you I want to stay on the side I’m currently on. However, I won’t ever assume I will stay on this side, so I do what I can to improve myself and my skills just in case.
While the business side of me was well developed, the emotional side wasn’t. I wasn’t immature or irresponsible. I could give good advice, show compassion, and be fully open about myself. Having emotion wasn’t my issue, it was growing into the woman I wanted to become that was. I had to step back and see myself on the surface and how I was living to truly understand where I stood in my life and needless to say, I was not impressed. I realized that the child me and the adult me where very similar. The habits I had when I was 10 were the same habits and coping skills I have as a grown up and they are not the most healthy. As a young girl I was fat, isolated, would only read educational material, watched a LOT of TV, was sloppy, and didn’t really plan well for the future, to name a few. For a while, I was in great shape and was social but I didn’t enjoy it. I think that was the problem. I was so focused on if I felt what I was doing was rewarding or pleasurable and was not doing things out of actual self-care or principle. The thought of ‘if I do the dishes now, I won’t have to do them later or watch them pile up,’ was not intrinsically motivating for me but ‘do you really want to spend an hour doing dishes when you could spend ten minutes?, ‘ was motivating to me. What I should have been doing was not weighing anything, I should have just cleaned the dishes because they were dirty. But this isn’t about dishes. It’s about the perspective I have with everything and what I am holding onto.
Most people have someone nagging them in their lives to break bad habits like dirty dishes, but when it becomes a personal issue like: negative self-talk, addiction, neglect, or any personal abusive traits or bad priorities we tend to turn the other cheek and have to figure it out ourselves. This makes total sense since they are personal problems not just annoying quirks, but breaking away from point A, which is a life you’ve always known and found comfort in, and moving to point B without any intrinsic value or pleasure, seems impossible. I realize most people focus on the appearance of things, but I really do want to have a full, rich life in all areas, not just the financial ones or just my relationships so I know I have to do the work in order to live a life that matters.
For me, it’s important to take personal inventory of myself and today I feel like I’m still holding onto the same bad tendencies and habits I had as a kid despite work I’ve done over the years. I worry that just because I’ll work hard at it, it may not pay off or work out, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I really think it’s about being ready for certain things in your life, and I feel this is the area I’m ready to face now. Feelings are a part of us, not something that gets in the way of our success or clouds our judgement, and I have to remind myself of that. Being incredibly impatient just post-pones the inevitable and makes the pain much harder to handle when the time does come to face it. I think because I had so much anxiety and depression I didn’t know how to care for my body or my soul. While I’m certainly not doing Yoga or guided imagery, because those aren’t for me, I am taking a few minutes a day to tap into how my body is feeling physically, mainly so I stop neglecting myself and to start listening to my needs. What makes a difference to me is seeing people who are admirable. Not just for what they’ve achieved, but what kind of people they are. The type of people we are shows through everything we touch. At one time in my life, I was a very mean person and it wasn’t fair to those around me. That’s how those people will likely remember me forever despite my changes, and I am perfectly fine with that since I set that precedent. What I don’t want, is to continue to be that way.
I once heard of a guy who owned a textile manufacturing plant in a small town. His plant was the main source of income for most of the residence there. One year, right before Christmas, the plant burned down to the ground leaving thousands of people out of a job with no way to pay their bills or buy presents for their families. He had the option of rebuilding the company in another country to save money, but chose to rebuild the plant in the exact same location out of consideration to those that worked for him. He spent millions keeping those workers employed for six months with full benefits while the company was being rebuilt. He went bankrupt and many people told him he was an idiot for what he did. He said, ‘On paper our company is worthless to Wall Street, but I can tell you it’s worth more.’ He felt it was unconscionable to put three thousand people on the streets and deliver a death blow to that town. Since then that rebuild business has been closed down. It’s clear he cared more about the well-being of the people in that town than the net worth of that company. He felt he had an obligation to that community and did what he felt was right. His name was Aaron Feurerstein and I’ll remember his name forever. On the flip side, I once dated a guy who, upon breaking up with me told me I ‘wasn’t a piece of shit, (I) just wasn’t anything in life,’ and I will remember him and that forever. Clearly, both stories impact my life in different ways, leave me with different feelings, and different aspirations.
I believe revamping yourself happens in stages because how we turn out also happens that way. When I was a kid I ate to deal with my stress, and now as an adult, that coping method no longer serves me. I did what I needed to at the time to get through my abuse, but that abuse is now over. The longer I guard my trash habits, the more trash I’ll acquire, which won’t bring me anywhere but down and I want to be as close to happiness and fulfillment as I can get. What Aaron Feurerstein did was compassionate and kind, but his kindness was not something I or anyone would be entitled to receive. Those people now are unemployed even after his fight, but his character will forever be remembered. While that situation happened on his watch and on his dime, he was determined to take care of those people. He achieved a personal wholeness I aspire to. It’s not his selflessness that made a staining impact to me, it’s the ability to put hard work into giving up all he achieved simply due to principle and one other very important thing; a change in perspective. A fundamental difference between my ex and Aaron Feurenstein is being treated like an asset versus an expense.
No matter the work I do, or where I work, I expect to be treated like an expense so I take time to learn what I need in order to make me financially worth employing, but, living with abusive people in my life, I’ve also learned to treat myself and others as an expense. When you look at yourself as an expense, you essentially are a burden and who wants to invest in a burden? Each time I equated time to money, got down on myself for failing, did things on my own because I thought it’d be faster or better, or determined what I was or wasn’t doing at different ages/stages in my life, I was looking at myself and those in my life as an expense because that’s what I learned as a kid and carried into adulthood. I continued living as though only the final results mattered, when that wasn’t the truth. This thinking left me feeling like I could never measure up, but that small change from expense to asset, so far has made a world of difference. Me spending time on learning new skills may have a different kind of value than me doing the dishes, but, it’s value none-the-less. It means to me that I can work through my depression and anxiety to take care of myself, my future, and those I care about without pressuring myself or putting myself down for not doing something. When I think of being an asset in my own life and the life of those I care about, it makes me feel needed and my presence matters; not for what I can offer or do for them, but because of who I am. It makes it much easier to deal with my emotional neglect and other emotional struggles having that frame of mind. It’s teaching me patience with both myself and others and sets realistic expectations for both of us. While this shifted perception doesn’t solely solve my issue, it does help me face this new chapter in my growth and for that I am truly grateful. It also helps me see what kind of people I’ve kept in my life. Those that keep me around mainly for what I can do for them show me their love is conditional and transactional. Keeping those relationships will only make me question my worth and never actually feel valuable. But those who feel like their world is better for having known me, who have true joy that I am a part of their lives, those are the ones I want to be surrounded by and how I want to treat others. I also hope that becoming an asset in my life can keep me from losing site of what’s important, even if all I’ve worked for burns to the ground.