Posted in Finding My Own Brand of Success

A Long Way Defined… {with a bouncy ball}

In my return to my precious blog, I realize that I might better define my “long way.” More than just a favorite song, for awhile now it seems as though I’ve developed an annoying need to learn lessons the hard way, which has resulted in my taking the scenic route – if you will- to figure out exactly what my life should look like. My long and hard ways toward happiness were not always the case, though. As a kid I was steady, while emotional and overly sensitive, I had goals and plans and dreams and was not easily swayed. In college, however, a shift occurred; one that seemed to shake the core of my beliefs and left them uncertain, questionable and at times completely off the map. My life during my 20’s was unfamiliar to me, but ultimately defining. And now at 31, I’m determined to take that decade of pressure to shine.

In my Friday blog devouring tradition, I stumbled across a quote from Josh Groban. When the singer turned 30 he commented, “My 20s have been filled with a lot of trial-by-fire moments and uncertainty, but I’m going to enjoy my 30’s the way I should’ve enjoyed my 20’s.”

Whew… trials by fire are right! Oh the stories I could tell about the life I lived from 20 to 30. In the interest of time… and, well, interest, I’ll summarize. Enjoyment of any kind played no role in a three-year “courtship” that resulted in an 11-month unhappy marriage; an experience blanketed in neglect, dissatisfaction and hopelessness and studded with cruelty, dishonesty and regret.

The uncertainty of many peoples’ 20’s is part of the learning process. Bouncing from one relationship to another, from one job to a better one, from friends’ couches on difficult nights, from bar to bar for just “one more,” from a stranger’s apartment to a cab ride home, is nothing more than the experiences that add up to life. And perhaps all that bouncing is due to the naivety and hopefulness of a life we are not quite ready for.

For me, though, I saw the things of my dreams as attainable for friends and family – things like pretty weddings highlighted by love rather than the joy that might come from a fourth glass of champagne; the excitement of building a cozy first home together even if it amounts to a one-bedroom apartment; the adventure of trying your hand at cooking for the first time to be met with encouragement rather than a wrinkled nose and pizza delivery. And when met with blinding disappointment, I thought that something was wrong with ME rather than the situation.

And so I started looking for what might make me right. What might make me good enough. What might make me not fail at the one thing I saw as a given. I mean, to stay married, you just had to avoid getting divorced, right?! Until you’re there at the crossroads of the pieces that remain your life and where someone else demands it go, you don’t realize how painful that kind of “love” can be. You can almost feel the blistering burn of that wedding band on your hand. So I bounced.

From the false security of my marriage – I mean DIRECTLY, as in the futon was still warm – a relationship emerged that felt right. “Right,” as in less wrong than what came before, I suppose. In a year, that “right” became anything but, and the experience equated to nothing more than the first bounce from the release of a hand named divorce on the rubber ball that came to symbolize my life.

That rubber ball of a life was mine for almost ten freaking years.

My kind of bouncing gave me the determination to quit two miserable jobs, caused the demise of several relationships [only one regrettably], gave me friends who live in cities across the country, required I seek the devotion only a trusting puppy can [and still does] provide, challenged finances, and bonded me to my family because we learned we didn’t NEED that bond but that we truly wanted it.

Now, I know I’m well past the thrilling bounce from 29 to 30, but the sentiment remains no less true to my current reality. In the year and a half since I ventured into my fourth decade of life, I am happy to have maintained some of what made my 20’s bearable and maybe even rewarding: a curiosity about a variety of life experiences from new friendships to revisited loves and the ability to grant and receive second chances.

However, in my 30’s I’ve also learned a valuable lesson; one I wasn’t at all familiar with in my 20’s: the power of injecting gratitude into every part of my life. And that gratitude is making my 30’s genuinely enjoyable. Perhaps the way my 20’s should have been… but I don’t believe that. I trust that my 20’s gave me the very ability to enjoy life. And that is a gift.

Of course, mistakes are still a very large part of life. 30 years don’t make you immune to your humanity, trust me. But my self-worth is no longer equated to the strength of a broken heart. I know that no one else can make me happy, but I will sure look for someone who I am happy to have in my life.

I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I certainly know better who I am. So while I may still bounce a little, my perspective is clear. {And my bounces will be small.}

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