Monday, March 3, 2014

Per my sister's request

Oh wow, I took quite the unintended blog break. This could be the reason I have so few readers. Well, that and the sub-par writing.

On Tuesday my sister leaves for a week in Ireland and so I am writing this post with her in mind. In the comment section of my last post she asked me to pretend I was giving a commencement speech to college graduates, specifically Williams College graduates. Not only am I not qualified to give a speech to anyone about anything, I am certainly not qualified to speak to Williams students. They are an intelligent bunch and I am less than intelligent. Speaking of which, here's something kind of cute and amusing.  My mother used to try and convince me I wasn't as stupid as I believed I was. Sometimes she would tell me I was just lazy with school and that's why my grades were kind of eh. It's entirely true that I was quite lazy, but that's because things  were kind of difficult for me, but only in grades kindergarten through college, and when things are hard it's always preferable to fall into a state of laziness rather than try too much. By the way, in the category of other ridiculous things my mom tried to convince me - telling me I didn't look like a boy, even though certain people in my elementary school relentlessly referred to me as Christopher ( my brother's name). Yes, I am scarred for life; go ahead and feel sorry for me, I've been doing it for years and  would love some company. 

Between having spent part of my early years looking like a boy and my entire life not being very smart I've barely managed to stay alive, so what could I possibly have to offer the brilliant minds at Williams College? Not much. Of course, just as I was about to quit this post before I even got started,  I realized something interesting and important about myself which maybe does qualify me to share my thoughts with the young ones and that is this; I'm very much living the life I always wanted to live. Please keep in mind that I have super low standards and also, the list of things I wanted to accomplish shrunk every year until I made sure the list contained only the most do-able things. So the first thing I would say is aim low and if things get hard, aim even lower. You will get where you want to go with this attitude.

Joking aside, when I was a kid here is what I really truly wanted in life. I wanted to grow up and get married to a nice man and have kids and stay home with them. Oh I know it's so gross and 1950s and not at all what people at Williams College probably want but the fact is, it's what I wanted and I have managed to do it. I wanted to live in a cute little town with houses that looked like they could be in a Norman Rockwell painting and I wanted for me and my future family to be able to walk everywhere and go get ice cream cones with sprinkles whenever we wanted. I also thought it would be lovely to sit down together every night for dinner and have lively conversations while someone accidentally spilled a glass of water over someone else's full plate of food just about every single night and where I would never quite get the hang of handling this well, but afterward everyone would laugh over my silly overreaction. Of course this all sounds so simple and basic and easily attainable, but it really did take some effort and planning on my part. My point here is, if you really see yourself living a certain kind of life, no matter what other people think of it, try and live that kind of life and if you are blessed enough to wake up one day and realize you got exactly what you wanted, appreciate it. 

What other words of wisdom do I have to offer? Be flexible and don't get too hung up on things not working out as exactly as you hoped. I knew this guy once whose brother really wanted to go to medical school, but he kept getting rejected. The number of rejection letters became so staggering that this guy started posting them on his dorm room wall for all to see, in an attempt to make light of it. After realizing that maybe the life he envisioned living wasn't going to work out, he thankfully moved onto to another dream. I don't know what became of him, but let's hope it was nothing too grand as I wasn't actually fond of him or his brother.

At one point in my life I wanted eight kids. I thought it would be fun and exciting, but look, I had to let that dream die when I realized my sanity was at stake. Here I sit with a mere four children, but I'm quite happy with that number. Some people would tell me I could have had more kids and handled it just fine, but remember, the most important thing is to be brutally honest with yourself about the kind of person you are and what you are capable of doing. Other people are not living your life and have no idea what they are talking about.

And this leads me to my next point which is this; don't compare yourself to other people. Don't look at facebook and blogs and twitter and instagram and think people are giving you a clear and honest version of their lives. No one wants to listen to people complain all day and so in an attempt to make it look as though things are going swimmingly, people tend to exaggerate the good and leave out the bad. It's fine, everyone does it, but it's a waste of time to look at the facade of other people's lives and then look at the hard truth of yours and compare.You will never find happiness this way.

I know it's shocking, but I will offer you even more wisdom. Find a hobby and fit it into your schedule as much as possible. There is nothing wrong with doing something just for the sake of doing it and with no lofty goal in mind. As a matter of fact, oftentimes the thing you enjoy most loses all appeal when you try and add a purpose to it. I ride my bike for hours a week. Yes, it does provide some health benefits, but mostly I just enjoy the mindless pedaling, the smell of fresh air, getting to see all the lovely parts of the area I live in. This winter I decided to sign up for a charity century ride and so I've  had to do a lot of training for it and guess what has happened? I've lost some of my love for the bike. The century happens in two weeks and I can't wait for it to be over so I can go back to my aimless, pointless, happy pedaling.

And one last thing. Loneliness can suck every bit of joy out of your life, so find a group of like minded people and stick with them. I've found this in church - mostly; I admit that yesterday I spent much of Fr Robert's homily planning my after Mass escape route so as to avoid all chit chat and small talk and schmoozing. Church isn't for everyone, I know, but it's a very bad idea to not look for a group of people who share common interests, goals and purpose. Don't quit until you find your group.  Life is hard and you need your people.

That's it. That's all I have to offer. And in the words of The Avett Brothers it really all boils down to this simple thing - decide what to be and go be it.


deborah said...

Oh you have done it again my sister! The excitement
and pleasure I get from reading your blog is akin
to the excitement I used to get when I called in
a song to a radio station and they played it!!!
You are a wise woman and I know my college daughters think so!
You need to start your book now!
For the sake of mankind please!

Tiffany said...

Lovely and awesome and perfect for what I need to hear today!! I'm actually struggling with some of those issues right now and your advice is spot on. It's no secret to those who know me that I am way too caught up with doing it ALL and doing it ALL well! I'm working on relaxing the standards and just calming down...calming down...and letting things go. I do have a hobby--reading and I devote many hours a week to this! And, I have some fab friends and agree that we need our people. Great post!

Julie said...

This was definitely worth the wait!!! My lack of computer time last week and my third place position in the comment section cannot illustrate adequately how happy your blog posts make me feel!! And I got to spend some real life time with you and some of "our people" today!! Great great post! I think we all know you are truly brilliant, your mother was definitely right!!