“Between stimulus and response is the freedom to choose.”
For a little more than a year now, I’ve kept this blog. It began as a way to keep me on track of goals I wanted to achieve before I turned 30. As the blog evolved, it was proving to be more valuable than just a thought organizer and way to keep my accountable - It was helping me put things into perspective. Wanna save some money on therapy people? Write a blog.
When first mapping this thing out, I made a comprehensive list of everything I wanted to achieve or improve upon at that point in my life, not necessarily just those things I wanted to work on before I turned 30. This list included 26 goals.
After going through the list one by one, I realized something about each of these goals… All 26 were individuals wants, like wanting to own a house, and wanting to learn a second language. However, there are underlying reasons for wanting all these things, and now after a year of blogging, I understand that these “wants” stem from feelings of inadequacies or inefficiencies in myself. This caused me to restructure my list quite a bit so that the 5 main underlying problems could be more easily addressed.
Right now, I’m on a plane back home after a nice, long trip through Ireland, England, and a weekend stop in New York, and I’m smiling… smiling because I can’t really imagine a better way to wrap up this project. I feel pretty accomplished for sticking with this plan for the past 14 months, and overcoming a whole bunch of my fears along the way. It’s also pretty funny to remember how this all began…
In March of last year, I had moved back home to El Paso for what I told myself was some much needed reprieve from a stressful day-to-day professional and personal life. What it really was was an escape from a life I just wasn’t happy with.
What I really needed was to just take a few steps back, far enough so that I could have an objective look at my life and the things about it that were making me unhappy. Even though it was probably unnecessary to move all the way back home to figure things out, it was the choice I made, and it really helped.
You know the closet of crap that most of us have in their house? The one that you use to throw all the junk in that you don’t want to look at or don’t really need, but don’t want to throw away? The one that you never can seem to find time to organize? My life was pretty much a metaphorical junk closet.
I had left my perfect 1-bedroom apartment to live with a friend who needed help adjusting to life in a new city. The new living situation ended up being a 8 month long nightmare… I was stuck in a boring daily work routine… I had adopted lazy and inefficient work habits… I was out of shape… I had surrounded myself with negative, self-indulgent “friends” … I felt lonely with no one to relate to… I was barely able to pay bills… I continued repeating past mistakes with guys… I had become a bitter, cynical person with little to no patience for other people who didn’t think like me.
The thing about that junk closet is… it will eventually get too full to hold anything else, and the next time you open it’s door to throw something else inside, you may get an avalanche of crap crash down on you. By March of last year, all the “junk” I had thrown in the back of my mind began to really weigh upon me. So, I ran away, back home. Thankfully, after settling in there, I had a moment of clarity that helped bring me to the idea to start this blog.
I’ve kept a journal since I was 11 years old. I used to keep it because I was afraid of forgetting childhood and all the fun I had. I kept overly-detailed accounts of me and my friends’ day to day lives. They’d make fun of me for it, but I didn’t care. I loved being able to go back and read my thoughts about things that had happened.Even though I didn’t know it at the time, I was acting as my own psychiatrist.
From age 11 until 26, I had filled about 10 journals. Then, by 26, I started focusing on work and dealing with the many, mini tribulations of being an adult. I convinced myself that journal writing had no value to me anymore and that I didn’t need it. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’d be willing to bet that tens of thousands of dollars could have been saved on psychiatry and medication had people just tried sorting out their issues themselves through a personal journal. No one knows you better than yourself, and even though it’s hard for so many people to really take an introspective look at themselves and admit their weaknesses, it can be done.
Starting this blog gave me a crazy sense of self-empowerment, and let me realize that the place I was in last March was of my own doing. I did all of that to myself! So, to get out of it, I just had to decide to change, and the rest was history.
By committing to my list of goals, I was able to achieve more in this past 14 months than I have in the past 5 years combined! Last year, if someone would have invited me to the UK for 3 weeks, I would have said there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d be able to afford it. I wouldn’t have even tried! In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, "I was living in a financial cul de sac."
This year, I raised that money in 4 months! That, right there, is called ”the hustle,” and it’s something I could have been doing all along, on a regular basis. What was missing was the will to do it. What I learned this year, above all else, is a recipe for success. It looks like this:
Step 1: Keep a positive outlook and open mind
Step 2: Learn to be resourceful. If you hit what seems to be a dead end, take another route.
Step 3: Have unwavering energy and enthusiasm for the things you want to achieve, coupled with the power to mute those people who don’t want to see you succeed. (If you can’t get excited about it, you must not want it that bad.)
People’s dreams for themselves often change as they grow. But… if you’ve had the same dreams since you were a kid, chances are those dreams aren’t going away.
As we get older, many of those dreams seem a lot less viable because we learn that they don’t pay well, or there isn’t a high success rate for those people who try making their dream into a reality. A good example would be my childhood dreams: I wanted to dance and sing with a traveling theater group, I wanted to act, I wanted to write words that other people read aloud to audiences, I wanted to be an acrobat in Cirque du Soleil, and I wanted to make art that hung in galleries around the world.
From everything I’ve experienced up to this point, I firmly believe that people can do whatever they want. If I want to be an acrobat, I can be. Maybe not for Cirque, but I can join an aerial dance class. And if I’m good at that, I can move up, and if I get really good, I can perform with them and repel off of buildings!
The point is… it’s only a waste of energy if you spend life pouting about what you can’t have. The people who don’t get what they want out of life are the ones who didn’t work for it. If nothing else, my 20’s helped me realize that everyone will only be both young and single once, so don’t take it for granted, and don’t squander the time. If you don’t like what you’re doing, don’t do it. If you don’t like who you are, change it. Don’t spend life playing catch-up on things you’ve procrastinated on doing - you’ll miss out on a lot of great opportunities. As a wise soul told me on my 30th birthday last week,
"Your 20’s are the toughest because you’re hit with harsh realities of life, and are learning how you fit into the world. It gets better from here on out - you’ll see."