Recently, I have been thinking an awful lot about the journey that brought me to this current place in my life. The friends who have come and gone. The friends who have remained or reconnected. The friends who are distant memories. The relationships that I had. The ones that ended amicably. The ones that ended disastrously. The ones that just ended. The paths that I chose. The easy ones and the difficult ones. The decisions that I made. The good ones and the bad.
My experiences, each and every one of them, and my perceptions of these events, and the way in which I handled each one at any given point in my life, have molded me into the person that I am right now. And there are many years left, many more experiences to have, many more people who will come and go who will affect me in some way. I may not be the exact same person as I am right now 20 years from now, 10 years from now, or even 5 years from now. I know I certainly am not the same person I was 5, 10, and 20 years ago. In fact, when I recall my life, my being from years gone by, I often don’t even recognize that person.
For some reason, my memory tends to be quite vague. There are even some periods of my life that are blacked out and I can recall absolutely nothing. Studies exist that will say that Bipolar Disorder can have this affect on memories. Perhaps that is the reason my memory very often fails me. Or maybe I just don’t possess an acute memory. I suppose the reason doesn’t really matter at this point. It just is. But I do have fleeting recollections and tidbits of clear flashbacks to people who have blessed my life in one way or another. People who have taught me valuable lessons. People whom I am fortunate to have known.
But here is my concern when I recollect these people: I went through a very dark period in the depths of Bipolar Disorder. For more than a decade, I flitted through life in a haze of mood swings, mania, depression, and just plain old erratic, unpredictable, irresponsible behaviors. And as I think back upon some very special people who have come and gone from my life during that decade, I often wonder if I wronged any of them in some way. I know that I have always been a genuinely good person who has never wished ill or harm upon another human being. Although there were many occasions when I may have wished these things upon myself, I always tried to contain that to my own dark little space. But I fear that I may have hurt others while I was finding my way out of the darkness. Because my recollections are so vague and often non-existent, I just want to make my sincerest apologies to anyone who may have suffered in any way from my erratic behaviors in years gone by. Please know that none of it was intentional and I am much more self-aware and conscientious person now.
It was a long struggle for me to find my way here. And I made mistakes. Many mistakes. Heck, I still make mistakes. But I forgive myself now. I even like myself now. I like the person whom I have become. And I’m okay with the mistakes that I have made because they brought me here. More importantly, I’m grateful that I was able to gain wisdom from my experiences and my mistakes. I have learned some things on my way here. And I just wanted to share those things with you, well, just because…
1. I have learned that people do not fit into neat little packages, including myself. It is okay to be a creative combination of many things, to have many facets to your personality, to have many different and sometimes even conflicting likes and dislikes. And that doesn’t make the package defective, it only makes it a more interesting package.
2. I have learned that it is okay to be wrong. But it is also important to apologize to those affected by your mistakes and try to right yourself the next time.
3. I have learned that it is okay to change your mind, your beliefs, your opinions, your tastes, and your priorities. Human beings are not static creatures. We are ever-evolving based on our experiences. It is supposed to be this way.
4. I have learned that as my mind, beliefs, opinions, tastes, and priorities change so will the nature of my relationships with other people.
5. I have learned that all relationships need to be re-evaluated every now and again. Sometimes that will make the relationship stronger or it may just change the relationship and take it in a different direction. But sometimes, it may lead to the end of a relationship. And that, too, is okay. We are not meant to remain close with every single person we meet in our lives for the rest of time. In fact, that would be quite impossible anyway.
6. I also have learned that all romantic relationships will be the wrong ones until you find the right one. So know that with each failed relationship, you are that much closer to the right one.
7. I have learned that each person will handle and react to identical situations in entirely different ways. And that is okay, too. As human beings, our perceptions differ greatly based on our past experiences and therefore our reactions will differ as well.
8. I have learned that no one person’s journey is any easier or more difficult than another’s. Every path through life is hard and we should be kind and gentle with one another. I have yet to meet a person who has not struggled, seen tragedy or darkness, or suffered a loss. I have yet to meet a person who has never cried.
9. I have learned that a little kindness goes a long, long way. A simple compliment or act of empathy can make a person’s day. A simple gesture of humanity can change someone’s life. For real.
10. I have learned to be more compassionate and understanding of other people’s struggles. I have learned to accept each person where they are in their journey at this moment in time. By understanding that each person is as unique as their journey through life, I have been able to become less judgmental.
11. I also have learned that human beings are judgmental by nature. Some judgments are innate, some are taught, and most can be undone with a little insight and awareness. But remember to forgive yourself for being judgmental. Being completely without judgment is unnatural.
12. I have learned that while it is difficult to resist the urge to prevent someone from making the same mistakes you have made, it is also superbly important to let them make their own mistakes. Mistakes are building blocks and learning tools and they are absolutely necessary for growth.
13. I have learned that a positive attitude is equally as infectious as a negative attitude. While sometimes it may be difficult to remain positive in a world of negativity, if you try, really try, the reward is so much sweeter. After all, the higher the risk and the harder the work, the greater the reward. If by chance you find yourself the only positive person in a room filled with negativity and you are having difficulty beating them, do not join them. Leave the room with your positive attitude in tact.
14. I have learned that you can only be as happy as you allow yourself to be. It really is as simple as a change of attitude. If I managed to change my attitude in the deepest depths of depression and drag my sorry self to the light, then it is not an impossible feat.
15. I have learned that it is okay and sometimes necessary to ask others for help. Or, at the very least, to accept help when offered. People are not designed to live in isolation and we are not completely self-sufficient. No one expects us to be anyhow.
16. But I also have learned that sometimes the best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.
17. I have learned that people are resilient and strong. We were built for survival. We just need to realize our own potential. And the best way to realize it is to just go for it. Sometimes with help, sometimes alone, but always with your chin up and your eyes on the target.
18. I have learned that not everything will be easy. In fact, most things in life will be difficult. Very difficult. If everything is easy, you are not doing it right anyhow. The struggle is real and it is supposed to be that way. As Tom Hanks says in A League of Their Own, “The hard is what makes it great.” There is so much truth in that statement.
19. I have also learned that we all stumble, we all fall, and we all possess the capacity to get back up again and move forward.
20. And I have learned that after a fall, it is sometimes okay to wallow in self-pity. But don’t stay in that place for too long. You might get stuck there. And you never want to get stuck there. It’s like quicksand. The longer you stay, the faster you sink, and the harder it is to get out again.
21. I have learned that a good cry cleanses the heart, mind, and soul. So every now and then, grab yourself a box of tissues and go for it.
22. And I have learned that laughter has an equally cleansing effect. A good sense of humor is quite powerful and can carry you through the toughest of times. Even if the situation seems inappropriate for laughter, yet laughter is your reaction or your coping mechanism, then laugh, laugh, laugh anyway. If you are met with unsavory glances, laugh at them, too. After all, you are the one who is smiling. And even when you laugh through tears, the glimpse of a smile still exists. And that is the most important thing in that moment, in the heart of your struggle.
23. I have learned that no feelings are wrong feelings. Your emotions are yours. You do not have to justify them. But you do have to feel them when they come. Sit with them no matter how uncomfortable they may seem. It is very important to recognize your feelings, feel them, give them their moment in time. When you are ready, let them go. Especially the negative and uncomfortable ones; always find a way to let them go. If not, they can paralyze you.
24. I have learned that everyone is good at something and we can’t all be great at everything. That would make for a very boring world anyway. Find your strength and go with it.
25. I have learned that you absolutely cannot change other people. This is not your job. Your job is to work on yourself and make you the best possible version of you. You are not responsible for the actions, beliefs, judgments, thoughts, or words of anyone else but yourself. Let them be responsible for themselves. In the end, that makes less work for you as well.
26. I have learned, however, that you can change the way you react to other people. This, in turn, can result in the other person making changes to themselves.
27. I have learned that sometimes walking away is the very hardest thing to do, but many times it is the best thing to do.
28. I have learned that engaging with dramatic, negative people only feeds and perpetuates the drama. While it may feel very unnatural to do, walk away without explanation. Your gut will tell you to engage, fight, argue, whatever it takes to make your point. But the person thriving on drama doesn’t really care about your point anyway. So just walk away. Silently. Never engage. You are not obligated to offer an explanation. The other person is not your responsibility. Let them figure it out on their own. It will benefit you both in the end.
29. I have also learned that sometimes cutting off all ties with negative people is for the best. But remember #3, you can always change your mind. But also remember that the other person owes you nothing in return and is not obligated to change his or her mind. No matter the outcome, do not harbor ill feelings. They serve no purpose and will only drag you down. Simply let it go.
30. I have learned that we are all ego-centric beings. It is in our nature. All of us are too absorbed in our own lives, our own struggles, too bogged down in our own daily grind to really even notice what goes on outside of our little self-centered universes. So if you make a mistake, have a bad hair day, make a fool of yourself in one way or another, don’t beat yourself up about it. Everyone else forgot about it 30 seconds after it happened and returned to their own self-centered universes. The only one who really cares is you, so just give it up and move on. You will feel much better.
31. I have learned forgiveness. How to forgive others, how to forgive myself, how to forgive the universe. This is important.
32. I have learned how to love myself. And by loving myself, it makes it easier for me to love others and for others to love me. This is where it all starts, really. If you can reach a place of self-love, the rest is just a little less difficult.
33. I have learned that the enigma of human beings is that we are both fragile and unbreakable at the same time. Life will deliver us enough adversity to challenge our unbreakability. Therefore, we need to handle each other always keeping our common fragility in mind.
34. I have learned to consider the sound advice of others, but the decisions in my life will always be mine and mine alone. When you commit to a decision, keep your head high and confidently move forward with that decision. You owe no explanation to anyone.
35. I have learned to give myself and others a break every now and then. We all need it.
36. I have learned that we are all a work in progress. It is so important to keep that in mind about ourselves and about others.
37. I have learned to let go of regrets. There is no point dwelling in the past. Live it, learn from it, move on.
38. I have learned to be grateful for every blessing large or small. After all, this crazy thing we call life is just that, a blessing. Treat it as such.
39. Most importantly, I have learned that I am no expert. On anything. During the first half of my life, I have learned lessons that have served me well. But there are many more lessons for me to learn. And I hope through the second half of my life, I am able to share with others the small bits of wisdom I have acquired. I also hope to learn more lessons and gain more knowledge from others who are willing to share with me. I will always be grateful for the lessons I can learn from the people in my life…good, bad, or indifferent. After all, these are the things that shape us into the wonderful, beautiful, controversial, unique, colorful, crazy, imperfect, perfect beings that we are. And as a result, I am currently living an extraordinarily rich and fulfilled life.
So I didn’t want to sound all preachy or holier than thou or super Miss Positive Nothing-Can-Get-Me-Down. But I have been to really dark places. I have fallen off the edge. I have hit rock bottom, more than once. I have given up hope. I have ranted and raged at the world and every one in it. I have despised myself and cursed my life. But in the end, I clawed my way out. I came out battered, bruised, dirty, and defeated, but not completely broken. After all, we are unbreakable. I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and did the best that I could to get myself here. Sometimes I had help, but mostly I did it myself. That is empowerment, my friends. And we all have it in us. And somehow in the end, by some stroke of luck or whatever you want to call it, I found my way to happiness. And finally, I am comfortable…right here where I am.
My hope for this post is that maybe it helps just one person just a little bit.
Happily on the edge, right where I belong,
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