I was on the phone with my grandma for three hours tonight, talking about everything from ancient civilizations to how our week went. I missed our usual phone date on Sunday, but we definitely made up for it.
We were in the middle of exchanging goodbyes when I exclaimed, "Grandma! Wait! What's one thing that you know now, but wish you knew earlier?"
"Just one..." she pondered for a moment. "Well, I have a few, but the first one that popped into my head is to never give up hope." She followed up with wise eloquence that goes something like this: “You go through really hard times, but that’s just life. You’ve got to hang in there because it gets better. I mean, it’ll most likely suck again, but you will always see better days. Hope is around the corner."
I wish I knew that volunteering for something I passionately believed in would change my life monumentally. Last year I volunteered on a crisis hotline for women. We dealt with a lot of different situations, but our main job was to provide resources, options and always try to make the caller feel empowered in their decision. I was on a twenty-four hour shift and late in the evening, I received a phone call from a girl who sounded about my age. I went through the motions working between a partial script and an outline of resources, taking down her information at the same time. I don't know if it was the cracking in her voice or how appreciative she seemed, but at the end of the call I asked, "Do you need to talk about what's going on?"
The young girl thought a moment said, "Yes, yes. Would you mind listening? Do you have time?"
So I took a seat on my living room floor with the phone cradled between my head and my shoulder and replied, "Yes, of course."
She told me how she left a traumatic situation with nothing to her name, but she knew it was the right thing to do. She wanted to go home to her parents and go back to school. The resources that we gave her would potentially give her a second chance to do these things. Once she was finished, we sat in silence as she cried.
But then I told her, "Leaving that situation was the kindest thing you did for yourself."
The sobs grew louder. I felt nervous. Maybe I overstepped. Just as I was about to apologize, she came back on the line and said, "I don't know how to say this, but I've never heard anyone explain it like that. That statement just changed my life and I'm so thankful I talked to you." It was a powerful moment and to be honest, I should have thanked her too. That phone call changed my life. Long after we hung up the phone, I sat thinking about a few situations of my own. Those circumstances gave me the capability to empathize with other people who were going through similar events. Suddenly, I was grateful for every single last one of my experiences in life. They were my becoming.
If you can't volunteer for any reason, practice leaving people better than how you found them. Always be the last to let go in a hug, always send the last email that says something simple like "hope you have a good week", call your grandma or best friend and be the last one to hang up that phone. You never know who needs that extra moment the most.
Maya Angelou says, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
People reveal their truest self through action. If someone genuinely loves you, let them show you. And if you find their actions objectionable, accept that that is who they are on the inside. Remember that it's never your job to change anyone but yourself. No matter how much you love someone, it will never change them. This goes for everyone: friends, family, significant others. Just find the genuine ones and keep them close.
My grandma also says, "Nothing good will ever come from losing your temper." Preach, Grandma. It's taken me almost my entire adult life to figure this out. I used to get so angry at the dumbest shit and nothing ever good came from it. My energy felt spent, I felt sad for anyone who was in my warpath and I knew I looked like an uncontrollable, miserable human being. Nowadays, I try my best to keep cool and move on with life. It's not worth the energy or the regret.
Last, but definitely not least, stop worrying about what other people think of you.
Ninety percent of the time other people are too worried about their own bullshit to notice the zit on your cheek or the cellulite on your thigh.
Give it a break. No one cares and/or they never saw it.
But let's pretend like people do care about that pesky aforementioned zit... If they can’t stand to look at your absolutely NORMAL adult acne (also something someone could have told me about sooner), then they can take their judgmental little eyes and look somewhere else. Seriously. Find something else to look at.
Whenever I wear new makeup and find myself a little worried about what other people might think, I always stop and tell myself, “If they don’t like my face, they don’t have to look at it.” If I like it, I'm the only one who's got to live with it. And that's all that matters. So I go bold. I wear my hair in pigtail buns because it makes me happy. I style my outfits eccentrically or I try a classier look, I can wear my makeup upsidedown one day or rock the black lipstick. It's my world and as long as I am happy, that's all that matters. Fuck what anyone else thinks about me.
Stop worrying. Enjoy life. The cellulite doesn't matter. One day, you'll be lying somewhere on your deathbed and you won't be wondering if anyone noticed how fat your thighs looked in those shorts you bought 67 years ago from American Eagle. I hope you'll remember how the sun felt on your bare legs that day instead.
What's something you've learned that you wish you would have learned sooner?