There is a scary thing out there. It lurks around the corner; it hovers over your head like your own personal rain cloud; it is the monster under your bed and the hurdle you attempt to jump over. It’s not ISIS, and it’s not your parents having sex. It is called “expectations.” Everyone has them. You may not even realize that you do, or that they are being placed on you. Whether it’s the idea that your boyfriend has to get you flowers every time he makes you upset, or your coach wanting you to catch every single pass thrown at you. They make or break you.
Many people have begun to form the opinion that millennials have such an easy life. We receive trophies for Last Place and Best Sportsmanship. We have helicopter moms who baby us until we cannot function without their hovering presence. We are getting married later, having kids later…life is nothing but a breeze for us. However, I disagree.
However, its not just professionally. Expectations corrupt all aspects of our lives. I see expectations break down everyone around me. Meredith is not skinny enough for the guy she likes. Greg is not involved enough at school to apply for the job he wants. Luke is not strong enough to face his mother’s illness. Taylor is not healthy enough to go back to school as she battles her anoxeria. Or the worst of them all, that voice in the back of your head making you believe, “I am not good enough.”
I have had that moment many times in my life, but one stuck with me the most just a few weeks ago. Everyone in college, at one point in their life, has applied for a job, internship, etc. You start the application process. You try and make yourself look the best you can, even though you’re afraid it might not be enough.
Finally, you receive the position! Start the fireworks! Pour the champagne! You did it!
….or did you?
I had received an acceptance into a program within my school that allowed me to take classes that pertained to my major and acquire an internship this summer. The program was all in the field I am studying, government. I was so excited and proud of myself for receiving my first acceptance! However, my idea of an achievement ended up not being enough for the real world.
I remember messaging my friend over Facebook telling her how I had gotten into the program. She immediately responded with, “SHUT UP. SHUT UP.” Her response only got me more excited as I saw that she was now calling me to congratulate me on my acceptance. We began talking about the program and all of its details. I expressed her how excited and happy I was, but I could tell the more I talked the less she seemed impressed with my accomplishment.
Settle? I had thought this phone call would be happy…but it ended up becoming a lecture. The program did not seem prestigious as I was only competing with people from my school. A different program would be better. Why wasn’t I trying harder to get a different position? How come I wasn’t more concerned that I might not get another internship? How is this going to look on my resume? Is this all I was going to get?
“You’re not doing enough. You need to work harder.”
I was speechless. What had I done wrong? Did I not deserve to be happy? I was I really not doing enough? My thoughts began to race. I was not smart enough, involved enough…why had I believed that I could be happy with this program?
That conversation really upset me. I remember sobbing in my bed and having no motivation to try and move on. But, after having time to reflect on it, I realized that it should not have affected me as much as it did. Since when did other people’s idea of how our life should look or be affect how we truly live? Why do we let other people’s opinion of success and a happy life change what we believe? My life is different from the person sitting next to me and different from my parent’s.
We are all growing; no matter what stage of life we are in. So, no matter where you are in life right now, if you are trying and attempting to achieve your goal in life, (I mean YOUR goal, not your mother’s, not your father’s, not your teacher’s, yours.) then do not let anyone stop you. Your yellow brick road is not the same as mine. Yours may be winding and may have you encounter many witches and wizards before you reach your Emerald City.
Do not look back and stay focused on what you want and what you believe your future holds, because, in the end, you are always enough.
Our house and rental house next door was burglarized yesterday. No one was physically harmed as nobody was home except the 3 cats. I can’t imagine how scared they felt. The cops said it happens in as little as 4 minutes. How is it that someone can totally flip you upside down in 4 minutes?
Our home was completely trashed, valuables stolen, heirlooms stripped away and door frames busted. It was like a hurricane swept through. Drawers, cabinets, desks, closets completely torn apart and scattered across the stone cold floor. My mother got the call at 3:30 pm from our trusted maid saying there was signs of a break in. She immediately rushed home and called the cops. The day of all days we didn’t set our alarm because the maid was coming and the day my dad started a new job, so he wasn’t home.
They were tracking our every move, notating the times we came and went, counting the number of cars, studying us like a science experiment while just lurking around the corner. If you’ve been to our home, there are 4 foot wide canvases of our family pictures everywhere. How is it that someone upon breaking in not stop to think these are real people who are well respected in the community who love and support each other and we are about to totally uproot their life? There are people in this world that are lost and confused and angry for whatever reason I can’t comprehend.
Total violation of trust, security, worth, dignity, pride, and self confidence. How do you emotionally move on from this? Not literally as time will pass, and we will repair or replace what we can and rebuild our lives. But how do you truly move on?
Bad things happen to good people.
We are thankful for all the friends and family who came over last night or called to provide moral support. We are thankful for Cobb County Police Dept for being on top of it. We will pick ourselves up and carry on. We learned from our mistakes and will take better precaution next time. Trusting others and feeling safe will take time to rebuild, but I’m hopeful.
New Year’s resolutions have always baffled me. You always hear the same things—exercise more, eat better, learn something new, travel more, and stress less. While we all want better health, to be in the know, and to experience the world, creating these broad and generic resolutions often lead to lack of follow through. That’s the running joke, isn’t it? When the “new year, new you” only lasts for a week or so. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
All of our resolutions are made with good intentions and goals in mind, but what they lack is personalization and tangible action steps to make them happen. I’ve realized this year after year as I fail to achieve what I set out for, yet I have never tried to change that. Until now.
I’ve never truly made an effort to create resolutions that I stick to for more than a week or so, but this year felt different. I recently read an incredible book, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, and it rocked my world. It transformed the way I looked at goal setting and goal achieving. The premise of the book is that anyone can find happiness with the cards they’re played.
Rubin set out 12 resolutions for herself, one for each month, with tangible and specific ways to make every single resolution a reality. As I flipped page by page through the book, I realized how Rubin had created an approachable way to accomplishing those daunting resolutions. For example, instead of just “cultivating friendships”, it became remembering birthdays, no gossiping, cutting people slack, and bringing people together. What she did was break down her big hairy audacious goal, which seemed intimidating, into doable tasks and actions that she could focus on every day. As simple as this may seem, it opened my eyes.
So then the new year rolled around, sneaked up on me as it always does, and I knew I wanted to actually make something out of my resolutions. I looked to see what I needed to do to be more fulfilled, happy, and confident in 2017. As I developed my list, I realized that each one had a story behind it and that’s what made them more meaningful and more approachable, than say the typical “Eat healthier” resolution. I felt a deeper connection to my new resolutions and felt a drive to achieve them that I’d never felt before. It was the stories and the people that inspired them and brought them to life. It is those same stories and people that will serve as reminders throughout 2017 why I am doing what I am doing.
For the first time in my life, I am going to take my resolutions seriously and not just brush it off my shoulder if I don’t follow through. I’m hoping that this year will serve as a foundation for me in the future to help to learn how to create a goal and actually make it happen.
So bring it on 2017, I’m ready.
I thought I would never see my family again. I was told I was a disgrace and that I had committed one too many betrayals against the Arab culture. I went to my half-empty dorm bedroom and tried to kill myself. I was so sick of the pressure and the blame of being who I was, and I figured I’d be doing everyone a favor. An honor killing, if you will, except contrary to normal tradition, I’d be inflicting the “honor” on myself.
Clearly, I didn’t succeed, considering that I’m writing this right now. I was drinking and had a pair of scissors and two bottles of pills to help me in the act. My roommates came in to our apartment and I was then caught.
And later, after I woke up from a dreadful alcohol-induced sleep, I got up to deal with the mess(es) that I had made. I forced myself to act strong, like it wouldn’t hurt, like my parents’ absence in my life would be for the better and that the only detriment would be finally paying my own phone bill.
My work ethic and relationship with my boyfriend were struggling. It’s improbable that this was a direct result of family problems, but consequently, I felt like I was losing all of my support systems at once. It came out that my boyfriend was cheating on me, and we temporarily broke up.
Already sick, I didn’t eat for days and started slipping back into the toxic habits of drinking myself to sleep and hanging out in sketchy places. My classes threatened to be too much for me in seven weeks, and I, once the valedictorian with a 98.6 core average, prayed to pass with B’s.
I struggled emotionally and physically, finding it difficult to keep food down and enjoy the things that used to give me any pleasure, like sex, reading or spending time with my friends. Thunderstorms blackened the unbearable Georgia summer heat, and I doubted that I would make it to the fall.
My boyfriend and I reconciled and got back together – I elected to choose forgiveness because resentment and anger never got me anywhere I wanted to be in the past – and things gradually returned to a semi-normal state.
I buried myself in schoolwork and started drinking less. My parents began speaking to me again- it wasn’t how I wanted our relationship to be. I still didn’t trust them, and I know that mistrust went both ways. But I stayed with them for a week that summer, and it went well. While fearing the loss of the essential scholarship due to my difficult upper level summer classes, I received a report card covered in A minuses and felt relief.
The past year has had its stressors: getting mugged and lost, genuinely fearing for my life on multiple occasions, a sex addiction, numerous cases of adultery, my parents’ marriage failing (and my father’s use of me as a scapegoat), and adjusting to a rigorous class and work schedule in the big city.
But every time I thought I was drowning, I came up above water. I’ve found confidence in myself to face whatever obstacles life throws at me and faith that I will survive it.
Positivity is a strange concept.
It can be elusive and hard to find, but it has the power to move mountains. The best part about positivity is that it is easy to find if you know where to look for it.
At this point it is a broken record, all of the quotes about happiness, about how confidence comes from within, and the concept that your thoughts define you. Though we hear them all the time, we rarely implement these sayings and adopt them as personal mottos. That being said, these clichés dictate my mindset.
I am a 20-year-old college girl navigating life and homework one day at a time. However, in addition to the constant stresses of being a college student, I work to support myself. When I am at school, I am completely self-sufficient, paying for everything that I need from books to shampoo.
I come from a single parent household that resembles the Gilmore Girls (although substitute their various gentleman callers for pets). As a result, I work as many hours as I possibly can.
I often have peers ask “Why do you work so much?” or “How do you get it all done?” and I occasionally hear statements such as, “I could never do what you do” or even, “You seem so okay with everything you have to do.” When sharing my story, people are most surprised by my lack of negativity regarding my situation, but this is purposeful.
Unfortunately, around the same time, my grandmother decided to walk away from my mom and me as well. My mom decided to move us to Minnesota so I could be around my aunt, uncle, and cousins, who my grandmother had cut off as well.
My relationship with my dad growing up was somewhat nonexistent, which was partially his fault, partially because my step-mother resented my existence, and partially because he moved back home to England.
Summers spent with him and my step-mom and half sister were generally pretty miserable. My dad was always preoccupied with his job and my step-mom was constantly criticizing how my mother (who I was, and still am, fiercely defensive of) was raising me, combined with some additional commentary on my looks or how my presence was an inconvenience. Needless to say, I preferred my mom, and even to this day she remains my favorite person.
Following my dad and step-mom’s divorce, my dad and I have attempted to repair some of the broken bridges. But this has presented challenges of its own.
So on any given day, you can assume I am rushing off to work, or returning home from work to do homework, or balancing relationships between my dad and sister, or missing my mom, all in the state where it all began. As overwhelming as it can be, especially now that I see my dad more often, I rarely believe that my life warrants the comments I get from my peers.
This is because while growing up, my mom stressed that dwelling on the negative things will only make them seem like bigger problems than they are. She instilled in me the importance of positivity.
My mom and I are both Christians and she often quotes Philippians 4:8 which states, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
There are many bible verses that stress that what you think is what you become. If you seek out the bright side or silver linings in any negative situation, you start to change your outlook on life. Do this enough, and soon you’ll find that it becomes easier to see the good things that are abundant in your life.
Even while writing this, I recognize that my life could be so much worse. I have gained so much from my life experiences, including an amazing relationship with my mom, a strong work ethic, and an understanding that life is too short to be unhappy.
Changing your mindset can be incredibly difficult, because we seem to be hardwired to have pity parties on a daily basis. But you have to start with reminding yourself that there is nothing that you can’t handle.
In my opinion, the best way to do this is to start counting your blessings everyday. Having a good hair day? Getting a college education? Having someone in your life who cares about your well-being? Watching an episode of your favorite show on Netflix? These are all things to be happy about. Much like every cliché in the book, the small things are just as meaningful and important as the larger scale things.
Instead of focusing on what is going wrong in your life, think about positive outcomes for the situation you are dealing with. By dwelling on the hardship of it all you allow the situation to get the better of you. One of the best quotes I have found is by Henry Ford, who says, “Whether you think you can, or you can’t – either way you’re right.”
Believing in yourself and thinking positively can be life changing. Sooner or later that positivity that has the ability to move mountains translates into the ability for you to move mountains, or at the very least face any obstacle that comes your way.
At the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I was 14, naïve, and had a developing passion of life.
My life was going well- everything was going my way. After I thought things couldn’t get any better, I met Zack.
He was older, attractive, and for some reason he liked me. Talking to him was like drugs; he made me feel so alive. I had never-ending butterflies in my stomach when he was around. In my eyes, he was perfect. After about a month of “talking,” I became his official girlfriend. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I had my first REAL boyfriend, what more could I ask for?
He was my Prince Charming.
We’d talk for hours over the phone nightly and see each other every weekend. Zack was the sweetest person I’d ever met. He made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. As you can probably imagine, I fell for him rather quickly. He had all of my heart. Since I was only 14, he became my first everything, and I mean everything.
I was so nervous and scared, but I all that I could think about was how much he meant to me. I knew that losing my virginity was a “big deal,” but what I didn’t know is that my attachment to Zack would become so much deeper. At the beginning of our relationship, I thought that Zack liked me way more than I liked him. Boy did I turn out to be wrong. My love for him became all-consuming.
He became my whole world.
I saw him every single day, and I couldn’t imagine life without him. He became my happiness. It got to the point that I had legitimate anxiety attacks when we fought in fear that he would break up with me. There wasn’t a thing that I wouldn’t do for him; I was positive that I was going to marry this boy (I told you I was naïve).
There were so many fights about pointless things and so many signs that our love was fading. He started pulling away from me, and I started desperately clinging to him in hope that my love would be able to pull us through. I couldn’t live without him.
I thought that I could make a one-sided relationship work- it had to. On March 30, the inevitable happened. We had a fight, and, long story short, he broke up with me. Drunk. I still remember him walking out of the door and officially out of my life. I completely broke down. My knees buckled, sobs came crashing out, and my heart felt like it shattered. For the next week, I alternated crying and sleeping until I became physically sick. I felt like I didn’t know how to live anymore.
He was a part of every aspect of my life, and I didn’t know how to do anything without him. I’d never experienced a pain this potent. This started my battle with depression.
I stopped being me because I honestly wasn’t sure who I was anymore. I couldn’t find happiness anywhere. I didn’t laugh anymore or enjoy myself. My family voiced their concerns for me almost daily. I tried to find any relief for the emotional pain that I was feeling through alcohol, smoking, boys, or anything that would make me feel okay for at least a second. I was at my lowest point, and I wasn’t sure it would get any better. I couldn’t take it anymore.
The point where my life changed was a few months later when I put myself in the hands of God. Religion had never been an important part of my life until one night that I was crying and screaming out to God to take away my pain. I was so angry and so hurt that it was all I could feel.
It even hurt to breathe. I knew I couldn’t carry on much longer, so I broke down and called out for salvation from my Father. I will never forget the moment when I felt something rise out of my chest and dissolve. After that, it didn’t hurt to breathe anymore. God took away my pain, and I knew it was my time to rise up and take my life back. I became so adamant that I would be okay again. This was my life, and I’m going to live it.
I celebrated little victories like deleting his photos off of my phone or remembering that I hadn’t thought about him that day. Slowly, but surely, I started coming out of my shell. I stopped taking anti-depressants and started being completely independent again. I loved it! Through God, family, and one of the best friends in the world, I made it through. I. Made. It.
Today, I still have the emotional scars. My depression still flares sometimes on the bad days. I push people away because I’m still so scared of becoming “not okay” again. I’m working every day to break down the walls that I built around me. I’m different, more jaded, but I’m strong now. I’m a version of myself that I can say I’m damn proud of. There’s even another guy in the picture now.
I’ve realized that I am my own happiness- no one can take that away from me. I’m still making improvements to become the best “me” I can be. I can honestly say that I’m okay. And that’s the greatest thing I could ever hope for. Against everything that I thought, I’m okay.