This is not a new subject.
But it’s been on mind intermittently for a while.
When we are young, we are all on an equal playing field. We all attend school (or are home schooled) and we all strive to be accepted at university. No one is getting married or having children (usually) and we all have parents who pay the bills, friends who are interested in the same extracurricular activities that we are, and a home to return to every night to sleep.
In college we are all assigned dorm rooms, and class schedules and for the first time, taste the headiness of freedom. You can go to class if you want … but there is no one telling you that you must. We begin to test boundaries, challenge the status quo. We find people who have the same values and ideals as ours — those people become our friends. Maybe we all played soccer in high school, or did the school play — but that didn’t hold the same weight in college, as you sat up late into the night discussing symbolism in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and eating macaroni & cheese at the diner at 4am. College is an amazing time of freedom without true responsibility. And none of us really appreciate it until we are gone.
It’s after college that things begin to change. Some people get married right away, some go on to further their education, some start working. Everyone begins to understand the true responsibility of supporting oneself. Most people handle it just fine. Some don’t. All our paths begin to slowly diverge. We make different choices, we pursue different dreams.
That’s almost easier said that understood.
I think I always had a clear idea of what I wanted — but I didn’t know how to achieve it. I didn’t value myself very much, or my thoughts and ideas. I allowed other people to influence me, allowed their ideals and values to overshadow mine. I craved acceptance, I craved the feeling of belonging that had eluded me most of my life. Insecurity is a very powerful thing. We allow things that we otherwise would not tolerate solely for the sense of feeling loved.
I have to admit, I love my thirties. I finally feel at ease in my own skin. I feel settled and having my own approval means I don’t seek others in the same way I did in the past. I know where I am, what I want, and have ideas on how to get there. I don’t feel the need to apologize anymore.
And in conjunction with that, I don’t look at other’s lives and their choices, and judge or condemn them. I do not envy them. Because their choices aren’t my choices, and their dreams and wishes are also not mine. If they are pursuing their dreams, and are happy in their life, then I am happy for them, but my opinion doesn’t … and shouldn’t… really matter.
But –and I think this is the thing that has been niggling in my brain — we should all respect each other’s lives and choices. We don’t have to agree with them, or understand them. We are not wearing their moccasins. But we should respect the people we choose to keep in our lives as friends. We should respect their choices, and their belongings, their space and their time. We should not impose our own ideals and life choices upon them. Or assume that how we feel is how they feel. We all face challenges, and hardships and impossible days. But to assume that our difficulties somehow outweigh another person’s is ignorant and unfair.
I go through life now with an incurable neurological disease. I have difficulty seeing sometimes, and I haven’t fully felt my feet and legs for years. Until I started my current therapy, I used a walking stick named Lydia. Outside of my own personal, physical struggles, I have family health issues — both my family and John’s family. John just underwent major surgery for his incurable genetic disease. So yes, we have hardships. And some days they break me, and some days they inspire me.
But they never define me. And I never use them as a tool to shame or humiliate others. I do not use my issues as a battle tool, a way to ‘win’ the fight for who has it hardest, who struggles and overcomes the most. That’s just — well, absurd. I also don’t seek other’s approval for how I manage everything; I don’t look for praise for living.
We all live. We all manage our chaos, and dream big dreams. We all have dark days when everything feels impossible. But I like having people in my life, who despite the darkest of dark hours, still see the beauty. People who don’t seek constant approval for doing the things we all do to survive. People who don’t value their own choices above others and use them as a measuring stick to judge.
Anyway. Stepping off my soap box now. Taking a deep breath and heading off to enjoy this beautiful day.