Lessons I’ve learned
I knew from the moment I graduated that the next year of my life would be different. I felt odd not starting school again in the fall and not to be freaking out over finals around Thanksgiving and Easter. I also feel odd not having the buoy of next semester to excuse me from having to be a grown up. While you’re a student, you’re not expected to have a career or be powerful, you’re expected to live on rice and beans while spending every spare moment buried in the Norton Anthology, and that’s what I did.
Fast-forward tens months. I don’t have a career. I live in a room above my uncle’s garage and I nanny my six cousins for up to 13 hours a day. My novel is at a standstill, I’m constantly fighting off graduate depression and my compulsive eating, which has gotten gradually worse, has caused me to blossom up to a size 12, which is fine by itself but I know it’s too heavy for me and overeating makes me feel like a banana slug. I’ve been under a tremendous amount of stress and I’ve been getting through it with lots of prayers and a steady musical diet of Dave Matthews and Krishna Daas.
Before you think “Yuck, what a whiner”, there’s a silver lining to this, I promise. It’s always the hard times that teach us the most, and this year has been a massive learning experience for me, and even though I feel completely burned out, discouraged and all but defeated, I know I’ll pick myself up eventually and go on living as a better person because of what I’ve discovered, so I’d like to share some of those lessons with you today:
- Depression is a sign that something needs to change. Staying in bed all day and throwing yourself a pity party sure sounds nice when you’re miserable, but it won’t change a thing. If your life sucks, do something to change it. I’m currently looking for a different job that can help me progress in my writing career and a new place to live. I’m still struggling with the compulsive eating thing, but I know that eating intuitively is a whole lot easier when I don’t hate my life.
- Speak up and protect your boundaries: Don’t let anyone take advantage of you, in any situation. You don’t deserve it and if you feel that caving in to someone is necessary to protect the relationship, the relationship needs either work or the boot. Remember, people who love you want the best for you.
- Your body is smarter than you give it credit for: I always though I had a massive sweet tooth and that I craved sugar every single day. Once I tuned into my body, I realized those urges weren’t coming from it, but from my mind. Bad habits, the desire to escape the situation by eating, competition eating, etc. is the cause of my “cravings”. Even though I feel that I overeat regularly, I haven’t actually had a true craving in a long time. I rarely feel hungry. Most of the time I feel either no hunger or all-out fullness and the lovely sluggishness that comes with it. I’m still working on obeying my body’s signals, but I can certainly hear them. Once I develop the strength to follow them, my physical problems will probably take care of themselves.
- Things are never as bad as they seem: Whenever I fly in a plane, it always surprises me that the sun is still shining above the clouds, even if from the ground, it looks completely overcast. Even on the worst days, remember the sun is always shining. Something good is happening somewhere. Happiness is a choice, though a very difficult one. I haven’t been a great example of this lately, but remembering and acknowledging the bright spots in your day helps everything.
- Don’t try to be superwoman: The day is only 24 hours long, and I’d rather spend it doing things that are very important and/or that I enjoy. If I feel like I’m doing something to impress someone else or because I “should” think it’s a big deal, forget it. Learn to say no sometimes. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Your schedules should have gaps, or you’re heading for burnout.
- If you have to, steal time for the things that feed you. I have to have time to do something creative every day, or I feel like a shriveled-up raisin by the end of the day. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anything else. Tell someone no, let the floor go unmopped and do some yoga. Read a book. Actually eat your meal sitting down. It’s not self-indulgent, it’s an act of self-preservation.
I’m sure I have other lessons swimming around in the stew I call a brain, but I can’t think of any more and this post is starting to get long, and we all know I like to keep things short and sweet. These things are important, and I’m having to learn them the hard way. I think everyone does. It’s always the rough times that teach us the most, and that in itself may be the most important lesson of all, to appreciate trials because they’re the fire that shapes us.