Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Being Different is Terrifying

I have no idea where I’m going to be in a year. I’m not even 100% sure I know where I’ll be in six months. Yes, most of this is a life choice, but the larger part of the reason is that I have to accept that there is a large part of me that WANTS this.
It’s hard to explain, but the unknown is something my body craves like a woman on PMS craves chocolate dipped in chocolate. I can tell you what my life plan is for the next five years, but I cannot tell you WHERE, because WHERE is something that has to change or I begin to wilt.
I like to think that I’m not a flake. I like to think that my friends love me despite the fact that as we grow older their lives become more stable as mine becomes less so. Even when I think about my future and what I would like to accomplish and what stable would mean for me, I still think of it in terms of dividing my time between a couple different countries during the year.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not enjoy being different. I am almost ashamed when I tell people where I’m going next, and I wince when people ask, “Where are you living now?” because the context is different when you’re asking me. In fact, it causes a lot of anxiety in my life.
I have no idea if I will be able to pay the rent in two months. I need a couple oral surgeries, but have no idea how long I will need to postpone them to save up the money for them, because at this point I can’t actually save ANY money. My car is literally rusting out, and all I can do is hope that it continues well past the 250,000 miles it’s about to turn over.
All of this is because I wanted to be different: I wanted to make money doing what I loved on my own terms. Here I am: living the life I wanted, on my terms, and having no idea of those terms will support me. I am justifiably, secretly, UTTERLY afraid.
They say that you have to give a business three years to become profitable. I am not even officially out of my first year of having a business. I have a product that will come out before Christmas that should ease the tension, especially if it does as well as I think it will, and also because I will do many things different this time than I did with the first book. I tell myself these things all the time; I have all sorts of logical reasons that I have absolutely no need to be afraid. First of all, I can get a job if I need it. Second, even if I never sold another cookbook in my life, I still would reap a year’s worth of experience in publishing, writing, wine-pairing, recipe testing, networking, marketing, accounting, website design, project management and the importance of work-life balance. Logically, I tell myself that it’s okay that I’m different, that I wanted to take this risk, that it all will be worth it, whatever the outcome is, because all experiences are learning experiences. Emotionally, none of that makes any sense to my poor overworked brain that wants to know what was so wrong with a corporate job with benefits. This part of me doesn’t listen when I tell it that I wouldn’t actually be any happier there, financial security or not.
The world is full of stories of people who made it through this point, and they are all told from the other side of it, when they are swimming in personal glory. They all say how hard it was, but we get to the point where we nod and accept what that means without actually knowing what it means to be there, with your deteriorating bank account, only so many hours in the day, and the need to turn down social engagements because you just can’t afford a nice meal out. It is rare that you hear this side of it: the gritty, what-the-f*ck-am-I-doing side of it that sounds romantic once it’s over but just seems overwhelmingly impossible in the moment.
If you had asked me a couple years ago what experience had shaped me most as a person, I would have unhesitatingly replied that it was my year in Spain, when I painfully learned Spanish in a dialect similar to backwoods Mississippi English. Even more recently I would have said the year+ I spent at Zango, where I decided that I couldn’t live like everyone else after all, in work, lifestyle or love. From the middle of this, I have a feeling it’s going to be my most important formative experience yet – the question is simply what my form will be when I’m through it.

Love and formative kisses

Monday, August 8, 2011

What Would You Tell a Younger You?

Last night I was at a barbecue and a 40-year-old man was speaking about what he would say to his naïve 28-year-old self.
My first thought was, of course, “naïve?” I am not much older than 28 – I’m just over a month from 30 – and I wondered at what he had learned in those 12 years that made him think he was naïve at 28.
When I thought about it more, though, I realized that this is a pretty natural occurrence: you look back on your life from a place of greater experience and more lessons learned, and you wonder at the actions you took and the thoughts that prompted them.
I don’t think you can look back and judge a younger you for something you didn’t know – even when groaning over something that you’d prefer not to remember, you have to think, “How would you have known better without that experience?” Nevertheless, if I was going to sit down with a younger version of me – and I was convinced this younger self would listen – there is definitely some wisdom I would like to impart. Some of it is information that I should still try to remember. If life teaches us anything, however, it’s that we’re never done learning and changing. That, in my opinion, is one of the best things about it.

So, without further ado, a letter to me. Feel free to share what you would tell a younger you in the comments.

Dear Morgan,

Happy Almost Birthday! You’re almost 28, and even though you don’t know it, your life is about to change forever. You’re only months away from starting your first cookbook, and less than a year away from spending a summer in Mexico, and that time is going to make everything different.
I read some of the things you wrote recently, and I get it – I understand exactly where you are and what you’re going through; I’ve been there. I know you don’t believe me, but you should: you are not the only one who has felt this pain.
You’re going to be just fine. I know it’s scary, and you don’t know what’s coming. I know that you love surprises, and that underneath the logical side of you that gets caught up in the details – where will the money come from, how will you survive, etc. – you revel in the idea of your life as a series of gifts that you get to open, and be surprised at what you find.
I know you aren’t really into listening to advice right now, but I’m going to give you some. I know you’ll pretend that you don’t need it, but I hope that sometimes, in the dead of night, when your fears start to get the best of you, you will pull out this letter and read it, and remember that there are wiser people than you who told you it would all work out just fine. Here are a couple things I wish someone had told me when I was your age:

Let yourself feel, regardless of the emotion. You have just as much a right to react emotionally as anyone else. If you’re angry at someone, let them know; it will ultimately make the anger dissipate faster, and you’ll grow closer to the person as a result.
Trust yourself. Learn to know when you’re making a decision to please others, versus one that will help you become a better, happier you.
Stop comparing yourself to others. They have their own paths, and they’re very different from yours. Stop wondering why you can’t follow someone else’s destiny because it seems more clear-cut.
Regardless of how much it hurts, realize that all experiences – good and bad – lead to becoming a better you. They are necessary, and should be welcomed.
Let yourself love more, and more deeply. In the end, you’re only hurting yourself by not letting anyone in.
Believe others when they compliment you, and sincerely thank them for their words. It will ultimately lead you to love yourself more, which is not a bad thing.
Remember that both compliments and criticism are just someone else’s opinion, and they only have as much power over you as you let them.
Stop being your biggest critic and become your biggest fan.
Let yourself have an opinion, whether you think it’s a good one or not. By allowing yourself less than what you allow others, you are showing them that you believe they’re better than you.
Remember that people love you, whether they’re with you or not. Remember that we are all only human and we can’t always express our love perfectly, but that doesn’t mean it’s imperfect love.
Crying is healing; stop holding it in.
Laughing is contagious; let yourself laugh more.
Yelling is cathartic; do it when you need to and you’ll feel better.
Admit it when you’re wrong. People will love you for it.
Play more, work less.
And finally, forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made in your past. You’re the only one who hasn’t already done so.

I know you’ll have a great birthday, Morgan. I wish you nothing but the best, and I know that’s what you’ll get. Have faith in yourself and the rest will come to you. I love you.

Love and knowing kisses

Like what you're reading? Please share it with your friends!