Twentysomethings…In Moderation

They say that as you grow older, you start reverting back into your childhood self. Not having a great memory, pooping and/or peeing your pants, being irritable…all traits of an infant AND an eighty-year old. What I didn’t realize is that as a twentysomething, I would be relearning so many childhood lessons.

The themes I’ve been writing about in my blog are simple. They aren’t revolutionary by any means. But especially this week, I’m seeing that they are all lessons from our childhood that maybe I forgot about, or chose to ignore, or didn’t understand until now. Play well with others, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, never give up, etc.

This week, after talking with a good friend, I realized that everything needs to be in moderation, even (and especially) as a twentysomething. As an example, please view this brief timeline of my twentysomething life:

College years: AMAZING. Extremely busy, never a moment to myself but loving it, always involved, always doing something, constantly meeting with friends, working on something, or going somewhere.
Post-college years: Not the best. I like my post-college years, but I don’t love them. Most of my time after work consists of sitting in Spot Coffee or in my apartment, alone, writing or reading. Slow-paced, not my pace. Not nearly as fun or exciting. Quickly gaining Grandpa Status.

Okay, but here’s the best part. I would say over the past month or so, I’ve been reaching out to different people, finding new opportunities to get involved with, and really honing in on my passions, interests, and skills. Am I running around like a chicken with my head cut off like I was during college? Absolutely not, thank goodness (those years were amazing, but damn was I exhausted).

But finally, after taking the initiative to do so, I finally feel as if I am living a balanced life. One of moderation. And as the saying goes, everything in moderation, right?

Just speaking to my own experience, I have joined a gym and started eating healthier. And I feel really great about it. I took a risk and reached out to an LGBT magazine to ask about writing an article for them, and now I’m going to have a monthly online column! I purchased a bike, which is getting me in-tune with the areas around me, including some beautiful parks and waterfalls. And I’ve started working again at Starbucks, which reminded me of the love I have for customer service and interacting with people.

Things are looking up.

But speaking outside of moderation, I have had one “busy” week this week, relatively speaking. Every night I had something planned! And I feel like for the average twentysomething, and especially me, I wasn’t used to it. And when I say planned, I mean organized event with at least one other person, as opposed to my own plans of going to sit at Starbucks.

Don’t get me wrong—I loved being busy! It was great to talk to so many old friends, spend time with new friends, and even meet some new people! Everything I’ve been talking about wanting to do, it happened this week.

But I also really did miss my Spot Coffee writing/reading time. I didn’t love having to get up at five in the morning to go to the gym to try and fit everything in. I also didn’t love having to eat whatever food was around or available while I was out, because I strayed from my “routine” and from my healthy eating plan. But that’s neither here nor there.

The point is—moderation. Maybe plan two or three nights of fun, organized events. That way, I’m still involved and still busier than sitting by myself, while also having the time to do the introverted things that I love.

So friends, as I’m sure we’ve all heard before, moderation is key. But I wanted to write a little reminder, because there will always be twentysomethings and twentysomething things to do…in moderation.

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Why I’m Done ‘Reaching for the Stars’

Recently, as in just this afternoon, I finished a book called A Piece of Cake, by Cupcake Brown. Yes, that is her real name. I would give the book two stars. Not stellar. But the one piece of knowledge that I was able to pull from this book was this quote: “My rule of thumb was to keep my eye on the long-term goal, but focus on the present.”

Well damn. If that doesn’t speak to the twentysomething experience, I don’t know what does.

I’ve written before that sometimes I feel as if this blog is a little whiny. I want a better social life, I want to be closer to my family, I want the next step. Basically, I want all these things that I feel like are not possible (at least right now) in my twentysomething experience…although several people do have these things. The point is, it is impossible to have the next step…because as soon as “the next step” is here, there is always something else to reach for. There will always be another next step.

When I read Cupcake Brown’s quote this afternoon, I really had to pause and think about it. Although most of the book was me trying to get through it as soon as possible, I really pondered the meaning behind her message on that one. In the twentysomething experience especially, I always seem to be reaching. The next best job, the next best city to live in, the next stage of my life, etc. There was a solid “college experience” that I loved. And I have a picturesque view of being a thirtysomething that involves a steady career, a partner, and maybe even a child. Although the older I become, the more I realize that planning and expecting your future to be a certain way doesn’t help much.

So what’s left is the twentysomething experience. The limbo. Where the college days have spit you out and you’re waiting and waiting for the future thirtysomethings to pick you up and invite you into their club.

I don’t want that. Not yet.

I want to plan ahead. Yes, that’s true. And I am a very futuristic person. I am always looking ahead, planning what’s next, and hopefully finding the “bigger and better” opportunity. But I wonder…what has that cost me? Because I’ve been searching for opportunities abroad, have I missed out on anything right here in New York? Because I’m always thinking about how good of a social circle I’ve had in the past or hope to have in the future, have I given up opportunities to make one in the present? I’m not sure…maybe.

I think a lot of people say “reach for the stars” as a form of encouragement. And it is. Encouraging, inspiring, but also full of empty promises. I know it’s metaphorical and all, but the stars are completely unrealistic. And completely unknown! They are beautiful little twinkling lights in the sky, but I don’t know anything about how a star is created or how it stays up in the sky.

The future is a lot like the stars. Beautiful, and nice to reach for, but also unknown and impossible to predict. That’s why I propose a new phrase. Similar to Cupcake’s, but with a twentysomething spin.

Reach for the stars, sure, as long as your feet are planted on the ground. It’s okay to look up every once in a while—it’s nice to imagine the light at the end of the tunnel—but stay focused on the present, because that’s where you are. And for the most part, that’s what matters. At least right here, in this moment. So feel free to reach for the stars, as long as you stay grounded.

How to Overcome Your Greatest Obstacle (…in just three easy steps!)

It sounds like an infomercial. “How to overcome your greatest obstacle and change your life forever…for only three easy payments of $39.95! That’s right, folks, just three easy payments of $39.95! It’s simple and it’s fast, with only three easy steps to guarantee your success!”

Well listen up everyone, because this advice is free. Worthy of three easy payments? I’d like to think so. I’m also not an expert (though I doubt the infomercial hosts are experts on their product either…) and I’m also not being paid to sell you a product or to write this blog post (although, if you know of anyone hiring a blogger, let me know).

I’ve come to a realization this past week, which is something I’ve heard and thought about before, but something that I had never personally felt. My realization was this: I am my own greatest obstacle.

Well, shit.

Just think about that for a minute. Michael, you want to have a young, fun twentysomething life? You want to do something meaningful with your life? You want to make more friends and be closer to family? Well then what’s stopping you??”

Me. I have been stopping myself from achieving any of these things, and that is a terrifying and empowering statement. How can one person, me, be the cause of such a large blocking point to my own happiness, while also being the same person that could propel it forward? I realized that I just needed to allow myself to do so.

However, this is not everyone’s greatest obstacle. Some people actually allow themselves to enjoy the things in life that they want to enjoy. So, with that said, here are “three easy steps” to overcoming your greatest obstacle.

  1. Identify Your Obstacle
    1. I am twenty four years old, and I’ve spent the last two years complaining about why I don’t have as many friends as I want, about how I feel like an old man, about how I’m not a “fun” person anymore. AKA, since I graduated, life hasn’t been what it used to be, and I hate that I feel that way. But after all that, I just realized what my true obstacle is…me. This is called the brainstorming part of this process. Or, the WHY. Why wasn’t I making as many new friends as I wanted? Why did I feel like such an old man, and why didn’t I like that? I was a walking contradiction. I wanted to have young, twentysomething fun, get drunk with friends until 4am at the bars, but when anyone ever invited me and it was past ten o’clock, I’d say no thank you, it was past my bedtime. And it’s not all or nothing. Some nights, I know that I will want my alone time to write and read and be asleep by 11. Other nights though, I need to prepare to get my dancing shoes on and just have a good time.
  2. Get Ready to Fly (and Fall)
    1. Okay, so life is full of ups and downs. It’s full of ifs. There are forwards and backwards. Jumps and falls. Gives and takes. It’s a jumble. I’ve acknowledged myself as my own greatest obstacle, which feels like a huge advancement towards my own personal well-being. I’ve figured it out! I’ve cracked the code! But after flying for a little bit on that piece of knowledge, I realized that identifying my obstacle was only the first step. In fact, it made me feel a little bit more behind because now I see how far I need to go. My advice is not to get discouraged. It’s a journey, right? So embrace the journey. The end point isn’t the goal. Working towards it can be a rewarding experience, you just have to prepare yourself.
  3. Jump Right In
    1. Don’t hesitate. Get started. Jump right in. Why wait? Last night, I was sitting around my apartment, bored and alone on a Saturday night. I thought about writing, I thought about reading, I thought about going to bed at 9:07pm…but I didn’t want to do any of those things. So, I texted a new friend from Starbucks and asked if he wanted to hang out. I took a risk. And sure enough, he did! And I had a really, really nice time. And if he said no? No big deal, maybe that would be part of the “flying/falling” experience. For me, I know that I tend to make excuses. For example, I usually don’t want to go out with crowds of other twentysomethings because I’m better in a one on one setting and I feel like I tend to better connect with forty year olds. But I know now that I need to forget about those excuses and just jump right in and do it. What better time to start now, with 100% of your head and your heart?

With all that said, I’m curious…what is your greatest obstacle? How do you plan to overcome it?

Ride the Wave

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” –Robert Frost

Life throws curveballs. The biggest curveball of them all is that sometimes, you feel like you are getting thrown a curveball every other day, and sometimes, you feel like you are hitting homeruns every inning. (Why am I making a baseball metaphor?? I hate sports). But you get the picture.

This week, I was confronted with a few curveballs. There’s some quote I can’t find right now, but basically it says we learn the most about ourselves through our actions during difficult times, not easy ones. Surprisingly, I made it through this week, I’m still standing, and I wanted to share the secret I rediscovered.

Last Wednesday, I drove my 2010 Toyota Corolla down to Monroe Muffler to renew the inspection, which had expired the day before. I was a little late on that one, but it was all fine…I was getting it taken care of. The man behind the counter greeted me, took my keys, and said it should be about an hour. Great! I thought. No problem. I have a book to read, I get to skip work for a little while, and everything will be good to go.

Everything was not good to go.

For the first time in five years of riding with Eugene (my car), he failed his inspection. And we’re not talking just a little tiny thing, like a windshield wiper needs to be replaced or something like that. We’re talking, Oh, by the way, you need four brand new tires because yours are about to grind into the ground, and your front brakes need to be completely replaced. I felt like I failed. What did I do wrong? How could I have avoided this? And when I asked the mechanic he chuckled at me, looked me straight in the face, and said, “Nothing, kid. It’s just wear and tear after five years of driving.” So maybe there wasn’t anything I could do.

But regardless, what does any twentysomething do when a hefty portion of their hard-earned bank account is going to be depleted? They call their parents. And that’s exactly what I did. Except this time felt different. It was more of a telling, as opposed to an asking. It was my car, my money, and I guess now, technically, I’m “an adult.”

“Mom, dad, I just wanted to let you know that this happened. It’s going to cost this much. I don’t really want to do this, and my wallet isn’t happy about it, but what can I do? I can’t drive out of here without tires or brakes, so I guess that’s that.”

And I said to the mechanic: go ahead. So for the next two and a half hours, I waited while Eugene got a makeover so he could pass his inspection.

As I drove out of the car garage, I told myself I was going to stop all unnecessary spending to make up for this huge financial detriment. I’m not going to go out to dinner with anyone, I’m not going to drive anywhere because gas is expensive, and I’m basically going to eat ramen for the rest of my life. As you can imagine, that didn’t work out well. That same night, I went to Spot Coffee and bought myself an iced Americano. I thought it was $3 that I didn’t need to spend, and you know the little things certainly add up.

But I did need that Americano! Because how often have we heard that it’s the little things in life that matter? For me, one of my main sources of happiness is going to a café, ordering a simple beverage, and sitting for hours, reading or writing just for fun. And that’s what I did that night. Was I $3 poorer? Yes. Did I use gas to get there? Yup. But you can bet by the time I was leaving Spot Coffee that night, my depleted bank account was no longer the first thing on my mind.

Life throws us challenges and obstacles. It includes failures and successes. But there’s nothing we can really do about it. I’m under the impression that we just have to ride it out like a big wave and make the best of it. I’m laughing now because someone at work told me yesterday, maybe sarcastically, “UGH. You’re such an optimist!” And clearly after typing that last sentence, I am. But literally and metaphorically speaking, you can’t go against the wave—it will only drag you down. By riding with the wave, continuing your path, and making the most of life, it will lead you right to shore.