Yeah, yeah. Everyone wants to stay young forever. Childhood has its pros and cons, adulthood its own set, and those gloriously dramatic teenage years… yeah, they’ve got their perks and kinks, too.
My twenties have been nothing short of rough. I’m 28 now, so the end of this decade isn’t far off. For a while there, I couldn’t wait for my twenties to be over. They suck. They’ve been full of trials, tribulations, pain, heartache, disappointment, failure, humility, and soul searching. I’ve been wanting to forget this decade ever happened and move on to the next.
Not anymore. My twenties have been a blessing in disguise…
One of the worst feelings in the world is not knowing who you are or why you exist. The darkness of purposelessness is a wood we all unwillingly wander through at one point or another in our lives. My internal sense of direction sucked to the point where I kept wandering in and out of that damn dark forest.
Lesson 1: How the world really works
I believe this is a lesson no one can truly learn other than by teaching oneself.
Life was good because I’d discovered my love of writing and sharing it with people. It was just a matter of time and a lot of hard work before I became the next J.K. Rowling.
Yeah… see the problem there?
Life does NOT work that way. Well, it does and it doesn’t. My attitude was in the right place, the perfect place. My perception of reality was not. I was young and stupid. We all start that way. But, as I learn how reality works, I go with it, instead of fight it, and sometimes going with it means going around. Never be a sheep…
Lesson 2: Ignoring the naysayers
During my darker days where I was looking for excuses to give up, yet at the same time find reasons to keep trying, I discovered that 99.9%–if not 100%–of successful people were met resistance, dissuasion, discouragement and such along the way. Here are people striving to achieve greatness, yet society’s knee-jerk reaction is to beat them down before they try. Why?
I don’t know. Fear? Envy? Assuming one knows more than another does? A desire to control?
No matter the reason, I learned to tune the naysayers out by focusing on what makes me happy and brings me joy. Writing books and sharing them does just that more than anything. I refuse to exist; I must live and help other live joyously.
Lesson 3: Mistakes and failure are invaluable things
I swear I’ve made all the mistakes in the book, and then added a few new ones. I’ve been told many a time that mistakes are one of the greatest things you do. They’re an indicator that you’re doing something, getting somewhere, but I’d been so fixated on success that everything I did felt like a failure when, in fact, that wasn’t true.
I don’t know how to teach you to not be afraid of making mistakes, to even willingly make them. This is something you must teach yourself. No one else can teach you to embrace your own mistakes and learn from them. You either dread failure or you don’t.
I’m still making mistakes left and right, but I’m learning so much. And every time I do something wrong, I’m thankful for now knowing that that doesn’t work. For example, I’ve been exploring where to sell paperback copies of my books. Independent bookstores are a duh but right now I’m in the process of trying to get a local grocery store to sell my books. After a couple of goofs, I’ve contacted one person in corporate, who’s forwarded me to another person in corporate who should know what to do with me.
Even if nothing happens, the corporate lady whom I spoke with let me know via email that she checked out my trilogy, bought it, and suggested it to a friend. Works for me!
Lesson 4: Life really is about the journey, not the destination
I understood that for the longest time but couldn’t bring myself to embrace it. I wanted to skip as many steps as possible to reach my destination ASAP. Sure, I’d love to be at my destination right now, but I’ll get there when I get there, and by learning how to get there.
In all honesty, the gradual approach is the safest. I look at child stars and how getting catapulted to the top, to fame, takes a devastating psychological toll. They don’t know how to be average people or function outside of the spotlight. I do. If I become famous, I’ll always be thankful for it and all the people who helped me reach that, and I refuse to let it swell my ego.
Lesson 5: Hard work genuinely pays off
I lost faith in this for years after I finished college. I’d worked so hard for so long only to graduate jobless, no literary agent, no clue where to go in life, and with no sense of pride. All that hard work just to fail and get thrown on the curb. I was heartbroken. I felt like I’d wasted my entire life on some stupid pipe dream.
The truth is, all that hard work was necessary but it wasn’t everything that needed to be done. And since I’d felt like I was a complete failure, I lost faith in myself, and that is one hell of a dark place to be. I think we all find ourselves in such a place at one point or another in our lives, and I don’t think I have adequate advice on how to pull yourself out of there. I don’t think anyone but you can, and you must face inner truths in order to rise back up. There is always a reason for you being where you are. Life has a habit of bringing you to the right place and connecting you with the right people. Be open, listen, learn.
Lesson 6: Do it for yourself, if for no one else
This ties in with tuning out the naysayers. Ultimately, it’s important to learn how to rely only on yourself to get you where you want to go. No one will get you there for you. Sure, you’ll get help along the way; you can’t reach your destination without help. There’s no way around it, but people will come and go throughout your life, and even come back. Hell, maybe there’s a revolving door to your life.
Anyway, I’m thankful for coming from nothing, from a family that’s never had a whole lot and has to earn every last scrap of clothes covering our backs. Handouts can be fun and all but there’s nothing more gratifying than earning what you have. There are far too many people in the world who’ll never understand the joy of reaping the fruits of one’s labor, and for that I pity them.
Because I’ve had to work for everything I possess, I’m not afraid to work hard. I take care of everything I have and understand that the greatest possessions cannot be bought; only earned.
Lesson 7: Clinical depression is a condition, not a state of mind
Depression isn’t fun. I’ve had to change my approach from trying to just deal with it to taking a pill every day for it. I call my prescription my “daily dose of sanity.” Instead of some miserable person who wallows in self pity every day, I’m finally free to be me. Sure, I have to take a pill for it, but I so prefer the person I am now over the person I’ve been.