I drove home from my last dinner as a 27-year-old and bawled my little eyes out. It wasn’t because I ate bacon accidentally for the first time in almost a year (which actually made me want to hurl the moment I tasted it, but that’s besides the point). Or, that I was disappointed with the time spent with my loved ones, because they were nothing but sweet and generous. I cried because my mood swept in and dumped all over what was supposed to be a happy-life-moment and memory…once again.
The mood I’m talking about is like the quick switch kind. Everything is groovy until it’s not type of deal. Like when you’re driving down an interstate and minding your business… Maybe you’re listening to good music or talking on the phone with a close friend and then BAM some A-hole tries to swerve into your lane and almost hits you. Immediately, your routine car-ride becomes curse-word-filled occasion and you tell everyone you see how the dang tan Honda Civic sparked the ruin of your entire day. Dramatic, but a pretty common scenario.
Basically, I’ve noticed a pattern of these “highway temper tantrums” crashing into my highlight events more than I would like to admit. It’s like yes, today is a good day. A time to celebrate something! Then, my brain is like um no, hold up. There’s a happy moment about to commence… Time to roll out all of the caged up worry, gloom, and rage from the past however many years. To say this has become a bummer is an understatement. Really, it wouldn’t be so bad if I was able to contain this pity-tantrum behind closed doors, but it likes to come out around other people now too. Let me tell you being the party pooper at a party is as crappy as it sounds.
The thing is I don’t want to be that way! I can’t stand it when other people do that, yet there I was figuratively crapping all over my own Birthday dinner. Why? Why was this happening? I have all my bare necessities. I have people who love me and want to celebrate my life with me. Yet, there I was having to drive home extra slowly to compensate for the smeared mascara all over my contacts. I started doing what I normally do when I get overly emotional and started panting in between sobs, “God, please help me!” Anyone noticing a car trend here? I need to try walking or cycling instead. Maybe it’s my car? Okay, moving on…
After a few stop lights, my crying began to slow down just enough for sarcastic me to throw some shade and start analyzing why in the world this was happening? I began to actively listen to what I was saying and came up with a not-so-surprising analysis. I was sad, because I had spent too many years operating on an “if-then” mentality. And I quote:
“If I have someone who loves me, then I will be happy. If I have solid friendships, then I will be happy. If I go to school and get a degree, then I will be happy. If I move away and try something new, then I will be happy. If I am healthy, then I will be happy. If I follow my heart and dreams, then I will be happy. If I live closer to family, then I will be happy. If I get a job with stable income, then I will be happy. If I get my own place, then I will be happy.”
The thing is I have been fortunate enough to actually live out all of those “ifs” at some point in time, but tonight I realized that I’ve been so busy obsessing that my “then” never came to full fruition. I’ve been stuck in my own mental hamster-wheel of desperately trying to live a life of purpose and meaning that made me happy that I forgot to actually be happy! So, I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter what happens in my life. I can accomplish everything I want in the world, have an amazing support system, and be my best self and still not live up to the “happy” that I thought I should be.
I’m so tired of trying to win the fantasy-life that I designed in my head years ago. Being the dreamer that I am, it is almost unbelievable to hear me say those words at all. But, at the ripe age of 28, I think I’ve finally graduated to a new level of reality. Dreams, passions, and creativity are wonderful; they lead to inspiration, help people live outside of the box, and create new possibilities (gahhh, even writing that makes my heart flutter).
I guess what I’m continuing to get re-affirmed, apart from my dreamer mentality, is that real-life is never going to be like the one I thought up in my head. While I “knew” this was ultimately true, I didn’t fully “know” it to be true until tonight. Silly, because I know I’m not God and I don’t know the future, yet I was still trying to be my own fortune teller! Stop that, self!
So on my 28th Birthday, the gift I’d like to give myself is the gift of actually living life moment-by-moment. I want to break free from the red-room in my mind that has been trying to develop a perfect, made-up life and dare to live the unexpected. This year, I want to stop obsessing and just breathe. Take life minute-by-minute and just see what happens one tiny choice at a time. My first choice: be happy. Happy Birthday, me!