I Wanna Talk About What I Have Learned
The Hard-Won Wisdom I Have Earned
If you recognize my story title as a quote from Hamilton, we're already friends.
Ya know that phrase, you're only as old as you feel?
Well, if that's true, I'm about 97. Comes with my career.
My real age, I reveal to no one who wasn't there the day I was born. I will say this, I'm old enough to know some things and young enough to know I still have a lot to learn.
Through my time so far on this journey called life, I have picked up a few key things that I feel are important enough to try to pass along to others.
A lot of this may be taking what some people consider to be sage words of wisdom and completely debunking those words for the pretty prose they are. Prose may publish but that doesn't mean it should define your life.
Nor should I, for that matter. Your life may take a completely different path than mine and along your path, my lessons simply may not apply. The only thing I can do is tell you what I learned, often the hard way, and how it changed my manner of thinking, my manner of viewing the world around me, and my manner of living within that world.
What you do with it... is up to you.
Things People Tell You.
Definitely do this. Live to dream. But here's the thing... dreaming simply isn't enough. If you have a dream, no matter how big it is, people will champion you and tell you that you can achieve it. It's up to you, however, to put those thoughts into action.
Otherwise, they're just dreams left to float in the night sky, destined for nowhere.
The only dreams I've ever had are BIG dreams. I want to open an animal sanctuary. But I won't get there by thinking about it and coming up with cutesy names for it. So I have a plan. I'm actively working on it every single day in my job as a vet tech. Right now, I work in general practice. Once I move, I will look for a job with small exotic animals. After I feel I've learned enough there, I will swallow my disdain of zoos and work for a zoo with large exotics. Only then can I apply for a government grant to start my sanctuary and have the proper experience and education to back it up.
Loving animals and dreaming of saving them is great but unless you're independently wealthy (which I, unfortunately, am not), you're not going to get the funding to live your dream without putting the work in.
Put the work in.
If your dream is worth it, work toward it. Make it real.
It's Okay Not To Be Okay.
Extremely accurate. Mental health is often surrounded in such stigma that people want to don a pretend happy face even when they feel like they're crumbling.
Don't. Do. That.
It IS okay not to be okay. It's NOT okay to pretend you're okay when you're not.
I have had a lot of help dealing with my anxiety and other issues from my past and there are days where I still don't feel in control of it.
Those days, I call my parents.
I text my brother.
I talk to my husband.
I confide in my friends.
The people who love me don't need me to pretend to be happy when I'm not, they need to be able to be there for me when I'm down.
All too often, things go unsaid, emotions are allowed to boil under the surface and at some point, that dam will burst. What happens when it does?
There is not a human being on earth that will never experience a hard time. Sometimes it's financial. Sometimes it's grief. Sometimes it's depression. Sometimes it's mental illness. Sometimes it's physical illness. And most of the time, it's hard to talk about.
Talk about it anyway.
There's Only One You.
We spend so much time comparing ourselves to the successes of others that we forget to notice how awesome WE are.
Delight in your accomplishments and SHARE them. BRAG about them. Forget the trolls and jealous nay-sayers that will tell you to stop.
Be proud of who you are and be authentically yourself every chance you get... without trying to mimic someone else.
It's taken me a long time to learn this one and some days I forget it. Some days I see things on this platform and I wonder why not me? Why didn't I win the challenge? Why haven't I gotten Top Story in weeks? Why aren't people sharing my posts?
But I have written nearly 150 pieces on Vocal and even more on Medium. I write almost every single day. And I like my pieces. At the end of the day, when I read them out loud (to my cats, who all think I'm brilliant), if I'm proud of the work I'm putting out into the world, it doesn't matter if it wins a challenge or gets Top Story.
Okay.., it does somewhat. I mean, we all want those things, let's be honest. But in the end, if you enjoyed the journey, the outcome is always a win.
Money is nice, but it can't buy experience. And as writers... experience is how we become better, how we stretch our writing muscle and how we learn to create things we never thought we would.
Here's another cliché for ya.
Do something that you love and you'll never work a day in your life.
This is categorically untrue.
I love my job. I feel that my job is important. I save animals.
But I WORK.
I work HARD.
I come home exhausted, bleeding, bruised, battered and I'm pretty sure that my back, neck and knees have given up on me completely.
Here's what I know though...
I make very little money doing what I do. Vet med is not a high paying field. That's just a fact. However I would rather live paycheck to paycheck in a job that I enjoy than spend my days in misery for higher wages.
No paycheck is worth giving up your joy.
Another thing I've learned is that even if you HATE your job, do not quit until you have another lined up.
And boy did I learn that one the hard way.
I spent most of my life completely spoiled and, I admit it, downright entitled. If I didn't like a job, I simply walked away. No prospects for another, no way of paying my own way. I just simply latched on to someone else to pay for me and looked (sort of) for something else when I felt like it.
This is no way to live.
Financial independence is true independence. When you're financially dependent on another person, your entire life is at their mercy and your choices aren't your own.
NEVER GIVE SOMEONE ELSE YOUR CHOICES.
People find the strangest reasons to stay in toxic relationships. Just like a paycheck, there is nothing so big as to give up your joy in life.
Maybe the past was spectacular and that time in the sun yielded children, shared pets, shared assets, shared living quarters... but now the sun has descended and you're unhappy.
Your children will forgive you.
I'm the child of divorce.
Your children will forgive you.
Happy parents are healthier for them than parents who are still together. Trust me on that one.
I have clients who have split up and share custody of their pets. And houses and assets are just things. Things are never a reason to stay somewhere that you're miserable.
The fact is that tomorrow is promised to no one. So if you're not happy NOW, what are you waiting for?
There was a contestant on America's Got Talent that had terminal cancer and all she wanted to do was sing. She said something, and I can't remember the exact quote but it was profound. It was something to the effect of; you can't wait for life to be perfect to decide to be happy.
Decide to be happy.
Do not stay with someone because you can live with them
Be with someone because you can't live without them.
You can not change the past. There is no rewind button on life, no matter how much we may want one at times.
Make peace with your past.
Forgive yourself for things you've done and said that you wish you hadn't. All the wishes in the world can't put words back inside your mouth nor undo what's done.
Some of your past wasn't created by you. I will not be one of those people who tells you to forgive those who have wronged you. Frankly, I don't believe that's always necessary nor always possible.
Some things can not be forgiven.
HOWEVER.... everything we do and everything we go through... these things shape us into the people we become. Dwelling on the past or trying to wish it away is trying to erase the person you are.
Don't erase yourself. Embrace yourself.
And always remember, no matter what, no matter how bad it was, your past can not dictate your future. So don't let it shape your present.
Time Does NOT Heal All Wounds.
Of all the sayings in all the world, "time heals all wounds" is the one I hate the most.
It's absolutely false. Time absolutely doesn't heal all. What time does... it creates scars. It creates wounds you learn to live with.
Grief is the best example of a wound that time can not heal. You don't simply wake up one day perfectly okay that someone you love is gone. Your life has changed. Irreparably and permanently and expecting time to fix it is a battle you will lose.
Some pain we simply must adjust to and learn to live with. And in time, we do. It does get easier. That much is definitely true.
It doesn't mean it's healed though.
Never Stop Learning and Question Everything.
And I do mean everything.
No matter how smart you are, you will never know everything there is to know.
We don't even know how the majority of our brains work!
The fact is, the facts keep changing. We learn, we correct, we create new subjects.
It wasn't that long ago that the internet wasn't a thing. Now, we can't imagine life without it. It wasn't that long before that when people believed the Earth was flat.
If that were true, there'd be nothing on the planet. Cats would push everything off the edge. Trust me.
Blind belief without question can be called faith. It can also be called ignorance. Refusal to change your mind based on empirical evidence is living a closed life.
And if your religion requires that you hate people for who they are, you should probably start questioning that one immediately.
There's no such thing as too much learning or asking too many questions.
The only stupid question in the world is the one you do not ask.
And... asking if an iced mocha is a cold beverage.
I was asked that once at Starbucks.
I said no.
I'm not even a little sorry.
You have one body and no one is going to take care of it but you.
Unless you're in a coma or something, then someone else will probably take over... but as long as you're awake and cognizant, make sure you're taking care of yourself.
Working 80 hours a week is often praised as a strong work ethic. This is a toxic thought to bestow on people. You need time to sleep. To relax. To recuperate. To enjoy your life. Work-Life balance matters.
As much as I've tried to fight for the contrary, and... I've tried... water that is poured through coffee first, doesn't actually count as drinking water.
Take it from someone who's had 17 kidney stones, water is important.
Fruits and vegetables and healthy foods are important.
But so are chocolate and cake and snacks. Life is to be enjoyed. But find a balance that ensures you get to enjoy it for as long as possible.
I have a lot of tattoos and I know that there are people in my life who think I have too many and that they're a waste of money and I might regret them someday.
But it's my body and I love my ink.
I am me. And I'm going to make my body look the way I want it to.
You are the only person that sleeps inside of your skin so it doesn't matter what other people think of the shell that holds your soul. It matters if your soul feels like itself inside that shell.
Be authentic to who you are.
If you are overweight (hi. I am overweight) and you don't want to be (hi. I don't want to be), change it.
It's hard and it sucks because exercise was invented by a sadist who wanted people to suffer. But if you're not happy, you do what it takes to be happy.
But do it for YOU. Not because it's the way someone else thinks you should look. If you're perfectly fine with your weight, you owe a single digit pants size to NO ONE.
Gender is fluid and the one you're assigned at birth may not be the one you truly are.
You do not owe anyone an explanation nor an apology. You owe yourself the authenticity of being who you really are.
Some people will not accept you. That is their problem.
It will hurt.
But it's their problem.
Let yourself be yourself. Whoever that is, whatever that means. Yes, there may be people who walk away for lack of understanding. But there are also people out there that are more than willing to accept you just as you are and you WILL find those people. But first... you have to be you so that you can introduce yourself properly.
Along with embracing yourself and being who you truly are, accept people for who they truly are.
You love someone for who they are, not for who you think you can make them. Don't spend your life trying to change people.
And never choose tolerance. Tolerance is a word with a negative connotation. We should not be teaching people to tolerate one another. We should be teaching people to ACCEPT one another. As they are. As they're meant to be. As we want to be accepted.
Easier Said Than Done.
It's easy to sit here and write these words.
Getting to the point that I learned them... that wasn't easy at all.
And I still have a long way to go.
Some of the things I've written here, I'm still struggling with. Part of writing this was a reminder to myself.
If I can leave you with anything here... let it be this.
Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to others.
Be kind to animals.
If you're doing those things, you're doing okay.