Things I’d Say to a Younger Me

Work is a waste of time. It’s not so much work, because I believe in contributing to the world, but jobs. Jobs are a meaningless vortex of stagnation, a spiral of nothingness, a never-ending Groundhog Day in which, after about a year or so for me, the mundane, repetitive tasks become excruciatingly difficult to continue. It’s largely due to my mother’s death and the fact that I’m grieving, but I’ve noticed this with every major life event I’ve ever had. After each of my two divorces my jobs became unbearable to the point where I left a well-paying job in the marketing industry after my second divorce and I never looked back.

It would be a temporary fix (the real fix is within me–more on that later), but it occurred to me today that maybe I need to change departments at the organic grocery store job where I currently work in the wellness department. Customers ask for medical advice as though I’m a practitioner which I find increasingly stressful. At first I liked it, because I thought I’d become a nutritionist and this would be great practice. But then my mom died and that changed everything. I realized it was just not me. Nutrition is interesting… but it’s just not me.

Years ago I went to see David Sedaris at a reading, and someone (me?) asked him how he came to be a writer, and he replied, “I was just really lousy at everything else.” And I thought to myself, I’m terrible at everything else too! Maybe I too can make it. Maybe there is hope for me. That was nearly 20 years ago.

I spent the next 15 or so years getting drunk every night after work, to unwind after the stress of the day’s work. I’d told myself I’d work whatever job was available, and I’d write at night after work. And while it’s not impossible, it’s pretty hard to chase your dream when you’re blackout drunk. Many addicts aren’t as lucky as I have been. They end up committing suicide, overdosing, or worse, living a long, slow painful empty and meaningless, soulless life without a real connection to God.

In Wayne Dyer’s memoir, I Can See Clearly Now, he writes about how he always chased his dream no matter what. He knew in his heart that he was a writer and a teacher, and he never let anything stand in the way of that. It’s so easy to let life get in the way, especially as you get older; it’s not impossible to follow your dream then, but it’s MUCH more difficult. Even for those who didn’t waste their youth on alcohol and drugs, most people accumulate debt, have children, and take on responsibilities that take time, money, and effort to maintain, leaving little room for dream-chasing.

Here’s my advice to anyone out there who’s in their late teens or early 20’s:  Follow your heart no matter what it takes. Never listen to naysayers, do not let fear get in the way, don’t get so wasted you lose yourself, and follow your passion. Do not worry about student loan debt, do not take whatever job is out there just to have job security, do not have back-up plans unless they completely encompass who YOU are (in which case they should be your Plan A anyway). Do not be who your parents think you should be. Do not be the person that you think society wants you to be. Be true to YOUR heart.

I want to say I have no regrets, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. While I know intellectually that it took all that I went through to get to where I am now, I don’t yet feel in my heart the conviction that comes with having arrived at some better place with gratitude that it was all worth it. I do have tremendous gratitude for the life I live today, but I am not there 100%. Of course I would rather have learned these lessons at the age of 20 and have moved on to do great things, whatever that means. I am still in the process of healing, and that just doesn’t happen overnight. I do believe it’s possible for anyone, any age, including myself (I’m not that old, and no one is too old anyway!), to start living a more meaningful life at any time. You can start right now, regardless of what’s happened in your life, regardless of what a mess you may or may not have made. I am living proof.

Here’s a beautiful song called “Somebody to Love” by Valerie June. I like it because her words “I’ll be somebody” carry a different meaning (for me) in this version than the original (though I love the original/recorded way she sings it, too).

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