This Is Your Life

Some of my friends and acquaintances suffer in ways that I used to do, and I want so badly for them to know that life doesn’t have to be that way. Each of us is on our own path, and I cannot control the rate, speed, direction of yours, but I hope to be able to help along the way somehow, if possible.

But first I want to give you an update of where I am today. Yesterday’s post was written last week, when one day I was feeling sad because Mr. Right Now wasn’t doing what I thought he ought to be doing, ie, what I want, and I longed for the connection shared with my ex. That feeling passed, and every day gets a bit easier. (And Mr. Right Now redeemed himself.) (And he doesn’t have to do what I want all the time.) Though I don’t want to spend the entire relationship making comparisons, I can’t help but notice how much easier the new guy is. How even-keeled. The coolest thing is that he asked me to be the leader in the relationship because he says he doesn’t know what to do, which I find hard to believe from a grown man who has no trouble attracting women. No matter. I like being the leader today. It’s the absolute opposite role I played in my last relationship, that’s for sure.

Enough about that.

Back to you.

You’re unhappy with your life and you have no idea where to start, what to do, how to make it better. You’re tired of doing the same thing, day in, day out. You hate your job, you can’t stand the people there, and you have to spend most of your waking life with these assholes! Everywhere you go a cloud of impending doom follows. Sure, something good might happen, but it’s only a matter of time before something tragic or merely frustrating happens. Even if your life got better, you know you’d still be the same you, and you worry that maybe you’re just defective, that happiness is impossible for you. What do you do?

I’ll tell you what I did.

First, I left my husband (who, by the way was a perfectly good husband). Then, I left my job (which was a perfectly good job). I had some money saved in the meantime, and I got a job I liked, making far less money, and I downsized my life dramatically, and I moved into the bedroom of a friend’s house for five times less than what I paid in rent for my townhouse.

I’m not saying you have to take such drastic measures. It’s not up to me to decide what you do. Only you can decide that.

More importantly the actions I took during that time were this: I read self-help and spiritual books on topics that spoke to me, I talked to a therapist who worked with me on a sliding scale based on my low income, I did not drink or drown my sorrows in unhealthy ways like with alcohol or drugs. I prayed a lot. I meditated as much as I could bear. I researched articles online for topics important for me: how to be in a healthy relationship, how to find your dream job, how to be more assertive, how to meditate–any question that popped into my head, I asked Dr. Google. I got books on these topics from the library. I read positive affirmations and I read them again, repeating them in my head throughout the day. I talked to people, trusted friends and my sponsor who guided me. I exercised more. I went outside more, I took long walks on trails in the woods. When I felt sad, I cried. If I felt angry, I raged, often in the form of typing words on this screen. I tried to practice exercises I learned from my self-help books on mindfulness and pay attention just to this moment, right here, now, and not what I have to do after this, or next week, next year, or 10 and 20 years down the road.

This is your life, now. Today. Don’t you want to enjoy it?

One problem I’m having right now is deciding what I want. Why not write down a list of what I want, and go from there? With my ex, I wanted to live together, possibly get married, and do whatever I thought he wanted me to do: become a stepmother, move to wherever he found a better job near his kids, and basically rearrange my life around whatever he planned for himself. Today I have the freedom to do what I want. Mr. Right Now doesn’t want to live with anyone again, ie, he’s not planning to get married again. My first thought was, Maybe I don’t want that either. Maybe it’s nice to be alone, waking at 4am to write my blog posts, sit outside if want to, sprawl across the bed if I want to, leave my shoes in the middle of the floor. Or maybe I’m changing my mind based on what someone else wants, and that’s no good.

What do you want? Ask yourself, what do I want from this life?

Now go out there and get it.

Here’s a song that my dad used to play all the time when my sisters and I were little, and looking back on it, I wonder if this was his personal anthem, a big middle finger to my mom, who left him, and left him heartbroken from what my sisters tell me. I was too little to remember. There’s a lyric in this song that I took the name of my blog from, which is this: “Either way it’s okay / you wake up with yourself.”

This is your life.

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Something Better’s In Store

Last night I dreamt that there was a chance Mom was going to survive her stroke, wake up and be herself again, alive and recovered. We were in North Carolina, where she lived, and she’d had the stroke and was on life support, just like what happened in real life, except we kept her on life support for several days instead of the 24 hours she had a machine breathing for her just so my sisters and I could get there to say our goodbyes. I’d made a Facebook post about what had happened, and then a few days later the doctors said it looked like she might make a remarkable, miraculous recovery. I debated posting a Facebook request for prayers, because I believe in the power of prayer and felt that if I could get enough people to pray maybe she would make it. I myself prayed really hard, and thought of all the things I’d say to her once she made it through, how much I loved her and saw her as a wonderful role model. At some point I got confused, because I remembered the reality that we’d taken her off life support, that she had not made it. Or maybe I’d woken up by that time, I don’t remember. The belief that she might live and I could tell her how I felt was so real.

My ex’s birthday is around this time of year.

I can’t begin to tell you how much it pisses me off that he abandoned me just a few months after my mother died.

Who does that?

Maybe a lot of people.

Father’s Day is also coming up, and I have a lot of unresolved anger towards my dad for being Stonewall, ie, emotionally unavailable. He loves Stonewall Jackson so it seems an appropriate nickname. Still, it’s like being angry with someone for them being who they are. They cannot help it. It’s a futile resentment.

And then Steven is a dad, and I felt like I took a backseat to his kids at times, which is part of why we broke up. Most of the time it didn’t bother me, or rather, I told myself it didn’t, and I didn’t complain about his choice to spend holidays with them, because I don’t really care about holidays anyway. It would’ve been nice to have him around but I would survive. A little piece of my heart felt sad that he couldn’t be around my family when I went to visit them, holidays or not, because if he wasn’t in the right mood I didn’t want to ask, and I wouldn’t have wanted him around during those times anyway. I never introduced him to my mom because I wanted him to be in the right mood when he met her, because I knew she wouldn’t like him if she saw him in a depressive or hypomanic state, unless she’d already met him when he was even-keeled, or mildly manic. But even then, it’s hard to say. She was good at reading people, and she had no problem changing her mind about someone, especially if they hurt me.

Something I heard from a friend last night about how to approach life struck me. When we ask for something of the universe (or multiverse, really, or God or a higher power, whatever word you choose), only three options exist: 1) yes, you can have whatever it is you want right now, 2) not yet, or 3) there’s something better in store for you.

Number 3 really struck me. Though it doesn’t allow a person to live in the moment, it gives hope for a better future. I would add to it that if times are hard right now, just think of what can be learned from this situation right now. For example, why am I attracting a particular kind of person in my life today? And if the relationship is not what I think I want, what is it I’m sending out into the universe that’s bringing this back to me, and what can I learn from this? Maybe I’m thinking I will settle for whatever or whoever comes my way. I might be thinking, Oh, it’s okay if that person doesn’t text me good night or respond to my texts, when I know in my heart I like someone who communicates their interest in me. So that’s a red flag. I get to choose how I live my life and who I spend my time with. I do not have to spend my time with someone who takes me for granted.

On the other hand, I don’t have a lot of time for a boyfriend, so this helps me be more independent. Nothing wrong with Mr. Right Now. In that case, I can ask myself what is to be learned from this. Maybe it’s just that I have the choice. I have power and freedom to choose how to forge ahead in this life. While I have no control over what others say or do, I do have control over what I say and do. And this is what I’m doing right now.

Mostly it just makes me think of how I miss my ex.

But then I have to remember how strongly his moods affected me, how much he hurt me, how hard I tried to keep the relationship together to no avail. There’s something better in store for me.

What can I learn from this right now?

Well, everything I just wrote, for example. And that I get to spend time on studying, on changing my career, on learning who and what I want to be and how I want to live this life. Once I get through school I may have a different attitude towards who and what I want. It’s nice to have a companion in the meantime. Maybe he’s not pledging his undying love for me, but I’m not exactly pledging mine to him either. No other person can be my higher power.

The main thing is not to have someone machine-gun-text me all day or ask when they can see me again and certainly not to feel ignored or taken for granted, and definitely not for me to rearrange my schedule around theirs. What’s really important is, Do I feel safe and secure in this relationship? Does this person communicate through words and actions that he’s committed to the relationship, and do I trust that? That’s the ideal situation. Then I can feel comfortable doing what I need to do in order to grow, and they can do the same, without us being up each other’s asses all the time. I need my own life, and they need theirs.

Next week I’m driving the big-rig back to North Carolina, sadly. I hate to see her go but I’ve got to get my little Honda Civic back—a faithful and trusty car who deserves her own blog post—and I need to get back to Maryland to focus on my school work. I’m learning about vitamins and minerals this semester. I had to drop my herbalism class, and I dropped my fermented foods cooking class because I just cannot take it all on while working a full-time job and taking time for self-care (which is a necessity, btw). Maybe it will take me longer than a year and that will be okay. I’d hoped to finish asap so that I can make more money and get my own place, but the world seems to have something different in store for me.

Happiness can’t be found in making more money or getting one’s own home. True happiness is finding meaning in life today. That’s another thing I learned from someone who was quoting from a Max Strom book. In spite of the hardships I’ve faced in the last nine months, and in spite of what a downer this post might seem to be, I can honestly say I’m pretty darn happy with my life today.

I am grateful for the blessings I’ve received. When I think of the heartache I’ve been through in recent months, I must remember that God has a bigger, better plan in store for me. Something much better is on the way, maybe even just around the corner. Maybe even right in front of my face.

Whatever the case, there’s something better in store for me.

Here’s a really good codependent song for those of us who feel like we need someone, because we don’t yet realize we don’t really need anyone but a higher power and our own self-love:

 

Cinderella

I should be spending every spare minute on schoolwork, but instead I’m writing, because my life depends on it. And I keep listening to this TI cover song on repeat:

The original version came on the radio while I was driving back from North Carolina, another reminder of Steven, who’d played Joan as Policewoman’s version for me many times. I love this song, in spite of the effed up message it portrays, the modern Cinderella, “Pretty Woman” lie that is total bullshit, portraying the woman as victim and the man as hero, rescuer to come and save her from her life of poverty. It’s an incredibly sad song to me, but I love it.

And I can relate. I’ve certainly felt that way before, on both sides. I would love a sugar daddy, and I would have also loved to buy whatever my ex wanted to put a smile on his face. He spent a lot of money on me, and I actually spent a lot of money on him (though not nearly as much as he spent on me, because I’m poor and he’s rich). When I saw something at work I thought he might like, I got it for him, including this $12 coconut vanilla lotion that he inhaled like it was cocaine. Groceries, health and beauty supplies, supplements, all of that stuff is not cheap in an organic grocery store, even with my 20% off discount. Anyway.

Here’s the original video from TI:

My favorite part of this video is at the end, when we realize it was all a dream she made up, and the guy at the counter brings her back to reality. She asks, “What? You need me to do your hair again?”

And he says, “You gone charge me this time?”

My interpretation of that question is this: you did my hair for free last time, and I’d love to get it for free again, because maybe we all want a sugar daddy or sugar mama, but the reality is I’m broke and you’re broke, so get your ass back to flipping them burgers because we have bills to pay, and I’m hungry. I might be reading too much into it there with that last part, but that’s the message I like. You do what you have to do, and no one else can rescue you from your life. And I would add this for my young readers: Go to college (aka university). Or any readers. You don’t have to be young to go to college, or a trade school, or something that allows you to get a job doing something that will allow you to pay your rent/mortgage and bills. And yes, of course follow your dream. You do not have to flip burgers or rely on someone else to make your dreams come true for you. I know that I personally would not want to be in Melania Trump’s shoes. That’s all I got to say about that.

Just Be Yourself

Like I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been listening to a lot of Neko Case’s music lately, which I used to listen to years ago when I lived in Atlanta, in a big house with a garden tub in an expansive bathroom that was bigger than my bedroom now. That’s because, like Texas, everything is bigger in Georgia, and much cheaper than Maryland, and also I made a lot more money back then. I was rich, really. I don’t even remember how much money I made at the time. Maybe 65 grand a year. But I wouldn’t have told you I was rich. I’d have told you I was in so much debt, because I was, and I had so many bills, that I couldn’t make it on my own, blah blah yada yada, poor me. But you better believe I got my nails done every week, and I bought myself nice clothes, and I can’t even tell you how much money I spent on alcohol. I calculated that it must’ve been somewhere around a thousand dollars a month, when you factor in all the nights I went out to eat (and drink), and I have no idea how I managed to scrape up that kind of extra money, except that it wasn’t all my money, especially in my first marriage, when it was in fact mostly his money. And no, I couldn’t have lived in that house alone, but I absolutely could’ve had roommates or probably even my own studio apartment. But at the time I didn’t believe that. And that’s what matters.

Today I make about $23,000 a year, which is not a lot in the US—it’s barely more than a thousand a month. But my bills are also significantly lower, and I live off my student loans, which I’ll be paying off for decades, possibly until I die, which is worth it to me. It will be like a house payment. I’m investing in my future and I absolutely do not regret it one bit. And just about everyone in America has debt. It’s the American way. My plan is to live a simple life and enjoy what I do every day—working to live, instead of living to work.

But I digress. What I wanted to write about was how much this song reminds me of my first marriage.

Someone told me a while back that sometimes when we grieve the loss of one person, we grieve all our losses before then, especially if we didn’t properly grieve for them at the time. My first husband, who I’ll call Ryan, really loved me. And I played games with him. I would ignore him and play hard to get so that he’d chase me even harder, and it worked. I did and said the meanest things I could come up with to see how far I could take it, to see if he’d stay with me, and he did. The only thing that could make him leave me was if I cheated on him, he’d told me, so finally I cheated on him, and he changed his mind. He said he was willing to try to work it out. But by that time I’d fallen for another guy, who became my second husband.

When Ryan and I got engaged I knew in my heart I didn’t want it, but I was nearing 30, and thought I was getting old (hahaha!), and that if I wanted to have kids I should probably go ahead and get started. Funny thing is, I didn’t really want kids. What I really wanted was to love someone, because I felt incapable. And I was at the time. I couldn’t even love myself. Yet everything was about me, and how I’m going to get mine. And at the time I bumbled along doing whatever landed in front of me, because I did not know what else to do, or rather, how to do it. How to follow your heart? Fear of failure drove me.

It’s hard not to feel bad today for how I treated Ryan. In many ways I treated him the way Steven treats me now, except that Steven doesn’t get drunk and throw things at me or punch my arm and verbally abuse me. So yeah, pretty different (lol), but similar in that he’s self-centered and self-loathing.

And if you’re feeling sorry for Ryan, don’t. He’s a good-looking guy who owns his own business and lives in a $750,000 house and he drives a BMW and of course he has a girlfriend. Not that those things are what make a person happy—they certainly wouldn’t make me happy, but what I’m getting at is that he gets what he wants. He has two dogs who he loves and I’m sure he has no problem attracting women. Probably young gorgeous women happy to jump in bed with a good-looking rich dude.

That just sounds so depressing to me though. I need meaning in my life. Ryan could really use God in his life. When I would talk about how I needed to quit drinking, he’d say, You don’t need to quit. Just cut back. And don’t go to AA with all those religious Jesus freaks.

What is the point of this blog post?

Really just thinking about how now I know what it’s like to get my heart broken, the way I broke Ryan’s heart. All the money in the world really doesn’t matter if you can’t spend it with or on someone you love. Relationships, cars, houses, none of that matters without true love. I do hope Ryan is happy today. He’s not one who delved deep into the meaning of life the way I like to, so I believe he is happy. Different strokes for different folks. I can say he needs God, but it’s not up to me to say he needs God or a higher power. The important thing for me to remember is that I need God. If I didn’t have faith in God, the Universe, Buddha, a power greater than myself, whatever you want to call it, I would not be here today. I would have committed suicide or drank and drugged myself to death.

Which reminds me of another gorgeous song by Neko Case:

I don’t know why the universe or multiverse is here, or why I am here, just that I am. And I want to live this life the best way I know how while I’m here. And I am so grateful for my life today, even though Steven broke my heart, and even though Mom died suddenly without me getting a chance to tell her how much I love her, and that I am not resentful at her for growing up with my sisters and me instead of beforehand. Hey, some parents never grow up. So you did pretty darn good, Ma.

I’m on my way in a couple hours to Mom’s house now so I guess this is all weighing heavily on me right now. I want to write so much more, like about how I was raised by a pack of wild, self-absorbed teenagers, at least three of whom turned out to be angels who I’m so grateful to have in my life (my mom and my sisters), but I’ve got to get ready for this nine-hour drive, and I’m the kind of girl who likes to pack everything I own, just in case. You never know how you’ll feel that day, right?

I apologize if this was a tearjerker of a post. I mean, I know I was crying there for a minute, but I never know how it comes across to my readers. I will try to be funnier in the next one but I can’t make any promises. It’s hard to try to be funny. You have to just do it. You have to just be yourself.

Peace and love,

TCH

 

Happy Mother’s Day To My Mother In Heaven

Years ago I went to Costa Rica for vacation and one morning I remember waking up to the trills and warbles of birds just chirping away, and I remember thinking how beautiful it was, what a paradise it was there. My boyfriend and I were staying at a simple but gorgeous bed and breakfast that cost only $17 a night and had an open courtyard in the middle of it, and I imagined all these colorful parakeets and macaws perched on papaya trees, serenading their little hearts out to the world, and I remember thinking, I could live here.

Then a few years ago I remember the same thing happening, except I lived where I live now, in Maryland. One morning I woke up early, maybe around five o’clock, and I heard the choir of birds caroling, and it sounded like a rain forest was right outside my window. I remember thinking that I’d never noticed that before, that I didn’t realize I lived in paradise, right here.

That would have been after I got sober, because I got sober six months after I moved to Maryland. Prior to that, if I was awake at five A.M., I was not a happy camper. I would have been hung over and if I’d noticed any birds singing, I’d have wanted them to shut the hell up while this human tried to get some sleep around here. At least wait until eight or nine, okay? What was there to be happy about? A new day. New day, my ass. I’d wished I hadn’t woken up, ever.

But today I am so glad that I woke up.

I am so grateful to be blessed with the sound of the birds singing their song.

Soon after Mom died I was pretty sure I heard owls hooting every morning and night, and even during the day. That’s Mom, I thought. She’s letting me know she’s with me, because Mom loved owls. Later I figured out they were mourning doves—at least the ones during the day—because owls don’t make daytime calls. I know I heard an Eastern screech owl a few nights after she died, when my sister and I were walking on the trail near Mom’s house in North Carolina, and it sounded ghostly and eerie but somehow comforting. It sounded like the first button on this page.

It doesn’t matter if they were owls or mourning doves, both are significant, and even if they were neither, that doesn’t matter either. What matters is that today I value my life and the world I live in. I miss Mom and I try not to feel guilty for all the times I did not tell her how much I loved her, how much I appreciated her, and what a role model to me she was. But it’s hard sometimes.

Right now I’m so busy with life I only had time to write this because I woke up at five A.M. I am taking a fascinating class on digestion and the gut-brain connection that is full of solutions I want to give my ex-boyfriend, and it’s all I can do not to buy an extra copy of my professor’s book and ship it to him. I am sure he’d benefit from it, because it’s all about problems he has, which I believe are the cause of his depression and anxiety, and I know he’d be willing to try it. It kills me not to send it to him. But he doesn’t want to be my friend anymore because I’m dating other guys (and really by other “guys,” I mean one guy: Jay), and so dinner at Steven’s house is off. It’s so hard for me to understand how he can throw it all away so easily, how he is basically saying that if he can’t have this relationship on his terms, which means me waiting around for him while he doesn’t commit, then he doesn’t want it. It really pisses me off, to be honest. I deserve more than that. Overall I treated him very well, though I hurt his feelings once, and he cannot let that go. It’s still so hard for me to let go, of the relationship, but I’m not changing my mind. I’m not going to stop talking to Jay—who, by the way is an amazing guy with far more advantages over Steven—just so I can have a chance at dinner with Steven who may or may not want to commit to me.

But I am not going to mail him a copy of the book, or email him links to Tara Brach’s podcasts, or send him any other solutions that come my way, because he’s a grown man and he can take care of himself, just like I’m a grown woman and I am taking care of myself. He has his journey and I have mine.

I hope that my mom knows how much I love her, how much she will always mean to me, and I believe she does. I am pretty sure she did. I can hear it in the birds outside singing their song.

Do Your Own Thing!

The other day I calculated that it will take me only one year to finish school. That is no time. Already I’m thinking of the new car I’ll buy and maybe the place of my own I’ll rent at first, and then one day I will buy my own place. Nothing fancy, maybe just another Honda Civic 2-door coupe, because I’ll have so much debt I will need to live fairly simply, which is fine. I’ll probably stay in my current living situation for a while to save money. But it will be so nice to get mani pedis again, and maybe a personal trainer, and regular massages. Those are all luxuries I afforded with my old job in marketing, which seems like a hundred years ago to me now. Everything seems like a hundred years ago to me now, except what’s happening in my life today. Did my mom really die less than a year ago? Did Steven break my heart only five months ago?

At my current job I’m training to be a “manager on duty” which means I will act as store manager on one or two days of the week. The managers  and the owners at work have always liked me, which is a good feeling. I love being teacher’s pet. Especially because they are good people, and I’m so comfortable there. Maybe I could be a nutritionist there. They have a nutritionist who gives free consults in the other store once a week—it’s her way of getting new clients, I think. She has her own practice in a town outside in the country, closer to Baltimore, while I’m closer to DC.

The comfortable feeling I have at my current job is so different from when I worked at a marketing agency. The last company I worked for was owned by a really good guy (and quite good-looking), and my manager was also a great guy (also a hottie, not that there’s neither here nor there… and both were British so they had those sexy British accents… just saying), but most of the people in the office were recent college grads, who were hard for me to be around. Though I looked near their age, and they thought as much, I’d already been divorced once, had gotten sober, and was going through my second divorce, and had no interest in marketing, no interest in becoming a manager there, no interest in spending my free time on marketing, or working late. They were interested in moving up, making more money, and they actually liked commercials. I never knew anyone actually watched those, on purpose, not even the Super Bowl commercials, because I hated football (still do), and could not understand why the general public liked the things they do, like pop music, for example. Though I get it now. It’s catchy, fun, and happy, and some of those commercials are pretty funny. But I’ve just never been that interested in selling stuff to people, until now, and it’s only because I believe in where I work, I believe in the products, and I don’t try to sell people something they don’t want or need, nor would I want someone to risk their health just to buy an expensive vitamin they think will help them lose weight. At the time though, it was hard to be around so many college graduates willing to work harder for much less than I, who operated under the work hard play hard basis, which was what I used to do, especially the play hard part. I just wanted to collect a paycheck after doing a good job for no more than 40 hours a week. I’d be lying if I said I wanted to work more now, and quite honestly I think we should all work no more than 32 hours a week. Or do something you love so much it doesn’t feel like work. I am hoping that’s how it will be for me. Though right now it would behoove me to be doing homework instead of writing this blog. Too bad no one’s paying me to just write what’s in my head all the time. But that’s another topic for another blog post on another day. In short, I wouldn’t want this to become work.

I remember once I had to work with a young woman who was the account manager for the ads I wrote and managed and finding out that her mom was only a few years older than me. This particular young woman I think of often because of the way my career there ended, and I must say it’s because I get this feeling that she had some part in my demise, though obviously it was ultimately my responsibility, my attitude, that got me there. I’ll call her Kennedy because that’s a good millennial name. Kennedy seemed to hold both respect and awe for me, particularly for the fact that I was willing to leave a high-paying job to explore what I wanted to do with my life. At the same time, she was very driven, ambitious, and quite bossy. For someone who was almost 40 to be bossed around by a girl young enough to be my daughter in an environment where I already felt uncomfortable and out of place, and that being my first experience like that, ie, the knowledge of getting older, and having such experiences like that, such as having a doctor who looked like he just got out of high school (though to be fair, I look younger)—well, it’s a weird experience.

At work I have a similar situation with a friend I’ll call Barbara, except that now I’m in Kennedy’s shoes, and Barbara’s at the near-end of her career stage. Barbara feels that the company is full of politics, all they want to hire are young people they don’t have to pay much, and the young are willing to work harder for less, and Barbara needs a job she can stay in for the next five or 10 years, a good place to retire. She’s been working for 40 years or so, and she’s tired. She takes care of her autistic grandson in her “free” time, lives with her dysfunctional daughter and the daughter’s moocher boyfriend. Barbara has a hard job of being buyer for my department, and some young woman has stepped in as her not-boss-but-boss, ie, and unofficial boss—so technically that’s the one who’s in Kennedy’s shoes. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s hard getting older in the workplace. Barbara doesn’t make enough money to live on her own, and her grandson is the light of her life, but she deserves her own life.

That’s why I am studying nutrition. So that I can do something that I presumably will enjoy in my later years. It’s a big leap, borrowing all this student loan money for something I’m not sure I’ll like, because you never know what something’s truly like until you’re in it.

For the longest time I had this (subconscious?) idea in the back of my head that I’d most likely meet some man who’d help me, maybe who’d even support me while I was in school. Maybe I could work part time at my job so I’d have more time to study and do what I wanted. When Steven left me, I felt like I had nothing, no one. Mom had already died, so who was going to take care of me now?

Guess how empowering it is to realize that is not how it has to be? You can’t really know until you go through it. But I can tell you this: I’m doing this all on my own, and I feel pretty friggin fantastic. Not only that, but I’ve been doing this on my own. I borrowed money for my undergraduate and master’s in creative writing, I pay my own bills, I pay my own rent, I paid for my car, I pay for my student loans, I make my own money, and I have been doing this since I graduated high school. Never once have I done anything illegal, immoral, or degrading for it. I almost became a stripper once, but after this geriatric dude waved at me while I was “auditioning” for the other strippers in the back room, I realized, That old man is waving at ME. I was 21 years old at the time, and I thought, How lonely must his life be to be in a strip club in the middle of a weekday, waving at a girl young enough to be his granddaughter. And how I’d have to flirt with men like that who were potentially child molesters or just very sick, lonely, broken, depressed, lost souls. And I don’t mean to judge anyone out there who is a stripper. You do what you think you have to do, and more power to you, sister. If I could’ve done it, I absolutely would have, and maybe I wouldn’t have so much student loan debt. But that would mean emotional bankruptcy for me, and I was already there at the time. No need to add to it.

Here’s what I want to say to all the young women out there reading this: follow your heart, do your own thing, take care of yourself, do not rely on someone else to come rescue you. Think about what you want your life to look like, and if you’re dating someone right now who you know in your heart is not who you want, please find the courage to leave. It can be so hard on your own sometimes but it is possible and it is worth it. Nothing in my life has ever been more empowering. And you will find the right one, eventually. I believe it for myself, and I believe that there’s someone out there for everyone. Be who you want to attract. That’s what I learned. I wanted so badly for my ex-husband to make more of his life, get a more meaningful (yet hopefully better paying) career. Those were things I really wanted to do for myself. It’s not my job to fix someone else to be who I want them to be. Instead I can focus on my own dreams.

I need to get ready for work now, so I’ll leave you with this favorite of mine, on my list of empowering songs I compiled on a playlist a few months ago: