Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Making Ripples

I knew I wanted to write something about turning 25, but I was unsure how to frame it for a while (my birthday was last Monday, Memorial Day to the rest of you). I've been long familiar with Maya Angelou's works and words, but her recent passing and the abundance of articles filled with some of her best quotes that have been circulating the web felt particularly poignant as I reflect on my life so far and where I want it go. So, I'm putting a few of her better-known quotes in context to my current life.

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."

Certainly one of her most famous quotes, and it has resonated pretty deeply in me each time I saw it posted this past week. I've always considered myself a pretty positive person (especially in the summer and the weather lately has been pretty wonderful), but like most people I know, I expect and hope that things around me will conform to my life. If I don't like something, I try to change it. If that doesn't work, I sometimes resort to complaining—or worse, giving up.  Juggling work, friends and "me" time can be mentally exhausting, made worse by the pressure to obtain the status symbol of being busy every. single. night. (Seriously, though, having events and plans every night of the week is NYC's version of the popular clique in high school, and sometimes I just want to go home, Seamless French toast and fries from my favorite diner and watch TV without feeling guilty about not being out.)

"We may encounter defeats but we must not be defeated."

A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and came across a tweet from Mackenzie that simply asked: "What are you looking forward to today?". As embarrassing as it is to admit, it took me several minutes to think about what I was happy about that day. The last month has involved a lot of travel with a lot of delays on top of laryngitis and a sinus infection that I'm still trying to kick, among other things. I've been waking up and focusing on the negative, the mundane and a jam-packed schedule, and Mackenzie's tweet reminded me I should be focusing on the positive, the things that make me happy and that I have to look forward to, even if my only plans that day are to go to work and  hit the grocery store Seamless French toast & fries on my way home. Hitting a "milestone" year is a reminder of how fast life can go by (trying not think about the next one being 30!). I want to make a conscious effort to stop making excuses for bad moods, though I wholly admit there will still be plenty of bad days.

A few other things I took note of as I rounded out year 24:
Confidence in yourself is key to happier, healthier life. Do what's right for you, not someone else. If you're not happy in a relationship (or a friendship), get out. If you're miserable at your job, look for a new one. If you don't like how you look, learn to accept and love the things you can't change, and go after the things that you can—change the way you eat, the way you move, the way you dress. Learn what makes you happy and comfortable, you'll know it when you see it (and feel it).

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."

Know when to say yes, and when to say no. Is this going to make me a better person? Will I regret my decision later (ahem, impulse shopping)? I said "yes" to a new job last year—one where I took a pay cut, but one that has ultimately led me to grow personally and professionally. I've learned to say "yes" to opportunities, and to not be afraid to go somewhere or do something by myself. And on the flip side, I know when to say "no". To a guy I'm not interested in, to high-paying jobs I'd be miserable in, to clothes I don't need, to that second or third drink I could really do without.

"All great achievements require time."

Know your cross roads. Where do you want to go in life? The first time I got in a cab in NYC, I naively gave them the address—not realizing that cabbies operate almost exclusively on cross streets. I had to scramble on my phone to figure them out so the cabbie could get me there. I'm the first person to tell you I'm pretty terrible at planning (though you can probably figure that out when I get sporadic with posting). I moved to NYC on a whim, and until I started my first full-time job I rarely planned more than a week or two in advance for anything, but I've also started to recognize that I need to think more about the future. You don't need to know all the little details in between and I'm a firm believer in letting things happen instead of setting deadlines for yourself, but if you have a goal for where you want to be or how you want to feel, recognize that as your cross roads and figure out the best path to get yourself there.

When I first found the photo in this post on Pinterest, someone had attached this quote:
"And the waters will stay the same throughout the years until you step in and make a ripple in their history, a ripple that will affect the tide and the waters from that point on."

*Image via Jeff Luker

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