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Dear Introvert

writer. creative soul. black sheep.

Month

March 2014

on meeting life’s deadlines

image by dear_introvert
image by dear_introvert

“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” – William Shakespeare.

Are there deadlines that one must meet in life? You come of age at a certain time, you become a legal adult at a certain time, you ability to drink alcohol legally occurs at a certain time, and you are deemed a senior citizen at a certain time (even if you don’t feel like one).

But what about..

an education, a career, a marriage, a house, a baby, many babies?

It seems as though society “expects” certain things. Timelines. Deadlines. Acquisitions. Quotas. It puts a lot of pressure on you. Society doesn’t have to be the collective. It could be your parents, your friends, or your peers. It could be your significant other. Or it could just be that voice inside your head.

So by 30 years old, do you need all of the above to be considered “on track” with your life? I hope not. Otherwise, I’m one serious rebel. I deviate so far from the track that my life train has derailed full speed without a brake system.

Expecting things and making deadlines to reach in your life means you might set yourself up for failure. Leave the deadlines at your job. It is awesome to set goals for yourself, meet them, and sometimes exceed them. That’s great! I’m not saying live life like a free-spirited gypsy soul wandering aimlessly and living life with reckless abandon. No. Everyone needs to strive for what they want.

But it can really dampen your spirit if you happen to not meet certain life deadlines when you want to. Everyone you know is either engaged or married, has children, maybe five of them, at least lives together in an apartment or might even own their own home by now, has forged a successful career after completing their college education.. I could go on.

And here you are, attending graduate school with people that are still practically teenagers (thanks to those five year accelerated degree programs that didn’t exist when you were fresh out of high school), living in a dilapidated bungalow the size of a shanty with no insulation that’s propped up on cement block stilts, no wedding band, no babies (besides your fur kids), and no career to speak of. You still make under $25,000 a year.

Maybe it’s not kids or a house or marriage that you expect. Maybe it’s finishing that novel of yours and getting it published, maybe it’s a travel adventure you want to take, maybe it’s a cross country move, or even just the ability to live financially independent and secure. Whatever it is, just keep striving for it. The time and the date and those years are all merely numbers to give us structure to our days, not to inform us that we are too late for life.

If I held grand expectations for my life that fit into the perfect puzzle of time, I’d be diving into the great depression right about now wondering where I’ve gone wrong in life, drowning in a sea of failure. But I’m not.

I’ve decided to live expectation free.

I am not you. I am not them.

I will not compare my life to the lives of those around me. And neither should you. Even despite all they will say, can say, do say. In fact, it’s none of their business how you live your life. To be honest, if they’re not in your life to support you, you should shed the heavy weight they throw down on your shoulders with their judgments, opinions, and those damn expectations I’ve been talking about.

As one of my favorite quotes goes: “Everyone is fighting their own battles, try not to be a cunt.”

It’s the truth dammit.

There is nothing set in stone somewhere with the rules of life for all to follow. And for those who don’t succeed in meeting them means you have failed. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not where you thought would be today. What battles have you overcome? What ones are you still fighting? As long as you are moving forward, that is all that matters.

Just like Dory says in Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming.”

Love the person you are because you fought to become her or him.

Never rush things. All things worth having are worth waiting for.

Too much of our time can be wasted comparing ourselves to others. Sometimes we even wish we were someone else. Or had a life other than our own.

Please stop that. Um.. right now.

If you can accept who you are and who you aren’t, what you have and what you don’t, and that all great things reveal themselves as they should, it will simplify life. Time has a way of working things out. Don’t rush it. When you expect less, life gives you so much more.

One of my greatest freedoms is not caring what anyone else thinks. It’s hard to do, it took a long time to get here, but the struggle was worth it.

When I told you earlier that I have yet to meet those “life deadlines” I failed to mention it doesn’t bother me in the least. It used to, for quite some time before now. I won’t lie to you. But life and all it has brought me thus far, has given me the ability to let the expectations go – along with the opinions of my peers, the lives of my friends, and that nagging bitch of a voice inside my head.

I say – good for them. Whether they worked hard for all of it or had it handed to them on a sliver platter, or even just got lucky, it is theirs to have.

And what is mine, is mine. Therefore I embrace it all in the glory of everything that is opposite, different, out-of-the-box, and upside down from the “norm.”

True bliss is defined by the individual. That means you can create happiness out of anything or anyone – so live unguarded – don’t be left wanting. Some of the best days of your life haven’t happened yet.

Believe in yourself and the path you walk down no matter how off-beaten it might be.

That path is your own. Now run that shit like a marathon.

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feed it to the birds.

image by dear_introvert
image by dear_introvert

A man I met was homeless and hungry.

I served him lunch in the basement of a church in a fancy section of Manhattan.

Part of my volunteer job for that day was to clean up the tables and remove the leftover food that our guests didn’t take with them. I had been told by the staff that because the food had been put out and possibly touched by human hands, I needed to throw what remained in the garbage regardless of its condition.

This man overheard my instructions.

He said in a quiet and kind voice, “Excuse me miss, are you really going to throw all that bread away?” I told him I guess I had to. “Well shit, I just don’t understand that. You’re here feeding the hungry, and whatever is leftover, even if it’s perfectly good food, goes straight into the garbage.” He didn’t say it in a nasty way. He didn’t hold it against me or the church. He understood the sanitary side of the request. He just sounded sad.

Before he left the room he stopped and turned around. “Can you do something for me miss?” I smiled and nodded.

“Can you please feed it to the birds?”

I didn’t answer right away so he kept talking. “It’s just that.. we’re not the only ones who are hungry. It’s cold out there and they struggle to find food just as much as we are. Not only the birds, but all of the animals. I know they’ll appreciate it. That’s got to be better than throwing it all away. It’s a shame that’s all.” And he walked away.

He was right. It was a shame. A shame that the instructions were given without hesitation in front of people who had nothing to eat but the meal we served and nowhere to go after they left the church. A shame that I’m about to toss a huge basket of edible and most likely untouched bread straight into a billowing black plastic bag headed straight to the landfill to rot. I got the reason behind throwing it away. I did. But I still felt like an asshole. I thought..

what a waste.

This story is just one of many small moments I took home with me. I just got back from an alternative spring break service trip sponsored through my university. Each day, our team volunteered at a different food pantry or soup kitchen all throughout NYC.

I’ve been home for over a week and I can’t get that man’s face or his words out of my head. “Please feed it to the birds.”

It made me more conscious of how wasteful our society can be. We throw good food in the dumpster at the end of the day if it doesn’t sell, not just there, but everywhere. We keep religiously to expiration dates, buying more than we need at the time and throwing it out because package tells us it is time to. We toss clothes and household items that could be donated and reused straight to the curb for the garbage man to take off our hands. We might not recycle.

We might buy more than we need of anything at all just because we have the money to. And sometimes we buy more than we need even when we don’t have the money, just because we feel we have to. We believe we need much more than we actually do and the “want” inside all of us takes over. Sometimes the “want” runs wild.

 I’m not saying become a pack rat and hoard everything you come in contact with right down to the toothpick you picked the spinach out of your front tooth with last week. That’ll just get you featured on that show Hoarders once it all starts to accumulate.

I’m also not saying to spray your lawn with your leftover taco fajitas so the squirrels can have a fiesta by moonlight. That’s just an invitation for creatures of all kinds to form a conga line in your back yard and creep on the down low near your back door. I didn’t say build a wildlife soup kitchen through your doggie door.

 I’m just saying STOP and THINK.

Become more aware. Ask questions about yourself and about our society. It will challenge all you knew. It will make room for what you know now.

Is it something that you need or just something that you want?

That question can be posed in a thousand different ways for all different types of scenarios throughout your whole life. It’s not just about waste.

It’s about freeing yourself from the things you think you need.

I bet you’ll find there are a shit ton more wants than needs. Life doesn’t always need to be complicated. Some things are meant to be simple. Less is more. And when there is less, you naturally stop wasting, even if it’s just stopping you from wasting your money.

Even the smallest moments in time, less than a minute of an interaction with someone or something, can teach you a lesson or challenge you to think differently than you might have before this moment happened.

For me, that moment meant so much more than a small request from a homeless man pleading for me not to be wasteful in the basement of a Manhattan church serving lunch to the hungry every Tuesday.

I will carry his words with me in my heart.

And whenever there is bread leftover in my life..

I will feed it to the birds.

“What we have d…

“What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us; what we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal.”
-Albert Pike

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