The Inconvenient Friend

As millennials go, my life is pretty unorthodox. I don’t live in a gentrified neighborhood with a rescue dog. I don’t have a yoga body or belong to an adult kickball league. I live at home. Actually, I live in my aunt and uncle’s home. With my parents. My mother, a victim of dementia. My father, a survivor of two strokes and a heart attack.

If that weren’t wacky enough, I am also a quasi-employed, unlicensed non-driver. I suffer from social anxiety disorder and depression, and the next of 40+ surgeries is just around the corner.

As you can imagine, all of these things make me very popular with my peers. Sure, people think I’m nice. They just wish my life weren’t so… complicated.

In a nutshell, I am the inconvenient friend. That friend who is really nice and well-intentioned, but ultimately unable to contribute her fair share to the relationship. I am the girl who would be so great if only she made a series of changes to better accommodate her hip “friends.”

Every weekend I mourn a little for the life BuzzFeed tells me I should have.

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Source: Google Books

I shed a tear or two for the failed social interactions and never-had dates, all casualties of my inconvenient life. “It’s not fair,” I say aloud to no one in particular. “I don’t ask for that much. All I want to do is wear some fringe while wandering aimlessly around a festival every now again. I know my ‘friends’ are attending these things, but no one is inviting me. It’s my own personal interpretation of Mindy Kaling’s book.”

One lonesome Friday evening, there was a listening ear to my weekly wonderings. My father asked me what was wrong, amid my frustrated listing of reasons my friends have effectively ghosted me. I whined that the lack of inclusion makes me feel devalued but that I refuse to beg anyone to spend time with me, especially not full-grownish adults. He stopped me mid-rant and asked “what about your closest friends? How do they make you feel?”

Subtle spin on a stock psychological question? Perhaps. But I entertained an answer nonetheless.

After giving his question some sincere thought, I rendered a response. “Well, I guess, they make me feel loved… without judgment.”


The last week or so, I’ve repeatedly found myself on the receiving end of some really sound advice:

Let go.

Three of my girlfriends, my mother, and a book all told me to let go. But let go of what exactly? Relationships? Expectations? Society’s definition of success?

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Source: Disney

As millennials, we are accused of arrested development. Spoiled, entitled brats with various strains of Peter Pan Syndrome. But this millennial is ready to grow up. This woman is ready to let go of conditional relationships and society’s prescribed expectations of who she should be. She is ready to navigate life in ways that may not always be popular, or hip, but that will ultimately equip her with everything she needs to change the world!

As I navigate this thing we now call “adulting,” I realize that my path will be unorthodox. It won’t look like the path of my peers. It may not include a gig at a trendy tech startup. There may be no mid-week, underground dance parties at ultra-exclusive speakeasies.

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Aisha at Fernbank Museum of Natural History

I may never get to deliver any awe-inspiring TED Talks.

Or maybe all of these things will happen and my life will be the quintessential millennial dream come true. But I refuse to allow the quality of my life to be defined by some ethereal counsel of cool.

I think my life will be a good one. It will be disappointingly normal and uneventful. It won’t be insta-worthy. But it will be filled with love and good intentions.

I will get my driver’s license. My role will shift from caregiver to employee. Or entrepreneur. I will own my own home and open it to friends and family in need of refuge from the messiness of life. Maybe I’ll get married and we’ll have some kids. Maybe I’ll fly solo. Perhaps I’ll get a dog.

I will let go of relationships that have ultimately run their course, and I will pour into anyone willing to put up with my lack of cool. I will sharpen my skills and hone my crafts and use them whenever and wherever I can to brighten at least one little corner of this place called Earth. I will make some mistakes, of course. But my mind will be open, my heart will be happy, and my life will be… good.

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Sing, Even When Everyone’s Listening and You Sound Really Bad

TRL Grow Old Quote

This morning, while partaking in the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, a group of well-traveled mature women spoke lively about a dance party they were planning. The next thing we unsuspecting guest knew, these women burst into “I’ve Got Rhythm,” by George and Ira Gershwin. As the ladies waxed nostalgic for the golden era of film, they added to their medley additional tunes by the Gershwin bros and My Fair Lady.

As the curtain closed on this impromptu amateur performance, I approached the diverse group of dames to thank them for their serenade. At this point, one woman began to croon “Summertime,” and I cautiously joined along. This image-conjuring tune from Porgy & Bess is certainly a favorite song of mine, but I had not planned on performing in a minstrel show when I woke up this morning. I returned to my seat at the communal table and finished my coffee and toast.

This sunny Saturday also lead me to a social media post by one of my favorite professors, writer Sonya Huber. She spoke about the joys of being middle aged, how much she now likes herself and appreciates the skin she’s in at 45 years young.

My former Creative Nonfiction instructor and the random singing women really made my heart quite glad this morning. In a society where people, especially women, are fed mixed messages of longevity and anti-ageing, it is refreshing to encounter women who are excited about their age and enjoy the lives they lead, no matter — or perhaps because of — the numerical value they have earned.

Madea
Source: memegenerator.com

This year I will be 32. In my twenties, I always looked forward to turning 30, despite friends, strangers, and talkshow hosts who claimed that my 30th birthday would mark the beginning of my end. Now that I am have settled comfortably beyond quarterlife, I cannot wait for the big 3-2.

While this is not a milestone birthday for most, it is one I have looked forward to for awhile. This age, to me, signifies adulthood. Not 18. Not 21. Thirty-two. I suppose once I realized that life exists beyond 25, I decided that 32 would be my age of content. I envisioned this number opening me up to a new era of appreciation for everything and everyone in my life, acceptance of all my quirks and my supposed flaws, and actualization of my true purposes in life.

Once I realized that life exists beyond 25, I decided that 32 would be my age of content.

Very few people in life aspire to die young. Many of us want to live as long as we possibly can, investing in all kinds of life-extending treatments and age-defying regimes. The very young cannot wait to reach the next landmark birthday. The very old yearn for a bygone era. Everyone wants to live forever but no one wants to age.

Everyone wants to live forever but no one wants to age.

But what would happen if we all embraced our age at every age? What would society look like if we relished in our wrinkles, delighted in our dentures, and gave gratitude for our gray hairs?

How much more fulfilled would our lives be if we all knew how blessed we are to have survived so many days on this planet? How much more excited would we be to wake up every morning with the audacity to enjoy our lives without fear and the intent to make the world a better place for future generations?

Getting older is unavoidable.  While it is important that we take care of ourselves so we can enjoy the best possible quality of life, let’s stop weighing down our hearts and minds with the self-inflicted horrors of the inevitability of age. Let’s all just live. One yearone day, one glorious moment at a time.

Life Lift: The Take-Away

Take Away

My first series, Life Lift, has come to a close. I thank you so much for joining me on this journey. Sharing the things that I have done to help improve the quality of my life is truly a project of my heart.

I called the series Life Lift because I strongly believe that so many people are living life at a lower elevation than our ultimate destiny. Suppressed by our past experiences, current circumstances, and defeatist mindsets, we can find ourselves simply existing instead of truly living.

At the end of the day, this series is all about treating yourself right. So many people live stressed out, frustrating lives because we fail to check in with ourselves and make sure we are okay. I know this notion can be particularly challenging for parents; while I do not have children, I am a full-time caregiver for my mother and I understand how easily and unintentionally caregivers can neglect themselves.

Me and Mommy

About four years ago, when I left my job in healthcare to be with my mother full time, my health quickly began to deteriorate. I dedicated every moment of my day to my mother’s care — doctor’s appointments, medication gathering, physical therapy, occupational therapy, bathing, feeding… loving.

If I ate, it was a couple of bites of a McDonald’s cheeseburger and half a Coke to keep me awake. I began to lose weight, but not in a healthy way. I suffered severe migraines, chronic hives, and digestive challenges due to stress. I knew something had to change. If I was going to be there for my family, I had to be there for me.

So I began to pray and ask God for guidance. I asked for help getting healthy and staying positive. Although the daily stressors of being a caregiver remained, I began to see progress in my own life. I began getting regular exercise and made sure I ate every day. I even took the opportunity to read a few inspiring books.

This message is not intended to be some sort of “pull yourself up by your boot straps” lecture. Quite the contrary. Maybe you have no boot straps. Maybe you really are hanging on and feel like life is dragging you by the hair. But I encourage you to do all you can to care for yourself amid the chaos.

Life may not always be the party you imagined, but it may not have to be as overwhelming as it is right now. Whether it is five minutes every day or a 24-hour per day commitment, you must to determine that you are worth the time. Once you have made yourself a priority, and begin taking care of yourself, you never know what the results may be.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.3 John 1:2

Life Lift: Part Six – Service Saturdays

Saturday

All week long, we hustle and grind so we can get the house, the car, the gadgets, the mate. Then, once a year, beginning around Thanksgiving, we drop nominal amounts of currency into red plastic buckets and place a new unwrapped toy into a box at the local post office. We may even attend a charity Christmas soirée, where the $100 tickets cover the cost of a live swing band and deconstructed gastromolecular hors d’oeuvres.

Then, promptly on December 26th, our altruism comes to a screeching halt. Somewhere along the fray, we forget that the doing of the good should be a constant, year-round thing. It is really important to give. To give in many ways and often.

Introducing Service Saturdays. Now, before you freak out and think you have to trade in your chill Saturday bike rides and brunches for trench digging in South America every single Saturday until the end of forever — hear me out.Volunteer

What if you took one Saturday per month — just one — and committed one hour of your time, talents, or knowledge to doing something for someone near you? Serving your community does not necessarily require you to move mountains. You don’t have to have a lot of money or a lot of time. You don’t even have to be an expert at anything. The only thing you need is the desire and the commitment to do something good.

Stumped on ideas? No worries. I got you:

  1. Volunteer Matching
  2. Philanthropy
    • If you are genuinely pressed for time but want to see your assets put to good use, check out resources like the Chronicle of Philanthropy for donation opportunities and set up a monthly donation for causes you value.philanthropy
  3. Church
    • For me, it’s a baptist church. But for you it may be a synagogue or a mosque. Whatever the case, if there is a place of worship, there is also likely a great service opportunity. Check with your home church or other local worship community and simply ask where you can be put to use.
  4. Go Outside!
    • Making a difference is not hard or complicated. Help is needed everywhere you look, if you simply look outside yourself. So maybe you are an engineer and you can help the single mom on your street build a boxcar for her kid. Perhaps you notice your local dog park is not as feces free as it should be and you decide to lend your own pooper-scooper to the cause once a month. Wouldn’t it be nice if you simply checked in on your WWII veteran neighbor on occasion, just to say hello?

The point is, in this selfie obsessed climate, it is vitally important that we are deliberate about giving back. It can be so easy to become wrapped up in the self-importance of our lives. We busy ourselves with our work and then spend our spare time complaining about how busy we are. But what is the point of busy? Sure, we pay our bills and eat our food. But at the end of your life, do you really want your epitaph to read “She was always busy?” Probably not.

Some of life’s activities cannot be avoided, but since we’re always doing something anyway, why not do something that counts? Besides, giving back isn’t just about benefiting the world around you. It’s about adding to your own life. There is no better feeling than doing something for someone without expecting anything in return. No “likes.” No comments. Just you knowing you tried to do something good.

Make your life matter and give back today!

Life Lift: Part Four – Thankful Thursdays

Thursday

When was the last time you told someone “thank you?” Not out of habit in response to someone holding the door for you as you enter your office building, but because you really mean it? When was the last time you told someone you appreciate them for simply being who they are?

Sometimes the busyness and stress of life can cause us to pay less attention to gratefulness and gratitude. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the people and things in our lives, but sometimes we get so busy “doing life” that we forget to thank the people who make our lives possible.Jimmy Fallon TYN

That is why Thankful Thursday is so important. You can be intentional about giving thanks.


Is there someone who greatly impacted your life but you never had the chance to tell them?

What are you waiting for?

Everyone appreciates being appreciated. We don’t always remember to show our appreciation in the midst of our crazy lives, and general politeness can be overlooked as the norm. But it is truly imperative that we make time to truly tell people how much they mean to us and why. When people do good things and make positive impacts on our lives, we need to encourage them to continue on this path of righteousness.

Kind overwhelmed by having to express gratitude all day long? Don’t be. Instead, check out some ways I try to keep thankfulness at the forefront:

  1. Write a Thank-You Note
    • I know, “who has time to write anymore?” Jimmy Fallon does. And so do you. Keep a stash of inexpensive stationary and ballpoint pens and take a moment to periodically jot down a note to your kid’s particularly helpful teacher, the custodial staff at your office, or your spouse. It is simple, takes mere minutes, and will brighten the recipient’s day.
  2. Write a Mentor a Letter
    • My first grade teacher, Mrs. O’Neill, is one of my favorite people. She was supportive and kind, tall and gentle. I always wanted to tell her how much I appreciated her protection from classroom bullies. So, two years ago, I did. I tracked her down (she had just retired from my elementary school), sent her a hand-written letter and photos of my first-grade and college graduate selves. She wrote back and I was delighted. It took very little time, but she appreciated the sentiment and my heart was glad!
  3. Pray
    • joyce meyer bookFor Christmas 2014, my parents bought me The Power of Being Thankful by Joyce Meyer. It is a 365-day devotional that helps remind you to be thankful, even in the difficult times. Admittedly, I tend to complain to myself about what I don’t have instead of thanking God for what I do have. I know I’m not alone in this, but I know we can all at least try to improve in this area of life. So on Thursdays, I make sure to thank God for my stylish yet affordable clothes; my forever friends who just “get me;” and the fresh, smog-free air I am blessed to breathe. Thanking God may not make all my problems magically disappear, but it does help me to put things in perspective and realize that life isn’t so bad after all.

You could compliment the barista at Starbucks for his great customer service, leave a note for the custodial staff at your office, thank your child for growing into a lovely human being, or thank God for your gift of crochet!

Whatever you do, make it a point to let people know that you see them, you appreciate what they do, and that they matter. Because they do. And you do, too.