Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On the other side of the QLC

Previously, I wrote about my QLC (Quarter Life Crisis for those just joining us), the difficulties facing those in the near-25 age group, and what it's like to question most things in your life. As I stated, it's a pretty in-your-head, confusing time period of life, and I'm pretty sure that in the midst of my complaining, I addressed the fact that one day I would go back and talk about how it gets better. 

Alas, I have passed over to the other side of the QLC and can now look back and laugh pretty hardily at the silliness (albeit, all the while still understanding the complexity and legitimacy of the crisis). That means that the time has come for me to address what exactly it means to move through that process and once again learn to accept that, while we may not be in control of nearly as many things as we would like, the 20s can actually be a time of great growth, legitimate happiness, and exploration of goals, priorities, and options. 

To be completely honest, I'm not quite sure what happened to get me out of my QLC. As some of you are aware, the QLC was a pretty rough time for me, as it is for many who go through similar periods of time where they are unhappy, uncertain, and feeling as though they are on the wrong track. I was in a period of trying to balance my "grown-up" life while still wanting to be young, trying to decide on a career path that would be both fulfilling and meaningful, trying to figure out my place in a world where friends constantly come and go and relationships last about three days on average, and ultimately trying to decide what it was I needed and wanted to do with my life. It was a time of confusion, searching, trying to find answers with the therapist at the bottom of the wine bottle, and heartache. 

I think we've all needed some of these at least once...

For a perfectionist like myself, it was a tough reality to accept that I had made some left turns when I should have gone right, to realize that, at times, I had put my heart on the line a little too easily, to accept that I wasn't happy with the direction my life was headed with the career in which I was working. In the midst of all of this, my QLC struck with a vengeance and held on tightly. In fact, it held on so tightly and for long enough that I had to create a "QLC" playlist on my iPod to remind me that it was all going to be okay.

And, I'm here to say that it is. Honestly, it's been okay for quite some time. Shortly after I turned 25, I let go of some toxic people in my life, I switched jobs, I began to wake earlier in the mornings just to allow some time for a cup of coffee on my porch swing, and I embraced the fact that this crazy life has a lot of unexpected curves that can bring beauty––even through difficulty. Also, I realized that, even though I'm a "quarter of a century old," I'm still allowed to make some mistakes, act silly, and have a less-than-clear idea of where I want to go in life. 

On the other side of the QLC, I have many valuable lessons. 

I have learned the value of living in the moments. That is perhaps the most amazing thing I took away from my difficult time. Not all things last. Not all things are spectacular. Not all things are easily spotted. Still, there is beauty in the simplicity of small things. There is beauty in fleeting things. We miss this if we're always looking at the big picture or if we're constantly planning ahead. Sometimes, the short-lived and the unexpected things are some of the most amazing things we can take in, if we just make ourselves willing to look for them or to take the risks involved in experiencing them. 

I have learned that there is beauty in difficulty; there is even more beauty in that moment when you breathe in happiness post-difficulty. This first breath of ease is filled with more gratitude than anything I've ever known. The growing process over the past year has been a painful one, almost as if I was being broken by life to be molded into who I have become. Yet, I can fully attest to the fact that, when I discovered that newfound happiness, I felt a weight lifted and freedom like I've never experienced before. Like coming through a fog into clarity, it is freeing to go through those changes, no matter how painful, and realize that life is what we make it. 

I have learned that the people who are there for you no matter what are the most priceless gifts in life. The same people who stick with you in the darkness, but are also there to celebrate your successes, share their stories of happiness with you, laugh with you, or do nothing at all with you…those are the people who you cannot afford to lose in your life. I had some friends who were only there in the confusing and stressful times, and I later learned that, in some weird way, they thrived off of that atmosphere. Whether they were miserable and wanted miserable company or whether they needed to see someone more confused than they were, that's the only time they were around. These people were toxic, and would find ways to bring others down to their levels. Then, of course, there were only the happy-time friends, and these people have their place, but it's not a secure, trusted place. It is the people who can be both, and who will allow you to be both in their lives, who are the ones of greatest value, and I thank every person who is one of these people in my life. 

I have learned that music really is the balm of the soul. Whether it was letting a few tears fall and muttering things like, "Dammit, Adele, you really get it," jamming out to Five Finger Death Punch, realizing that maybe Miranda Lambert has actually been writing about my life all along, or feeling the lyrics to "Get Thru This" in my soul, music was like a drug. It was a form of expression for this time in my life, as it has been for many times. Finding the perfect song or perfect 50 songs (let's face it, I'm a woman and can have 50 emotions at once) that describe what you're thinking or feeling is one of the best feelings in the world. It reminds us that, what we're going through, there are others who can relate. It also gives us a chance to share those feelings with another without having to try to describe it or without having to bombard our poor friends all over again. Additionally, music can be interpreted, and I believe that it allows us to more fully understand what we're feeling at times. 

…said every girl ever!

I have learned to appreciate even the small things. No one has it all together, and no situation is perfect. There is imperfection in everything, and there is something unpleasant in every day, but that does not mean that it is a bad day, a bad situation, or a bad life. In fact, it's those little imperfections that can make us more grateful for the good. 

I have learned to enjoy the journey. Having always been very goal-oriented, the bumpy path toward success is a huge ego-killer sometimes. No one likes to pick themselves up from a face plant and try to piece back together the broken and bruised chunks of our plans, but we have to do so from time to time. And, it's always a chance to learn and laugh. Looking back, some of the toughest days provide the best anecdotes down the way. That time you flipped out and threw something, that time you made a fool of yourself, that time you drank too much and sang "Friends in Low Places" to complete strangers, that time you thought you were at the end of your rope…all of it can be quite the stand-up routine once it's in the past. 

I have learned that being a "grown-up" has a different meaning every day. At times, I was pretty hard on myself for not "having it together," or not doing the things I was "supposed to do." But, the fact of the matter is that, even though I have been known to call some truly unsuitable items a meal (things like gummy bears, or a diet coke and a Cliff bar, or even just a plain tortilla, and once simply a can of green beans––shameful, I know), even if I let my inner child win the "I MUST HAVE THIS" war at the store a lot, even if I only remember that Thursday is trash day about once a month, and even if I've never remembered to send a Christmas card––not even once––I am still an adult. I pay my bills on time, I take care of myself and a little dog, I'm successful, I do well at my job, and I can provide myself with the fun 'treat yourself' perks of being an adult. I am a "grown-up" even if I don't know what that means all the time, and I don't have to have it all together. Life is fun, and I am actually acting my age––because, let's face it, 25 isn't the most "got it together" age anyway. 

Some days, I think most of us would give anything to make it stop, but we also get to buy alcohol, make our own decisions, and do what we want. It's kind of awesome!

I have learned that success does come, and dreams can come true. Five-year plans have to be flexible. The road to dreams is one that curves, is full of potholes, and occasionally can't be found by google maps. Nonetheless, with enough hard work and enough people in my corner, I have found that success is attainable. I recently had the amazing experience of attaining a lifetime goal, and it has reaffirmed my fire for believing in the dreams of my heart, regardless of the roads I had to take to get here. 

"Dreams aren't perfect; they come true, not free."

I have learned that it's okay to be tender-hearted, compassionate, and soft. Living in a world that often downgrades these qualities, I felt a lot of pressure to become hardened and jaded, and I even felt like life might be easier if I was so. During my QLC, I was convinced that these situations wouldn't have hurt as much if I could just turn off all feelings and just live cold and hard. That's possibly true, but I also know (with renewed certainty) that I would have missed a lot of the lessons and that I wouldn't have come out of it so appreciative or optimistic. Without a soft spirit, there are so many possibilities we miss out on. 

I have learned that there is nothing more healing to the soul than being with those you love. For me, this took many forms. Some of them were nights on the back porch with my best friend, either singing along to the radio, talking about everything, sitting in silence, or hitting the town. They were nights of simplicity, but they were also nights that reaffirmed that I wasn't alone in my circumstance. Some of them were trips back home, to visit the people and the places who made me who I am. Some of them were phone calls in the middle of the night with old friends, remembering how far I've already come. I even allowed myself the chance to heal by giving myself alone time to remember all the reasons that I love me; whether these were times spent journaling or times spent driving my car through the valley and listening to my playlist, they were some of the most healing things I could have asked for.

Surround yourself with people who will not only take this picture of you and let you be silly, but also will give you a look similar to this when you just need to "get over it." They're the ones who will "love you through it!"

I have learned that freaking out about the little things won't do me any good. My hair is going to be a mess about 80% of the time (curse these curls), I'm never going to feel completely comfortable in certain clothing options, there are circumstances beyond my control, and I'm never going to be perfect. Do I still stress about some of these things? Absolutely. Just ask my roommate who had to deal with me and my attitude while wearing a dress I hated recently. Nonetheless, I have reached a point (call it old age, if you will) where the things I cannot control do not control my every thought. They're still there, but I have embraced acceptance. 

I'm seriously not quite sure who snuck into my room and took this picture of me when I first wake up...

I have learned that having faith in a better tomorrow is never wrong. Yes, I believe in living in the moment. I believe in relishing everything, even the bad times. But, I also have faith that good things are in store. This faith was reaffirmed, and post-QLC, I am in a job I love, I received a book contract, and I'm surrounded by some of the most fun, most loving people I could have ever asked for. 

Sure, there are still difficult days. But, as promised, I agreed to write post-QLC and affirm the fact that I did survive, and I did so without any crazy tattoos, motorcycle-buying, or Vegas weddings. The QLC is, no doubt, one of the silliest and hardest things all wrapped up into one crazy little package that I have ever experienced, but here's my post to say:  "it does get better." And, while I'm sure there are plenty of difficult days ahead, I will be here, living in the moments and enjoying the rest of this crazy 25th year of life.

If you missed the original QLC post, you can check that out here: http://dreamoutloudwithme.blogspot.com/2013/10/quarter-life-crisisit-happens.html

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