Friday, October 17, 2014

Best Years of Your Life

Some people say that college was the best four years of their life. Admittedly, my college years were fun–more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. However, I have to say, I have been quite pleased lately to realize that my twenties have actually been the best years of my life. 

Sure, the twenties can get weird. There are so many situations that come at us and so many curveballs. There are mountaintop moments, and there are definitely more than a handful of fall-on-your-face moments. There are great successes and personal improvements, and there are times when we forget to prioritize our spending, get our hearts broken, make really bad decisions, and try to act far too young or far too old. We're kind of "in between," and we sometimes get carried away on the weird questions of "if we're doing enough" or "if we're good enough." From the ever-changing friendships and relationships, to job bouncing (or even losing a job), climbing ladders only to realize you want to jump ship to a new career field altogether, and not really knowing if you're ever "grown up" enough, it can be a somewhat stressful time. 

In our mid-twenties, there are plenty of days that end with sentiments such as this...it's a coping mechanism.

But, if we truly relish it for all it's worth, it's a wonderful time. So far, I'd say that 22–almost 26 (I need just a second to recover…26 is here!) have actually been the best–albeit some of the most difficult–years of my life. 

You have the opportunity to figure out what you want in life. Whether you're dating and figuring out traits you do and don't like, or you're trying out new hobbies and learning if you can really transition from a softball player into a tennis player (hint:  it's not easy to stop trying to swing for the fences, and this is how you frustrate whoever is playing with you and lose tennis balls…like lots and lots of tennis balls), you have the opportunity to take a little time and look around. Find those things that interest you, try something new, give it a shot. The twenties are a period of discovery.

You can typically still get away with being considered young in some decisions. While I'm all for being responsible and taking accountability, sometimes, we all still yearn for that opportunity to ask for forgiveness and say, "I'm young and stupid." Things happen, and sometimes in taking those aforementioned chances, we make mistakes. While we are adults and have to deal with consequences, we are, indeed, still learning. And, it's okay to do a couple of stupid things during your twenties. 

And I'm totally cool with that! 

You have responsibilities. I know I'm weird, but I still love making my car payment. It was one of the first on-my-own, brand new, adult purchases I made. It's mine. I am responsible for it. I'm also responsible for the life of a small dog, responsible for showing up to work on time and delivering quality results for my clients, and responsible for being accountable to the people in my life. Growing up and actually having bills to pay can be a burden, and it's not always fun. But, it's also kind of cool. 

You're constantly growing. Whether it's been through periods of focused personal growth (i.e. making sure I go to the gym every day, intentionally taking quiet time, getting up early, setting good habits) or through periods where I didn't even realize I was changing and maturing, the mid-twenties change a person a great deal. Those first few years out of college and truly on your own are times of many lessons learned and many memories made. Each experience–good or bad–shapes us and gives us a chance to become more of who we were meant to be and to make a greater difference in the world. 

You realize what matters and what doesn't. Over these years, you learn that saying "no" is okay. You learn to let go of those who don't want you in their lives. You learn not to stress out too much about the things you can't change. But, you also learn the true, genuine beauty in moments–both large and small. You appreciate the value of a good wine, the wonderful simplicity of old friendships, the joy of a Netflix night, the shock and awe of people watching/clubbing/observing how "college kids these days" behave, the wonder of those new connections that happen with incredible ease, the beauty of family, and the fact that life keeps getting better. You take time for yourself, you enjoy the people who matter, and you let go of the things that don't. (No we're not perfect, and we still have our moments of obsessing over stupid things or not appreciating the good things, but we are learning, and it's getting easier). 

You learn to surround yourself with good people. Those who play mind games, those who make us crazy, those who are selfish, those who hurt us intentionally, those who gossip about us–or anyone for that matter–they can all take a hike by the mid-twenties. Sure, we'll stay on good enough terms to say "hi" if we run into you in Target, but trust us, we'll probably try to dodge you on at least the first three attempts until it becomes painfully obvious that we've seen you and you've seen us. Once we come into our own, we don't need the reassurance of having a slew of people surrounding us at all times. We've matured enough to realize that being alone or being around a couple of good people is far more satisfying than having bad company. 

Awful people?


You don't have to live off of Poptarts and Ramen, but you could if you chose to. You have the option. You're no longer that strapped for cash, and you have the opportunity to go out and have a nice steak or make a meal at home. However, should you just really get one of those have-to-have cravings for a Poptart (seriously, who doesn't love a good Poptart?), you can go get one. 

I made a grown up decision today...I had an ice cream sandwich for breakfast.

You have the time, a little bit of freedom, and enough money to experience life (and you've likely mastered the art of experiencing on a dime). After all of those years of living on a shoestring budget in college, you've learned how to have fun for little. The beauty of the mid-twenties, though, means you don't always have to. You can take a long weekend from work, hop on a plane, and go explore a bit. For many of us in our generation, we're settling down a little later. That means as long as you find someone to feed your dogs, you're good to go. It's a beautiful freedom. 

You have many milestones to celebrate. And, let's face it, milestone celebrations are a great excuse to get together with friends, pop open a bottle of champagne (or wine), and embrace whatever awesomeness you are toasting. These are the years of first jobs, first new cars, engagements, promotions, etc. I've even been known to celebrate the first time I set up a retirement account. It's the little things, you know. 



You learn to legitimately stop caring what others think. You cut the pretenses a little bit. Whether it's just being yourself on a first date or embracing your place in your family/friend group. I've learned to appreciate that I'm the one who's usually around for comedic relief and known for bringing a good bottle of wine to an event. I'm happy with it. My family is happy with it. When you hit your mid-twenties, you accept that you are who you are, and others who love you do the same. 

Own those quirks! 

You occasionally allow yourself to behave like a preschooler with a credit card. There are times when my adult side wins out and I can easily put something I don't "need" back on a shelf. But, there are also times where I want it, so I'm going to buy it. I fully know the difference between want and need, but I also know that I work my butt off for my paycheck, and sometimes the best part of being an adult is being able to spoil myself just a little bit. It's one of the best things in the world! 

Or the pool, or the gummy bears, or the ill-advised shot of tequila. Girl, you work hard for your money ;)

Your parents become friends–allies even. I've always had a great relationship with my parents, but lately, we've developed a fantastic bond that I wouldn't change for anything. There's not quite anything like having coffee with them and chatting about life or being able to call them, share experiences, and get advice on everything from insurance to setting up an IRA. We laugh together…A LOT, I enjoy every minute with them, and they suddenly make a lot more sense to me. 

Andthey've even mastered the art of the selfie AND the photobomb. They're hilarious!

You learn to forgive. People are flawed. They do stupid things. We learn to let go, let live, and move on. In the teens and early twenties, I had a hard time with this. My Hispanic/Irish heritage would occasionally kick in, flare up my temper, and make me decide that some things were unforgivable. As I've grown up a bit, I've learned that it's much more freeing and cathartic to feel the pain/anger, and then let it all go. Forgive, and let it be. While trusting the one who wronged you again is truly a decision that will need to be assessed carefully, forgiveness really is a great thing, and it's the only way to truly move on from any instance in which you have been wronged. 

Sometimes, we really don't know the options people were faced with. Forgive anyway.

The fact of the matter is, there are many things–from a new found appreciation for sweatpants to getting to make my own decisions and from finding out what I really like in life to being surrounded by the best people for me–that make the mid-twenties amazing. They've had their ups and downs, but they truly have been the best years of my life. I'm encouraged by this, and I'm pretty sure that means my dad was right about the fact that it just keeps getting better and better. For that reason, I'm excited to turn 26, because I'm looking forward to the next "best 4 years of my life!" 


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"You Can't Control Everything" and Other Bits of Wisdom from a Curly-Haired Kid

Beautiful. Unique. Exotic. I've heard my naturally curly hair called many things. I've also heard it referred to as I've often seen it:  unmanageable, wild, frizzy. For me, it's always been a mixed bag. Some days, I tolerate it. Some days, I embrace it. Oftentimes throughout the years, I've hated it. 

Throughout my life, it has remained constant in one way. It has been unpredictable. No matter what it's supposed to do, it finds a way to do the opposite. About the only thing I can count on with my hair is that it will stay on my head, and it will change how it looks from the start to the end of the day. I can straighten it, just to have it curl back up. I can work to maintain the curl and have it look presentable, only to have it frizz all over the place. At the slightest hint of humidity, I'm Bozo the Clown in an instant. My hair will always be the most challenging part of my morning routine. Having said that, I have realized that having this crazed, curly mop has taught me a few lessons I might have otherwise overlooked. 

You can't control everything. I am a perfectionist–always have been. It was something that drove me crazy as a child and teenager, the need to have everything perfect. Over the years, I still strive for excellence; however, I have relaxed greatly. I credit much of this to my hair. Truthfully, when you have something on your head that you simply cannot control, no matter how hard you try or how much you spend on products, you learn that some things were never intended to be perfect. There's beauty in imperfection, though. I mean, I can put a great deal of effort into straightening the hair, only to have it ruined by a gust of wind or a small amount of humidity. Or, I can let the curls do their thing, embrace it, roll down my windows, and let the wind mess it up all it wants. Sometimes, the imperfect moments–the ones that are out of our control–are the best moments in life. 

I've used this before, but it's because I'm pretty sure this woman is my spirit animal.

Some things really are forever. There are some things in life we are stuck with, things we do not get to choose. Our hair. Our family. Our upbringing. Our hometowns. Our past. These things may be great. They may be good or even bad, but they're all a part of who we are. While life takes many turns, there will always be parts of ourselves that we cannot change and that we should really learn to appreciate. 

Some things never change…


People will make assumptions about your life, and they will be wrong. If I had a nickel for every time someone has made an assumption about what it must be like to have curly hair, I'd be loaded. Seriously, we could all take a massive vacation. My favorite of these is, "it must be so nice to just let your hair be free and natural." As I shall illustrate, what you see when my hair is curly is never its "free and natural" state. Its "free and natural" state is the stuff nightmares are made of, the stuff that frightens children…really. Nonetheless, no matter what you are doing (whether it's a relationship, a job, or where you want to live), people will make assumptions. They'll try to relate or think they understand. Sometimes they're right, but even when they're not, it gives you a chance to laugh or to educate them on realities of a situation when it calls for it (with the hair thing, I usually just opt for the laugh…it's better that way). 

Sheerly for the sake of proving an old argument wrong…this is what happens with "free and natural." Like I said, happy nightmares…

Spontaneity really is a beautiful thing. As I mentioned, the need for perfection is futile at best. Life is so much more fun when we can learn to be flexible. One night, I had worked to straighten my hair to what I thought might be close to perfection. We went out, and it started to rain. I thought about running for cover, but something made me stay. Instead of worrying, I let the rain fall, and before long, my hair was curly again (albeit wet and probably a little unsightly). Even so, that night was one of the most fun nights out I've had in a long time, and I could have missed out on a lot of it by hiding out to protect my hair. The fact is that, when we just go with the flow on occasion, we're open to options. We're not spent hiding out or planning everything to a T. Life doesn't go according to plan; neither does hair…ever. 

When all else fails, grab a goofy hat. At least, then, the hat might be more of a conversation piece than the hair. Always worth a shot.

There will always be someone who has it "better" in some way. As a kid, I used to dream of what it would be like to have straight hair like my sister's or my friends. Some days, I still do. Sure, my morning routine would be easier, but I'd also probably have fewer laughs in the mirror. There will always be things about ourselves we want to "fix." We all have our quirks, and we all have things that aren't exactly as we wish they would be. But, we're all also unique, and there's great beauty in that. 

Laughter is the best way to deal with everything. I can get uptight about certain things, and my hair can be one of those. Some days, it makes me a little crazy that it's completely out of my control. Some days, I look in the mirror and just know that that's as good as it's going to get. But, the best part is that, I can usually get a laugh out of what it does. When I first wake up, I'm always amazed at just how many directions one head of hair can go…and it's always good for a laugh. From this, I've learned that, if you can't control it, find the humor. 

Preach! 

A back-up plan is always a good idea. You know that event you have in a few weeks? You've got the dress, the shoes, the hair…you've got it all planned. You may even set aside some extra time to get ready. And, then it starts to rain (or even worse, there's just a touch of humidity hanging in the air). If you've got curls, you had better prepare for a change in planning. Much like curly hair, life is highly unpredictable. Sometimes, you have to change gears, change direction, or come up with a spur-of-the-moment back-up plan. The trick is realizing that it's not necessarily a crisis, but instead a chance for redirection. 

Hakuna Matata???

Life is full of good, bad, and interesting. Amongst the bad and crazy hair days, there are always a few good ones. Sure, it'll frizz or curl at the ends by the end of the day, but, as with everything else, you have to just go with it. Rock it, be you, and surround yourself with people who love you, regardless of what your hair may be doing. 

And, although I've always hated the saying, it really is a nice thing to be able to have options (albeit, once the humidity shows up, there is no option)