I find it humorous sometimes, the way my brain works, how one thing leads to another.

I’ve recently gotten back into using Pinterest in the interest of learning to cook, learning to budget and trying to find some new makeup looks to try with palettes I own. With me being me, I decided to “clean and organize” my boards one night and delete some things I had saved back when I first created my account when I was 18.

It was a humorous experience, seeing some of the things I identified with and some of the plans I had for myself at that age. The board for my future wedding ideas was even named with my ex and mine’s anniversary (noticed before the organizing, changed promptly) which shows how long it’s been since I really paid attention to the site.

This was one of the factors that’s settled me into a spot of self-reflection that began with 2020. My mental health took a bit of a spiral in the holiday season and it began to spill over into the beginning of the year. To try and combat the bad thoughts, I tried tapping into my usual set of coping mechanisms but recently I found comfort in trying to look at how far I’ve come in my life.

Especially now as I’m starting to see the light at the end of the depressive tunnel, I spent yesterday with my mom in my hometown and small things have triggered different memories that show me how different of a person I’ve become over even the past three years.

My friend Ann and me when we were 16

I think back to who I was when I was 16. She was so lost in so many ways but the main thing she fought for was that she wanted to be loved even though she had no clue what that looked like. She dug herself into a hole of isolation when her attempts for anyone to hear her cries  failed, so she tried to build a person around what she could piece together.

From age 16 to 19, I held so much anger in my heart and that manifested in an aura of superiority. My way of differentiating myself from my peers was to tear anyone down (privately of course, I wasn’t bold enough to stray from keeping it to gossip) for enjoying things I didn’t seem acceptable, most of those being whatever was popular at the time. I missed out on so many things in high school simply because I didn’t want to “follow along” out of fear of becoming more lost than I already felt. I had my St. Susanna family and theater to keep me going, but I rarely went out or tried anything I didn’t already know.

College started that same way. I barely left my room, and even ended up going home most weekends second semester. Granted, there were other factors to this like my mental health and what my relationship has turned into, but most of my choices extended from not wanting to be a “basic college kid” who partied on the weekends. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but the main reason I didn’t rush a sorority is because I didn’t want to be “like other girls.” Not money, not time–I was that wrapped up in my idea that breaking from the norm was superior.

Even a year ago, I never would have posed for a picture like this

So I don’t know if this has all coming with age, (have I mentioned I’ve taken up knitting?) if any of my experience in counseling brought on some sort of breakthrough for this or if it’s the recent wrestling with a possible bipolar 2 diagnosis, but little by little, I learned that people are going to–and should–live their lives the way that makes them happy. At first I just preached that idea to others while not following through, but I’ve come to realize it is the truth. The voice of critics can be so loud and can feel like such a weight, but when you learn to live your life for you, it is so worth it.

If your life is making you happy and you feel secure, why should you feel the need to justify it to anyone else? With that, if you see someone living a life they love, who are you to insist they change to your ideas and ways simply because these things work for you? Everyone operates differently and if your way of relating to people is to tell them, “No, this is the best way to do things,” I recommend an emotional maturity check, friend.

Like blasting your life all over social media? Me too! If that’s what you do, go for it. Refuse to touch a caffeinated beverage? You go, friend! I could never live like that, but whatever works for you. One of those tech people that firmly believes Android phones are better? That’s great! Just let us iPhone users enjoy our phones in peace. Picky eater? Same! Food is fuel, just try and get your nutrients.

Live your life the way it works for you and silence those critics the best you can. When you’re thinking about interjecting in a conversation to tell someone they’re living their life wrong or could be doing something better, stop and reconsider. Suggestions are always kinder than bold-faced comments like that.

So in the future if you ever make a “My Best Life” board, you won’t feel like you have to hide it from anyone. That best life of yours should be really and truly you.

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