10 Important Things I've Learned
1. We are all insecure.
More than six years ago, I started this blog and I gave it a name: Ivy League Insecurities. It was the perfect name because though I had had the privilege of an exquisite education, I felt a fair (okay, furious) bit of insecurity when it came to actual, non-academic life. Fast forward to now. I still feel it, in spades. It's a different breed of insecurity, smaller, more manageable, but it still exists for me - and for all of us. (Yes, you too.) I see evidence of insecurity everywhere - on our social media feeds, in the self-deprecations in which we all indulge, in the manner in which we simply carry ourselves in the world. I witnessed some real-deal insecurity at my college reunion not long ago - in myself, in my classmates; we all fumbled and stumbled to be, and to appear, confident about our choices and our lives, but at bottom, we are all still those 18-year-old quasi-awkward kids who arrived on campus. We are all human.
2. Time will not stop.
A big one. I look at my girls these days and can't stop thinking how much they have grown, how they are evolving before my very eyes. They are real people now, with robust, winning personalities, with quirks and characters. I have moments where I'm overwhelmed with nostalgia and I truly wish time would stop. I think all of us parents and people have these wistful times. But the truth is that time will march on. It will not slow or stop for us, so the best we can do is open our eyes to the spinning world, to the ones we love. My biggest fear is that I will wake up a year from now, or five, or ten or twenty, with the sinking feeling that I have missed so much. I'm trying to do everything in my power to make sure this doesn't happen.
3. Children are wise.
Kids get it. They see through the nonsense and nuance, the undue complexity, and understand far more than we think - and maybe far more than we do. I was walking with Big Girl (now 8) yesterday and she turned to me and said, "I think it would make sense if we had the same iPad rules over the summer as we do during the year. We shouldn't get to use them on days we have camp, like we weren't able to use them on school days." I looked over at her and smiled and we had the most mature conversation about how kids (and all of us) actually need, and do better, with limits. Here I was trying to fashion the perfect, liberal cool-mom rules for summer, but no need.
4. No one will tell us what to do.
I have these moments when I just want people to tell me what to do. Take this blog. At this time every year, I feel a tremendous urge to slow down and possibly pause the blog. I've asked people I respect for advice on this and they have punted back to me. It's up to you. There's no right thing. This is right, but it's hard too. Sometimes, I wish to abdicate the responsibility of making decisions about little things and big, but this is just part of adulthood and an important part. My consensus for summer: I will follow my instinct and do what feels right. (Today, writing this list felt right.)
5. Listening is everything.
I know a lot of people who are going through very difficult things and times. I suspect it's because, like so many of you, I'm connected to so many people through social media, but I've been privy to so many hard stories of late. What I've realized - and this is a simple, but tricky thing - is that often the very best thing we can do is listen to people who are struggling and feeling their way through something complex. It's not about giving advice (though on occasion maybe it is) or about fixing something, but about being present and offering an ear. I've concluded that this is so important in parenthood as well. Sometimes, often, our kids just need us to hear them, what they are dealing with, instead of intervening and trying to solve everything.
6. It's never too late to change.
Change is maybe my favorite theme in my writing and my life. I believe that all of us has it in us to change ourselves and our lives and that it is really never too late. Patently, there are always circumstances that make certain changes harder, but I would argue that so much is ultimately within our control. As many of you know, one big change I've made (in fits and starts, over the past several years) has been to rethink my relationship to alcohol. It's been and on again off again thing for me, but I haven't had a sip in 7+ weeks and know that stripping this one thing from the existential equation has changed me and changed my life in beautiful and interesting ways. I encourage everyone to think about what changes might be good and get giddy when people make those changes.
7. We want what we want.
I've come to appreciate that our desires are at the core of who we are. (I know my friend Danielle LaPorte would agree.) We should not apologize for wanting what we want in life, but it is illuminating to look at our desires and try to understand them and figure out what they truly mean. I think I want a fourth child, but I suspect that what I really want is to stay young, to pause time, to not close the door on my childbearing days.
8. We all struggle with something.
When I see someone who appears to have it all together, I grow curious. I grow curious because I don't buy it. If the past several years have taught me anything, it is that each and every one of us struggles with something. For some of us, it's a habit or a behavior, love or loss. For some of us, it's relationships where we get stuck. Some of us are prone to anger or envy or anxiety or depression. We are all human beings, after all, all fallible, and there's just no way to eliminate struggle full-stop from our lives. So the question becomes: what is our struggle? Might it become less of a struggle if we acknowledge it, name it, think more directly about it?
9. Happiness IS within reach.
I believe that we are all capable of flashes of happiness and joy. Even if we are at muddled, profoundly difficult points in our lives, I think we can aspire to moments of enjoyment and gratitude and, yes, happiness. This is elusive stuff, but I think so much of this has to do with opening our eyes - and our whole selves - to life and what it brings. We are far less capable of happiness when we close ourselves off and numb our senses. Happiness doesn't need to be giant sparkly rainbows. It can be quiet, small, subtle.
10. Life is short, and fragile.
Again and again, I'm reminded that life can be short, and fragile. At my college reunion, I learned that ten of my classmates have passed away in the last fifteen years. I have lost my own dad and watched too many friends lose their own parents. In just the last week, I've heard of several young, seemingly healthy people dying or brushing far too closely with death. All of this scares me. We are all mortal. But what I'm trying my hardest to do is to let these stories serve as a keen reminder to live, to love, to be thankful each and every day.
Thoughts? Do you have anything to add to the list above? What important things have you learned?