On How Much

You never know what others are going through. Be kind. Always.

Unknown

Recently a person told me “you’re a strong person leading an awesome life.” I had to laugh silently. If you look objectively, I have a failed marriage, a truncated career of missed opportunities, few good times during my adulthood to reflect upon (I have no stories of drunken, wild nights that everyone talks about, especially in Florida), I’m a parent struggling to keep my kids on track, and I sacrificed many close friendships and strained family relations to keep the peace in my marriage. I spent most of my adult life catering to another person who didn’t value me, and I allowed that to dominate my life and displace my own needs and wants. Because of that, I’ve only really been in the workplace for about 5 years, and I am in the odd place of being seen as a leader but I don’t have the same depth as other peers at the same level. I work hard to try to learn as fast as I can (and I can pick up things fast), but there’s never enough hours in the day and I make rookie mistakes I beat myself up about. There are days I can’t do anything right and I go to bed, defeated. Strong? No, I am just doing what I do to keep afloat so I can take care of those I love. Awesome life? Well, it’s all relative, isn’t it? This isn’t the life I had dreamed of having, that’s for sure.

A close friend recently posted a blog from Mark Manson, where he wrote that you could have a fulfilling life without a romantic partner, but you needed friends to make life worth living. I don’t quite agree with this statement, because it negates individuals who struggle to maintain friendships and ignores many other types of relationships. What I do believe is that at our foundation we need unconditional love. How that is embodied—as a lover, friend, partner, family, self, strangers, or even our animal friends—can and does vary depending on who we are, what we value, and where we are in our life’s journey. But at any stage, gestures motivated by unconditional love—for example, helping a stranger in need, a friend offering a should to cry on, being present at your child’s soccer games, holding your parent’s hand in the hospital—are the things, to me, that make life worth living. Life is not easy. Even the person who seems the most together, happy, carefree, leading the best life, most likely has some troubles and also weathered storms we may not see. For me, these storms have stripped away the trappings of idealistic youth and left behind the maturity of middle age. The biggest lessons I have learned are to be kind, humble, patient, grateful, authentic, and to be present. And value love above all else. Life is not all happy, and pain, disappointment, loss are endemic to the human state. To me, it’s those moments of love that make it worth living and I treasure every experience and person in my life that expresses them.