By Emily Erickson
Well, somehow it’s already September, which means I am officially approaching another year older. Each year, with the flip of a calendar page, I’m prompted to reflect on where I am and what I know. Despite not having it all figured out (quite the contrary, actually), I’ll share these truths acquired in my nearly 28 years.
Experiencing loss prompts a shift in perspective on life.
Losing my mom at the age of 19 drastically changed my perspective. As I started to piece my life back together in the months following her death, I understood things with a newfound clarity. My existence was finite and guarantees were fictional ideas, not relevant in the real world.
I understood that life must be lived and savored in moments, not postponed to a future that may never come. Because we aren’t promised tomorrows, but we are able to seize the opportunities in our lives that fill us with passion, with inspiration and with love every day. Experiencing loss is traumatic and painful, but it teaches the difference between what is important and what isn’t, and that the best things are often those that we take for granted.
The best diet is loving your body and treating it with respect.
Having struggled to develop a healthy relationship with my body and image over the years, I’ve tried numerous ways to shape myself — all in the hopes of achieving a body in which I could feel comfortable. But, no matter how many calories I counted or how long I went without bread, I always had more pounds that needed losing.
I was perpetually unsatisfied with my body until I decided to see it as an incredible vessel, capable of amazing things. The best thing I could do to feel good in my skin was to love it for exactly what it was, making choices out of respect, not from dissatisfaction. This loving was deciding to get enough sleep, eating well most of the time and poorly every now and again. It was staying hydrated and exercising regularly, not to drop a pant size, but because those choices are what my body deserves.
You can’t properly love someone else without adequately loving yourself first.
Through personal and witnessed love stories, I’ve learned that people have a tendency to seek temporary Band-Aids for emotional wounds instead of taking the time to adequately heal them first. These Band-Aids fix our problems for a while, but almost always fall apart in some way or another.
Similarly, when we don’t take the time to properly love ourselves before entering a relationship, we depend on our partners for happiness. This dependency is only temporarily effective and breaks down later on, despite even the strongest of connections.
But, when both partners are truly happy and appreciate their own value as individuals, they are capable of elevating eachothers’ lives in wonderful and healthy ways. There are no perfect relationships, but two people that love themselves and each other are capable of contributing to a beautifully imperfect partnership.
Happiness isn’t a destination and shouldn’t be chased.
Having spent most of my adult life flitting from place to place, continually searching for new and different ways to make me feel alive, I’ve struggled to understand happiness as a state of mind, not a specific destination waiting to be discovered.
Being happy is waking up every day and choosing to focus on all of the positives currently in our lives. It is deciding to make time — even when inconvenient — for the people and things we love and savoring the act of being present instead of consumed by alternate realities. Happiness is understanding that hard times are inevitable, that gratitude breeds contentment and that our grass is exactly the shade it should be. When we stop seeking the elusive island of happiness, we can finally discover it inside ourselves — just where it had been all along.
Everything works out in the end, even if it’s nothing like you imagined.
Every day we are presented with endless choices and infinite outcomes. We can try to make the decisions we deem best for ourselves and our lives; but, so often, we are at the mercy of an endless combination of factors that are out of our control.
Instead of letting these factors weigh on us, seeing them as roadblocks to progress, we can accept these unknowns and embrace them as steps on a journey with a destination we’ll never know. We can never fully anticipate what will happen in our lives, but we can choose how we react to the uncertainty. We can believe that, even when it doesn’t seem like it, everything will eventually be OK — often beautiful in ways we could never have imagined.
As I enter my 28th year, I acknowledge I have very little figured out. I struggle to take my own advice and fail over and over again at being the person I know I can be. But, I try every day to be better; to laugh more, be kinder, love myself and the people around me, let go of preconceived notions of where I should be and seek the joy that comes from being grateful and content.
Who knows when I’ll have it all figured out? Maybe next year (ha!).
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