Happiness is…

12. Name what is enough for you

Confession time. I am a very impatient person.

I hate driving behind people who slow down to go through the EZ Pass express lane. If I have to wait for than 3 minutes to get through the drive thru at Starbucks, I groan and think how I should have just gone inside to begin with. I especially hate having to wait behind more than one or two people at the grocery store.

tumblr_mbgckbH8rj1riqizno1_500When someone has a tendency to include what I deem too many details for a story, I zone out and don’t hear what they’re saying because I think it should be said quicker. I get the itch to move across the country about three times a year because I don’t like having to stay in one place for a long period of time. I’ll let friendships drift apart when I no longer want to deal with a person’s quirks that I find really annoying. (I know- it’s not pretty.)

I know I’m not the only person who would say they struggle with being impatient. In fact, I hear it a lot:

“I can’t wait to get that promotion.”

“I know I’ll be so much happier if I could just lose those extra five pounds.”

“All I want right now is to get married… have kids, etc.”

“If I just had X, I would be good.”

There’s always something better out there. There’s always a next thing we’re looking forward to. I used to be that sort of person. The sort of person who looks forward more to what’s next instead of enjoying what’s now. I won’t sit here and say I’m completely over it because I do still struggle with this, but I will say I’ve come a long way in this area.

It’s caused me to do a lot of self-reflection (and even more journaling) to figure out just what it would take for me to be happy with where I’m at. Here I go breaking some more introvert stereotypes, but I know now what I would consider to be enough for me.

Relationships. 

That’s it. I need people. People who aren’t afraid to be honest with me and tell me when I’m being a brat about something. People I can laugh with until my sides hurt and tears are streaming down my face. People I can call when something bad happens and show up at my door 30 minutes later with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. People I can debate life’s great questions with or sit and be quiet with.

When I have that and really take the time to cultivate those relationships, nothing else really matters. I don’t spend as much time thinking about the next best thing that’s going to happen. I spend a lot less time thinking about me in general and focus more energy on loving those around me. I become less selfish because I realize I have everything I need right where I’m at.

I have people, and that’s enough.

 

Hello from the other side

11. If I could talk to my teenage self, I would say…

Dear Alyssa,

Hi, it’s me. Or you. I have some things I want to tell you, and while I know you think you have it put together (you do sometimes), just listen for a minute. I’m going to tell you some of the things I wish I had known back then. Some things I won’t tell you just because there’s important stuff you’ll need to go through to really learn, but I’ll do my best.

Take more time to be a kid. I know there’s a lot going on between church, school, coaching, and you starting to work when you’re 16, but try to relax. Take more days to go to the creek, have water gun fights, kayak, drive to the beach… I think you get it. You’ll look back and wish you had done more of that.

While we’re on the subject of the myriad of activities you find yourself involved in, take a chill pill. Yes, doing your best is important, but stop feeling guilty when you don’t get an A on your next paper or when you have to say no to something that, if we’re being honest, you really don’t want to do anyway. It’s okay to not be perfect.

Let’s talk about Aaron because this is a big one. Don’t let him get to you so much. I know he can be a jerk, but there’s a lot going on there you don’t see yet. Find a better way to deal with him even that means walking away at times. Trust me, it ends up being one of the better ways to handle his mood swings. Do your best to show him more grace than he deserves. Oh- and let him hang out with you and your friends sometimes.

I know you love your parents, especially dad. But I’m gonna ask you to show a little more respect to mom. I know you don’t understand her and she can be confusing and doesn’t really talk the way you and dad do, but she’s still your mom. Suck it up and go shopping with her more just because it’s what she likes and take the time to look at things from her perspective more often.

Don’t be afraid to keep in touch with your friends you make right now. I know you’re used to leaving, but you’re gonna be here for a while, so you need to keep those connections. Some of the girls will be mean and nasty, but that’s just their thing. I promise you’ll be able to laugh about it one day. There’s something really special about those friends you’ve had for 10+ years. You’ll want to hold onto them.

Finally, don’t let people make you bitter. There are going to be things coming that hurt you pretty bad, but the most important thing is they don’t change who you are at your core. Love the people anyway. See that they have more going on and aren’t perfect and that’s okay. It’s okay to be hurt and cry and get angry about this stuff- just make sure you actively forgive when it’s over.

Good luck, kid,

24 yr old me

 

Hey, it’s me.

11. If I could talk to my teenage self, I would say…

Dear Liz,

It’s me, Liz. 27 year old me. I know you thought by this time we would be much skinnier and have long flowy hair that was always perfectly curled and be married for at least 4 years at this point and possibly have a kid. You know? Those things we thought were the best parts of being 27. I’ve only been 27 for a couple of months, but so far so good! Just maybe different than what we imagined at the age you’re reading this. I don’t want to spoil anything, although I know how much you wish you knew ‘the ending’ – I still wish I knew that. But I have a few things I do want to say that won’t spoil any of the great adventures you’re coming up to.

He’s coming. Not when you want him to, and he won’t be what you expect. But you won’t spend your life alone. I promise you’ll get married and one day a man will look at you the way you’re dreaming of. In the mean time, please chill out with trying to win the affection of every guy who looks at you. You’re going to look back on this part of your life and I know you’ll be deeply ashamed. Just spend more time with your friends and read a few more books.

Be nicer to Mom and Dad. I wish you understood what I do now, people are a product of their environment. Sure, we can change and grow and be different in time, but Mom & Dad are raising you the best way they know how. They’re making decisions they believe will keep you safe, healthy, and happy. And that’s what they want for you- to be happy. They are not great with their emotions, don’t expect them to be lovey and touchy like other parents, and don’t expect them to be like the parents in the books you read about. Accept them as they are. And stop yelling at them and getting angry at them. I get it, emotions and hormones. But try being honest, telling them how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. Productive, mature conversations would benefit everyone in the house.

Paying bills is hard. It’s also expensive. Being an adult is expensive. Being an adult with kids is expensive. Cut Mom & Dad some slack about the money thing. They’re probably stressed to tears with it, and you’re being a snot. Work some extra hours and be grateful that you live above the poverty line.

Stop making fun of Danny and Michael. Michael isn’t his boyfriend. And later you’ll regret teasing him about that.

Be nicer to Madison. She’s a lot sweeter than she is annoying.

Please eat healthier. I know you love crunchy, salty snacks- we still do- but losing weight at your age is much easier than mine. I wish now that I had started eating healthier at your age, so please, do us a favor and pick up a salad.

Good friends are really hard to find and keep. I know you know that by now. That problem doesn’t go away when you get to be this age. But I promise when you find the good ones, they’re really good. And no, there isn’t anything wrong with you that they don’t want to be your friend. They just suck. Girls your age suck. Just keeping being you and doing you and you’ll get some really amazing friends along the way. I promise.

Last thought – learn some self love. This is a battle that took so long for us. We still struggle with it, but it’s easier now. Just be kind to yourself, don’t talk to us so negatively or harshly. Just practice being kind to others, and yourself. We’ll be glad you started when you did.

Best of luck,
Me

Life’s ups and downs

10. Discuss something you planned that ended up not being what you expected

Wowza. Do you have 72 hours? Because that’s how long I’m estimating it will take for me to tell you all the things that are different now than what I expected. Relax- I’ll save you some time and my fingers some arthritis and pick just one.

One of the things our society seems to be fascinated with when it comes to other people is their occupation. It’s a rarity these days you can meet someone new and not be asked what you do. I think it’s because people tend to find value more in what they do, instead of who they are, but that’s just one woman’s opinion.

My job isn’t that odd of one- I’m a general manager for a local business. Pretty standard as jobs go. The different part about it is it’s a garage door business. I can picture your face now- it’s the same one I get when I tell other people. It’s the look you give a little kid when they bring you a mud pie to eat: try to look understanding, smile, nod, insert a bit of confusion.

Trust me, I get it. Garage doors. Most people don’t even think about them in terms of business. Seriously- who thinks of that? Luckily for me, my dad did. You see, the garage door business is the only one I’ve ever known. My parents started their own company before I was born, and it’s grown into a national franchise with eighty locations across the country. (They’re kind of a big deal.) It’s an industry he loves and is incredibly passionate about. I’m talking helping orphans in Africa level of passion here. I just never wanted anything to do with it.

If you were to ask me at any point growing up, what I wanted to do when I got older, you would have gotten a myriad of answers that ranged from youth pastor to teacher to doctor (that was before I realized my hatred for biology) to social worker. I was all over the place, but the one thing I never said was taking over the family business.

I wanted something more glamorous than garage doors. Something that made a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to work for a big non-profit and change the world while still getting a paycheck. I didn’t want to work in the garage door industry, but we all know how God likes to be funny and put us in places we never saw ourselves in, and that’s just what he did.

Through some random circumstances, I ended up moving back to the northeast when I was 19 to start working with my dad. I drove in on a Saturday and was at work the following Monday. Let me tell you- the first couple years were SO. HARD. My dad and I fought a lot. I cried a lot. I questioned what I was doing with my life over and over again. I couldn’t seem to remind myself the reasons I came back in the first place. I applied for several other jobs and never got an interview (a first for me), so I started praying even harder.

“God, this isn’t where I want to be, so get me out.” Not the most sophisticated or mature of prayers, and I get that, but it’s where my heart was at. It wasn’t until probably about two years into working with my dad that I realized maybe the problem wasn’t the job, but my attitude. So I changed my prayer to “God, show me why you have me here,” and gosh, I’m so glad I did.

I was finally able to see that no matter what business you’re in, you’re always in the people business, which, if you couldn’t tell by my list of dream jobs, is kind of my thing. I heard stories from customers that would make the Grinch well up tears. I was able to see the lives of the employees getting better because of changes we were able to make for them.

My job had turned into something beautiful. Though it was probably always beautiful, and I just didn’t take the time to see it.

 

Can I phone a friend?

9. Your favorite moment of the day and your least favorite moment of the day.

I’ll be honest- I have not been looking forward to writing this post. I knew it was coming, and I’ve been putting it off like it’s my job. I even debated whether or not to use our “freebie” prompt- one we came up with in case we really get stuck on one topic and didn’t want to write it.

The reason I’ve struggled with it is because every day I have a different answer. Ask me on a Monday? My favorite part is getting home from work and least favorite is the morning in general. Wednesday? Completely different story. I don’t like that I don’t have a set answer. I prefer to know where I stand on any given topic, and if I’m not sure, I’m probably not going to open my mouth.

Having to wrestle through which answer I want to give has forced me to look at it in a new light. It’s forced me to think maybe I don’t have to have an answer for every question that comes my way. Obviously, I’m talking about this particular post at the moment, but I even mean in other areas.

I’ve been put in positions throughout my life where I felt like I needed to be the person with all the answers. Being the older sibling, leading small groups, being a trainer/supervisor at every job I’ve had- people expected me to know what was going on. But being older or in charge doesn’t automatically give you all the answers, and it’s been a huge struggle of mine to learn to be okay with that.

I find myself in situations where people ask me questions, and my first response is wanting to use a lifeline and get someone else to answer for me. We all know that’s not how life works, but it sure would be nice.

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I’ve had to learn to make myself comfortable with the unknowns life throws our way. Whether it’s waiting for an opportunity for a new job or wondering if the person you’re dating is who you’ll spend the rest of your life with. It’s all hard. It’s all confusing, and it’s all messy.

When I think about the people who have made an impact on my life over the years, I don’t think about how they had all the answers. Instead, I find myself grateful that they were just there. Sometimes they had good things to say, I’m sure, but I couldn’t tell you now what they were.

I think about them letting me struggle through the questions I had. They listened to me rant about what I didn’t understand. They comforted me and let me be vulnerable without judgement.

So, I don’t know what my favorite and least favorite moment of the day is, and while there’s part of me that wishes I did. There’s a bigger part that’s okay that I don’t.

What had happened was…

10. Discuss something you planned that ended up not being what you expected

My life.

I really wanted the post to just be those two words, but I guess that’s not really a discussion and I’ve had 27 years of things I’ve planned not quite turning out, so I guess I’ll just pick one. Mostly the biggest thing in my life: Marriage.

Plan: Find a guy in college, get engaged by our senior year or the end of… married at 23.
What actually happened: Find a guy in college, get my heart stomped on. Single from age 22 until 26. Go on a couple of eHarmony dates. The 3rd guy I met on eHarmony ends up being my husband. Get married at 26.

But let me break that down a little more….

Plan: Meet someone “the normal way” – blind date by a mutual friend, a random encounter at a store, through friends at a party we’re both at, a friend’s wedding, etc…
What actually happened: Take parents suggestion/offer to sign up for eHarmony after being super offended and kind of feeling like a loser setting up my profile. Go on a date. Go on a second date with the same guy. Never want to talk to him again because although he is nice, you can tell there’s no chemistry and he’s kind of annoying. Silence and disappointment for a few months. Go on another date with a guy who talks about himself the whole time and then at the end says, “let’s do this again” and since you’re nice you say to yourself, “yeah! everyone deserves a second chance!” and then never hear from him again. More silence and a lot more disappointment which turns into anger at the site. Get automatically renewed because you didn’t realize your subscription was ending. Cuss and scream at eHarmony people until they give you your money back. When they only give you half your money back and tell you that you have three months left, swear not to use the program because you hate them. Use it anyway because oh well it was paid for. One month before it expires, a cute police officer messages you.

Plan: Message with him until he gets bored with you because that’s what happened with a bunch of other guys.
What actually happened: We messaged a lot and made it through each messaging step and he still didn’t stop messaging me. Then he asked me for coffee.

Plan: We meet at a hip local coffee shop, but he realizes I’m ugly or weird and decides not to ask me out again. Have to wait in between dates for him to ask to see me again.
What actually happened: We meet at a Dunkin Doughnuts and talk for almost 3 hours and it turns out he is super cute and I’m really excited to see him again, and we planned our second date before our first one ends.

Plan: Go on a second date and realize this just isn’t working.
What actually happened: The second date was fun, even though he told weird police officer stories about decaying bodies and he kicked your ass at putt putt, which you are not good at AT ALL, and you eventually stop keeping score cause it’s embarrassing and then you go out for wings and he doesn’t even care that you look like a weirdo when you eat wings and you find out later that he had no idea that eating wings was a terrible date idea. But he hugs you awkwardly and tells you he wants to see you again, and you can’t wait either.

Plan: You stop planning for the third date and keep an open mind cause clearly this is not going how you thought it was so you give it a damn rest for once.
What actually happened: You realize this could be something kind of serious. Also he tries to kiss you but your PLAN is to wait until you are married or engaged. He doesn’t know that.

Plan: Just let things take their course, but expect to be his girlfriend in another 2 months or so. Also don’t let him kiss you until engagement…. if it’s going there…
What actually happened: You cannot resist his adorable face and attempts to make out with you, so 1 month after your first date, you kiss his adorable face. 2 weeks later he asks you to be his girlfriend.

Plan: Talk about maybe getting engaged in December.
What actually happened: Buy a ring a month after you become bf/gf. Get engaged a month after that. Get married in December.

SO! Moral of the story kids…. make all the plans you want. Just don’t be surprised if it doesn’t go your way. My only thought on this… I’m so glad it turned out the way it did. I love my love story, and it’s much better than all the things I planned!

A better story

8. Discuss a spontaneous moment in your life that turned out to be fantastic.

Spontaneity is not something I’m great at. I’ve always thought it’s a great concept, and I love the idea of it. To not be tied down to schedules and plans sounds good in theory, but I have a difficult time actually living that out. While I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a spontaneous person, I do have some spontaneous moments I hold near to my heart.

I have a friend, Leah, who lives in Charleston. Aka one of the best cities on the planet. And she is wonderful. She’s full of life, tells it like it is, and is married to a “Ken look-alike” type of guy. A couple years ago she was in Delaware visiting, and as we were sitting at a corner table in Brew-Haha, she starts to tell me about her plans to get back home. You see, Leah is a photographer, so she was in town shooting a wedding and had to drive to fit all her gear.

IMG_4421Her plan was to take our mutual friend Madison
with her and road trip their way down the east coast and stop at all those cheesy places you hear about, but never actually go to. Giant roller skate, anyone?

The first words out of my mouth were, “I want to go!” And because she’s Leah, she said I absolutely should. They were leaving two days later.

My mind immediately went to not being able to miss work and all the other “planner” type thoughts you could imagine one would have, but I powered through and decided to go. And oh my word- I’m so glad I did!

My favorite stop along the way was an abandoned renaissance fair in no-man’s land Virginia. I’m not kidding- this place was creepy AF. I was just waiting for the village of homeless people to jump out and kill us at any moment. “Do I have my I.D. on me? How will they identify the body? NO ONE knows where we are right now.” All very real thoughts that went through my head.

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After turning what should have been a ten hour car ride into a fifteen hour one, we finally made it to Charleston. We visited plantations with the oldest trees I’ve ever seen, ate some of the most amazing food (shrimp and grits is a real thing!), and wondered the streets of one of the oldest cities we have. It was beautiful and wonderful and everything else you would imagine it to be.

This was one of those opportunities where knowing when to say “yes” was so important. It took some fighting off normal tendencies and a willingness to get out of my comfort zone, but I learned what has proven to be an important lesson for me.

Saying yes tells a better story.