Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two decades of learning

20 years ago, I was in the middle of the worst year of my life - and it was about to get even worse. I was, or about to become, a loser in every way - romantically, professionally, financially and socially. I was betrayed and deceived by people I had trusted. People I thought were my friends went silent. By the time I limped to Austin, Texas near the end of 1996, I was very much alone and shattered. I still don’t know how I managed to find an apartment and move - it was like I turned on a machine and just let it run, but wasn't really involved at all. 

I got completely lucky just after I arrived - a job literally landed in my mailbox. A good-paying job I could do from my home. I’d gotten it because of something I’d been dabbling in, on my own, and talking about online. That job - and the Internet - saved my life - it not only gave me financial stability under a sea of debt, it also redeemed my professional reputation and jump-started my career. Austin also saved my life: I made friends that I still have in my life, that delight me even from afar, and the music all around me fed my soul, and still does, to this day. 

That very dark time is always in the back of my head, though I don't dwell on it. Now, exactly 20 years later after that horrible time, it's been more prominent in my thinking. I’ve been thinking in particularly about what I learned since then:
  • I’m much stronger than I thought I was. 
  • You can get better alone - but a good therapist is worth the money. 
  • Listening to music, and drastically reducing the amount of TV you watch, is great for the soul. 
  • To get better, you have to want to get better. 
  • To get better takes more than time - it takes hard work. 
  • To get better, you have to focus not on what you don’t want, but what you do want. You can’t just say, “I hate that such-and-such happened/is happening, I wish it would stop.” You have to focus on what you want instead, and do all you can to live that reality. 
  • Do what you love, no apologies to anyone. 
  • Anyone who tries to separate you from the activities you love should be dropped from your life immediately. 
  • Everyone wastes at least some time on crappy people. Learn from it and forgive yourself. 
  • Friends build you up, and when they criticize, it’s from a place of care and love. Toxic people speak from a place of contempt for your life and your choices, particularly regarding things that make you happy. 
  • You don’t need any dramatic speeches to get rid of toxic people in your life - just stop engaging with them. Most will never notice you’ve dropped them.
  • In the USA, you always have choices. You may not like them, but you have them. If nothing else, you can improve your health. 
  • If you are still complaining about the same thing two years later, the biggest problem is YOU. 
  • Moving is expensive, and you lose a lot in terms of friends and comfort, but it's also a glorious fresh start. In a new place, no one knows anything about you that you don't want them to know, and you are free to be the person you want to be. And sometimes, it's exactly the change you need. 
  • It really does get better - if you want it to and are willing to work at it. 

It took two years for me to really start recovering. And I’m very pleased with all I’ve done professionally since then, but I’m even more pleased with all that I’ve done personally: all the travel, learning another language, learning to cook, singing in public, and learning to ride a motorcycle and taking it some amazing places. That I’ve married a man that loves me for who I am is delicious icing on a cake I made myself. 

I hope this blog helps someone out there who feels like all is lost. It's not. You may not get the life you planned on, by a happy life is possible. 

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