pat yourself on the back
We recently got home from a two week vacation out East. When I say 'we', I mean that I piled up five teenagers in a minivan for an 18 hour road trip with a bag full of organic snacks and a spotify playlist that no one seemed to appreciate but me. I was completely outnumbered in the adult to kid ratio department, but we were headed out to celebrate another birthday for me, stay with family and soak our Wisconsin bodies in the salt waters of the Jersey shore.
Despite spending my summers as a child on Long Beach Island, we were clearly tourists. We couldn't wait to jump in the 60 degree ocean, watching the locals relax on the beach in their windbreakers and shorts. We went crabbing, collected seashells all week, rode our bikes to get fresh doughnuts every morning and ice cream at night and I made the kids eat more Philly cheesesteaks in those 14 days then they ever really wanted to. But the best part was not any of this.
I get a bit reflective every year around my birthday. I am sure you do too. It's a time to take inventory of our lives and see how many steps forward (or backwards) we have taken within the last year. I have always been a thinker...in my head a lot and conscious about where I am headed. It's probably why writing is so important to me. And sometimes, there is no better time or place to think than at 5 o'clock in the morning, standing in front of the vast ocean, toes in the sand and a strong cup of coffee in hand. It was a sweet time for me to have this quiet space to reflect on this past year.
And although I was grateful for how it has unfolded, It has been a rough year for all of us. I am sure you have felt this. We've lost jobs and loved ones. Friendships have gone to the wayside. And we have had to juggle more than we are comfortable with...sometimes not as graceful as we would have liked. We have had to lean on people that didn't have the capacity or know how to support us and sometimes we had to dig deep just to make it through the day. You know what I am talking about. It's been a struggle and sometimes there wasn't anyone there to tell you it's going to be fine. Or that you matter. Or that you'll get through this.
It can be tough out there. And everything that we have been through in the last year or so...maybe everything we are still going through, sometimes wakes you up in the middle of the night hoping that all of that might have been a bit of a bad dream...
But here we are.
And then sometimes, you look up into the sky, or in my case, the ocean, and realize how insignificant everything really is. The ocean goes on forever and doesn't care so much about our little lives. It's doing it's own thing. Strong when it needs to be, gentle when it can, but always a presence you can't ignore. And here we are just trying to keep our heads above the water when the next wave crashes into us.
I know this isn't what you really want to hear. You want to be told that, in the grand scheme of things, we matter. That we are important. That what we do will leave a mark for people to remember. A bit of a legacy. And, for the most part, we are. But what I am finding is that it is in relation to others that is important. And if we don't take the time to create and nourish the connections, then none of it matters. Not you. Not I. Not what we do. It's our relationship to other people...and to ourselves...that make the difference. I am reminded of this constantly.
And sometimes this is hard to sit with. Because oftentimes it means making hard choices that only include the people that are willing to step out of their own worlds to walk with you. The ones that genuinely take an interest in what you do, who you are, what you believe in. The ones that aren't afraid to tell you how much you mean to them, or how they appreciate what you do or tell you that you matter to them. And it's not hard to see if they do. Because, let's be real, we can pat ourselves on the back as much as we want, and it's essential that we do, but we don't live on an island. We all need to feel safe and loved and know we are important to others. It's a basic human need. And if you find someone that makes you think otherwise, then that is their own journey to walk, but not with you.
Whether it's family, your boss, your partner...your friends, your neighbors, or your ex...no one gets a free ride with you anymore. Step up or step out, as my grandpa used to say. Take a deep breath and be grateful for who steps in and wish the rest good luck. We just don't have time to settle for anything else...
Know your worth. Know your value, my friends. And surround yourself with people that know this too. Our relationships with others is the single most important thing we will do in this lifetime.
And I have five sunkissed, ocean drenched teens that will back me up on that one.