One of my Facebook friends posted a link to an article claiming that a large percentage of people live within 50 miles of their birthplace, commenting that this information was “sad, really.”
Since I saw that a few days ago, I’ve found myself arguing with that person in my head more than once.
“Just because someone lives near her birthplace doesn’t make her sad!”
“Maybe she wants to move but can’t!”
“Maybe she lived all over the world before returning home!”
“Maybe she’s going to move as soon as God says ‘go’!”
“Shut up! You don’t know me!”
It’s possible I have issues with internal debates that will never, ever happen in real life. Possible. It’s also possible that I’m a little (LOT) defensive about the way my life has turned out compared to what I dreamed for myself years ago.
Last week I got a new [to me] car. That means I’ve spent the last several days figuring out how to maneuver the driver’s seat into a comfortable position, wondering why I can’t lock the doors except with the key fob, and choosing my radio station presets.
My old car stereo had five buttons and 10 presets. My new-to-me car stereo has six buttons and 18 presets. That’s a lot of radio to choose! For the first two days, I didn’t set any stations because I hadn’t settled on a strategy yet. Yes, a radio station preset strategy.
See, I knew my stations needed to be arranged by some sort of organization. Because I’m like that. But I couldn’t decide on what sort. Do I put them in order of frequency number, from smallest to largest? In order of most-listened? Or should I group them by genre?
Unsurprising to anyone who knows me, I did all of the above. My new presets are organized by genre, in order of frequency number. And the first round is my most-listened-to stations (all pop music), while the second set includes my second-most-listened-to stations (Christian, oldies and country).
The final stumbling block for me was admitting that a) I love pop music more than anything else and b) I listen to the teeny-bopper and dance music station enough for it to be my #2 preset.
Why on earth does that matter? Who really cares, anyway? (And, seriously, if someone cares so much, why is she in my car in the first place?)
In an episode of Hart of Dixie, one of the main characters got fed up with another one and told her that she was the saddest person he knows. He pointed out that she spends all her time and energy looking over her shoulder and wishing for a different life, instead of just admitting that the life she has, the life she’s chosen makes her happy. “If you’re not happy, change your picture. Or change your life,” he told her.
Granted, it’s not too often that you find nuggets of truth while binge-watching a goofy show from the CW. But I say when it happens, celebrate it! At least for one week, Hart of Dixie had more than snappy dialogue, quirky small-town charm and lots of pretty people to offer. It really did teach a lesson.
In so many aspects of our lives, we deny the truth of what really makes us happy, all in the name of living up to our – or someone else’s – expectations for our lives. Sometimes the issue is something significant, like where we live or what career we pursue. Other times, though, it’s the small things that we hide, like our favorite radio stations or love of TV shows on the CW.
Even in this world where geek is chic and obsessed fans are the norm, most of us are afraid to admit what we really enjoy, what we really like, what really makes us happy. We get so caught up in what we SHOULD like, do, watch, eat, wear, etc., that what we really deny is our own happiness by just doing what we love.
On Hart of Dixie, the character in question was actually happy living and working in a small town instead of doing groundbreaking research or saving high-profile lives in the big city. (And, side note, she is obviously happy “spending time” with the town’s hot bartender, instead of pining after the town’s boring lawyer. #TeamWade) But because she’d spent her entire life dreaming of being a top surgeon, it was hard for her to admit that being a family doctor is actually what she loves.
I think this mindset is a big part of being a perfectionist. I know it is for me.
How much time do I spend thinking about what I should have accomplished by this point in my life? How often do I stir up discontent, not because I’m actually dissatisfied with my life – but because of what I assume other people must think?
But like I said before, who really cares? Who gets to decide what’s cool enough or what’s successful enough – and why is he the boss of me? Why is he making me feel guilty about what makes me happy? Why am I letting him? (Or her. Obviously, the “they” that make these rules about guilty or not-guilty pleasures, exciting lives vs. boring lives aren’t one guy – and are often simply ourselves.)
This denying ourselves of happiness is not healthy. And it’s why I push through the embarrassment and write here about my messy, not-perfect life that doesn’t match anyone’s expectations – including some of my own. It’s why I don’t feel guilty about the things that truly make me happy – or at least I’m trying not to.
- I live within 50 miles of my birthplace – and other than the four years I spent in college – I have my whole life.
- I listen to pop music – the kind with Owl City, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and even Justin Bieber – way more than I listen to “grown-up music.”
- I watch TV shows on the CW. And ABC Family. And I like them. A lot.
- I buy clothes at Walmart. Including that cute shirt that you said you like.
- I like to make macaroni and cheese with Cheese Whiz.
- I don’t regret for one minute leaving my career in public relations – even when I see friends get promotions (or peek at my measly 401K balance).
- I feed my daughter store-bought granola bars for breakfast. In related news, I could eat an entire box of Pop-Tarts or Golden Grahams in 24 hours. By myself. Because I love them so much.
- I was so excited to read the third book in a trilogy about teenagers and dragons that I bought it. I didn’t wait for it to arrive at the library. I bought it. It was terrible. And I loved it.
My list could go on forever, really. I’m not successful by most people’s standards. I’m not sophisticated or cultured or fancy or experienced. I’m not cool by anyone’s standards. And I’m okay with that.
What truly makes you happy? Do you feel guilty about that? Why?
This post was originally part of 31 Days of Giving Up on Perfect. For one month I wrote about my fight against perfectionism and my quest to get on with life, already. For more 31 Days, visit The Nester.