I Don’t Have Time For Regrets

By the time this post hits the Inter-Web, I will be 34. People keep asking if I’m concerned about turning 34. I find that every year when a birthday approaches, people tend to crawl out of the woodwork wondering if you’re going to flip your shit and ball up under your desk. Seriously? It’s 34, not 104.

When I first sat down to write this post, I thought it was going to be a reflection of the top lessons I’ve learned in the past year of my life. What did being 33 teach me? But as I started to type, I realized lessons can sometimes have a negative connotation. Lessons can be construed as regrets and I have come to realize, in my 33 years and 11 months, that I don’t have time for regrets. But 33 did help me put some items into perspective, focused me a bit more, and those little pearls of wisdom I do want to share with you.

Always say I love you.

This sounds so simple but honestly I’ve seen in the past year how hard it can be for some people. I say I love you alot. I admit it, I’m a lover. But I truly want people to have no doubt in their minds how I feel about them. I talk to my Gram probably once a week on FaceTime, far less than I should, but we do text and email in between. She’s 81. Do I think she’s going anywhere? Not anytime soon – she’s got too much left to do, but having been through the agony of losing a grandmother once already, I know she is going to leave me someday. I always, always, always tell my Gram how much I love her. If she were to pass away tomorrow, there wouldn’t be a question in her mind of how I feel about her. Don’t wait for a major holiday, a birthday, or anniversary to tell someone you love them. Do it on any day that ends in Y.

Push yourself to do things that terrify you.

One random Saturday over the summer, we took a road trip to an amusement park a few hours away. After getting back into the roller coaster groove, we decided to take on the new free fall tower. Standing at 189 feet high, this tower rockets riders to the top before blasting back to the bottom at 45 miles per hour. As I stood in line, I had to have my back to the tower, I couldn’t even look at all – I didn’t need to, I could hear the screams. It’s hard to recall a time when I’ve been more terrified. But I did it. I’ll probably never do it again. But I faced what terrified me and I pushed myself to do it. Terror is completely subjective. That free fall tower was my terror. Yours may look much different but no matter what, don’t let it control you.

Understand the worth in your life.

I’m afraid I’m going to lose my life hostage. Each and every day I live with that fear. It’s not crippling by any means but it does tell me I have something special, something that I know the immeasurable worth of. Worth is not in the designer handbag you carry, the newest iPhone that goes in your pocket, or the sweet Nikes on your feet. They’re things. Items. If you lose them tomorrow you’ll be disappointed and likely upset. But what if you lost your best friend tomorrow? They have a worth that can’t be replaced in any shopping mall. Know that, understand that, and appreciate it for everything it is.

All in all, I have to say 33 was not a bad year. Ironically, the people who I always secretly, out loud, judged for saying things like, “I’m a much different person at 33 than I was at 32.” are not wrong. For the first time in my life, I do feel different with this passing year. Let’s see what I have left to accomplish at the ancient age of 34. Insert exaggerated eye roll.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

Believe in Growth, All Day, Every Day

You always hear people say that you grow closer to your partner when you have children, or when you get married, or go through a life crisis. For my money, over the course of this year, I’ve learned that you grow closer to your partner when you travel. Well, you either grow closer or you end up hating them, it’s really a crap shoot.

My life hostage and I have traveled a bit this year – whether it’s flying, half country road trips, or even just short day travels – we’ve been cooped up in a small space together for extended time frames. And, shockingly of all, we’re willing to do it again and again.

In the almost two years we’ve been together, the biggest downfall we’ve come upon in our relationship is that my life hostage tends to not communicate enough. I, on the other hand, communicate for a living, so I tend to over communicate. You would think this makes us the perfect travel companions, but instead we encounter a lot of, “What you do want to talk about?” “I don’t know, what you do want to talk about?” “I asked you first.” “I’m driving.” Big sigh. Apparently travel brings out our inner children.

On a spontaneous day trip, after our inner five year olds came out and they went a few rounds, I brought up some reality TV couples that had recently been in the gossip rags. (Reality TV is my guilty pleasure and I am 100% judgey while watching because, what’s the point if you’re not?) In my mind, I was thinking it would get under my life hostage’s skin and he would come up with another topic, hopefully one with more depth. That plan backfired on me, in the best possible way.

As I was droning on and on about how these couples fight all the time, some seem to be putting on facades, others are just miserable and clearly don’t connect; I noticed my life hostage actually listening intently. I finished my rant with the comment, “We are exceptionally normal next to them.” For a minute, there was silence, and then he looked at me and said, “Not everyone finds their soulmate Rach, some people just co-exist and they’re happy to do that, others co-exist and they don’t know any better or know how to get out.”

I live with Yoda.

This wasn’t the first time my life hostage has hit me with little pearls of wisdom, but for some reason, this was the time I paid attention to the most and his cute sentiment spurred a wonderful conversation for the rest of the car ride. And it made me realize, some of the best conversations I have at any given time with him, with my friends, my family – they’re random and often produce the most thought provoking results.

Before she became Elsa, with her Frozen ice castle and long blonde braid, Idina Menzel sang in this little musical called Wicked. Maybe you’ve heard of it. I had the pleasure of seeing it a handful of years back – I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats (RHONY reference for all you Bravo fans out there).

In Wicked, there is a song titled, For Good. In it, Glinda (the good witch) and Elphaba (the wicked witch) sing about their friendship: I’ve heard it said, that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn, and we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them, and we help them in return.

I’m a big believer in growth, all day every day, and I’ve often been known to seek it out. Who knew it was always right there in front of me? Don’t count those random, spur of the moment conversations out. You may not think much of them at the time, but I’ve become convinced that’s when the best memories are made and when growth truly happens. People do come into our lives for a reason – significant others, friends, co-workers, even the families we’re born into.

My Yoda and I? He truly is one of my greatest teachers, helping me grow every day, even when he doesn’t intentionally mean to. And me? I’m just happy he’s not green, that would be awkward to explain to TSA.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

My Heart Hurts From Hurting

What. The. F. What is the matter with people? I wrote in my last post that I live in a rose colored world where I believe in the inherent good in people, but the world we live in is testing that belief in big ways.

We live in a world where commercial jet planes are flown into skyscrapers. Where children pre-K through college go to school, not knowing if a shooter, who could be one of their peers, is going to take aim at them. Where someone drives a car through the middle of a known tourist populated area, mowing down crowds. Where bombs detonate in the middle of pop concerts. And where a madman opens fire on festival goers with an automatic weapon from his hotel room.

What. The. F.

My heart hurts from hurting. And none of this takes into account all the people suffering through the recent slew of natural crises doing their damnedest to beat humankind down.

My friend Will posted today on Facebook, “I sometimes feel guilty for bringing my children into this world, and that’s an awful thing to feel and say.” Not a single person persecuted what he was saying. In fact, most people echoed his sentiments. I back him 110%.

Every parent I’ve ever talked to has said some derivative of the same thing, “I want to give my children the world, something better than I had, everything they deserve.” How do you explain what is happening in the world to your children? I honestly want to know because maybe when you’re done with your children, you can try and explain it to me.

As my life hostage and I look down the road to bringing our own children into this world (specifically he would like twin girls – not that he’s got too many lofty demands on my reproductive organs or anything), I have to wonder if I’m going to feel like Will someday, ridden with guilt for leaving a world like to this to the greatest joys in my life. I pray for their sake that I don’t.

I’ve found myself praying a lot lately. I am Roman Catholic but I don’t believe you have to be in a church for God to hear you (this applies in my mind to any religion, not just Catholicism). I also don’t believe that prayer is anything more than a conversation between you and God which is why it often sounds like I’m speaking to any other person in my life when I pray. Prayer doesn’t change God, prayer changes me. It gives me peace, helps me to try and make sense of the senseless.

Recently, I haven’t been getting too much of that from my prayers – peace that is. I want to say it, like any other relationship, goes in phases. I want to say that, but honestly my biggest fear is that this is not a phase. That the world is trying every which way to prove me wrong – that people are not good and that I’m going to be raising children in a world against them at every turn.

This post goes against all the principles I’ve adopted as a writer. I wrote it in an hour and I didn’t look back. Usually I pour over each and every word through the course of several days. It is far more glass half empty than I strive to be. I like to think my glass isn’t full or empty, it’s refillable. And I talk about one of the top taboo subjects – religion.

You’ll have to forgive me all of these transgressions. I’m sure I’ll be myself again soon. Until then, be safe y’all – you matter to me and don’t forget that.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

Let Them Talk About Your Lack of Perfection

I hold an English minor from my undergrad days, one with a heavy emphasis on literature (immense gratitude to Dr. John McCombe for that) but I’ll be 100% honest with you, I have never read Great Expectations. I’m sure I was probably supposed to at some point but if I remember correctly, I saw the movie and read the Pink Monkey Notes. It just never held my attention.

A Tale of Two Cities? Could read it once a week. Where The Red Fern Grows? Bawled my eyes out. To Kill A Mockingbird? In love with and want to marry Atticus Finch. Little Women? I think about asking my mom to read it to me every time I go home. But Great Expectations? Ehhh.

But I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about expectations. We all have expectations in our lives. But, do we have a clear vision of expectations in our lives?

My life hostage and I were in our bathroom getting ready one day and I made a comment about needing to get some more muscle tone. He looked at me, very puzzled, and asked why? I made some flippant comment about how this was not the girl he fell for, she had that muscle tone I was looking for. Again, puzzled, he turned to me, smacked his (what he perceives as huge, but in reality is far from it) beer gut and said, “Do you know what this is? Happiness. And beer. But I can tell you I drank a hell of a lot more beer before I met you.”

Then, per usual, he walked out. Leaving me alone with my thoughts. It’s an annoying habit of his. But he got me thinking, with his version of a very sweet compliment.

Did I think he had this expectation of the perfect girlfriend? Because the reality seemed like, he didn’t. Was I putting undue expectations on myself? Of course I couldn’t let this concept go, like a dog with a bone, I just kept thinking about it.

HKP sent out a Project Wednesday email over the summer that said, “Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can.” I love that phrase. And it struck me, that phrase is appropriate when it comes to expectations.

Be gentle with yourself, don’t put expectations on yourself that aren’t really there. The world expects enough from all of us, don’t add to that with expectations you think others have of you. They’re probably too busy with their own expectations to take time and come up with some for you. And even if they do, who cares? Let them talk about your lack of perfection. How boring would life be if everyone was perfect?

You are doing the best you can, day in and day out, because you’re good people. I am a true believer in the rose colored glass phenom that everyone has inherent good in them, somewhere. We’re all just doing the best we can, even when it comes to our muscle tone.

I am not saying to stop reaching for your dreams, but don’t beat yourself up along the way. I have had my fair share of bumps, scrapes, bruises, and broken bones to know that beating yourself up does nothing for you. As the great pop culture poet, Van Wilder, says, “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” I’m thinking it’s time to find a rocking chair and try to read Great Expectations yet again.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

Does It Really Matter?

An acquaintance of mine who saw my Project Wednesday posts on social media sent me a note congratulating me and complimenting my honest, raw writing style. Attached to that note was an almost comical, backhanded compliment.

“Do you think you and your life hostage will get married? I mean I guess it could work this time for you guys.”

Ouch. Insert pause for my 30 second bounce back rate. Spend a whole day trying to figure out how that could be taken as anything other than rude. Then wait for my Chicago temper to flare. Who the hell do you think you are?

I guess we can call this post Lessons in Acceptance, Version 2.0. Clearly this person got the message about support but missed the part about respect or it not mattering what they think.

Do I think we’ll get married? Does it matter? Honestly, does it matter to anyone but us? Neither of us wear a ring on our fingers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know where the other person’s heart lies. Maybe we will get married in a huge traditional wedding complete with a princess ball gown, maybe we’ll run off to Vegas and be married by Elvis, maybe we’ll go to the courthouse on a Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. Maybe we’ll be like Brangelina and raise a blended family outside of wedlock, maybe we’ll have our 2.3 kids and live a normal, white picket fence suburban existence, maybe we’ll be barren. But again, does it really matter?

Here’s what does matter. We love each other. Our families love us and we them. Does it matter that I’m not technically the nieces’ aunt? No, they still kiss me goodbye and text me pictures of their newly pierced ears. I’ve heard my parents repeatedly use the term “our kids” when referring to me and my life hostage. Does it matter we’re not technically married? No, he’s family to them. In the spring, I was in the ER. My life hostage’s brother sat by my side all day. Does it matter that I’m not technically his blood? No, he still supported me.

Will this relationship work? Hell if I know. I don’t think any of us can honestly say with 100% certainty that we ever know if a relationship will work out, romantic or platonic. We have no way of looking to our Magic 8 crystal ball to see the future. Sure, nothing has worked out for either of us in the past and we’re both divorced, but hey it only takes one and we could be the absolute loves of each other’s lives, which clearly we feel we are. But again, whether it works out or not, does it matter to anyone but us?

Social media is a blessing and a curse. We get this wonderful platform on which to instantaneously share our lives with others – family, friends, those we went to high school or college with or we’ve met in the professional world, sometimes people we barely know. It truly is a great way to keep in touch if used correctly. But it also gives people a misplaced sense of entitlement, that they’re entitled to judge your life because you’ve shared it. Not how this works kids.

I love sharing my Project Wednesday work and the work of those who write on Project Wednesday with me; I’m blessed to be in the company of a collective group of extremely talented individuals and I think I can speak for them all when I say we count ourselves grateful for having the privilege to write on such an amazing platform!

Life is not one continuous narrative from beginning to end, there are all kinds of ups and downs, each with their own stories, along the way. I want to hear your stories the same way we share ours. But let’s make a deal, let’s keep it positive. And above all let’s remember, these stories do matter. Mine matter to me and yours to you. Let’s respect that.

The acquaintance? Well they’re not an acquaintance anymore. That is one of the beauties of social media – removing negativity in the world of social media only requires two or three clicks.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.