2018 Will Only Change Your Life If You Do

You stumble into your apartment at 2 am on January 1st, still slightly drunk from the celebration the night before.  You slump onto the couch, dismayed to realize that nothing’s changed.  You feel the same as you always have, even though you promised yourself that in 2018, everything would change for you.  No more failed relationships.  No more emotional baggage.  No more crummy job.

Yet here you are, curled up on the sofa on January 1st, 2018 at 2 in the morning, drunkenly wallowing in your string of short-lived relationships, the pain you’ve held in for the past 20 years, and the 9-5 job with the overly chatty cubicle mate and the salary that’s barely enough to pay the bills.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to go, right?  You’re supposed to enter the new year happy and healthy, with a loving relationship and a fulfilling job.  You’re supposed to become your best self the moment the clock strikes midnight on January 1st.  You’re supposed to have all of the garbage you went through in 2017 magically absolved from your life.  You’re supposed to immediately step into the life of your dreams.

Maybe in a fairytale.  In 2018, it’s time to face the harsh reality of new beginnings.  

2018 will only change your life if you do.

In 2018, you have to be willing to better yourself, to dedicate yourself to building the life of your dreams.  Without resolving to change yourself this new year, your life will stagnate, and as 2019 arrives, you will find yourself enveloped in the same problems you’ve refused to solve for years.  In 2018, work to become the best version of yourself.  Work to give yourself the life you deserve.  Work.

If you’re searching for a stable, loving relationship, commit to self-examination this coming year.  Recognize that your fear of commitment is preventing you from experiencing the longevity you crave.  Understand that your fear of intimacy is cutting ties with your partners and holding you back from the love you deserve.  Know that having a “type” is trapping you in a set of love interests that may be wrong for you and is also preventing you from expanding your worldview.  Resolve to meet people who love you wholeheartedly and challenge you to overcome your fears.  In 2018, work on committing yourself to love, to intimacy, and your love life will blossom in ways you’ve never dreamed possible.

If you’re seeking an end to your emotional distress, commit to finding happiness this coming year.  Reignite the spark for the passions you’ve left behind.  Engage with nature, music, and the arts.  Do whatever makes you smile.  Grow closer to the people who uplift you and cut toxic friends out of your life.  In the midst of your overwhelm, prioritize searching for the help you deserve.  In 2018, work on creating your own happiness, and your world will once again become light and joyous.

If you’re longing for a new career, commit to paving the way for a brighter future this coming year.  Discover what fulfills you, what would fill that void in your professional life, and begin to seek it out.  Take inventory of your current skill set, then commit to developing the skills you need for your dream career.  Apply to jobs in your desired field, even if they seem far out of your reach.  Work on coping with rejections, and strive for self-improvement instead of giving up at the first sign of failure.  In 2018, work on pursuing the career of your dreams, and your professional life will flourish with exciting, new opportunities.

In 2018, work to transform your monotonous life into the life of your dreams.  On January 1st, as you find yourself drunkenly crying on the sofa at 2 am, wishing for a more fulfilling life, remember that 2018 will only change your life if you do.

*Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.

 

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

How Your Relationship With Your Parents Changes As You Age

This is something that I have recently experienced. As I am beginning my adult life and leaving behind my childhood (cue the tears), I am finding that the parent-child dynamic is changing since I am now the adult-child.

When we are younger, our relationship with our parents is pretty crystal clear. Cut and dry. These people are your parents, and you are supposed to listen to them and do as they say; follow the rules. But as we get older, and move away to college and start our careers/lives, we find that this relationship that we once thought was black and white, is now changing. Evolving.

I remember joking with my mom over the phone after my first week of college, telling her that everything she had taught me when I was younger was thrown out the window in a matter of a week on my own in the real world.. “Hey, Mom…remember when you told me not to talk to strangers because you know, stranger danger, and to not go walking at night by myself, and do not….” Well you get the point. But either way, I told my mom that I had never talked to so many strangers in my life, how I had to walk by myself at night to get back to my dorm room after class or go get dinner, etc.

Well after being on my own for a few years — living away from my parents, going to school, and working — I found that I really grew up. And now, my relationship with my parents has changed.

Here are 12 ways your relationship with your parent’s changes as you age.

You find out that your parents are real people.

Gasp. What?!

I know, right? But when we were younger, we just saw our parents in their one particular role: our parents. We didn’t actually think of them as Susie or Bob as their own, individual person. Then we grew up and realized that they actually had lives before us, and well, were other people besides “mom” and “dad.” They were once and still are…wait for it…just like us.

…And you actually start learning about them as real people.

Now that we are all grown up, and we realized that our parents are people, too, we get the opportunity to learn about them as individuals. They had their own life plans and, well, basically had a whole life before we came into the picture. Now, we get to learn about all the different things they did when they were our age. And it’s really cool, even if some of the stories are shocking. You did what, Mom?!

Your parents aren’t perfect. Neither are you. 

In learning that your parents are real people, just like you, you learn that they aren’t perfect. They are far from it. They have made their fair share of mistakes in the past. And at the same time, we, as the children, aren’t perfect either. We are just all figuring this out and making mistakes together.

You don’t have all the answers, but your parents didn’t either.

One thing that we know for certain about ourselves is that we are new to this whole adulthood thing, and adulting is hard. And we don’t have all the answers to life, even if we like to think that we do. But you know what? Neither do our parents. That’s right, you heard me. Our parents don’t have all the answers either. As much as we like to think that they do/did, especially since they always seemed to fix everything when we were kids, they were just figuring out things as they went along. They still are. We all are. So, perhaps, the one thing that is a total downer is that when we turn to our parents for adult help, they might not have the answers and we will have to figure it out on our own. Did I mention that being an adult is hard?

You realize that just like you, your parents are still growing, too.

I know what you are thinking: since our parents are, you know, older, they are definitely done growing as individuals and are pretty much set in their ways now. But that’s not true. Okay, maybe just slightly in regards to some things, but overall, our parents are still experiencing life and thus are learning from it. We are always learning as people — learning how to be a better version of ourselves and improve. And just like us, our parents are doing this, too.

You’re more like your parents than you realized.

I can still hear myself, just like any other normal, red-blooded, breathing teenager: Please don’t let me end up like my parents. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you are probably already more like them when you realize. I remember that not that long ago I was talking to my dad in the kitchen and I said a phrase, and my dad just stopped and remarked how he always says that exact phrase. I just about near lost my stuff. Are you meaning to tell me that I sound like a 50-something-year-old, white man?

Just kidding. But really, though. Even in my normal, everyday life, I see so much of my parents in me. As much as our teenage selves tried to prevent it, it was inevitable.

You become friends in a way.

Upon entering the unchartered waters of being the adult-child, you realize that you and your parents will now get to know each other as adult individuals. And with that becomes a whole new, more mature, dynamic to the relationship. Suddenly, you are both on an equal footing, and you find that you are actually becoming friends with your parents. And that’s really awesome.

…And with that, you have to actually work at that relationship.

You know how you have to make time for your friends or significant other? Well, the same applies to your parents. I know, I know. When you were a kid, your relationship with your parents just, well, was. It happened naturally because, after all, they are your parents. But now that they don’t have to be around 24/7 to watch over us and help us, we actually have to work to make time with our parents. I guess we should go send a message to our parents now.

While you still ask for their advice, they now ask for yours.

When we were younger, you could definitely count on your parents for not asking you for advice. I mean, who could blame them? We were young with barely any life experience. But now that we have some adulthood years under our belts, our parents realize that they can turn to us.

I remember when my parents started turning to me for advice — and actually listened to it! — I was dumbfounded. While we still turn to our parents for advice — and we probably always will — our relationship becomes more reciprocal and our parents understand that they can solicit our advice.

You can be more honest about your feelings.

As a kid, it might be difficult to open up to our parents about our lives. You don’t have to worry about what your parents’ thoughts are or them judging you (okay maybe only a little), and your parents don’t have to worry about shielding their poor, innocent baby from the harsh realities of the world. Now, you can be more honest about your feelings.

They really did, and still do, want the best for you.

Now that we are adults, we finally realize that all the things our parents did for us, whether we appreciated it or not, were done with their best intentions. Our parents just wanted the very best for us. They wanted us, young kids, to learn and grow and become successful and capable adults. And, even now as we enter into adulthood, our parents still want the best for us and will be cheering us on the whole way.

And despite it all, you’re glad for your parents. 

Despite all of the fights in your childhood, the things you disagreed with them on, the rules, the everything…you are still glad that they are your parents. Sure, they may be difficult at times or drive you crazy, but they are your people. They will always be Mom and Dad.

Emily Veith
Emily has her bachelor's degree in Political Science, and has always believed in helping and serving others. She wants to make the world a better place, and aspires to be a politician someday to do just that. She is an old soul who loves Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Glenn Miller. When she isn't writing about imperative news- and political-related, she can be found attempting new recipes, playing her guitar or reading a good mystery book.

Reinventing myself

What do you want to be when you grow up? I used to say a doctor or a soccer player when I was 5 or 8 years old, but when I was about to graduate from high school, I didn’t know.

How well can we answer that question?

We need more information and experiences in life because our path to success is built day in and day out. I would pose different questions. What would make you happy in life? What would make you comfortable during your professional career? Have we gained enough experience to see what we really want in life? In order to increase our perception of life, we have to travel the journey of personal transformation.

I graduated from high school and I was not sure what I wanted to do because I was not prepared to grow up. I secured a job at a supermarket and it gave me a sense of responsibility; it made me feel useful. Year one, and I was feeling very content with my life. Year two, and I had many things in my mind because I knew that it was time for me to grow up.

Time does not wait for anyone to make decisions, it was time for me to evaluate my options and decide. Based on my national test score and a few words with my chemistry teacher, I decided to pursue my studies in chemical engineering as my dad gave me the green light as he would be supporting me during this period through college.

The path after graduating from college is very clear: get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids and get a furry pet. Under ideal conditions, this equation works perfectly. However, college is not an option for everyone and it does not guarantee or immediately translate into the accomplishment of our chosen career.

Even though I struggled with classes during my first two years of college, I successfully completed my program and I was ready for what life is all about. Life is about finding opportunities and taking our chances. Life is accepting the risks and resigning ourselves to uncertainty. Life is scary, but if we don’t try, we will have no idea whether this scheme will work or not. When an opportunity presents itself, you just have to take it.

I left my hometown in December 2002 to travel to the United States without knowing that my life was about to be redefined. This was an opportunity with many question marks. 17 hours later after navigating 2629 miles, 2 feet of snow waited for me in Vermont. I understood for the very first time that I would be alone, with a new language to learn, counting on my roommates to be allies. It was the beginning of a new transformation, one that would make me more independent.

Years passed and I forgot about chemical engineering. Life had given me a reason to enjoy traveling (Connecticut, Montreal, Chicago, Atlanta, and Akron) and see the world. Why would I settle when I knew I could just continue playing the game of uncertainty? My loved ones believed that graduate school was the best choice to get back in my field, and they were correct.

I had the best time of my life while attending school at The University of Akron. I found a new purpose. I was surrounded by many friends in Akron and I wrote this note for my graduation: “Our experiences in life shape who we are and prepare us for our next challenge. I’m very proud of what we have seen, done and what we are leaving for others to follow in our steps. We went through marathons, concerts, cities, celebrations, movies, museums, festivals, performances and many other activities that brought us together. This journey does not belong to me; it belongs to those traveling by my side”.

What do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be the person that enjoys life by taking chances, by filling my life with experiences, by traveling the path of life, by learning from incredible individuals, by meeting beautiful human beings, by making mistakes because nobody is perfect, and by finding my passions because I tried.

I am from Colombia and I am very proud to be from that beautiful country. One of my great passions is life because I have walked this path by sharing it with amazing people. People that have taught me to see the world in a very different way. Extraordinary individuals have showed me what I have never could discover by myself. I am an eager reader of science, poetry, politics, and music (yes, the meaning and composition of song lyrics). I have a great appreciation for art, languages, and the expression of everyone's perspective seen from the lens of a camera. I love Astronomy and one day I will be in space. I am a Research Scientist in Corrosion Engineering and writing is a great way for me to tell the world how I feel.

Follow Your Own Path

In my dreams, I am enshrouded in a cap and gown, waiting for the instant my life will change forever.  I am gripping a dangling tassel, poised for the moment I can move it, the moment I can call myself a law school graduate.  I am successfully taking the Bar exam, conquering the grueling test with every tap on the keyboard.  I am obtaining the exam results, gasping at the news that at last, I am an attorney and preparing to pop the champagne.  In my dreams, I will have graduated law school and passed the Bar exam 4 years from now.

 Then, reality sets in.  I know that 4 years from now, I will not be receiving my Bar exam results.  I will not have graduated law school.  In the depths of my heart, I know it is the wrong time for me to apply to law school.  I have to delay law school further if I truly care about my well-being.

My college graduation cap read “She turned her dreams into plans” in large, silver, sparkly letters.  I am a firm believer in 5-year plans, 10-year plans, all types of plans… and always following through. Why would I make a decision that would completely derail my plans?

One day, I was jolted awake from the pervasive dream I had been chasing for years.  In a single day, I was forced to confront a harsh truth: I could choose to work tirelessly on law school applications and study for the LSAT for hours, but I am not ready for law school.  The process of applying to and preparing for law school had been causing me undue stress.  Additionally, I am a still-reforming perfectionist, and I realized that the cutthroat, competitive nature of law school could reignite my perfectionistic tendencies and prove detrimental to my health.  If I truly cared about myself, I would apply only when I felt ready, when the time felt right.

The realization hit me starkly, sharply, piercing my soul, leaving me breathless.  I was left shaking and sobbing; my entire body wracked with internal pain over an uncertain future, the loss of my plan.  I was drowning in my thoughts; attempting to draw myself back into the unshattered world I had inhabited just moments before, failing to restore peace with my decision.  Why do I have to sacrifice another year of my life?  What if I can never become an attorney?  Why me?  I was angry at myself for not being able to achieve the goal I had held for years in the timeframe I had planned.  I was convinced the soul-crushing, defeating pain I felt would never subside.  I was positive that as long as I followed this new, unpaved path, I would continue to wallow in misery.

Day by day, week by week, I began to view the new path I was treading with a renewed sense of purpose.  Self-hatred slowly turned to quiet resignation, which blossomed into acceptance of my circumstances, my capabilities, and myself.  Occasionally, a flicker of sadness would wash over me as sudden thoughts of my friends preparing to enter graduate school, medical school, and law school entered my mind, but my mourning became celebration as I realized that I had the freedom to accomplish anything during my wait for law school.  I now know that I am amorphous, with nearly unlimited possibilities and infinite potential to achieve my dreams.  In deciding to eschew the beaten path and traverse my own, I am stepping into a future of hope and happiness.

At some point in your life, the plans you painstakingly laid out may not come to fruition.  You may need to make decisions that will defy convention or disrupt the path for your life, but as long as you act in your own best interest, the decision to change your plans will leave you fulfilled.  At times, you will feel tempted by flashier, more alluring plans for your future, which may not suit you. At times, you will wonder if changing direction, following the sharp twists, turns, and bends in your life journey will be worth it in the end.  At times, you will mourn the loss of your plans, wistfully wondering what could have been had you not strayed from your original path.  However, as long as you are willing to seek out the positive aspects of your new plans, you will arrive at a place of acceptance.  By remaining at the forefront of your decisions and prioritizing your overall well-being over your immediate desires, you will gain an open mind, a deepened sense of self, and a renewed hope for the future.  You will transcend your fear of the unknown and enter the future with confidence.  You will flourish.  Following your own path can pose significant challenges, but it will provide you with invaluable insight, clarity, and a renewed sense of purpose in life.  Always listen to yourself first and remain open to changing your plans.  Follow your own path; today, tomorrow, and forever.

*Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

A Day in the Life of a College Student With Anxiety and Cerebral Palsy

7:25: I awaken and shower, pondering my future as the warm water rushes over me.  Do I take a service year or go into advertising as I’ve been planning?  Will I be employed when I graduate?  Why did I decide to leave college so early?  I’ll be leaving my friends behind.  I’ll be leaving the life I know behind, all as a third year.  What do other third-year college students muse about in the shower?  Certainly not graduation.  I’m defying convention, but is that the best choice I could have made for myself?

7:54: I scan through all of my available clothing options, finally settling on a navy blue floral dress and white flip-flops.  I discard possible choices based on a myriad of factors that make sense only to me.  My mind is a perpetual pro-con list.  I am analytical to a fault.  I search for my favorite necklace — silver with a heart — to wear with the dress and worry that I accidentally threw it away.  Calm down, you have much bigger fish to fry, I think.  I give up looking.  This outfit will suffice.

8:10: I blow-dry my hair, return to my bedroom and eat breakfast, checking Facebook while I eat.  A sudden jolt of worry rushes through me.  Where are my glasses?  What if they’re crushed somewhere?  I decide that they’re probably just fine, and I keep eating.  I find my glasses after I eat.  Good.

9:05: I print out my résumé for my Leadership class because today is the day we learn about résumé formatting.  My computer isn’t printing my document, and an unfamiliar notice lingers on my screen.  I call my family in desperation for any type of help, but I can’t reach them, which frustrates me further.  “Why can’t you pick up your phone?” I cry rhetorically.  “I can’t do this! I need this printed!”  My roommate hears me and asks if I’m okay, and I immediately feel guilt wash over me.  My anxiety is challenging for everyone.  I wish I had control, but I never feel in control at all.  Anxiety runs my life.  We print the résumé out with a different printer, but I can’t help but think that my roommate doesn’t deserve anything I put her through.  My anxiety isolates me.  My anxiety harms others.  My anxiety makes me feel like a monster.  When I leave for class thirty-five minutes later, I still have tears in my eyes.

10:05: I arrive at my Memory and Cognition class and sit down in the second row.  Today, we are learning about attention theories.  The class fascinates me, and I take quick, furious notes throughout.  An hour in, we have a ten-minute break, and my professor chats with me about my internship because I’m one of his research interns this quarter.  When we return to the material, he states that some actions we take are unconscious, like walking.  “I guess I’m doing heel-toe right now, but we don’t have to think about things like walking and talking,” he says.  I realize that he is speaking from a place of incredible privilege.  Some people can’t walk heel-toe without having to focus on their gait.  They’re not wired that way.  People like me.  I doubt any of us intend to reveal our unconscious biases, whether they’re racist, sexist, or ableist, but we need to be cognizant of them in order to change.  I realize that I’ve taken my own abilities for granted on numerous occasions, and I walk out understanding not only attention but the power that our unconscious holds over our schematic biases.

11:45: I arrive at my Leadership class early.  We spend the entire class learning how to properly format our résumés.  I realize that mine is out of order, and I worry about finding time to reformat it.  As to my future employment prospects, I hold a mixture of hope and self-doubt inside of me.  I hope that someday soon, my résumé will be the golden key to unlocking my dream job.  All of my senior classmates are interviewing, and many are so close to becoming employed.  I feel insecure in comparison.

1:15: I arrive at my apartment, quickly heat up food, and eat.  Twenty-five minutes later, I rush off to the psychology lab, hoping I can arrive before my first participant is slated to be there.

2:00: I arrive at the lab, let my participant into the room, and run through the informed consent and study procedures.  I study for my Food Science midterm while I wait for the participant to finish and debrief them afterward.  The study runs like clockwork.  It has to be methodologically sound, I think because I don’t want to ruin my professor’s study.  My eyes fall on the corkboard in the room above my head.  Thumbtacked to the board is a slip of paper with the words “You are important” written out.  I don’t feel important.  I don’t even feel happy today, but the words make me smile.  We all have a piece of us to share with the world that will make the world a better place.  We are all important, whether we recognize it or not.  I greet my next participant with a smile on my face and a renewed sense of faith in myself.

4:00: I stop at a small store in my apartment complex to pick up a snack.  I arrive at my apartment and study for tomorrow’s Food Science midterm for the next three hours.  I feel a wave of exhaustion run over me.

7:00: I rest my head on my notes, and fall into a dreamless sleep.  Maybe I should rethink studying on my bed!

10:00: I jolt awake, feeling completely disoriented.  I worry about the three hours of my life I could have spent studying for the midterm, and I decide to make myself a very late dinner.  I eat ravenously.

11:00: I decide to take out the trash, but my roommate’s in the kitchen, and we chat for a while.  I still feel guilty about making her worry about me earlier.  I hate the guilt and I hate the anxiety, but I feel powerless to stop them.  I take out the trash, shower, and prepare for bed.

12:05: I listen to music before falling asleep.  Seemingly out of the blue, three words stick in my mind: I’m an overcomer.  I fall asleep with a renewed sense of hope in tomorrow.  I know that I am naïve to assume that there will be a tomorrow, as so many people do not have that luxury, but I understand that I can overcome the difficulties of today if I strive to use the tomorrow I’m fortunate to have to better myself.

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.