The mind is a funny thing. With just a sniff of a fragrance or the tune of a song, the brain brings us back to another time or place as we recall a moment of our past. In an instant, we are back at the prom wishing someone would ask us to dance or we’re replaying that fight and wondering if the hurtful things said had any truth to them. It’s as though we’ve sat down in front of our television and started streaming a movie only this time, the movie is our own tale.
During our primitive school years, we get used to taking tests. Whether they involve using a #2 pencil to fill in little bubbles or getting each letter correct on a spelling exam, we learn quickly that we must pass in order to succeed. We can’t get our driver’s licenses without both a written and in-car examination. We can’t get through college without passing midterms and finals. And we get used to the act of taking tests.
As adults, the tests become about so much more than academia. We struggle through tests of willpower when coworkers bring in donuts and we are trying desperately to fit into that special occasion outfit. We are forced to hold our tongues when people test our nerves. Our patience is tested as we wait for good or bad news and when children push our buttons. Heck, we even test our own limits by jumping out of planes and taking professional and personal risks.
The first phase of any romantic relationship is usually filled with a mix of butterflies and euphoria. Everything your significant other says and does is adorable. Their bed head in the morning. Their “profound” thoughts on the most mundane topics. Hell, even the way they snore at night are all quirky little pieces of the man or woman you’re in love with. Everything is blissful and you are deep in the love bubble where sappy songs start to make you swoon and everything’s coming up roses. However, in just a few short months, things might look a bit different.
Ninety days to be precise.
This is a story about love. It is not a love story.
Ten years ago I met a man. He was a friend of a guy I dated, the first guy to ever break my heart. Through many group outings, my boyfriend’s friend became my friend too. Despite a shared love of goth culture and music, he was completely different from my boyfriend in a thousand awesomely wonderful ways. He was funny and sweet and I genuinely enjoyed his company, sharing inside jokes about his harem of women (I was jokingly the “Thursday Night Girl”) and spending one-on-one time with him to dye his blonde hair black or to talk on the beach.
I didn’t know then just how important he would become to me.
How many of us huddled together on the playground and cupped our hands over a friend’s ear to whisper hidden words that we had never uttered before? We shared our innermost thoughts and dreams to our pals after they pinky promised to “never tell anyone so long as I live.” Perhaps we divulged our feelings for a classmate or confessed to something embarrassing. Whatever the reason, we decided to unleash the truth and almost immediately felt a weight had been lifted. There’s a reason websites like PostSecret are so popular. People need to let it out, to ease the burden of secret keeping and be honest, if not with others than with themselves.
As adults, we all keep secrets. It’s just the way it is. Some people hide feelings about their best friend’s spouse or what they did last Saturday night. Health conditions, past mistakes, and relationships are concealed under the cloaks of omission and lies. We portray rosy dispositions when we may be struggling with something that gnaws at our emotional core, but that we feel we must keep to ourselves.
We hide parts of our lives from those around us for so many reasons. We’re afraid of how people will react to the truth or how their opinions of our character will be changed once the secret is out. We worry that people won’t understand the truth or how/why we’ve tried to protect them from it. Maybe we’re even a little ashamed.
Last night, I met up with a friend for what is becoming our quarterly check-in into the other’s life. With busy schedules, meeting up for drinks a few times a year is about all we have time for and sometimes we even have a hard time penciling that in. Tucking into one of our favorite local bars, we ordered pints and settled into a table for two with house-made potato chips and the delightful charm and camaraderie that only an Irish pub can offer.
As it turns out, the past few months have been great for the both of us. We happily chatted about our jobs, our hobbies, and then got down to the exceptionally good stuff: our relationships. Toasting to our good fortune and thrilled that karma seems to have finally found us, we began to gush about our significant others in ways that seemed very adult for two people who quite recently had been wondering why we seemed to be the only two singles left on the planet. We talked about how we journeyed into coupledom and where we saw things going. Then he said something that completely took me by surprise.
“I think she could be The One. I really do.”
What makes you happy? Are you getting enough of it? If you’re not, why aren’t you?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the choices we make and the reasons we make them. What I’ve discovered is that a lot—and I do mean a lot—of the decisions we make are because we are trying to make other people happy. It makes sense. We focus on families and loved ones because, in order to be seen as kind and selfless people, we must put their happiness above our own. We justify it by saying things like “if they’re happy, I’m happy” or “their happiness is more important than my own.” But is that always right?
The simple answer is no.
If we always put the needs of others before our own, we lose sight of what we need as individuals and can turn bitter and resentful. There have been a great many times when I have witnessed or experienced the anger that comes when one’s own needs are forsaken for someone else’s. The seed of resentment is a slow-growing emotion that once realized, is far stronger than you thought possible and incredibly hard to get rid of. And let me tell you, it’s not pretty.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Mentor Spotlight Week!
Inspired by my awesome mentor in all things, this week I will be sharing with you Wonderlings some of the Fonz’s obsessions, his words of wisdom, and maybe even a post from the man himself. I hope you all enjoy the first themed week of Defining Wonderland.
But before we begin with Mentor Spotlight Week, let me tell you about the beginning of our mentorship.
When I started at my job four years ago, the Fonz was one of the people I had to check in with. Being escorted from office to office and meeting with dozens of new people, I don’t remember our first encounter. I guess it’s good that he at least didn’t make a bad first impression.
My desk was situated outside of the business director’s office and the Fonz, being another manager, would frequently meet with the business director. Over time, our small pleasantries turned into sarcastic conversations about anything and everything. This was a man who not only got my sick sense of humor, but had one even more twisted than my own. Also, he could keep up on the pop culture references with an impressive knowledge of movies, music, and television shows. He thinks he’s the white Shaft for crying out loud! After a lengthy conversation about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I suggested that he show up at the building Halloween party dressed as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Luckily, he didn’t take me up on my suggestion. That would have just been wrong. So, so wrong.
They say that the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. And they’re right. Your relationship with yourself is vital to every other relationship in your life. It is said that you can never truly love another if you cannot love yourself. How can anyone expect to be in an honest and healthy relationship if they are not happy with themself?
Having been single for far longer than I’d like to admit, I have definitely cultivated the relationship I have with myself. I have explored new interests and gotten to know who I am as an individual. And I am here to tell you, I like me!
As much as I love my friends and family, I am happy with just being by myself sometimes. There is something comforting about enjoying a quiet day alone, strolling down a sidewalk with nothing but an iPod and thoughts to keep me company or cuddling up on the couch with a trashy magazine and a glass of wine or soaking in a tub of fragrant bubbles after a hard workout. Being alone for just five minutes allows a person to collect their thoughts and revive their energy so they can tackle all that life has to offer.