A week or so ago, I began writing again, sharing my stories of recovery and treatment with my eating disorders and mental illnesses - reigniting my love for this platform. Between college and the balance of adult life, it was easy to allow this substantial piece of my life to fall on the wayside. But, I have recognized my distancing and say, "no more". My goal from now on is to write here at least twice a month, but preferably every week - sharing who I am with the world around me.
Over the last ten days, I have opened part of myself up to the world, exposing my mental illness, physical ailments, and personal life with anyone who could find it. I had friends ask "Why do this? Why allow yourself to be so vulnerable?" I was truly opening up old woulds just to close them right back up in a way. For me though, the answer was simple. Life isn't always a beautiful, delightful walk. Sometimes it is a grueling sprint or exhausting crawl just to survive. None of that means life isn't worth living.
Recently, I finished the podcast S-Town or Shittown as it is really known. Podcasts are how I now pass the time in the car, doing laundry, cleaning the house, and more. This one was short, only seven episodes. However, in only those seven episodes it really impacted me, discussing the concept of time, and what it means to live a worthwhile life. (Find the podcast here.)
So, then what does it mean to live a worthwhile life? Can it be different for each person or are we all working towards one goal - one sole thing that makes a life worth it?
For me, my view on this is simple. All of us strive for our own passions, our own goals and life achievements. Finding worth in different areas of our lives. One place this shows exponentially is with people who don't want children. I personally cannot wait to be a mom, and see Zach become a father, but that does not mean that every person in the world dreams of being a parent. For some travel, pets, education, and careers can bring all the light they need into the world. The world sets expectations of what each of us should achieve, but the reality is that fitting into one mold, one idea of the "right" way to live is what brings so many to feel unworthy, unfit, and unsuccessful.
This idea of worth that is based on checkpoints you have to hit in life is an absolute joke that so many of still try to achieve. I have friends who feel like they are falling behind in life because they aren't in serious relationships, don't own a home, haven't finished their undergrad degrees or aren't in masters programs... the list goes on and on and on. Why do we feel as though there is such a strict timeline on our lives? Life expectancy continues to rise, we are getting older, living healthier and better lives, but we feel as though so much of it has to be lived before we turn 25.
Part of my job as a Youth Director and a Substitute Teacher is working with students, pretty much all ages, but I work especially close with middle and high school students. Guys, these children and youth are stressed. They are concerned about colleges, relationships, the fate of the world around them.. and most aren't even 16. I have youth who are so stressed out that making time for church and youth group seems wrong, even though they love it. Youth who work 10-15 hours a week, play multiple sports, are in so many clubs, and balance all of that with their education - yet still feel like they aren't doing enough... how have we gotten to this point in our society? Where we let children feel like failures for not reaching milestones?
Ask anyone from my youth, I was a high school over-achiever. I wanted to be in everything, excel at everything, help everyone... oh, and be the best softball player I could be. I would have meltdowns after school over the smallest things because by the end of the day, my body and mind were mush. College wasn't a different story, I wanted to be in every club, be great in school (even though I had no idea what I wanted to be, which stressed me out), work everywhere, and make time for my, at that point, serious relationship with Zach and friends. It didn't work. I failed out of college my sophomore year. I'm not proud of that fact, but I own it. Life happened. I worked through it and graduated in 3.5 years anyway. Life kept going despite what many considered "a failure".
There have been many places in my life when I have failed. I hate that word. Students are graded so quickly, told whether they pass or fail - and just like that it is instilled. Did you move to the next grade? Did you graduate? Did you make Top 30? On and on it goes. I didn't hit many milestones that I was told to... I quit my first career a year in, went to a treatment facility for mental illnesses and eating disorders, and so many things. But, I also hit some right...? I'm married, own a home with my husband, have pets... blah blah. None of it matters to me, and it just shouldn't. Not that I don't love my husband or our home. But, having that doesn't put me above anyone who doesn't.
So what makes a worthwhile life then?
Worthwhile is defined as: worth the time, money, or effort spent; of value or importance. Meaning every person's definition is different. Spending time on the couch with my dog watching Netflix is worthwhile, going to therapy is worthwhile, working in the Church with our youth group is worthwhile... I could keep going. But, my life is worth it. The things I spend time on are worth it... to me. And that's what matters. I'm so happy for the first time in a really long time - the last year of my life have felt healthier and safer than the last years of my life.
It took me so many years to realize that life looks different for everyone, that each path we are on has bumps, turns and beautiful views. We're all working to make the best of the lives we have on this earth. So, stop comparing your life to the person next door, or the celebrity on Instagram, you aren't them and that's perfectly fine. Make the most of the life you have here, doing what makes you happy, what brings you joy.
That's a worthwhile life. That's what matters.