Some Thoughts About Dreams

In this world, there are those who create, inspire, and live their dreams unafraid. We all need to be unafraid to live our dreams. All of us can at least try. You might not reach your goal, but if you never even try, you’ll never have the chance. Let go of the “can’t” and “shouldn’t” and fear. Start now. Dare to shake the world.

Sometimes we might feel like we’re nothing special. We haven’t done anything noteworthy, nothing that hundreds or millions of other people haven’t also done. We feel like we’re just one of a number, nobody that others would notice in a crowd or miss when we’re gone. But here’s the thing. Everything you’ve done is unique, because *you* are unique. Even if billions of others do it, no one does anything exactly the way anyone else does it, because no one is anyone else. Just as an example, no one phrases things confusingly in the same way I do.

Almost everyone has dreams and hopes for their life. When was the last time you made a list of your dreams? Have you done so recently, or did you decide the time has passed to accomplish them? For many things, there’s no such thing as “too late.” You might have to adjust your hopes and expectations, but you don’t have to give it up completely.

When we’re kids, we have dreams. We know what we want to be when we grow up, and that’s really cool. But sometimes those dreams are talked out of us. Our parents tell us we’re being unrealistic, or other kids make fun of us. It’s important to let kids hold onto their dreams. Even if it doesn’t seem probable, that doesn’t make it impossible.

Believe you know the things you know. Personally, I sometimes hold back from writing something because even though I know plenty about it, I’m afraid I’ll be wrong. Or that others won’t believe I know what I’m talking about. That makes it awfully hard to get things done. It doesn’t matter if they believe in me. It matters if *I* do.

Too many times, I’ve talked myself out of doing things I wanted because other people have told me I can’t. I’ve changed that in the past few years. There’s still a way to go, but I’m not holding back anymore.

Choose Who’s In Your Life

Most of us have family members or friends. Sometimes close, sometimes not so much.

The hard part is when someone who’s been close to us suddenly isn’t. Either they’ve backed off or we have, or maybe they’ve done something we just can’t accept. Maybe it’s an issue of physical distance, maybe one of emotional. Maybe we feel worse when we’re with them than when we aren’t.

When we let someone into our lives to that extent, and especially if they’re a family member, cutting them out can be difficult. It might even seem impossible. But if you feel negative when you’re around them, or if they’ve changed the way they act toward you to something hurtful, sometimes you have to make that choice.

We all have the right to decide who’s in our lives. Even being related doesn’t guarantee someone a place. People might say “I can’t stop talking to them, they’re my parent” or something along those lines, but that’s still a choice.

Choose yourself first. Be the most important person in your life, and surround yourself with people who make you happy, or at least comfortable. You deserve it.

Judgment

NOTE: This post was originally published on this blog in June 2015.

Judgment. Or judgement, depending on how you were taught to spell it. (I believe either way is correct, though I don’t know everything…)

Anyway, one thing I’m noticing a lot online is people judging others. Whether it’s about their clothes, their weight, their hair style (or lack of), whatever. People judging total strangers about things that don’t impact anyone other than that individual.

Why?

That’s a serious question. I know everyone judges in some ways. I’m not immune from doing it myself sometimes, though I try hard not to judge harshly and to keep my opinions to myself if I’m not asked for them. But why do some people think it’s not only okay to think “Wow, that fat person shouldn’t wear that dress”, but to post it publicly on social media and blogs?

Why is it okay to say harsh, hurtful things to people you don’t even know, when you’re sitting at a keyboard possibly thousands of miles away from that person?

I’ve seen people say, “It’s just my opinion, just words on the screen, get over it.”

Do you know what that person’s been through in their lives? Maybe you calling them fat is going to contribute to putting them back into the mindset of the eating disorder they’re recovering from. You insulting their clothes might remind them that they escaped an abusive relationship and can’t find a job, so they don’t have enough money to buy better clothes. And they may have been conditioned to believe they don’t deserve better things and would never look good anyway. Something you’ve just reinforced.

“Words on the screen” can be as hurtful as words thrown in your face. Sometimes even more so, because “words on a screen” are often coming from a stranger, leaving the target to wonder why they’re so messed up that even strangers can tell and think it’s okay to tell the world about it.

Think before you type. Is it really any of your business if a 300-pound woman wants to wear a crop top? Does it affect you in the least if a man has a tattooed face and a shaved head?

If it doesn’t directly affect YOU, why are you wasting time and energy ranting about it online? Is your life that empty and miserable that you have to bring down other people to entertain yourself and feel better?

That last sentence is kind of harsh, but that’s the only reason I can think of behind the current trend of verbally thrashing other people online. Because I know personally, I’m way too busy to even notice someone else’s hairstyle (unless it’s a really awesome one that I want) or their weight or what they’re wearing. And I’m definitely too busy to talk about it online, unless, again, it’s something really awesome. Personally, I’d rather spread the good than the bad.

I think the world would be a lot better if we built each other up… or at least kept our mouths shut. Just my opinion. Just words on a screen.

Redefining Self

Figuring out who you are isn’t something that happens once. Life is an ongoing process of change, reconsidering, and redefining. But when it comes to some subjects, people don’t always remember that.

I’ve known people who came out as homosexual in their 40s or later, after years of giving no sign at all that they were interested in people of the same sex. In a couple of cases, they themselves didn’t realize they were interested, or at least they didn’t admit it to themselves. But then they realized, or they came to terms with what they already knew.

That doesn’t mean they were heterosexual up until that point. It means they were living in the way they thought was best for them, or the way they thought they had to in order to be accepted by others, but over time they realized that wasn’t who they truly were.

Online, I’ve seen teens and young adults accused of “faking” their sexual orientation or gender “to get attention,” or of “jumping on the bandwagon,” because they’ve changed their self-identification over time. That doesn’t mean they’ve ever been dishonest about it. It means they might not have thought it completely through before they first came out. They also might, over time, have seen references to orientations or genders they didn’t know existed, and realized one of those terms fit them better than the way they’d previously identified.

I’ve also seen people say that certain genders and sexual orientations were “invented” by people on the Internet. This is not true. Those genders and orientations might not have had names until recently, but they still existed.

The Internet has been a help and support to a lot of people as they work on defining and identifying themselves. People who might have thought something was wrong with them because of the way they felt can now learn they aren’t the only one who feels that way. Of course, the Internet also has its downside; people can be judgmental and bully one another.

But the process of defining and identifying oneself doesn’t have a finite ending point. We all learn new things about ourselves over time. Life isn’t stagnant, and neither are we.

In Your Own Time

Coming out can be a scary thing. You don’t know how your family and friends will react. You might still be defining who you are, and it’s difficult to explain it to others when you aren’t entirely sure yourself. You might fear for your safety.

Unfortunately, sometimes people think they have the right to dictate how others handle things like coming out. I know of two people who were not emotionally ready to come out, and were afraid of the consequences. They talked to people they trusted, who told them if they were “really” gay or transgender, they would be open about it.

Both people came out. Not because they were ready, but because they felt pressured. They felt as if they had to prove themselves to others.

Both experienced very negative results, which I’d rather not detail.

No one has the right to tell you how to be a “real” ANYTHING. You are you, and you are who and what you are. Whatever that is, you are real. And you have the right to approach everything in your life in your own time, at your own pace, in the way that helps you feel safest and most comfortable.

Trust yourself, and don’t let others tell you how to be you.

“What’s the Point?”

Depression is sometimes a very subtle thing. It isn’t always sitting in bed crying and not wanting to move, or thinking your life is horrible, or believing no one cares.

Sometimes it’s just looking at all the things you’re trying to do and wondering “What’s the point? Why bother? Why am I wasting my time on this?”

If you only have one or two things in your life that seem pointless, it isn’t necessarily cause for concern. I think all of us feel that way once in a while about something. But if you feel that way about almost everything, almost all the time, it might be something to worry about. And in that case, it’s something to talk to a professional about.

It can be hard to reach out for help when you think “I just need to snap out of this” or you have people telling you “You need a more positive attitude and everything will be fine.” Even people who understand depression might say similar things, because an “it’s all pointless” feeling might not come across to them as depression, but instead as boredom or just a negative outlook.

But if you feel any way different from what’s usual for you, or if you have lost interest or willingness to do things you’ve enjoyed, reaching out for help is not only okay but important. You are allowed to feel happy, and you are allowed to enjoy things. If you need help to do that, it’s all right.

Graduations

It’s May, which means it’s the season of school graduations, at least in the US. Some colleges and universities have already had their graduation ceremonies; others are about to happen. High school seniors are counting the days, or might already have had their ceremonies as well depending on how their school year runs. In some school districts, even younger children have some form of graduation ceremony to recognize their transition from elementary school to middle school, or middle school to high school.

Sometimes graduation feels like an ending. I know it’s a cliche to say things like “graduation is a beginning, and that’s why the ceremony is called commencement”–but being cliche doesn’t make it untrue. Graduation really is a beginning. Yes, you’re ending one chapter of your life, but you’re doing so in order to start the next one. You might be going on to college, or starting a new career. You might be just becoming a legal adult, or figuring out how to adult. (As a side note… it’s okay if you don’t have that last bit totally figured out. I’m 45. I’m *still* learning to adult.)

And speaking of things that are okay… It’s okay if you don’t have the next part of your life set up yet. If you don’t know where or whether to go to college. If you haven’t found a job yet. If you’re not entirely sure the career you’ve studied for is actually for you. All of this is okay. It’s also okay if you have every step of the rest of your life spelled out in detail.

The cool thing about graduation is that it gives you a chance to start something new. And that’s never a bad thing.

Competition

I see a lot of competition going on lately, and it’s kind of bothering me. Not so much because people compete. I mean, most of us do in one way or another.

What’s bothering me is that sometimes the competition is cruel. It’s one thing to want the best for yourself and try to get it. That’s cool. If you’re wise enough to know what you want and determined enough to go after it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you’re trying to get the best for yourself by putting others down or sabotaging them so they can’t have it… that isn’t so cool.

I’ve never really understood why people feel they have to hurt others–or have the right to hurt others–to get what they want. I’ve experienced it a number of times, from school where other girls liked the same boys I did to publishing where I’ve seen authors badmouthing each other and even, on one occasion, encouraging readers to boycott the other author’s work just to make sure the other author didn’t get more recognition.

Honestly, why can’t people be kind to each other? Life isn’t a competition against everyone else. If that’s how your living, in my opinion, that’s pretty sad. Yes, in life we all want the best for ourselves, but that doesn’t necessitate competing against other people, only competing against ourselves to beat where we used to be.

Instead of competing, why not encourage others to reach their goals, and let them encourage you to reach yours? It might make reaching those goals easier, and I’m sure it would make it more pleasant.

Look in the Mirror

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you notice all the good things about yourself? Or do you only see the flaws?

Unfortunately, we are usually our own worst critics, and so many of us do only see the flaws when we look at our reflections. Some of us are even taught to look unfavorably at our bodies, by others who tell us “See how much your stomach sticks out? Stand up straight!” or “Your hair is such a mess” or “How can you wear those shorts with all those skin folds on your legs?”

It isn’t always easy to see the good things when we look at ourselves. But those good things do exist. Try looking in the mirror and finding something awesome about yourself. Say it out loud. Tell yourself that your flaws don’t matter, you are still amazing.

Much of the time, when other people look at us, they don’t see what we see. We might look in a mirror and see the muffin top over our jeans; others might just see how gorgeous our outfit is, or how confident we are walking around in it. We might analyze every flaw we have, but other people see the whole picture, not the pieces we pick apart. Why do we put ourselves down? Everyone is incredible just by virtue of being alive. So celebrate that.

So go ahead. Look in the mirror, and instead of criticizing what you see, praise it.

Being a Hero

My tagline as an author is “Anyone can be a hero.”

Being a hero means different things to different people. To me, it doesn’t have to mean any grand gesture. It doesn’t necessarily mean saving a life, or sacrificing yourself for someone else.

I’m pretty sure for most of us it doesn’t involve wearing a cape and spandex and flying through the air to fight supervillains, though I suppose anything’s possible.

Being a hero can mean something as simple as being friendly to that kid who always sits alone in the cafeteria because everyone makes fun of them. It can mean overhearing someone making a nasty comment about someone else and stepping in to say, “Hey, that’s not cool.” It can mean taking a few minutes to play with a younger cousin at a family dinner where everyone else is involved in their own conversations and activities.

Being a hero can mean recognizing that you have the power to make changes in your life. It can mean battling depression or other mental illnesses every day–and getting through each day still alive. That’s a win. That’s a hero.

Being a hero means a lot of different things, and that’s why I say anyone can be one.