As I enter the mid 30’s, I have learned stuff. I have been empowered by the ability to put names on feelings that up until now, have been cloudy half-thought-feelings in my head. I have been doing adult-ish things for some time now and while I may never fully feel like a card-carrying adult, one thing is for certain; the older I get, the more I feel like…Myself.
Even more to the point, I am growing into my communication style. It evolves, you know; as a kid, you have to ask for everything. You hear “No” a lot. You are made to tolerate situations and people that you don’t want to. Most people treat you like a kid and don’t take you seriously. That sticks with a person.
It takes a long time to really get over feeling like you need permission and to just plow forward without it. Asking is harder for some to learn than others. Telling them might as well be a quantum leap.
But something changed in my 30’s and perhaps the best explanation is this Jo De Messina quote:
I don’t really know anything about the woman or her music, or even where I heard the song, but she nailed it and that’s the real take away here.
My dearestest friend, who is 50 (and 32 according to Buzzfeed’s “How Old are You Actually?” quiz–I got 48…) confirmed this by telling me some years ago that I “tolerate too much. That will go away.”
She was right. If only I had known.
I got tired of ambiguity and indecision. I got tired of tolerating things that took up too much energy. We spend too much hard-earned mental energy speculating about possible outcomes. When you know where you are going, you have forward momentum, a little control. You are Captain of your sexy little ship. You can steer that bastard into port or float it on down the coast looking for dolphins and breaching whales. It’s up to you.
The problem is that people
are assholes don’t always want to give you an answer. Often, you are given the wrong answer. Now, I am in no way advocating bad behavior. I am a staunch believer in diplomacy and the efficacy of good, direct communication. As an East Coaster living on the West Coast, I am a natural; Over the years, my wise-assery has been tempered with logic.
I may be seen as “direct” to some and “abrasive” to the electric company, but sometimes, that is what it takes.
In the immortal words of Dalton in the timeless classic movie Roadhouse,
Even then, stay cool.
Here are some hard-learned, long-fought lessons on reigning in this new found freedom:
–Be nice. Human interaction and dignity is lacking these days. Put yourself out there a little, be open and a little vulnerable. Charming and friendly. Keep your sense of humor intact. Chat up the cashier. My bus driver, Janet will tell you that they may even be able to give you a discount. But you never know unless you ask. Most people don’t even realize that you can or should ask. She’s right, too; Amanda Palmer has a whole spiel on it (ignore the eyebrows); The Art of Asking.
Unless it’s time to be mean. And by “mean,” I mean pointed. Go over heads, keep asking, send emails and letters. Be logical and don’t loose your cool. Your cool is the most effective tool in your kit. Think about it; would you listen to the raving lunatic or to the rational human being?
–Don’t take any shit. Or at least, present that way when occasion calls for it. You may need to let someone know that you mean business. BUT know thyself; what you can you live with? If it means doing some dirty work, if it means having an awkward conversation or asking the tough questions to get the answers you need to sleep at night, it’s worth it. If it means backing down to avoid escalation, it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to call a situation or person “DONE” so that you can edit them from your life. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt. Just don’t embarrass yourself.
–Know your priorities. Life will tempt you into straying from them. Give life the fanger (that’s Southern for “finger”) and stick to your guns. As you get older, time passes SO FAST. Knowing that time is the most valued commodity in the world and that your supply is limited will help you loose any remaining inhibitions around asking for things and getting right to the point.
–Don’t expect anything from anyone, you are not entitled to anything. This teaches us to go forth and get things for ourselves. It’s called Tenacity and when used for good, it’s an excellent quality to have.
A little inspirational take-away: