You don’t have to explain your life

You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.

You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.

… I hope when people ask what you’re going to do with your English degree you’ll say: “Continue my bookish examination of the contradictions and complexities of human motivation and desire”; or maybe just: “Carry it with me, as I do everything that matters.”

–Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things



Living the Answers: Priorities

Giant fanciful marine-life-shaped kites in Atlantic City, MD

The tagline of this blog is “living the questions.” I’ve been alive and asking questions for over two decades now, in seven different countries and many more cities, as a student, teacher, intern, employee, traveler, tourist, sister, daughter, girlfriend, niece. I like to think I have some preliminary answers, or at least hypotheses. Here’s the first one:

You can’t please everyone, but you can choose whom you want to please.

This is a corollary to one of the life lessons that Sarah (of Yes and Yes) shared on her birthday: that excuses are embarrassing and simply a way of saying “I’m not making this a priority.”

News flash: not everything and everyone can be a priority. And when you prioritize something, something or someone else is demoted, leading to the possibility for damaged expectations if not managed.

What does this mean in daily life? Don’t lead others on with the belief that they are a priority. Don’t make promises you can’t keep (this is hard for Americans–we tend to be ingratiating, saying “yes” to things we don’t intend to follow through on). Rather, clearly communicate what is important to you right now, and why the certain person, activity, or thing doesn’t fit into that schema.

Conversely, if someone doesn’t make you a priority when you thought they would (this is easy to imagine: friend flakes out on date, etc.) don’t get down on yourself. It’s not a reflection on your value, but a reflection on their situation or something external to your relationship. In other words, it’s a them problem, not a you problem.