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Since it is around the time of graduation for both high school and college kids, I thought now would be a good time to talk about self-awareness. Being true to yourself and using your own God-given gifts are so important, not only for your own happiness, but for the benefit of all those around you.
It took me fifty years to effectively learn this lesson. Let me explain. I was raised in a family where I was taught to think about others and to help out others who are in need. This is a wonderful thing to do….absolutely! I was so blessed to be surrounded by such caring and thoughtful people, and my Christian upbringing reinforced this value. The world certainly needs more people who put other people’s needs ahead of their own. This is the concept of true and Godly love.
There is, however, a difference between helping others in need and letting other people control you. This is where I became confused, and at the time, I didn’t realize it. It was only after going through a deep valley in my life which included a divorce and three years of counseling that I finally learned this lesson.
From the time I was very young, I was a very creative person. I danced for over twenty-five years (ballet, tap, jazz, modern, ballroom). In college, I was also a choreographer and was involved in many dance recitals. These were some of the happiest memories in my life. For a short period after college, I actually began to ice skate, and I loved it. However, after I got married, everything changed. I quit dancing and taught aerobics since it brought in money. I didn’t enjoy it as much, but at least it gave me a little extra money. When I would see people dance, I fondly remembered the old days, but my husband wasn’t much of a dancer, so I rarely joined in with the group. During the times that I did dance, it was usually by myself.
I also love food. Any kind of food. Liver was just about the only thing I wouldn’t eat. However, my husband and his family were very picky eaters. At one point, I went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition and was so excited to learn how to cook more healthy and delicious meals. This dream of more healthy cooking slowly died, however, as I found myself unable to accommodate the dietary requirements of my family – no fresh tomatoes, no mushrooms, no large pieces of onion or green pepper, etc. For years, we would eat a four cheese pizza on Friday nights with nothing else on it because that is what he wanted to eat.
I love to decorate. For a while, I ran my own scrapbooking business. I just loved to create, and early in my marriage, I was a very creative person. As the marriage progressed, my creative side slowly seemed to disappear. Many times I would bring up ideas to redecorate a room or add some new landscaping, but by the end of the marriage, all I heard from him was a constant “no”.
I was completely focused on keeping him happy, even giving up what I loved. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was slowly losing my own identity. All I knew is that I lacked energy and didn’t take pleasure in life like I used to do in my college years and early on in the marriage. My husband eventually decided he wanted a divorce which was a shock to me since I felt like I had done everything I could do to make him happy.
After we separated, I began counseling which was one of the best things I have ever done. About six months after the separation, I was in Trader Joe’s looking at a fresh pizza loaded with all kinds of vegetables. My mouth watered as I stared at it, and then it hit me. I could buy that! I no longer had this restriction on the food I could buy. A big smile came across my face as I proudly picked it up and placed it in my cart. I had suddenly come to the realization that I could cook how I wanted to cook, and I was ecstatic! I have now joined the company, Blue Apron, which sends fresh ingredients along with the menus weekly to my home. I am now eating all kinds of amazing dishes that I was not able to eat during my marriage. I have even discovered foods that I didn’t even know existed!
During one of my counseling sessions, we discussed my creative side. I had started to decorate my new house, and I found myself becoming a happier person. I told my counselor that during my marriage, I felt like I had lost my creativity. She told me, “You didn’t lose it…it was just stifled.” That statement has stuck with me, and today, my creativity has fully returned. I have ideas flowing out of me so much that I have to keep a journal next to my bed so I can write ideas down when they come to me in the middle of the night (and believe me, that happens a lot!). I have started decorating my home on my own terms and feel so much satisfaction when the job is done. I am in the middle of creating a brand new website for adenomyosis sufferers, a cause that I believe in strongly. The ideas are coming so fast that I feel like a faucet has been turned on, and I can’t turn it off! It is a wonderful feeling! I’m much happier, more energetic, and more at peace with myself. My counselor has told me that this is the meaning of self-awareness, a healthy psychological state.
The lesson? Be true to yourself. Definitely help out others in need, even to the point of putting their needs ahead of your own, but don’t let others control you. There is a difference! Never apologize for who you are. Use your talents. God gave you these talents, and He wants you to use them for His glory. Never, ever, let someone else dictate to you how you are going to live your life. Believe me, it is NOT worth it! If you want to become a doctor or lawyer, do it! If you are really into cars and want to become a mechanic, do it! If you are musical, pursue that dream! If you love to talk and want to become a salesman, by all means, go for it! Don’t force yourself to do something that you hate because someone pushes you in that direction. Use the talents God has given you. Accept who you are. You will be much happier, and the world will be a much better place for it.
Congrats to all the graduates of 2015!!