I watched this video for the first time a few weeks ago. Then I watched it again, a few days later. Then I tagged all my friends in it on Facebook. Now, I watch it whenever I feel like I need to remember a fundamental truth of living or am having a particularly stagnant Sunday night. So I wanted to share it with you.
Tracee Ellis Ross is an American actress, model, tv host, comedian so okay, she like, does everything. You might know her as Joan Clayton of Girlfriends or Dr. Rainbow Johnson in Black-ish. She has won five NAACP Image Awards and a Golden Globe for Best Actress- TV Show or Comedy, very casually. Fun fact: her mom is Diana Ross. She is also an Incredible Human Being and Real Life Inspiration With Whom I Would Love to Eat Sushi so that’s interesting.
In this speech, she speaks the truth I have been trying to write down for a very long time. She is saying the words that I have not yet quite mustered up the courage to utter at age 21. The truth that I have been looking for in books and movies and songs and Pinterest boards but couldn’t pin down. “My life is mine.”
This obvious, yet earth-shattering sentence that pumps adrenaline into your veins and ties running shoes to your feet. It empowers you to spring out of the corner you may have been backed into and run, run, run for the hills. If this statement seems apparent, you are lucky. If this statement seems groundbreaking, then you are not alone.
We have been sold a single story of what our purpose and meaning in life might be. I haven’t decided mine quite yet, but I want to consider all of my options. So watch this clip, consider your breadth of possibilities and realize that living your full, wonderful, vivacious, spaghetti-eating life is definitely not selfish.
Click on this thing, okay:
photo credit: Terry Tsiolis
Finals. Rough Mondays. Rejection. Parking tickets. Spilled coffee. All-nighters. Bad texts.
There are lots of reasons to want to feel better. There are lots of ways to do it.
Some classic pick-me-ups for when you need them most:
- Wear your favorite sweater. Liking how you look is important. Your best self might wear a Free People sweater. I think mine does. So throw on what makes you feel like a badass.
- Feel less guilt. For eating things that you enjoy, for splurging a tiny bit on the shoes you’ve been eyeing for months, for skipping yoga this week because you were exhausted, for watching a movie. These are little things people, in the grand scheme of big things. If it makes you feel disproportionately better, doing a small not great thing, I say do it. This life is for being alive.
- Close your eyes. When all else fails, take a nap. This can be hard because you can feel guilty (see number 2) or stressed or lay there thinking about all the million things you “should” be doing. But who’s to say what you shouldn’t be doing is giving your brain and body a few moments of rest so you can do whatever you were gonna do 67 times faster with 200% more joy? Sleep tight.
- Drink something. A liquid of choice; whether it be water, chocolate milk, tea, iced caramel latte with skim milk and Splenda or some red wine. Sometimes you just need hydration and a chance to feel yourself breathe and also, sometimes, wine.
- Clean something. Your room, your desk, your backpack, the whole kitchen, a park, your socks, whatever will make you feel purposeful and intentional and whole and together.
- Create something. Write, knit, hammer, paint, sew, strategize, level up, craft, code. Whatever you do, when you don’t want to do anything else. These escapes are necessary and important and not a waste of time like the right side of your brain wants to tell you.
- Watch a thing that is funny. For me it’s The Office or videos of babies laughing. Whatever your secret antidote that reminds you that being alive is not that serious and gives you slight abs– watch that thing.
And when all else fails, eat chocolate. Big chocolate guy.
I don’t know how people survived before GPS. I use GoogleMaps to get home from work everyday even though it’s the exact same route “just in case.” So the concept of a life uncharted is absolutely terrifying to me. As humans, we have been following maps, stars and trails for eons, it’s what we do. So what happens when there is no set course? That’s called being in your twenties. So this is what to do when your phone dies in the middle of a lifelong road trip.
Look down. Self awareness is the first step to anywhere. Realize where you are at and what you like/dislike/love about it.
Retrace your steps. Realize where you’ve been and pinpoint just when you started to feel this way. Notice what has changed since then and if you want to go back to where you were before or even potentially push on to something even better.
Look up. Picture where you want to go. Dream about it, write about it, pray about it, draw it, think about it. Envision what it looks like, tastes like, feels like. Let the Law of Attraction do its magic.
Take a break. I tend to want to go, go, go when I feel lost but I just end up going around in aimless circles and getting really dizzy. Stepping back to take time to process seems unproductive and frustrating but so is running really fast towards nowhere in particular. Wait it out and one day you’ll wake up on a Tuesday and it will hit you. A new piece to add to the puzzle. Something you really like or love or hate or want to become. You add it to your pile and think about it some more. It can feel stagnant, however, it is anything but. Be intentional about your progress; picky with your direction. If something feels right– follow it, but not just because someone tells you to.
Move forward. Confidently. Inertia can take hold and fear can make the first step look like a cliff. It’s okay to jump sometimes. Intuition is stronger than fear. Trust yourself. Step into your power and know it will be okay because it has been so many times before and you’re not about to start failing now.
If you get lost, don’t panic. This is being alive, and you will inevitably get turned around and off-course a few times. I think getting lost is what happens right before you find something wonderful.
I’m twenty one years old today. That is a lot of years. That is enough years to know some things but probably know nothing at all. That is enough years to meet some people, write some stuff down and still feel like life just started. That is enough years to feel very old and very young at the exact same time. That is enough years to pull out a horizontal ID card and feel like you might own the world but also enough years to definitely be renting the world for now.
I always thought 21 would feel older. Wiser. Have my life together more-er. But it feels like moving fast and how I felt at 12 but with a sense of responsibility piled on top of my leather jacket. This is the age they tell us to stay forever. Drink it in. Eat it up. Revel in youth and potential.
I am grateful for the past 21 years. I am present in this one. I am jumping for the next 21.
To my future daughter/son/human,
Above all, I hope that you are interesting.
I hope this because I think that this is the best thing that a person can be. You will sometimes be selfish and loud and kind and transparent and honest and tired and inspiring and guilty. Because we all are, sometimes. You will be called a lot of things and you will call yourself different things. But I hope, most of all, that you are interesting.
Interesting people are three-dimensional and imperfect and messy. They do things because they are drawn to them and they do them well. And if they don’t do them well, they try it again or they try something better. Interesting people have things about them that you can’t guess by looking at their shoes. Interesting people have stories that are not all good but not all bad. They are chasing things and when those things no longer serve them they chase more things. They are not stagnant or passive or bored. I hope you are interesting. Because this world is your canvas and you don’t have to be good at coloring in the lines or shading the sides of mountains to make an interesting painting. Interesting people surprise themselves. At 6 or 16 or 60. Interesting people grow and change and evolve and know that that is a good thing. I hope you swim in deep sea caves and fly on clouds because the middle ground is flat. Interesting people are not always happy. They are in fact, rarely content. Because being content means safety means settling means beige. And you darling, are not beige.
Those things that you think in the dark and that worry you that you might be insane will make you sparkle but you have to find your sunlight to do so. Interesting people struggle and my dear, I hope you find no shortage of struggles because that means you are moving something bigger than you. Interesting people move the heavy boulders and not just for the hell of it. Interesting people create and transform and remove and replace. You are not meant to ignore the music in your blood. I hope you are interesting because I know you will be strong and worried and smart and half-crazy and wonderful. And I hope you don’t shut all of that down in an effort to be okay. Because simply being okay is not interesting.
There it was. That feeling. Something in between petting a Golden Retriever and birthday candles. I call it a “home feeling.” It’s that feeling you get deep down in your stomach somewhere when something is truly and deeply right for you. Kind of like the opposite of nausea. The first time I felt it I was picking a college. Since then, it’s gotten louder and louder. I feel it in career paths, organizations, internships, human beings. Since I’ve started listening, it has never steered me wrong. Some people call it a gut feeling or intuition or following your heart or something. I don’t know what the heck it is but I hope that at some point in your life you feel it and you follow it blindly.
Trust it. That pit in your intestines? Do not automatically WebMD it and diagnose yourself with cancer like I typically do; it might your intuition telling you get out, this ain’t right, keep searching, move along ok! When in doubt, trust yourself. Our brains are analytical, made of lists and words and chaos that can get overwhelming really fast. Simplify it to a feeling. This is the stuff of magic anyways. Yes, do the math, make the pro/con chart, Venn diagram it if you have to. But ultimately, don’t ignore that push. Big decisions should feel like taking off your skinny jeans and seeing your bed at the end of a long day. Home, right, good. Be in tune with yourself and run to your home.