I used to pray for patience.
I used to ask God to please, please, please make me a more patient woman/girlfriend/friend/daughter. I used to ask for it every time I prayed, which was daily.
And then I stopped.
After getting hit with situation after situation that strained and stretched what little patience I had–I mean, nothing teaches you patience like losing a job or having a baby or being a teacher or trying to wait for somebody in prison–I realized that praying for patience was akin to playing with fire.
Because God does not come off the mountaintop and shower huge heaps of patience on your head. Instead, he sends you situations that test and expand your ability to be patient. And sometimes they hurt.
Nothing forces you to look back over your life and find the lesson in things like getting older.
In a few weeks I’ll be entering my Jesus year (I’ll be 33), which has made me acutely aware of the trajectory of my life.
In year’s past, I would survey my accomplishments (or lack thereof) and regret not doing things differently, but I quickly learned that trying to change the past was completely futile and the only way I could possibly look back and NOT regret things was to chase my dreams whenever I had a chance.
So that’s what I did.
Three years ago, I dreamed of becoming a writer. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew that if I didn’t try, I’d look back, yet again, with longing and regret.
So I stepped out on faith, taught myself to be a freelancer, and eventually left my teaching job to pursue writing full time.
Looking back on my decision made me feel a little nostalgic.
As I approach another birthday, I am once again looking for the lessons I’ve learned throughout the years. Because my story often mirrors yours (and vice versa), I thought I’d pass on my hard-earned lessons to you.
Lesson # 1: I was never a victim.
Lincoln Anthony Blades, the man behind the hilarious and brutally honest blog This Is Your Conscience, recently wrote a book called You’re Not A Victim, You’re a Volunteer, and he’s right.
Far too often we look back and bemoan the things that have “happened to us,” instead of taking responsibly for our hand in whatever misfortune we encountered.
For instance, for years I wondered why past relationships seemed to fall apart, why guys couldn’t recognize how dope I was, or why they decided to repeatedly act an ass, until I realized I was a willing participant in the foolery. I couldn’t be totally upset that my feeling were disregarded because I was too afraid to speak my own truth and be real about what I wanted. I wasn’t totally to blame, but I was no innocent bystander either.
When we try to sanitize the truth to make ourselves look better, or like the victim, we strip away our agency and our ability to act. Unless you were attacked at random, you are not anybody’s victim sweetie. Remember that.
Lesson #2: I’m not better than anyone else.
I just finished reading Marianne Williamson’s book The Divine Law of Compensation and in it she writes, “All of us are special and none of us are special.”
The idea that none of us is any more or less special than the next person really hit me in the heart.
I’ve had my share of advantages in life. Despite growing up in the hood, I lived in a relatively stable household, went to private schools, and was never subjected to many of the soul-crushing things my peers had to deal with. Because of this, at times, I’ve behaved like a snob and looked down on those whom I either felt sorry for, or felt like they should have known better.
But the older I get, the more I have come to realize that we are all connected. And while I may have turned up my nose at someone for their lack of whatever, someone else was turning up their nose at me.
I am not better or less than anyone; none of us are. The fact that we try to place ourselves, or others we rock with, on pedestals is not only problematic, but it’s limiting.
A person’s worth isn’t defined by their bank account, their degrees, their clothes, or if they can properly conjugate a verb. Our value resides in our humanity. And if we saw each other as humans first, many of our issues would probably fade away.
Lesson #3: Ask for what you want.
This is huge, and I won’t lie, I still struggle with it. But if you don’t ask for what you absolutely want and need, especially from others, you won’t get it. Ever.
In the last few months I learned that I couldn’t rely on someone to just know what I want, need, and expect from them; I have to tell them straight up. No insinuating, no hints, no mentioning other people’s situations hoping they’d extrapolate what I needed for myself. I just had to be real and put my cards on the table.
Although it can be scary to verbalize exactly what you want not knowing if the other person is willing to give it, being honest eliminates confusion and miscommunication, while giving you a clear idea of where you stand and if your feelings are being valued.
Lesson #4: I am magnificent.
This needs no explanation, only a reminder. Daily. Each of us is already magnificent. A work in progress for sure, but an exquisite one no less.