Book Review / Real Life

Secrets of #Adulthood

Although I probably should, I rarely consider myself an adult. Maybe it’s because I’m now living in my parents’ basement (yes, that’s right. Full-blown stereotype). Or because I spend my days meditating, working out, tutoring, and reading and writing on health and wellness. The more adult thing to do, in my mind, would be work a nine to five job, to which I can now say, “Been there, done that.” The truth is that I still find myself embarrassed that I’m not conforming to the “normal” adult-like lifestyle that most of my friends are living. I have to constantly remind myself that I am, in fact, doing the right things for me: pursuing writing jobs, eating clean [as much as I can], keeping my space clean [a solid eighty percent of the time], working with kids [for El Sueño Project], mailing letters and small gifts to friends, studying and working in social media marketing, writing a financial blog for a client, keeping a journal, reading and taking notes for the health book I’m writing with Krista, developing therapeutic journaling tools.

One of the books I’m reading is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Rubin overhauls her life in order to increase her own happiness, designing monthly themes and resolutions, complete with a chart to motivate her each day. After two and a half months of working at creating happiness, she realizes something powerful: “‘Feeling right’ is about living the life that’s right for you–in occupation, location, marital status, and so on. It’s also about virtue: doing your duty, living up to the expectations you set for yourself.”

She goes on to talk about how difficult it was for her to give up her career in law to switch to her passion, writing. She describes her worry of a feeling a lack of legitimacy, a feeling to which I can now relate. She gives herself Twelve Commandments to live by during her yearlong project, one of which is “Be Gretchen.”

These past few weeks have left me feeling unmotivated, which is very unlike me. I resigned from my challenging, thought-provoking, travel-filled job in order to write full-time, in order to really pursue being a writer. Since then, and up until recently, I had been “feeling right,” a result of doing all of the right things for myself. At first I had a lot of energy and motivation, but lately I’ve let myself get bogged down in the tedious details of life. Sometimes putting the laundry away or organizing my files just seems like such a huge task. I need to take my own advice (I recently wrote a piece on meditation for “Women’s Lifestyle“) and practice mindfulness in my daily activities, and gratitude in my thoughts. And more than that, I need to give myself permission to Be Emily. I’m always trying to please other people, but I’m happier when I’m just me–constantly dancing, dreaming huge, striving to eat better, taking four hours to cook a meal, bouncing from book to book.

Rubin’s book arrived in my life at the perfect time. This doesn’t shock me, as many things seem to fall into place at the exact right time, especially when one is striving to be better, to grow. Like Rubin says in her book, quoting an old Buddhist saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

Rubin also quotes William Butler Yeats, who argues that we are happy when we are growing. Her other research points to novelty as a source of happiness.

This morning, I couldn’t sleep, so I got up at 5:30am and began reading. I ended up making a long list of things that make me happy, and I’m now toying with doing my own happiness project in 2014. If nothing else, Rubin certainly swayed me to start now, so I can hopefully prevent myself from ever living on auto-pilot and/or complaining incessantly.

And that’s my daily attempt at #optimism. Thanks, Gretchen. Your book strikes a chord.

***   ***   ***

Just so I have these later, I’m going to list Rubin’s “Secrets of Adulthood.” This list is just like something I’d keep in my phone notes, hastily adding a bullet point every time some chaotic event made me reevaluate how I life my life. It’s clear that Rubin has the experience to back these insights up:

1. People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think.

2. It’s okay to ask for help.

3. Most decisions don’t require extensive research.

4. Do good, feel good.

5. It’s important to be nice to everyone.

6. Bring a sweater.

7. By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished.

8. Soap and water removes most stains.

9. Turning the computer on and off a few times often fixes a glitch.

10. If you can’t find something, clean up.

11. You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you like to do.

12. Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.

13. What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

14. You don’t have to be good at everything.

15. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.

16. Over-the-counter medicines are very effective.

17. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

18. What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you–and vice versa.

19. People actually prefer that you buy wedding gifts off their registry.

20. You can’t profoundly change your children’s natures by nagging them or signing them up for classes.

21. No deposit, no return.

I’m halfway through the book and I’m still not sure I understand #12. I absolutely love #17 though. I need to stop worrying, start thinking positive, and get a little done each day so that I can accomplish my goal of finishing this book. It doesn’t have to be perfect, especially the first draft, and I’m sick of letting perfect be the enemy of good. Thank goodness for #motivation from #TheHappinessProject.



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