When I was in high school I had a teacher who would (lovingly) refer to me as Murphy thanks to my really bad luck. I hadn’t thought of that nickname in years—until last month that is—when it felt like everytime I turned around some new bad thing was happening.
Seriously. It was one. thing. after. another.
Don’t get me wrong. July started out as an exciting month full of hope and new beginnings, but in the midst of celebrating moving into a new apartment and, seemingly, making strides in life, things started slowly going to hell which totally derailed all those warm fuzzy feelings I was experiencing and instead made me want to go jump off a goddamn cliff.
First, I got a letter in the mail letting me know that my taxes from 2014 were messed up and I owe the State of Michigan over $300. I took the taxes thing in stride. Unfortunate? Yes. But I could get over it. About a week after getting the letter, I got into a car accident. I got a ticket, my insurance is going to skyrocket, my car needs to be fixed and I feel like a total moron that it even happened in the first place. I spent some time wallowing in my sadness/dumbass decision making/own stupidity and—as I was finally feeling on the upswing—I ended up with a double ear infection/sinus infection combo. After spending nearly $100 and two hours at urgent care, I returned home where I accidentally spilled my antibiotic all over the place and, as I was picking the pills up, my eardrum burst. I ended up sitting on my kitchen floor crying and feeling sorry for myself.
While I was wallowing in my misery, I realized how I rarely, if ever, see people open up about their hard times online. We use social media as a virtual highlight reel. We put a lot of time and effort in sharing stylized photos of the good parts, but don’t put much energy into being candid about how life isn’t always “Instagram worthy.”
Pretending that life is always perfect and great does a huge disservice to us all because, frankly, it’s bullshit. Instead of cloaking our bad days in secrecy, I think we should be honest when we’re having a hard time—so I decided to put together a list that highlights how I deal with hard times and I how I get through shitty situations.
Here’s the deal: shit happens—and typically when we least expect it. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control and sometimes we make really stupid, preventable mistakes. Whether you’ve experienced a minor inconvenience or a life-changing event—what’s done is done. Take some time to come to terms with it, but don’t dwell on it or beat yourself up over it. There is nothing productive about continuing to obsess about something that went wrong. (I know, because I say this as someone who does exactly that.)
Afford yourself the same grace, kindness and understanding that you would a friend. Acknowledge that, despite whatever plans and intentions you have, life is really just one plot twist after another. Buckle up for the ride, sister.
GET IT ALL OUT
When things go wrong, I have a tendency to turn into a total recluse and cut myself off from everyone and everything. I don’t want to talk about what happened, I don’t want to talk about my feelings, I want to be left alone and wallow in my self-pity.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that that behavior is super unhealthy and I ultimately feel a million times better after venting to someone. I’m super fortunate in that I have a network of supportive friends and family who are always by my side—on the good days and the bad.
If this hasn’t been your day/week/month/year (see what I did there?) give your closest friend a call and tell them about it. Ideally, you’ll have people check in on you, but sometimes you have to be the one to take the initiative no matter how weird it might feel to you. You’ll feel better in the long run!
TAKE A STEP BACK
Now that we’ve accepted the fact that shit happens and bitched to our friends/family/cat about it, it helps to take a step back and put things in perspective.
For me the most upsetting thing that happened in July was getting in a car accident. One second life was on the upswing, and 10 seconds later I was sitting in a Quality Dairy parking lot waiting on the cops to get there to file a police report. It’s an unplanned expense, filing an insurance claim, increased premiums and deductibles and just feeling like a dumbass in general, but it could have been so much worse. No one was hurt or killed, thank God. Neither car was totaled. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor set back.
Sometimes taking a step way back and getting a little existential is what helps us put things in perspective. I’m not sure what that looks like for you. Maybe it’s religion, maybe it’s self-help books, or astrology or doing LSD. Whatever floats your boat. But the fact that you’re here, that you’re alive at this point in time leads me to believe that you’re here for a reason and that you’re stronger than a bad day/week/month/year.
A few months ago I called my friend Parker panicking that I had a life-threatening terminal illness thanks to WebMD. I had scheduled an appointment with my doctor, but in the meantime, I was spending my days (and nights) dwelling on what I believed would be an impending diagnosis. He was much more calm (and rational) than I was. He told me something that stuck with me. Let’s say that you do have this disease. So what? “It happened, get over it.”
At first, I thought I had just heard the most callous advice of my life. Get over it? If I go to the doctor and have a life threatening disease, you think I’m just going to get over it? But after my initial shock wore off, I realized that he was right. What’s done is done. What matters now is how you react to what has happened and what you’re going to do moving forward.
In this case I’m going to a) hire a professional to do my taxes b) pay better attention while driving (and wear my glasses and seatbelt) and c) start taking a multivitamin.
REAL LIFE VS. ONLINE
I love social media. I love a stylized Insta, a witty Tweet, or a silly Snap. (Admittedly, I kind of hate Facebook). Just as much as that, I love seeing people be real and open about the fact that, despite whatever their life looks like online, life isn’t always perfect lighting, gorgeous backdrops and cute props. Life is messy. It can be hard and it can feel really shitty to compare your bad day to someones highly curated online persona. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat.