Adding the Pieces Back In

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Over the last few years, the term “adulting” has been popularized within my generation. It’s basically a term that is used to show off an “adult” accomplishment like paying bills on time or starting a 401(k). I’m no sociologist, but I’m guessing that much of the phenomenon stems from the ease of sharing we now have combined with the fact that the world is changing and it’s pretty hard to fit everything we have to do into the time that we have. It can seem impossible when you’re starting out just to simply keep your life together.

So how do you make meaningful changes in your life? How do you improve yourself when you’re just trying to make it to work, feed yourself, and maintain your relationships?

It’s true that you can’t just change your life all at once, no matter what your demographic. You can’t start on January first with a huge list of everything you’re going to achieve and do better in the new year. You can’t even do that if you lay out small, manageable goals for each change—or at least you can’t if you’re me (or most people). We can’t be perfect, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years since I moved 3000 miles away from my home and family, it’s that it takes time to add all the pieces back in for a healthy and fulfilling life.

I’ve always been a perfectionist, with one main motivation: you’re just not good enough. That’s been a driving factor in everything I do well—but also the things I never try or just never finish. I’m one of those people who starts projects with gusto, then loses interest, or becomes fearful, lazy, or a combination. The exception to this is generally a deadline, or something else to hold me accountable.

I admire people who finish things.

In other ways, I look at my own life and marvel how I have had the ability to make not just a functional life for myself, but a resoundingly stable, happy, and meaningful life. A few years ago, when everything I had known got shaken up, it was all I could do to just find myself a home, feed myself, and get to work each day. Today, I have a wonderful circle of friends, a healthy relationship, a home that I love, a new business I’m starting, and a rock solid backbone that makes me pretty damn stable despite challenges that come my way. My sense of self has developed to the point where most days, I’m proud to be who I am, and I’m not going to change that for validation.

But there’s always something missing. It’s just part of my personality: I like independence, I like variety, I like feeling the metaphorical wind on my face. And that’s how I learned that it’s not just as simple as making the resolve to change what you don’t like about yourself and your life. It’s a gradual process.

That missing piece is what pushes me to add more meaning to my life, bit by bit. Here are some things I’ve learned that I remember to help me make changes possible in my own life:

  • I am only one person
  • I have accepted the fact that I do need 8 hours of sleep per night, at minimum
  • I feel better when I move, but I don’t do it enough
  • Feeling unaccomplished or like a fraud are my biggest motivators
  • I will keep searching for new opportunities at happiness, no matter how scary
  • Prioritization, deadlines, and accountability make things happen

For me, the next pieces to add back in are running (now that I’ve finished PT for a knee injury), and of course, getting back to my own writing. What are yours?

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