Is it “just life” or just a lie?

“That’s  just  life”.

I’ve  been  hearing  that  since  I  was  a  child.

“But  daaaaad,  I  want  a power pad for my Nintendo, LA Gear hi tops, tickets to the Paula Abdul concert, and the Saved by the Bell board game. ”
Without skipping a beat or even looking up from what he was doing, my dad would say, “that’s  just  life.  So  go  to  your  room and run in place for a few hours in your Kmart Keds, while listening to the Paula Abdul songs you taped from the radio and making up your own Saved by the Bell trivia from the hours of that stupid show that you have memorized… and consider yourself lucky for having a roof over your head to do all that in.”

“But daaaad, I want a pager, a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, a hyper color jumpsuit, and AOL instant messaging like ALL my friends have!!”
And again, my dad would smoothly follow that up with, “that’s just life. When I was a kid and we wanted to get a hold of someone we just yelled their name until they yelled back, we wrote on stone tablets that wouldn’t fit in fancy trapper keepers, the only “hyper color” we had were the weird rashes that we got when the McCormick kids touched us, and when we wanted to message someone we left hieroglyphics on the cave walls and didn’t have to keep track of how many of the 130 free hours we’d used from CD’s we got in the mail!

Cue my eye roll, audible groan, and stomping off to slam my bedroom door.

In other words, it didn’t  take  long  for  me  to  learn  to  translate  “that’s  just  life”  to  “stop  whining  and  leave  me  the  hell  alone”.  I  got  pretty  used  to  that  phrase.

So I was pretty surprised to find as an adult that this phrase still evoked a strong emotional response from me.

“But  (person  who was NOT my  dad),  I  hate  getting  up  every  single  morning  at  5am,  driving  through  traffic  to  sit  behind  a  desk  doing  only  boring  things,  driving  home,  yelling  at  my  husband  because  I  hate  this  day  and  every  other  day,  then  going  to  bed  without  doing  a  single  thing I actually consider important in life,  only  to  get  up  the  next  day  and  the  day  after  that  to  do  the  same  thing.  It  feels  so  meaningless  and  I  feel  like  life  is  a  gift  and  I’m  totally  wasting  it.  Sure  I  understand  the  value  of  hard work,  but  isn’t  it  possible  for  that  hard work  to  go  into  something  I  love  or  that  makes  a  difference  in  the  world?  Surely  we  are  all meant  to  do  different  things  in  different  ways  since  we  are  all  made  so  differently.  Someone  else  might  totally  thrive  at  this  job  and  love  using  their  gifts  here  but  I  just  don’t  think  I’m  cut  out  for  it.”

“That’s  just  life”.

Like the many times when I’d heard this as a child, I lost my temper. But unlike the olden days, this time I didn’t just pout and walk away.  Instead I narrowed my eyes that had been widened by the shock, and dove in to make my point.
“Yes,  but  it  doesn’t  HAVE  to  be  that  way.  It’s  not  my  husband’s  life!  While  I’m  getting  up  in  the  cold  early  morning,  he’s  lying  in  bed  where  he’ll  sleep  until  10am.  Then  tonight  while  I’m  getting  ready  to  go  to  bed  early,  he’ll  be  getting  ready  to  go  out  with  the college students  he’s  mentoring  to  have  fun  with  them.  He’s  doing  something  he  loves AND  he’s  making  a  difference  in  the  world. Why  shouldn’t  I  try  for  the  same  things?”

Needless to say, I didn’t hear much more about it from that person after my sort of rude and as some would say, “socially inappropriate”, outburst.

I just don’t believe it.

The thing is that I’ll  believe  you  if  you  say, “I too wish I could be living differently but I’m too scared to try” or ” sure that sounds awesome but I’m not willing to work hard enough to create that kind of change”. Whatever you say, don’t say “that’s  just  life”. Because it’s NOT just life. Life doesn’t HAVE to be like that. In fact, I don’t think it’s SUPPOSED to be like that! I think we’re supposed to be truly living and reaching for more in life than just basic survival! I believe we should be doing what it takes to live a life of meaning and using all that is in us to do our very best to find out what we’re meant to do in life… and then take the risk, put in the effort, and face the fears that will lead us to our Rare Existence (whether that guide us to a 8-5 office job with a family, or a shot at the silver screen with a pet monkey).

When I’m wanting a bunch of useless stuff, that might not even be good for me (is a hyper color jumpsuit really good for anyone?!), and I’m wanting it just to be cool like my friends or to chat with said cool friends on the new information super highway, I’m fine if my dad or anyone else says “that’s just life”. But when it comes down to what’s really important in life, don’t say “that’s just life” because really, “that’s just a lie”…. and I refuse to believe it.

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Sometimes Lauryn Hill just says it better than me

I’m not sure if it’s her raspy voice or her slight east coast accent that makes you know she’s awesome… but there’s just something about Lauryn Hill that makes everything she says sound extra true!

I do know that it’s her vulnerability that makes me love her. If you’ve never seen or heard her MTV Unplugged 2.0 video… GET IT! I’m giving you a little clip here, but it’s not nearly as powerful without the music and the rest of her story backing it up. Basically, she went on national television and broke down, laid it out, preached, and just spoke straight up truth… all while being completely unprepared and almost too emotional to finish her songs. In other words, I L-O-V-E it!

In this particular section I’ve chosen for you to listen to,  Lauryn’s talking about how her life of fame, glamor, and beauty fell apart and she began discovering and owning the real her… not the public image of her… but the legit Lauryn, full of flaws and all (as you will even hear in the clip when she can’t find the lyric sheet she needs).

The reason I’m including it here is because it’s so inspiring to hear from someone who’s “made it” and who has achieved an extraordinary life, who is willing to  be open and share the lessons she learned along the way. Most of it has to do with how once she found who she really is and what she’s meant to do she found freedom.

Preach it sister.

The Ungrateful Generation

“Your generation is ungrateful and you expect too much out of life”.

This is a statement I’ve both heard and read many times before. It’s been said directly to me, as well as to my generation as a whole. Regardless of how it’s presented, it’s always said with a spirit of annoyance at me (us) and with a high degree of self-righteousness.

I agree, we are often ungrateful. I agree, we do expect a lot out of life. Notice I changed “too much” to ” a lot” because I don’t believe our expectations are too high to be achieved. The other part I disagree with about this statement is that ungratefulness and high expectations have to go hand in hand.

Yes, we need to be more grateful, but I believe you don’t have to be complacent to be grateful.
There’s a fine line between being content with what you have and pushing forward to obtain or becoming more. I think it’s soooo important to constantly be doing your best to find that magnificent balance because if you are existing too much on either side, you’re missing out. And I believe that being complacent and choosing not to pursue opportunities you are made for that are right in front of you is just as wrong as being ungrateful.

Are we really the first generation to expect a lot out of life?
You wouldn’t even be in America, the land of opportunity, right now if one of your ancestors along the way didn’t choose to expect more from life and go seek it out. Ever since the first people arrived in America, they have worked to set up this country so that we can expect a lot out of life. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s a lot to ask for, don’t you think?
Wars have been fought, people died on ocean voyages on their way over here, our grandparents slaved away at jobs they hated, all so we could have freedom and opportunity. Pretending those opportunities don’t exist or choosing not to take advantage of them is like spitting in the faces of the people who did so much work to make this country great.

It’s precisely BECAUSE I’ve been given a lot that I feel called to do a lot with it!
I’m an American and I’ve been given lots of opportunity.  I can either ignore it or turn around and pass the gift on so that I can continue to bless the country and community that has blessed me so much. I want to be great like my ancestors and do what I can to make things even greater for future generations. We’re building up yo, so lets keep the momentum going rather than letting it stop with us or even worse, allowing our generation to be the ones that sends us into reverse!

So yes, I am grateful (or at least I try to be) for what I have and all that has been done by others to help me achieve it. And yes, I am asking for a lot out of life. The bottom line is that because I have a lot, I expect a lot, so that I can DO a lot.

(If you like this patriotic speech or want to learn more about Extraordinary Living, join the Rare Existence Facebook Community!).

(Yep, my super smart husband said that!)

Bright Colors Aren’t For Everyone

I’ll never forget the girl who said it to me.

She was one of those super unique people who’s talents are extraordinarily strong and who’s weaknesses rival the strength of the talents. You look at her and say , “whoa, that girl could go places that most of us could never dream of and she’d be so fun to have at every one of my parties, but man… would she be difficult to work with!” Don’t get me wrong, I loved this girl with her strong personality and all. But as she pointed out to me one day, not everyone does.

We were in a class together that was part of our program to get our master’s degrees in counseling. This was the most soul searching and heart exposing class that I’ve ever been a part of. It was a public gut wrenching of sorts that took everything inside of you out and laid it on the bloody table for you (and your classmates) to examine so you could see what was really going on inside of you from a much clearer perspective. So it was during one moment of excessively vulnerable sharing, this particular girl said,

“I’m a bright color and not everyone likes bright colors, but I’m OK with that”.

I was stunned, not only was I amazed at how perfect the analogy of a bright color was for her (she’s the kind of girl who has probably dyed her entire head of hair rainbow colored at some point), but I was astounded that she had come to accept her relationship between herself and the outside world in such a clear way. The thing that struck me the most was that I could tell by the confidence with which she said this that she not only absolutely believed it to be true, but that she was completely comfortable accepting it.

She felt truly free to be herself in a way that I have seen in no other person before that moment or since.

Sure I’ve seen people who are quick to declare that they don’t care what others think of them. But most of these people do it out of an angry heart that’s been hurt by people- sort of a “screw you, I don’t need you and your opinions”- where this girl did it with a spirit of calming peace. Which is the part that I still truly envy to this day.

As I’ve proceeded on my journey of extraordinary living, I still haven’t got used to the strange looks I receive.

Particularly the ones that come when I explain my plans for the future, or sometimes, my lack thereof. I especially can’t get over the straight up disapproving facial expressions directed my way when I express one of my more uncommonly held positions on something. I have definitely learned how to hold back on my real thoughts around most people… a lot. It’s so much easier to only be my true self among people who I know either agree with me or who I feel really “get me”, you know?! Of course this is not only lessening any sort of positive impact that my different sorts of thoughts could have on other people, but it is also extremely destructive to myself. And the same is true for you.

As you begin to pursue a rare existence please remember that it’s OK if you’re a bright color.

You may even be neon, but that doesn’t mean you are inherently flawed because of it – as you may often feel. In fact I believe the exact opposite is true. I believe you there is a specific reason for your neon blinding brightness and that if you choose to hide it you are both destroying your potential for yourself and limiting the impact you could be having on the world. I mean really, there are very few people who adore fluorescent green, but it still continues to stick around so there’s obviously a grand purpose for it’s existence in the color wheel… maybe you should be the one to figure out what it is!

What color are you? Do the people around you know that?

(if you liked this story and want to hear more stories about Extraordinary Living join the  Rare Existence Facebook community)!


The Strength in Numbers

We all have haters… some of us have haters who are more hateful than the average, but we all have people who want to bag on what we’re doing or tell us the “right” way to run our lives.  Haters are like vultures who gather around someone who is venturing out of the pack into dangerous territory, just waiting for them to fail so they can swoop in and clean up.

If you are doing something unique, you can bet you’re going to hear about it in a negative context at some point… which is just perfect because you’re already insecure and afraid enough without hearing that others think you’re a hot mess as well! When you’re teetering on the edge of major decisions that are very different from the ones people around you are making, you are obviously going to feel very vulnerable and fearful.  At that point, all it takes is one hater to make you turn back around and head for the hills of comfort and normalcy.

I mentioned in my first post that community is key on this journey… and it really is.  If all the people in your life are criticizing or even laughing at your new ideas and challenges you’re extending to yourself, you’re going to cave eventually!  However, if you have at least one outlet of people who are on your side who are struggling through the same things you are, it can make all the difference in the world!  If you’re part of a group of people who are bonded around personal growth and moving forward with their lives for the purpose of finding who they are meant to be and benefiting those around them, you can’t help but want to move forward along with them!

Since I fully believe in the value of having an encouraging community, I’m going to use my Facebooking Ninja Skillz skills to help you find a group like that (if you already have a group like that, first, count your blessings and second, bring them along to connect with others!). Rare Existence has a Facebook page that is all about creating a supportive community to help you on your journey of extraordinary living!  This Facebook page is a newbie so it has some growing and changing to do, but you can be a part of prodding it along as it prods you along in your journey!  Join up and reach out to others and who knows, you might make some lifelong friends out of it!

Read more about the importance of community here and click to join the Facebook page for Rare Existence here.