Updated: Dec 15, 2022
This month I am saying goodbye to the last days of my 20s and welcoming the beginning of my 30s. So, since I’m entering a new decade, I want to talk about what I learned and who I was and what I became. And then finish off with what I hope for my future self.
You know that book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz? In it, Ruiz says people are mirrors of themselves, where they can see themselves in other people. And sometimes the mirrors are foggy and they cannot see, but the mirror can always clear up to let people see themselves in others very clearly.
“The student decides that matter is like a mirror, a dream, or smoke that occludes humanity’s real nature, which is ‘pure love, pure light.’ After the student’s realization, he recognizes himself in everything he sees, from other people to clouds. He perceives that life as we know it manifests as varied mixtures of the tonal (starlight) and the nagual (light between the stars). Suddenly, the student feels an overwhelming sensation of peace and wants to share his vision but he cannot communicate it adequately. Nonetheless, others notice a change in the student’s demeanor: he radiates beauty and doesn’t judge anyone. Other people think the student might be an incarnation of God, and the student says that he is—but so is everybody else. The student can see himself in everyone else, but they can’t see themselves in him.” - Excerpt from the Four Agreements
For me, at the ripe old age of almost 30, I am now recognizing in hindsight how correct that excerpt is. When you meet someone new and you hear them say certain things or act a certain way, you recognize characteristics about them that once were your own characteristics – that’s when it all clicks for you. You can see yourself in other people. You’re just like, “OH. THIS is what I sound like. This is what I act like. This is what I look like. This is how I make people feel. This is me.” The people around you are figurative mirrors and you get to see yourself in them. THAT is what Don Miguel Ruiz meant by that excerpt. And it’s taken me almost 2 years to understand and recognize the truth of that passage in practice since I first bought that book in 2020.
In my late teens to early 20s, I acted like a child. My insecurities would seep out of me, like from my pores. It was terrible, because I would freak out over the smallest things. My feelings would get hurt over absolutely nothing. And I could tell that people didn’t want to be around me; I could tell that I was draining people. But I it took until I recognized myself in other people’s words, and their actions and their reactions for me to recognize just how draining I was. I didn’t realize the impact that I had on other people until I, myself, was drained by the same type of person that I was and the same types of things that I did. And I also never reflected on what I did, until someone told me what I was doing wrong. It wasn't until someone told me, “Hey so actually this is making me tired; it’s making me upset; it’s making me not want to be around you.” That's when I started seeing my old characteristics in other people who were mirrors of old me.
And let me tell you, old me was a bitch. She was abrasive, temperamental, callous and sometimes cruel. She was rude, self-centered, envious and jealous, impulsive, inflexible, hypocritical, dishonest, insecure, resentful and unwilling to forgive. And old me was vindictive, judgmental and manipulative. Not to say I can’t still be all those things, of course I can, but back in my late teens to early 20s those characteristics were way more pronounced for me. When I recognized and realized that people didn’t want to be around me, I decided to make changes for myself.
Afterwards, every year or so I did some reflection and I made little changes here and there. I stopped freaking out so much. I stopped projecting my insecurities onto other people. I stopped bringing myself down or talking terribly about myself, especially around other people. And much less to myself when I was alone. And most importantly, I stopped requesting and demanding validation from others and I started giving it to myself.
It’s ironic too because one of the main themes for me in my 20s for a really long time was about not having any regrets when I looked back in time, and thought of my relationships and the things that I did or didn’t do. So, I reflected on myself and my character a lot and I followed specific paths. Paths that I thought were good, paths I thought were righteous. I was looking for Capital G – God – all the time between 24 and 27. I was really out here searching, trying to figure it out. I was constantly trying to be as genuine as I could and as good as I could be to the people around me – you know, put them on, be good to them, always have their backs, go above and beyond for them in any way shape or form that I could. So that later on when I looked back at that time in my life, I wouldn’t feel any guilt. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I held myself back and I stunted myself in so many ways. I felt so much and did so much; It was a hard time for me. I had such a film over my eyes, and I could not see clearly because I didn’t know who I was.
I think that’s normal though. It’s normal for young adults and people in their 20s to not know who they want to be or who they are in the present moment. And one thing about me is that I was lost in the sauce. I didn’t know anything. All I knew is that I wanted to be as good as possible. I also knew that I wanted to have specific characteristics about myself so that other people could recognize and acknowledge me as a good person.
I wanted people to see me as a good person because I was afraid of judgement and abandonment. I didn’t want the people in my life to leave me. I thought all of my relationships were contingent upon the things that I could give and bring forth to said relationships. Contingent upon whether or not I could have people’s backs; whether or not I could bend over backwards for people over and over again. I wanted to make sure everyone knew why they would want me in their lives. Which is a crazy thing to think as a 20-something year old. Right? For a long time I wasn’t even looking towards the future. I was just concerned with making sure that the little bit of something that I had, I would be able to keep. I wanted to keep my friendships, my romantic relationship, and the people around me. So, I went above and beyond at every turn. I put myself last at every turn. I did everything that I could to make sure that other people saw the value in me, and wanted to be around me. In the end though, I’m kind of proud of myself, because I think that in my pursuit of being the most genuine person, the most liked person, I also was a little bit true to myself. I also spoke truths to myself about myself. I mean, it took a minute.
I was devastated by several somebodies in different ways and at different times. And I learned to take things in stride. Of course, it hurt that people kept leaving me; It hurt that I felt like I was being tossed aside. But I didn’t fall apart when people left. Instead, I grew and I became better. My life was better in their absence – BECAUSE of their absence. And eventually I just forgot them. I didn’t forget that they were once my people, I just eventually stopped thinking about them anymore. Their being gone wasn’t that big of a deal to me anymore. And I didn’t have to blame anyone for it. Not myself, not them. It’s just a part of life and I’ve learned from all of that.
And I am so grateful to all of them for helping me learn more about myself and who I wanted to be. Now I am so much more comfortable in my skin. I’m happy with who I am. I love myself now. Because, you know I hated myself before. I wanted nothing to do with myself, I wanted to change myself completely. And I DID! My mindset has changed. The way I regulate my emotions has changed too. I’m not as volatile as I used to be - am no longer ruled by my emotions and their fluctuations. I can think more logically now, while also recognizing and understanding that feelings matter. Vibes, they matter. Whatever you may be feeling from a situation or person, that matters a lot! I’ve learned to walk away from things that do not serve me – things, people, places, etc. I don’t just take things anymore, I don’t just endure anymore.
In the end though, it was important for me to be alone and sit back and reflect on myself, my life, my character, and what I have done in an objective manner without outside distractions. For me that meant, being alone outside of relationships – be it platonic friendships, work friendships, romantic relationships, and especially familial relationships. I needed to have uncomfortable days where I sat alone with myself and my thoughts just reflecting on everything I have done, said and who I have been. Because of that I have so much peace in my life now. I have never been so great! I have never had so much agency over my life, my decisions, my feelings, the people around me. I have perfectly curated my life to become the way I’ve always wanted it to be without even noticing. Without even knowing. Just by working on me. And isn’t that some crazy shit?
I wasn’t purposely going out of my way to do exercises and things to work on me. It was really just a lot of reflection and a lot of time alone to think, to assess. It was a lot of conversations with the people around me, as well. A lot of me checking myself for my reactions to things. It was a lot of me making sure that I didn’t automatically judge something based on whatever preconceived ideas. And a lot me questioning my ideals from before – the ones that were taught to me. It was lot of reading, a lot of talking; it was a lot media intake period. But it was also a lot of joy - a lot of just me doing things that I like. Regardless of who thought what, regardless of who decided to be there. Just me doing. Just me being. It was a lot of just me doing me. And isn’t that something?
So now that I’m entering this new decade, having changed so much from 20-year-old me, I hope to learn more about myself and how to walk in this world with others. I hope 30-year-old me continues to learn from her past selves and continues to grow and change. I hope she maintains her peace and her boundaries, while continuing to nurture her relationships with the people around her. I hope she achieves everything she puts her mind to, and that she always remembers that the sky’s the limit and possibilities are endless. I hope she stands true to herself and continues to build her character. And I hope she gets the chance to do this again, and reflect back on the woman she used to be at 30 when she turns 35 or 40 and so on. I hope she continues to write and I PRAY she finishes all her written work. Most of all, I hope she’s happy and healthy just like I am today but of course, in her own way.