In five months, I will turn 50 years old. I find it interesting that my last year of my forties coincides with a pandemic and my youngest stepson graduating from high school. This year not only marks the end of a decade but also the end of a defining chapter in my life in more ways than one.
My life transition from Connecticut to California has been quite the journey. I moved to San Diego to reinvent myself and transform my life, and what a chapter it has been. Within months of my move, I lost my grandfather and met the man I would eventually marry. Within the year, I moved in with him, his two sons, and their two dogs. Within five years, we married, and I became a stepmother and fur mama for the first time. I also adopted a new philosophy and created a healing movement within myself to bridge the gap between my painful past and the growing pains of this new life. Within nine years, I started a blog to share my new outlook and wisdom drawn from these experiences.
There is nothing about my SoCal life that is as it was before my big move. None of it came easy to me. I struggled through several jobs, struggled to fit in, and struggled to find my place in this new state, city, community, and even family.
Looking back in my life, there were many chapters that led me here. But one common theme among them was my struggle to belong.
My twenties was the first chapter to open my eyes to how people could treat each other. I had believed I would always be treated the same way I treated others. Therefore, I assumed my kindness would always be reciprocated. I also thought when two people loved each other that it meant they belonged together.
I was wrong. I was following more than leading. And I was following the wrong group of people. I chalked up my failures and disappointments to my own naivity as well as the lack of maturity of others in my age group.
But this chapter helped formulate my number one rule: Surround yourself with the right people.
The people closest to you can make or break your dreams because their influence can make or break your mindset. In other words, what other people around you think, say, and do strongly impacts what you think, say, and do. If you are surrounded by negative people, your self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence may suffer. If you constantly hear unkind, unsupportive, and overly critical comments, your mindset, ability to set goals, and motivation to achieve them may also suffer.
By my thirties, I used this wisdom to date different kinds of men. I met more mature men who not only cared about my past but also cared about my dreams for the future. They also cared more about my well-being. They took the time to listen to my struggles with self-identity, self-belief, and self-esteem, and they even tried to relate. I also found friends who encouraged me to keep taking steps out of my comfort zone and to look within to see the beauty I had to offer the world.
But I still found myself struggling from time to time. I tended to place more value on what other people thought. I surrounded myself with people who I thought needed me. I put them on higher pedestals and allowed them to treat me as if I were inferior or less important. And I constantly strove for approval and acceptance from people who didn't even deserve my time or energy.
The takeaway: Save yourself and pray for others.
By my forties, I grew tired. I knew if I wanted to be happy that I needed to love myself more and to find my own voice. I also knew there had to be a reason why I went through so many painful experiences. I was determined to make sense of my past and to find a way to repurpose my pain. I deserved more. That's when I moved across country.
Soon, l realized my life experiences - the good, the bad, and the ugly - had value. They helped me relate to almost anyone. I could use the gifts of wisdom, empathy, and compassion from these experiences to help others with similar struggles, insecurities, and suffering.
My forties also created a leader out of me. I had realized my sense of humor and compassion easily drew people toward me. I had made up for my shyness and insecurities as a kid by using kindness and humor to make friends as an adult. People found me approachable, relatable, funny, loving, and easy to talk to.
One of my favorite qualities is my ability to form friendships with people from all walks of life. I am even still friends with several ex-boyfriends. Knowing I will be honest and helpful, they are always grateful to be able to contact me if they need advice, support, encouragement, or wisdom.
By now all kinds of people were reaching out to me. People from my past, people from my present, and people I never knew felt compelled to share their struggles in hopes of gaining comfort, insight, and wisdom. It made me proud. I have repurposed my pain!
Like me, you may pride yourself on your friendships, too. You might have friends from as far back as elementary school, through college, from jobs, and from all your life adventures in between. But the people you meet along the way can change, and they can change you. Whether due to life events or time, friends can grow in different directions, which can impact your relationships with them.
With 50 fast approaching, I've done a lot of self-reflection, and developed new wisdom. I examined my past, how I've treated people, especially my friends, and how they've treated me.
I’ve lent an ear. I’ve lent a hand. I've kept their secrets and given my heart unconditionally. I’ve even made sacrifices and dropped everything to be there for those when they needed me most. But I found I was not always treated the same way. It felt like my twenties all over again.
This past year really opened my eyes to seeing people’s true colors. With the pandemic, I tried being more forgiving, kind, patient, and compassionate, especially with my friends. But then I realized with some that their behavior was not new. The pandemic only shone a brighter light on it for me to see it more clearly.
I was mad at myself for repeating old patterns where I gave more than I received. I was mad for allowing others to mistake my kindness for weakness. And I was angry at myself for trusting people I should not have and for feeling like a fool. I have since made a commitment to myself to protect my tribe at all costs.
Aloha is about first treating yourself with love, kindness, and respect and then treating others the same way. It does not mean sacrificing your personal health and happiness for the sake of someone else's attention or approval. And it does not mean you are selfish. An aloha mindset promotes self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love. This means doing whatever you have to do to protect your well-being - mind, body, and spirit!
As a result, I now use the motto: You can be friendly to everyone without having to be friends with everyone.
From sharing my disappointing experiences with others, I've learned many others have grown less tolerant of certain people in their lives, too. Many have detached from those they found to be unhealthy or unkind to be around. People started to retreat, keep to themselves more, or keep their circle small. Whether from abuse, mistreatment, or disrespect, or from feeling neglected or forgotten, people have deactivated their own social media accounts, unfollowed or unfriended their friends’ accounts, or blocked them altogether.
People are choosing to protect their space and put their mental health first. And why not? It is precious.
When people have disappointed, betrayed, or hurt you, it's understandable to want to be alone and do your own thing. Some people just don’t deserve your limited time and energy anymore.
Not everyone belongs in your tribe. You have to protect yourself from those who have ulterior motives or who simply do not value your relationship the same way you do.
Friendship is a two-way street. You shouldn’t always have to chase your friends or initiate contact. You do not need to be around people who drain your energy or make everything about them all the time. And there should never be competition, only collaboration. There is no room for jealousy or envy in a good friendship.
Friendship is about showing up for your tribe to help them sort through their problems, pursue their goals, celebrate their successes, and navigate their journeys. But take note of who shows up for you.
You should also be able to trust your friends with your innermost thoughts, feelings, and experiences without fear of judgement or worry that they will use them against you. Until you find someone worthy of this kind of friendship, be friendly and kind, but be willing to stand alone and be your own best friend.
Lastly, you do not need the approval of anyone but yourself. You do not need a million friends or social media followers to prove your life has value. It doesn't even matter what other people think about you. What matters most is what you think about yourself!
It is not easy becoming the person you were meant to be. There may be casualties. To declutter your mind of negative influences, be willing to detox your life of the people, places, and things that no longer serve your highest good.
Remember, you are a gem. Don't let anyone dull your sparkle. Shine like the sun. Allow yourself to have fun. And remember who's number one. You!
Live, love, and lead with Aloha.