There are some things I've discovered about life as I've gotten older—things that have more clarity with each passing year. I spent much of my twenties and thirties trying to force life to be something it simply wasn't, to “have” the things I was supposed to have, even to try to “feel” what I thought I was supposed to feel (as in, to fight it if I was feeling depressed, which never works). Now, in my forties, if I feel despair, I do not fight it. If I feel happiness, I go with it, even realizing there will probably be a bump in the road soon, but enjoying it anyway. And I've found that admitting I'm feeling what I'm feeling is the best way to live, whether it's logical or not. I don't present a fake smile anymore while I'm in a painful place emotionally, but I do smile when I feel like smiling. If I don't fit into a mold that I'm “supposed” to be in, I don't sweat it anymore. I know that I'm doing the best I can.
It is somewhat of a freeing feeling when you know you're only obligated to those you have a responsibility for (such as your children). Though, when someone comes to me for help in some way, I always feel a desire and a need to help them in the capacity I can, even if it's a very limited capacity. Even if I can only offer them a kind word to help turn them around, it is my pleasure to do so. I feel great about it. But if someone asks me to do something, and I am not obligated to do it, and it is not a case of genuine need, I have no trouble saying no.
Growing up, I literally “had” to go to church, “had” to do chores, wear hand-me-downs, etc., and I accepted it as part of life. But as I got older, I realized I no longer have to do things to appease others if it's not something I want—it's my life, not theirs. I also don't take everything at face value anymore. If my gut tells me to examine or explore a supposedly “known” fact, I do.
It's important to express your individuality. For example, I love being able to still dress like a teenager sometimes—I've always been a T-shirt, sweatpants, and jeans person. I see people wearing high heels and know if every woman in the world wears them, I still won't because they hurt my feet. Halloween is a favorite holiday of mine, and even though some people might think it's strange, too bad—I don't care anymore. I even have a Halloween clock that stays up all year. It could be some crazy thing that makes you blissfully happy, but there's no reason you shouldn't have it as long as it is not destructive to you or anyone else. It could be a television show you love, a hobby, a favorite chocolate, or the fact that your child had a good day that sends you over the moon. Everyone is different. I also used to think I had to be around ignorant, judgmental people and accept what they say, but I don't do that anymore. I either say something back or avoid them—and avoiding them is perfectly ok! If they are not necessary for the transaction of my daily life, there is no reason to let them suck my energy. If you have to be around them, (we have all had to be around these types of people at one time or another) don't let their bad mood color the rest of your life—let it go.
It is your life, so don't give your power away, and don't accept anyone making you feel “less than.” Meet your obligations, yes, but “trim the fat” so to speak. Find the things that you want to do, and try to find a way to do them, even if you can only do them in a limited capacity. We human beings are more powerful than we realize, and we can create more joy in our life by being who WE are and not what someone would like us to be. I've seen cases where people marry who they're “supposed to” or have the career their parents wanted, instead of the one they wanted. But it's never too late to make a change, even if it is small. I've got a lot of work to do myself. I've just recently gotten to the point where I haven't chided myself for every mistake I make, because it's simply too emotionally draining. But the best place to start is to accept ourselves for who we are. Living our most honest self can only lead to more happiness (in my opinion.)