Sunday, April 13, 2014

Off to See the Wizard

Maybe it's because I'm turning 30 next month (WHAT?!!??!) but I've been a lot more reflective recently about the direction my little ol' life has gone. And lately I keep finding myself caught up in feeling disappointed because of the things that I've missed throughout my 20s.

I think everyone can probably relate. Everyone is missing something that they've always wanted. Or something that they've always thought they were supposed to have by now. For me, that something has a lot to do with family. As I've seen my friends and peers get hitched and pregnant and sink away into a life of fulfilling family time, I've found myself feeling a little empty. And sometimes sad. I think about the connections my friends have had with their spouses and children. Connections that they've all been building for many years now. Connections that are absent from my life. Disappointingly absent from my life.

And I keep banging my head against the wall, frustrated in the years that have been wasted as I've navigated unsuccessfully through thousands of decisions that have left me turning 30, all by myself.

Then last week I caught part of the Wizard of Oz. It's one of my favorite movies. And I caught it just at the right time because I was able to skip all of the depressing Kansas parts and the psychedelic Munchkin Land sequence.

It was at the point where Dorothy is wandering down the Yellow Brick Road, picking up men as she goes. This, of course, pisses off the Wicked Witch of the West because Dorothy is hogging all of the men to herself. And of course this was threatening. Dorothy had it going on. And the Wicked Witch of the West totally didn't have it going on.

I mean, Dorothy wasn't super hot. But she had it going on for 1930s Kansas. And for Oz. In Oz, Dorothy was like an 8. The Tin Man was a 6, the Scarecrow was a 4, and the Cowardly Lion was a 3 but totally could have been a 7 if he would have just stopped whining all the time. The Wicked Witch was like a 4 and all of the monkeys swarming around her were clearly 1s. So naturally WW was super annoyed when Dorothy showed up and obliviously started taking so much male attention. And she was extra pissed when it was clear that Dorothy was just stringing them along and not really interested in anything more serious.

But between you and me, I think Dorothy did the WW a favor because all of those men were clearly gay.

Anyway, in the movie Dorothy and her male groupies wander the world, following the Yellow Brick Road as they go. The WW pops in every now and then and acts super bitter and sexually frustrated. And this does not help the WW get any male attention. But nobody ever taught her these rules when she was going through puberty. Probably because she had green skin and this freaked people out.

But the crew is trying to make it to Emerald City so they can see the Great and Powerful Wizard, whom they understand to be mysteriously capable of giving each of them the thing they want the most. A heart. A brain. Courage. A trip home.

They're freaked out when they finally do get to Emerald City. They're tired from the journey and they discover that the Wizard is this incredibly angry disembodied head that refuses to help them without some conditions. They have to kill the WW and bring back her broom.

The crew heads to the WW's house and they sort of accidentally kill her by throwing water on her and finding out that she's actually one of those aliens from Signs. And Dorothy acts apologetic to all of the monkeys and she's all, "oops. Sorry. I didn't mean to. I can send a check later if you just tell me how much . . ." But the monkeys are like, "are you kidding? This woman was a nightmare to live with, especially since she started making us give her pedicures. WE SHOULD BE THANKING YOU."

They go back to the Wizard and they're all like, "we killed the old lady. Can we have our stuff now?" There's some sort of mishap and they are shocked to discover that the disembodied head is actually just a product of some really awesome special effects and in reality, the voice of the Wizard is coming from a little old man behind a curtain who is at least as confused with life as they are.

And they're pissed. And sort of relieved. Pissed because they just traveled all this way to get advice from Colonel Sanders but relieved because Colonel Sanders can't shoot fire out of his face like the Wizard could.

But they're all, "we just went on this really dangerous journey because you said you could give us some impossible things and now you're telling us that we're all going to be stuck like this forever?"

And Colonel Sanders is like, "no, actually. You guys already got the things you're looking for. You obtained them in your journey. You learned something. You figured out how to care. You forced yourself to be courageous. All along you wanted things you could only give yourselves."

They all realize the crazy old man is sort of right. That they got what they needed by experiencing life. They got what they needed and didn't really notice.

Dorothy is still standing there and she's like, "what about me? I want to go home. This place sucks so bad that I actually want to go back to Kansas. KANSAS."

And the man tells Dorothy, "you always had the power to go home. You just need to make it happen."

There's some very complicated magic that surely Dorothy wishes someone had just explained to her at the beginning. But whatever. And the next thing she knows, she's home.

I found this whole scene so enlightening as it played out when I watched it recently. I guess this is because I was thinking about their journey in the context of my own quandary. I kept thinking as they marched on the Yellow Brick Road how much I could relate to their feelings that they were each missing something from their lives that everyone else seemed to have. And that they were so desperate to find someone or something that could give that to them.

In the past when I've watched this movie, I have always felt a little disappointed at the end when the Wizard doesn't give them what they came for. I feel terrible that instead of getting an actual brain, Scarecrow just receives some platitudes. And that Tinman gets nothing more than a lecture about love. But this time, it was different. I guess I just noticed something different. And I noticed it when the Wizard started talking to the lion.

Amid all of those sort of confusing exchanges of gifts and wishes, Cowardly Lion steps forward and is like, "how can I stop being such a baby? I run away when I get scared instead of facing my problems and I feel like this is something that needs to be changed."

The Wizard says that the lion has it all wrong. That it's true that courage is a good thing to have but that just because the lion sometimes retreats when things get scary, this doesn't mean that he has no courage.

"You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you're confusing courage with wisdom."

It's interesting. The lion had just finished this really terrifying journey on the Bachelorette. He had been told all his life that to be courageous you have to fight against everything you can. "Man up." "Don't be a doormat."

They had all decided that a heart, a brain, courage, a home--all of these things--looked a certain way. And they were determined to obtain the version of their coveted gifts they wanted from the beginning.

They didn't get what they wanted from the beginning. They were instead given what they actually needed from the beginning: a more accurate perspective on what matters. They needed to fix their disorganized thinking.

They were told, essentially, that they were seeking things that they couldn't change or totally control. And in so doing, they were failing to see the incredible things life experience had given them along the way.

I feel like I have been guilty of the same kind of thinking that caused the Oz crew to be so dissatisfied for so long. I've craved an ideal in a way the world painted it and I have failed to appreciate how my life experiences have given me something better for me. And even if it isn't better, it's what I have.

The only thing that's wasted when you spend your energy wishing your experiences had been different is the opportunity to benefit from what your experiences actually are.

We grow into something by choosing to internalize our hardships. We develop by staying the course and refusing to become embittered in the process. And we find our home by deciding to get there and being brave enough to figure out where "there" is.

My experiences are what they are. And I'm proud of them. Because they're mine. And I hope not to let "disorganized thinking" keep me from noticing why those experiences are so valuable.

~It Just Gets Stranger

42 comments:

  1. You blog about all my favorite movies. I can't wait to see that season of the Bachelorette with the Cowardly Lion!

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  2. Eli, your blog post on life and its surprises almost always speaks to me. I've been trying for a while now to understand so many things that seem to be going on in my life. This morning I somewhat came to the realization that I'll never understand to many things but may be I just needed to be thankful for my existence and be happy all the way and right after that, I read your blog post. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Wow....how apt to read this at this point in my life. Just what I needed and definitely a wake up call for me to stop my disorganized thinking. I've watched the Wizard of Oz more times than I can count but you put it in a way which I had never thought of before. Humorous, clear, down to earth. You have a wonderful gift, Eli, and I am very happy that I am able to be a part of the Strangers who get to share in your life experiences with you. This post has helped me to open my eyes and see, really SEE, the blessings of the life I do have. Thank you!

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  4. Um. Every heard of starting a post like this with a big, fat *S P O I L E R A L E R T* ?
    I mean, is the trailer even out for this yet? Gosh, Eli.

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  5. I have never been a fan of the Wizard of Oz. Whenever I am forced to watch it I try and read a book or catch up on what's happening on the internets. However, I have never thought about it the way you just described it. I have a whole new appreciation for the movie now, keep in mind, I am still not going to watch it, but at least I can appreciate it for what it is.
    By the way, your hair looks fabulous today!

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  6. "The only thing that's wasted when you spend your energy wishing your experiences had been different is the opportunity to benefit from what your experiences actually are." This is the best thing I've ever read. Mind blown this morning.

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    1. This line is something I really REALLY needed to hear this morning.

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  7. I'll give you a little peak into something similar that happened in my life. I had wanted to get married and have kids for a while in my 20's. Had a hard time talking to girls, etc... Typical nerd. I was always wanting something I don't have (still sometimes do). I still go through that where I wish my life was something different, and stories like yours help me to remember that what I have is very special. Anyway, I had dated this one girl for a while, and I was obsessed with her and asked her to even marry me. I'm glad I never did and we eventually broke up, because I realize now that she was not the person for me, nor did I really ever love her as much as I thought I did. A year or 2 went by and I was starting to get depressed with not finding "the one". It was such a feeling of loneliness in my life, like I was never going to find my true love or have kids. I was about 28 I think. Finally, one day, I looked out the bedroom window of my apartment and prayed to God. I think it went a little something like "God, I know you're looking out for me, and I think I have something figured out. I need to be happy with myself first. I need to be happy with who I am right now, not who I was, or who I will become. Lord, I ask you to help me to be happy with who I am. And when you see the time is right to bring the right girl into my life, then I leave that in your hands." Not the exact words but something like that. So I stopped looking for the right girl, and started working on myself. It took me about 3 months after saying this prayer to really feel that happiness come into my life. It took some work but I eventually felt happy. Not about everything, but with myself. Well, not even a few weeks after that I received an email from a girl who had found me in an online dating website. I had used a few websites, and this website was one I just kind of threw my information into and then never looked at again. So it was quite humorous that THAT was the one that ended up working for me. Anyway, we chatted a bit online, then talked on the phone and eventually started dating....and then got married. She was just the right one for me...and still is to this day over 10 years later. Have 2 boys and a good life, and a great wife. I still fight with depression sometimes and have other issues, but that's life. Always learning. Sometimes I still find myself trying to force things, and I have to stop and step back and try and just let things happen instead. Sometimes I remember to do that right away, sometimes it takes me a while before I remember to let things go...like a long while. But, I'm stubborn so...

    Anyway, just to let you know, you're not alone and things will always get better.

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  8. My brother, growing up, was BEAUTIFUL - a dead ringer for Ricky Shroeder, who was also very cute and ended up becoming the rather attractive RICK Shroeder. My brother always had girls mooning over him. As he got older and more serious, he decided that he wanted a family. He wanted a wife who was just like our mother, and he wanted (probably) 3 kids. He had MANY relationships but none ever stuck. He dated women with children so he'd have an instant family. No go. Somewhere along the line, I think he gave up the pursuit.

    And then he met Emily, and they dated and married and now have a beautiful daughter. My niece is a year old. My brother is Forty-FOUR. There is hope. There is always hope. Live your life; learn from your experiences; when God sees that you are ready for Him to give you your heart's desire, He will.

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  9. I have a love hate relationship with being "that person," but unless the movie is different from the book, the land they are in is called Oz after the Wizard and the city is called the Emerald City, or the City of Emeralds. The wizards real name is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs

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    1. You are so right. They were venturing off to Emerald City, not Oz. If only I wasn't too lazy to go back and edit!

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    2. Oh, that is quite alright, as long as you know the truth! :)

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  10. But Eli, you do have a family; us. Its not exactly the version of a family that most people imagine but we do all the things a family is supposed to do. We're here for you, we listen, we support you and your decisions, we talk to you, we have been here with you thru some of the hardest times in your life... isn't that what family does??

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    1. Good!! I've dealt with some of the same feelings of not having the things I wanted and not being where I wanted to be and changing my perspective on it helped.

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    2. <3 we are a big family here for you, but you may not realize you are also family to us. You may not hear all of our stories, but you help us through our life journeys too

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  11. Excellent post, it's in my top five favorites. This would've been number one had you been watching "Land Before Time" I-XXII, but "Wizard of Oz" is good too.

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    1. In a way, Daniel, isn't The Wizard of Oz just Land Before Time Part XXII?

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    2. Hahahahahahaha ^^^^^^

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  12. Would you mind explaining "The Never Ending Story" Eli-style sometime? It's probably my least favorite movie of all time, just above Wizard of Oz, and you made this movie sound fantastic. I may even try to watch it again sometime.

    I've been where you're at. I had a SUPER hard time turning 30 (nearly 2 years ago!) for similar reasons, but I still appreciate the journey, you know? "Life is what you make it," and "You find what you're looking for." (Those are both wonderful things my Mama taught me, and they're really true.)

    Excellent post. And PS, 30 ain't so bad!

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  13. I so needed this today. When I signed on, I thought, "Man, I hope that this is a funny post today. I REALLY need a laugh." Then, I saw it was about my favorite movie of all time, and then I read it and your description had me laughing so hard that I was in tears. So, thank you for that, Eli.
    As far as finding the right person and all that jazz. I'll tell you my story. I met my husband (originally) in the fourth grade when I moved into this area. We didn't really know each other the whole time we were in grade school (Catholic school goes to 8th grade here, not sure about everywhere else.) We went to different high schools, different colleges, and really never gave the other a second thought. Years later (I'd say not too many, but that'd be a lie,) we ran into each other at a bar...on karaoke night. He was there with his buddies to make fun of the people up there. I was there with my (then) friend to try to catch her brother in law cheating on her sister (yeah, a real soap opera, I know.) We got to talking, I gave him my number (the first time I ever made the first move.) We went out a few times, and I stopped calling him. This is after he tried to kiss me TWICE and I didn't realize what was going on and completely thwarted his efforts. Talk about embarrassing. I got back in touch with him about a year and a half later, apologizing profusely, and we've been together almost 10 years now. July 7, we'll be married 7 years (yes, we were some of those wack-o 7-7-07 couples.) We have a gorgeous little girl who will be 5 in 2 weeks and baby #2 on the way now. During that time, I took time out for myself. When I was younger, I was afraid to do things on my own. I was afraid to go somewhere by myself and risk looking like a lonely loser. Then I realized that I can't fully dedicate myself to someone like you have to do in marriage without knowing who I truly am. It was hard at first, it really was. But, then I realized I don't care what people who I don't know think of me. How many times am I going to see these people in my life...and know about it? I still go out on my own sometimes and I love the company of my own company. I can go to lunch somewhere only I like to go and read a book, go see a movie that no one else will go see with me, sit in the park and just enjoy the fresh air and the sounds of nature around me...you get the point.
    My point is, take time to find yourself, and who knows? The person that you're looking for might be right under your nose and you never knew.
    Good luck, Eli! It's rough out there in the dating world. But, there is someone out there for you, and when you find her, I promise you that it will all be worth it.

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  14. You do not want kids. You just think you want kids because "society" says that's what people are supposed to do. Grow up, go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, die. Your life will be so much more interesting if you remain blissfully childless and you might actually accomplish something more than just producing multiple versions of yourself. Enjoy your nieces and nephews and be free to travel, have adventures and avoid the minivan. You'll be the envy of all your married friends!

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    1. I would really like to know what happened at Mark's house this morning! :)

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    2. HA!HA!HA! Love this comment ^^^^^^. I wouldn't take ANYTHING for the experience of having my children. My children are truly the highlight of my life and have taught me so much about love and living. I would highly recommend having children....and lots of them if you can afford them. :)

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    3. Wow!! Who peed in your Cheerios this morning? How about this...everyone who wants to have kids, have kids, those who don't, don't. It sounds like Eli wants to. Leave him be.

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    4. I think Mark has a point... not everyone is meant to have children. Most people can't even answer the question, "Why is it necessary for me to have children?" Maybe you just can't imagine your life any other way which isn't a very good reason. If your imagination isn't that good, maybe your genes shouldn't be passed on. Having children is basically the most narcissistic thing you can do.

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    5. Yeah, I kind of understand what Mark means though. I've really felt the combined desire/pressure to have kids and have been frustrated when things haven't gone according to my plan. My spouse and I haven't been able to have kids (after 6 years of marriage), and are coming around to seeing some of the upsides of it and accepting it. It's annoying though when people assume we're somehow "anti child" just because we don't have our own brood, but we're rocking the uncle and aunt thing.

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    6. Having kids has been an incredible roller coaster ride for me so far - it has transformed me as a person, for the better. Like a previous comment said, it's something I wouldn't change. Yeah, I sometimes feel resentment - but as your own blog points out, some may let the downsides of their life situation make them bitter, others will take the good with the bad. I'm sure there are ups and downs to childlessness, too, making the phrase "blissfully childless" just as accurate as "blissfully childed."
      The funny thing about resisting what "society" tells you to do on the grounds that "society" is wrong, is that you are falling into the exact same trap, but in reverse. "Society" may be right as often as it is wrong, so what it comes down to is examining your own decisions and making them for yourself. Which means not assuming that what is right for you is right for someone else and vice versa. Which may be the point Mark was going for, but which didn't come through from so strongly advocating his own viewpoint and belittling the opposing one.
      As for it being narcissistic, I think we've all seen that. I would venture that having children becomes narcissistic in those already given to narcissism, not that it is inherently narcissistic.

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  15. Marry Jolynn. Seriously. You guys would be a great couple. I'm not kidding!

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  16. I'm reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite artists, Duncan Sheik. Particularly the last lines:

    "I want to sing of better times
    I want to sing of hope
    But you've heard those empty promises
    They sound like such a joke
    So I stumble
    So hard to say, so difficult
    Sometimes I am not able
    To separate my dreams from forced cliche"

    ...do I really want what I want, or do I only think I want what I'm told we all want?

    But also, yes...the journey! I've been telling my students all day today, the point is not that Romeo and Juliet die at the end--we know this from the beginning! What can be learned along the way?

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  17. I'm turning 30 next month too... eek! Why is it that it's such a scary birthday?? I mean, technically I'm still "missing" the same things I was "missing" when I turned 29, but all of a sudden it feels like I'm a total failure, despite the fact that I have accomplished a lot. I try and tell myself that everyone has their own journey, and the best thing I can do is enjoy mine and make the most of it. Easy to say, but harder to make yourself believe! So, from one not-quite-30 yr old to another, hang in there and good luck!

    PS - If Dorothy was only an 8, I am doomed.

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  18. If you really want love, it will find you. You have to recognize it. Open your eyes and don't be afraid to hold someone's heart while they hold yours. People are complicated and messy, and relationships gone wrong can tear you in half, over and over. But it only takes one. Don't think so much, just hope and remember, be nice to to others, especially yourself.

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  19. Can you please turn your blog into a movie re-cap blog? Or maybe start up a second blog that is devoted only to movies and retelling them Eli-style and driving the way to serious in people nuts because they don't appreciate your gift for retelling stories. ;-)

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  20. I NEED to see this version of the Wizard of Oz; I feel as though I'd sit through the whole thing!! Can you give me your synopsis of The Sound of Music too? I have the attention span of a gold fish.

    I’m in a similar boat; nearing 30 yet single and ready to mingle. I grew up thinking that I'd be married with kids by the time I was 25ish (SO OLD!). At 21 I went back to school instead. Some days I have sad single girl moments. Le sigh; look at that adorable baby. Le sigh; why don’t strangers like it when I come up behind them and hold their hands? Wah! My nephews look at me with disdain when I try to make them do my bidding (laundry, clean my room, make me food, exercise for me, the usual things kids do for their elders). That’s what kids are for right; minions?

    Whenever I start to feel wistful I remember that I can watch whatever Disney or Pixar movie I want to. Maybe get a little crazy on a Saturday night and watch BOTH! Couch nap? Yes Please! Hershey’s chocolate bar dipped in peanut butter for dinner? I do what I want. I’m an adult! I am livin’ the dream.
    I have a friend send me a birthday card with a note stating “I would find the meaning in my life once I settled down, had babies and got married (but hopefully not in that order)”. It annoyed me at first; just because I didn’t make the same choices she did, didn’t mean my life was inadequate. I do understand where she was coming from; those were the choices she made to lead to her happiness. She wanted me to happy too. She just didn't realize that how I measure my happiness is different than hers.

    I have a great family, lovely friends and a job I enjoy. I may not be the same wicked awesome person that I am today if I had made different choices. Now don’t get me wrong when a man comes around that holds my goldfish attention span I will be all over that. We could have romantic dates watching Disney and holding strangers hands. But until then I’m eating peanut butter by myself and that’s okay.

    P.S.
    If The Wizard of Oz is really Land Before Time Part XXII then Littlefoot is Dorothy. Does that make the Wizard his ghost mom? IS THE WICKED WITCH FAMINE???

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    1. I just want to confirm, Laureen, that yes indeed kids are meant to be minions. I have six minions of my own and they are wonderfully helpful. I've called them my minions for so long now that the other day when my mom called to chat SHE even asked about the "minions".

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    2. He did the Sound of Music a couple of weeks ago! It's my favorite post ever! :)

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  21. 30 was hard for me. Age was never something that I really thought about. I don't drink so 21 was nothing, 25 was cool because I like the number five and it was the perfect square of five (math nerd here), 29 was whatever but as I was approaching my 30th birthday I was struggling a lot. I wasn't where I thought I'd be in my life. I always imagined I'd be married with all the kids I was going to have because my mom and sister both were done having kids by 30 but I wasn't married and remain single to this day. It was so bad that a month before my birthday I was counting money at Relay for Life and when I got to 30 I completely blanked on the number...could NOT for the life of me get the number into the groove ( I was a cashier for 8.5 years so counting money is second nature to me). I eventually got over it, after all age is just a number. Today, almost two years later, I remain unmarried with no kids and no prospects BUT I am teaching in my dream position at the high school that I graduated from and having an amazing year. I hold out hope that God has in his plan for me to one day raise my own family but until then I have three nephews and one niece whom I love and get to be the cool aunt for every day. (One of them even asked if he can move in with me and when asked about his parents he told me that they can live where ever they want but he was moving in with me)

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  22. Dude, just wait till you hit 40!

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  23. It's interesting. I was having a similar thought last night: how my life wasn't going as I had planned when I was younger and I'm missing out on experiences that practically all my friends are having. But then I had the thought that I can't be too upset about the experiences I'm NOT having, because all of the amazing experiences I AM having. I've been able to travel. I've had experiences that I never would have had were I married. I get to have a special relationship with my niece and nephews, because "Aunt Janellie" doesn't have to be distracted by her own kids. I've come to realize that just because life didn't turn out the way I'd planned, it doesn't mean it's bad. It's just different. And it's amazing. :)

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  24. once again, thanks for this, eli.

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  25. Awesome post. I definitely think this warrants a new label on your blog for movie reviews. Maybe it could encompass books, too, because I know you did a similar post on "Oh the Places You'll Go." I'd give you suggestions for a name, but you'll come up with a better one without my help.
    This line "And we find our home by deciding to get there and being brave enough to figure out where 'there' is." is still where I'm at in my journey. I have had this written on a post-it on my desk for a few months now "What will it take for you to feel you have 'ARRIVED' and what are you doing to get there?" --it was inspired by an email from my wise MTC companion who I'd reconnected with recently. We had done some catching up and I'd lamented my career situation and lack of direction. He said "I guess we are always sort of "arriving" aren't we?" It struck me as profound - just like your blog post.
    I can't say I have an answer to my own question, and sometimes I think the question misses the point because maybe we never fully "ARRIVE." It definitely warrants more serious introspection, but one thing that has brought me more peace than I was feeling for almost the entirety of the last year was embracing an idea like that expressed in this other excellent line from your post: "The only thing that's wasted when you spend your energy wishing your experiences had been different is the opportunity to benefit from what your experiences actually are." [though the nit-picky editor in me would take exception to the word "only" - I think "main", or "most tragic", gets closer to the heart of the thought you're expressing through this post, because, you know, you waste a lot more... anyway, I think the whole post is brilliant, so don't take that the wrong way].
    I've really enjoyed reading your blog, especially when you get into these musings, because it just reminds me I'm not the only one trying to figure all this stuff out.

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