omorrow I will turn 30 years old! Birthdays are always a good time for reflection but the “new decade” birthdays seem to carry a particular weight. Because of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about lessons I’ve learned during my 20’s. While reading The Happiness Project a few years ago, I was struck by the “Secrets of Adulthood” that the author, Gretchen Rubin, kept tabs on. She developed a list of truths for herself to remember and refer to – principles that she had discovered throughout adulthood that helped keep her healthy and sane.
Well, it only took me about 29 years and 10 months but I finally learned one of my Secrets of Adulthood when it comes to media consumption: some of it is poison for me and I’m much better off without it. I’ve had this realization on and off many times but have finally taken it to heart. Getting older is awesome when it comes to taking yourself and your needs more seriously!
This all came about a couple months ago when Bobby and I were looking for a new series to watch. (I’m not going to pretend that we don’t watch TV because OH BOY can we plow through a great show. Bobby and I love a good Netflix series – or Amazon Prime (Mozart in the Jungle, anyone?!). We’re getting in our fill before we have kids someday and can’t spend late nights watching episode after episode. ????)
I’d heard people talking about Scandal for the longest time but always dismissed it. I knew nothing about the show but, based off the name, assumed it was probably trashy and about infidelity and soap opera type happenings. That didn’t appeal to me. After hearing someone mention the show again though, I decided to look up a summary. It actually sounded intriguing! I learned it was a show about a powerful woman heading a crisis-management firm in Washington D.C. It had super high ratings. Wikipedia called it a “political thriller.” It sounded smart and well done. This was totally going to be a show we’d like.
Well. We watched the first episode and I felt a little uneasy. My brain freaks out a little bit (okay, a lot) when I think about dangerous things in the world, crimes, and horrible events. It doesn’t matter if it’s fictitious or on the 5 o’clock news. I get fixated on the negativity and fear. It really affects me. Scandal started stirring some of those feelings in me and I recognized it fairly quickly. But did I stop watching? Why, no! Bobby was into it and I thought that I might acclimate to the show. I kept watching a second episode and then a third.
All the while, though, I knew the show wasn’t sitting right with me. I wasn’t feeling uplifted. I was feeling slightly paranoid. This show was certainly not going to make me a better person. Then, I came to this REVOLUTIONARY thought: what if I drew the line quickly and swiftly the second I started to feel uneasy while watching a piece of media? What if I stopped trying to talk myself into things, stopped trying to soothe my mind by saying “this is just a fictional show,” stopped trying to analyze my psyche and figure out why I can’t handle certain material while other adults don’t get affected in the slightest by it? How would it feel to do that?
So I tried it. I told Bobby that Scandal just wasn’t sitting right with me.
This was unfortunate for him because he was just getting into it – he would have gladly continued watching the series over the coming weeks. (I assured him that he was more than welcome to continue watching on his own, but he opted out of that idea. Half the fun of watching these shows is that we get to snuggle while watching them together and talk about them later.) We made a pact that I would start to screen shows first to see whether I can handle them and THEN introduce them to him once I’ve given them the green light.
It seems obvious, typing this out right now, that I clearly shouldn’t subject myself to watching things that I’m not really enjoying. I don’t care if other people love it. I don’t care if it’s been nominated for awards (Django Unchained, I’m looking at you). There are way too many wonderful things that I could spend my time doing instead. I don’t know why it took me so long to crystalize this Secret of Adulthood for my own life but I do know that I’m finally, blissfully not going to play the game anymore. It’s not worth it. I’m so much better off keeping my heart and mind focused on the good.
These days, this is my jam:
Perhaps the best feeling is when I settle into my best self just a little more. Thirty may bring some gray hairs with it, but if it also brings more of these realizations then I’m all about it. Happy birthday to me!
P.S. If you need to cut something out of your life but have been vassilating on it for one reason or another, consider this your permission slip. You don’t need it! Lighten your load and join me in the joy. xoxo
This reminds me of an Audrey Renee post the other day. “She Let Go” by Reverend Safire Rose. You should look it up. SO GOOD.
I’m also trying to figure out what brings me joy, and what makes me fearful, tense, or stressed. It’s so good to be aware of oneself.
Happy Birthday, my wonderful wonderful older sister! So glad to have you pioneering the future for me. :)
Ooo, that’s a really beautiful poem. Just looked it up. Thanks for sharing, Leah. It’s funny how “letting go” of something can seem like such a big deal until you finally do it…and then it’s like, “Oh. Why didn’t I do that a long time ago?!” I love having you as my sister. :)
Yay, Grace! I’m SO HAPPY that you made this breakthrough – and told us about it so lovingly, taking responsibility for your own well-being. You are one of my heroes my beautiful, daughter. Happy, happy birthday on your big THREE OH! I love you! xoxo
Thanks, Mom! You’re truly the best. I’m so appreciative of your love and encouragement as I become more and more in tune with my best self!
Happy Birthday Grace!! I hope you’re having a wonderful day! And I agree, we all need a little detox from taking in media that does us absolutely no good. While it’s sometimes nice to escape the day-to-day with some dramatic or mindless or superficially humorous shows, they aren’t exactly food for thought. Here’s to turning 30 (which I did last July) and filling our brains with the intellectual and the inspirational!
Nicky, I’m so grateful for “meeting” you through the wonders of the internet! I’m glad you feel me on this one. I just tried to leave a comment on your latest post where you talk about watercolors (wooo!) but it wouldn’t let me…so check your email! Sending you love xoxo
I’m the same way. Sounds and images stay with me for a long time… I’ve made exceptions for movies based on reality, such as The Passion and Hotel Rwanda. I don’t regret it, but can recall, even many years later, some of the bad stuff! With kids, I see much less tv and no movies, so it’s all good now. I just have to be careful with books (my imagination is pretty vivid when reading too!).
Jeanmarie, I’m with you on books! My soul is pretty sensitive to all of it – I definitely stay away from anything remotely “thriller”ish. And stumbling across the news sometimes can be like walking through a field of landmines. It’s a balance between staying informed and also focusing on the good so I can do what I can with what I have, effecting the world around me in the most positive way I can. Love to you!