But I want to talk about something else that has been fascinating, and highly educational for me. A social experiment of sorts.
There are a lot of people that come in and out of our lives, some for the better, and some teach you valuable lessons about what you don't want to be, or how you don't want to treat people. Regardless, I think that every interaction that you have with people can help you become more of who you are wanting to become, a little bit at a time.
This year (when I turned 30), I made it a goal to stop trying to keep people in my life - but be willing and able to let them go. There were people in past employment situations, friends I had growing up, and even family members who I loved and considered very dear friends that I have had to realize that they aren't worth keeping around. And as harsh as this sounds, I had to make the conscious decision that people, regardless of how long I had known them, that weren't going to treat me the way I deserved to be treated, didn't deserve my time and energy. I love people so much that I wanted to make relationships of all kinds work. If someone had touched my life, I was going to do everything in my power to keep them there. I didn't have the strength to let go, and be grateful for what had happened. People who are going to lie to me, use me for any number of things, or who were overly critical or judgmental about my life, I don't need them - even if they weren't always that way. And I don't need to guilt myself into "needing them". I will always be kind, and I will always be civil, and I will always try, but I can't continue to make an effort with people who don't try back.
Now, I don't want to come across making it sound like there were a lot, because there weren't. I'm someone who values my relationships above almost everything else other than my testimony, and I feel very strongly that the people in your life will teach you more than anything else really can in life. They can teach you life lessons and they can teach you about yourself, and they can even teach you about who you are in relationship to the Master and more about who He is. They can help you realize your potential, they can buoy you up and they can be incredibly instrumental in your life. People can also destroy, belittle, discourage, and bring you down. I've had that with a previous employer here in Utah. They've caused people that I used to work with and be close with to be that way. I've had that with family members who I was very close with growing up and who's life experiences have hardened them and made them incredibly judgmental and rude. But overall people are good. So so so good. And more often than not, people are builders. They make you feel good. So many people are kind and caring and want to embrace people with love. So those are the only people I wanted in my life.
I've spent so much time the last 3-4 years worrying about and trying to mend relationships that were not worth mending, but I love the individual and I wanted to do everything I could to remain close to them. But I've learned, and become much happier when I have the strength to let go. These are a few things I've learned from letting go.
1. I've learned that I only have time for people who are real. I don't have time for people who aren't real. If you are going to lie to me, or if you are going to never open up to me, I don't have time for you. Connections are crucial and it's only as you connect that you overcome weaknesses, and become better. I need people who are real. Real with their triumphs, real with their successes and happiness, and real with their struggles and their failures. You can't be real about one and not be real about the other. I need real people in my circle. People who will allow me to help them and serve them when they are down, and let me celebrate with them when they are victorious.
2. It has taught me the importance of embracing imperfections, both my own and those I hold dear. Imperfections are what make us unique, and embracing them are what gives us the ability to be real. Some people in my life, because of their innate goodness, have helped me to recognize the imperfections I have and have made me want to be better. I need those people. I need people who are willing to be okay with my imperfections, and I have to be okay with theirs. I can't expect that and not give that back to them. I have found that there is power in striving to become better next to someone you love.
3. I don't care, no, let me rephrase that, I CAN'T care what other people think. If you are going to make me feel like nothing, I don't need you. If you are going to criticize my intelligence, looks, weight, profession, the way I live my life, what I wear when I workout, etc. I don't need to waste energy worrying about what you think. So I'm learning not to. Between work and church and social and so many other things, I can't spend time caring what other people think. Because everyone will have an opinion, and there's only ONE opinion that matters. The Savior's. And that's great. I HOPE people don't care what I think about their life. Friends care about progression and happiness, not artificial/superficial things that don't matter.
4. This one may sound harsh, but I don't deserve, have time for, or have any obligation to keep people in my life who treat me any less than I deserve. I have a GREAT immediate family. I have a handful of people who I consider amazing, wonderful friends outside of my family, and that's all I need. I have them and I am very blessed because of them, even if we don't talk much or we don't see each other much, I know what they mean to me, and they have shown me what I mean to them. I don't want to make a list here for fear of offending, but you know who you are!
5. It has taught me that I need to let the people in my life that I value, know that I value them. It has taught me the importance of being more grateful for the wonderful wonderful people in my life. Because there are many.
6. Communication is crucial. I need people who can communicate with me. When we disagree, let's chat, don't lie about things. When we have things on our minds, or things that are weighing one of us down, let's talk. Let's build each other up. When we had a great spiritual experience, a fun road trip, a difficult day, a great accomplishment, etc. Let's talk. Let's communicate. People who can't communicate, can't be real. People who can't be real, I don't have time for.
7. Most importantly, it has taught me how important my relationship to my Savior is. He is what matters. I can only care what HE thinks. He is the only one that can fully, and completely "get" me, build me, give me peace, and help me to be the kind of person that I need to be. It's only through Him that I can be the kind of friend that builds and strengthens and helps other people realize how abso-freakin-lutely amazing they are.
People are amazing. There are so many that are full of goodness. And those are who I'm going to fill my life with. I have learned so much about myself and my own potential, and I need to validate by only keeping people in my life who will reinforce the truths of who we are, and what our eternal potential is.