When life gives you gnarly lemons

We’ve all endured enough tragic hair cuts, awful exes, and embarrassing interviews to know that sometimes life is sucky. Straight up, life gives us all its share of bad lemons. And yet, experience tells us that even super sour lemons can produce kick ass cocktails. Even the most stressful setback can birth a spectacular surprise. It’s all about extracting the parts of the lemon that best serve you, getting creative, and perhaps adding some alcohol!

This notion comes from a woman who once had freckles, glasses, braces, and the title of shortest human in my middle school — all at once — and is delighted to have experienced each and every awkward moment of it. Though I wouldn’t go back to that time in my life again if you paid me, I’m a cooler person now because of how not cool I once was. And to me, being ‘cooler’ now means I’m living a life I enjoy, in a body I love more every day, with a mind that continues to humor and surprise me.

Here are some examples of things that truly suck at the time, but that are totally awesome later on…

1. Break ups

Breaking up hurts like a hornet sting.  It could even be one of most painful experiences of being human, especially in the tender teenage years when it’s all so dramatic and intense. Sometimes you aren’t expecting it and it feels like the wind literally got kick-boxed out of you. Sometimes you initiate it, only to find that your choice leaves you crying in inconvenient places like the bathroom at work. Sometimes you not only lose your best friend, but also a whole group of friends that your ex and you shared. Sometimes you are left feeling lost, wondering who you are now that you aren’t defining yourself by another person’s life.

Any of those ring a bell? Full disclosure, each on of those examples are straight from my relationship past. Whatever the circumstance, most break ups are just plain sucky.

And in the same breath, break ups are a vital and healthy part of becoming the badass you are. If you can make peace with your break ups — and sometimes, that takes years to do — you can appreciate them. Every single break up that tears you apart simultaneously rebuilds you. Whatever you lose in a break up, even if its temporarily your mind, you gain at least two-fold. You gain experience, one of our greatest teachers in life. With experience, we see for ourselves what falling in love really feels like, we get outside of our own little worlds and delve into another’s, and we gain an understanding of what we want in our ideal relationship. Following a breakup you also gain me-time, a valuable and often underutilized commodity that allows you to reflect, recover, and regroup. Among all the huge things you gain from a break up, you do lose something: that other person who was not, and is not, your person.

There are so many gold nuggets and lessons my ex beaus have taught me, and I love the confidence I have in relationships I bring into my life now.

2. Puberty

In 7th grade, I was the shortest person in my middle school, I had bug bites for boobs under my ‘training’ bra, freckles adorned my entire face, braces scratched my inner cheeks all day, and I had the sweatiest of arm pits. Let’s just say, I was living a pre-pubescent nightmare. And my late bloomer woes didn’t ease up until I was fifteen or so, when the braces came off, profuse sweating magically went away, and I learned how to flirt.

I look back and am filled with relief for living through it and giddy-happy gratitude for all the embarrassment I endured then. Why? Because it made me who I am! : a strong, independent chick with perspective, a sense of humor, and some real humility. I appreciate all the transformative in-between phases that happened then and since then, to shape the woman I’ve become. I look forward to one day raising a child from the standpoint of a compassionate mama whose went through the late bloomer phase for a painfully long time. How I long to lend a soft hug, listening ear, and wise word to my little man or young woman as they bravely endure the ups-and-downs of middle school someday. Hopefully they won’t need my anecdotes, maybe the world will be a bit more loving and accepting toward them than in my middle school hallways. But just in case, I’ve got this life experience in my back pocket.

3. Not getting the job

That cringeworthy email that leads with ‘We appreciate your interest in our company’ and ends with ‘we wish you the best in your career search.’ Most of us have seen our fair share of those. I like to think that if you’re trying hard, you’re familiar with failing. Nonetheless, after all the preparation, the resume revising, the mock interviewing, the inner pep talks, not getting the job can feel devastating. It has taken years for me to not take these kind of emails personally.

Yes, not getting the job you want is a tough pill to swallow. But, what I’ve learned over the years is that it really is true: when one door closes, another one opens. When you get a stern ‘no,’ you also get a friendly ‘yes.’ You are now able to look at all the other opportunities before you. No matter who you are, the opportunities for where to take your life now are endless.

Here’s another thing I’ve learned: The best jobs I’ve had weren’t the ones the ‘just made sense’. They aren’t the ones that I thought to myself, somewhat smugly, ‘I am clearly overqualified for this position.’ The best jobs I’ve had are the ones that I didn’t know if I was cut out for, or if I was technically ‘qualified’ for, but that I went out on a shaky limb for anyway. The jobs that felt riskier, more creative, redefining, and slightly outside my comfort zone — those are the ones that ultimately felt the best to me, when they actually hired me.

Let’s be clear on this: I’ve applied and interviewed for way more jobs than I’ve heard back from. Each rejection has gotten a little bit easier to swallow than the last, and when I look at the unique, unpredictable turns my career path has taken I’m honestly just as happy about the ‘no’s as I am the ‘yes’s I’ve heard along the way.

As we get ready to introduce a new year into our lives, hopefully we can all take some of the gnarly lemons life has presented and squeeze the best out of them.

With courage, love, and intensity,


Photo credit: Creature Comforts viaFoter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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