Put a smile on your face…


I have an amazing friend who is always there for me. No, seriously. You name it, and she is on the phone or on my Facebook with spot-on advice and the kind of sympathy that jump-starts a solution without indulging in the mood.

Today’s advice may be the best yet.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and a contributor to O, thinks we need to lighten up. Instead of being proud of our accomplishments and optimistic about the opportunities we have, women as a gender tend to consistently focus on those parts of our lives that aren’t “as good” as the rest — the career we passed up to start a family, the family we sometimes neglect to get ahead — in short, we ignore the best parts of ourselves.

This article couldn’t come at a better time. For the last several days I’ve been reevaluating my perspective on life and love and everything around me. I’ve been frustrated because I’m not where I want to be professionally, and the certainty I carried with me through college and the first summer after graduation is gone. Since I was a kid I wanted to do everything and be everything, and it hit me that I have to make a choice. So, there are a lot of ways I could lighten up and be happier:

Stop focusing on life after “I do.” I’m fortunate to have an amazing relationship with a man I have loved since the day we met. We’ve already begun discussing the near-ish future, getting married and starting a family, and I’m completely excited for that day to come. I’ve been so caught up in picturing and planning and dreaming of that time, though, that it has started to spill over into every part of our relationship. The fact is, neither of us is ready to walk down the aisle yet. There is so much we still have to learn about each other and the people we’ve become since the first time around, and to learn about ourselves, and rushing into a lifelong commitment could destroy us rather than make us stronger. 

Put the calendar aside. I am a freak for scheduling and time management. I sync my Google calendar with my Blackberry, which is linked to Facebook. I have physical calendars at work and at home, and I carry a pocket planner in my bag. I time things to the minute and react poorly when others don’t fall in line. I’m not the person you call for last-minute dinner plans, needless to say. Unfortunately, more than once I’ve had plans fall through and, because I cling to my calendar like a security blanket, I’ve ended up sitting at home with my knitting or watching Family Guy reruns for the twenty thousandth time.

My promise to myself, then, is to let go of my planner a little. I’ll still use it for big things, like family vacation in July or Sarah’s awesome parties, but for the day to day I’ll just take things as they come. Well…I’ll try.

Remember that I’m still young. I’m 23 years old, but some mornings I wake up with the fears of someone two decades older. Why am I letting my college degree collect dust on a shelf? When will I find a job to jump-start my career, and am I totally screwed because I live in the wrong area? Should I have studied politics? 

There is a huge world out there, with so much to experience that one person could never take it all in. I am fortunate to be where I am and to be who I am, with so many years ahead of me to fill with small moments and large adventures. Life isn’t over at 25, 30, even 50 — just because I’m where I am now doesn’t mean it’s where I’m destined to stay. Unless I want to, of course.

Take pleasure in small moments. Not everything has to be a huge production. Date night doesn’t have to be a formula of x activity for y duration equals a pleasant time, dinner doesn’t have to be a four-course meal, and taking five minutes in the sunlight is better than spending all day indoors because you can’t have an hour. I’m a big-picture person who is tired of letting the small stuff slip through the cracks.

How will lightening up make your life better?

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