Disclaimer that I am going to be honest and downright vulnerable in this post. My main goal with Dating Piece of Sass is to make you laugh but this post isn’t going to be funny. Sorry ’bout it. If you quit reading, no hard feelings. If you keep reading, you’ll learn a few things about me.
I spend a lot of time judging people (mainly asshole dudes) on this here stinkin’ (b)log and I think it’s time we talk a bit about why.
Since I have been graced with this season of singletude, I have spent a significant amount of time reflecting on myself. From what I write down here it probably appears I am only reflecting, or judging, others. It can safely be assumed however, that what many of us say about others is a reflection of how we feel inside, about ourselves.
“Andrea, you’re really hard on yourself.” I have been told this on multiple occasions by people I respect and I’ve started to see truth in it. I’ve historically thought that everyone was hard on themselves, which is what I believed made society driven and successful, on the whole.
I have high expectations of myself. I come from a family that has worked hard and expected a lot from themselves and their hard work has paid off, they’ve always come out shining.
My beloved grandpa quit school after the 4th grade and started working local to his rural home, to contribute financially to his family. He had 13 siblings and grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. At age 14 he started driving cattle trucks – he had to sit on a phone book to see over the steering wheel. He enlisted in the Army at 20, fought in WWII and later would go on to start a successful carpentry business with his best friend. My grandpa was an amazing, sweet and very intelligent man. He supported his wife, 4 children, and a few nieces and nephews (who’s parents died very young) when they came to live with my grandparents. The kids would all work hard and grow up to be successes of their own. My siblings, cousins and I would later become close friends with our 2nd and 3rd cousins because of the amazing way they and our parents all grew up together. A true blessing.
My dad started working at age 14 on a newspaper route. Rain, snow or shine, at 5am every morning, he would walk one of the biggest routes on the east side, delivering papers to 150 houses. After school he would return to his route and walk to the same 150 houses with another local paper. He would finish up around 6pm and walk back home.
His father left when my dad was 10, so my dedicated, hard working dad would help his mother financially as soon as he became a teenager. He would provide for my grandma throughout his early twenties. My dad put himself through college while working 50 hours a week and would go on to have a very successful career. He has worked full time hours since he was 14, up until his recent retirement. My dad is one of the smartest people I know and he is the definition of a self-made man. (Props pops, you have done so good!) He, along with my mother, provided for my family and support for my siblings and I to all go to college.
I have had many role models and people I look up to from the generations before mine. They have worked extremely hard to give a life to their children, that they themselves were not provided. I will never have to work as hard in my life as my parents and grandparents worked in their lives. I feel very blessed to say that.
I think I turned the ideal of hard work on myself, internally as much I as exhibited it externally. As far back as I can remember, I wanted a lot of things out of my life. I wanted the highest grades, I wanted to be popular and have lots of friends. I wanted people to remember me as kind and generous and thoughtful. I wanted to dress uniquely and stand out from others. I wanted to be athletic and awesome at sports (that dream ended when I was cut during the 2nd round of freshman volleyball tryouts). I wanted to make people laugh. I wanted to exercise a minimum of 5 times a week. I wanted to be pretty and skinny and fit. I wanted a solid college degree I could use in a good field. I wanted to be really smart. I wanted to help people. I wanted to make good money. I wanted to drive a nice car and build a big home. I wanted to own a lot of property and have dogs and horses. I wanted to be really good at my job, an expert in my field. I wanted to grow up and be able to buy my parents nice things and take my family on vacations.
The list of the things I’ve strived for (and am still striving for) is long. I guess the easiest way I knew to start working toward getting all of those things was to be hard on myself. I didn’t have to fight to physically survive, like my father and grandfather before me. I fought to psychologically survive. I consistently judged and assessed myself; compared my life to those around me. Compared my body to the women in magazines and movies. Compared my success and the amount of money I earned to my classmates or later on, to fellow employees at my place of work. If you can’t tell, my comparing and judgement goes on today.
In high school I prided myself on the idea that I didn’t care what others thought of me. I wore crazy shoes and pleather pants, crimped my long hair and drove a big blue truck. I wanted to be unique. I was really proud when I was voted ‘most original’ in my graduating class of 400 or so students. I didn’t know more than 20 people in my grade even knew who I was. I think at that time, I cared so much about what I thought of myself in comparison to everyone else, that I didn’t have time to wonder what everyone else was thinking of me. In the end, it was something like wanting to be liked but not feeling like I belonged, if that makes sense?
I go to college, major in architecture and get accepted into two esteemed programs – one that is local and one that’s out of state. I go out of state for a semester but hate it. I come home, start the program at the U of MN, study and work hard. I feel smart. I am passionate about this major for two years, until I’m not anymore. I discover building homes won’t fulfill this need I had to help others.
After my brother introduces me to his good friend who opened his own funeral home, I shadow him and think his career is amazing. I change my major to mortuary science (check the unique box) and enroll in summer school so I’m not behind. I get accepted into the U of MN’s program and feel anxious and humbled to make a difference in people’s grief experience. I am selected to be one of two speakers at my mort sci graduation and I am so flattered by this. I feel popular.
At our commencement, I talk about how we will be the last people to care for an individual who’s soul just left this earth. We will have the chance to knot a father’s tie a final time or to place a daughter in the last dress she’ll ever wear. I feel that ours is a wonderful calling and to have the inclination to serve others in this way, gives us an opportunity that very few people get in their lifetime.
I live above, and work in funeral homes throughout college. I graduate and already have a position lined up from my practicum. I pass my board exams and begin working at a busy funeral home as a full-time funeral director (more commonly known as a mortician). A few families that I work with tell me that I’ve found my calling in life. They say I am exactly where God created me to be and that I made burying their mother, or brother, a more manageable experience. These things stick with me and I feel fulfilled by my daily work. I begin to have a different view of life. I appreciate and am grateful for so many blessings I have because of the air in my lungs. I try to live everyday like it’s my last, because I see it being taken suddenly from so many. If I feel something, I say it, because I might not have the opportunity again – life is so short. I say “I love you” at the end of all of my important conversations.
After working as a funeral director for two years, I begin to burn out from the hours. The unpredictability, on-call nights, stress and responsibility a funeral director has, takes it’s toll on me. I am not sleeping or eating well and I no longer have energy to exercise or go out socially. I’m flat out not taking care of myself. Even though I’m used to constantly being involved in other people’s crises, I am not coping very well with my own. I had gone through a rough break-up in the year after I graduated and it haunted me for some time. At 21 years old, that relationship changed who I was. (More on that in a later post.)
I decided I couldn’t live the life of a funeral director for the lifestyle I was maintaining. I’m going to digress now, as I want to clarify a misnomer about morticians. We do not get paid fat bank like the layman assumes. If you own a funeral home, you may make a decent living… but you barely get to live. The funeral home is your life. Imagine that you (and maybe a few other employees if you’re lucky) are available 24/7, 365 for the bereaved. And it’s all on your shoulders to help these broken hearted, grief-stricken people in your community every day, and somehow make some money while doing so. Some people think funeral directors are untrustworthy and try to take advantage of the vulnerable. Well I have some news, a funeral home is a business. They have bills, salaries, licenses, continuing education, insurance, properties, merchandise, vehicles, unique equipment and vendors to pay, just like any other operation. If you bring your car to get fixed, you’re expected to pay for the parts and service you receive right then (not done on a payment plan). This is the same reason funeral homes need to be paid; they’re paying expenses at that time, too. Do you think a person enjoys approaching another person who’s having the worst day of their life, to sell them a casket? Hell no. A funeral director does not go into such a difficult job every friggin’ day, for the money. Trust me, they don’t make enough for that kind of stress – they do it to help people. Excuse my rant, you can tell I’m really passionate about the work morticians do.
As a mortuary science degree is pretty specialized, I decided I’d go back to school. By the grace of God, I was accepted into the U of MN’s Master of Nursing Program. After 16 months, and passing my nursing board exams, I was lucky enough to land a job at my current place of employment. I have worked there for almost 7 years now and I love and feel very blessed to have my job.
I would not be where I am without God, my family, some amazing mentors and my friends. I am so grateful to them. After getting into what I think is a solid spot, I don’t really have to work hard (externally) now in this season of my life. I have to stay dedicated to my work ethic and responsibilities, but I don’t have to challenge myself like I used to.
I think in the absence of external challenges, my critical and active mind has found and created internal challenges to work on. What I mean is that instead of being fixated on helping others survive the grief of death or the stress of helping someone survive life, I can now just be. But that isn’t how I’m built – a prime example of the human condition.
Instead of being content, I want and look for more. I think about what I don’t have and search beyond where I am. I regret not moving away from home for college or going into the military or becoming a doctor. And of course, I wonder if there is another path I should’ve taken that would’ve prevented the ache of being single at 33. I ultimately want to get married to someone I am crazy about, I want to have kids and live in a beautiful home. Some dogs and horses would be amazing too.
The moral here is that I criticize myself (and others) because I am not fully content and happy right now. I guess the insecurity, shame and anxiety I have around still being single at my age is the cross I bear. More often than not, I suffer my singletude.
Am I sharing all of this with you because I’m done criticizing and talking shit about guys? Hell no man. But I am trying to give you a bit of insight into where all of my outlandish f-bombs come from.
I am learning that being hard on yourself is not necessary to be successful and happy in life. In fact often times, it has the opposite effect. Being a judgmental person can arrest one’s ability to be at peace, to succeed and it makes contentment in life virtually impossible. If there is something I am working on more during this season in my life, it is contentment. At work, with time, with family and friends, but most of all, with myself. This is cheesy, but I have this feeling when I find some contentment in my life, then I will finally be able to find a healthy relationship. I hope you stick around to find out how this gong show turns out. Thank you reading.
Yours, vulnerable as hell,