make your own meaning

I know I’m a nerd. And I love it. I am a proud nerd and anytime you want to challenge me to a dork-off, just let me know.

I’m one of those people who likes to play board games and work on my scrapbook and spend hours at a time reading. Don’t get me wrong. Going out makes me happy, too. A good dinner with friends or a highly anticipated movie night can be super fun. But for me, so can kicking it low-key. I’ve always been this way. I’m an arts & crafts person. I was even the arts & crafts director at a summer camp. So when my friend Tim saw this new arts & crafts mecca on the Upper West Side, he knew I was the perfect person to go with.

As soon as I got to Make Meaning, I was pretty much in heaven.

Susane Colasanti at Make Meaning

They had stained glass! And beads! And ceramics and soaps and paper crafts and tons of other fun things to make. You could make whatever you want. It’s an arts & crafts enthusiast’s dream come true. I painted a heart keepsake box for my rings. Tim is an artist, so he got mad profesh on a bowl by painting an intricate New York City skyline around it.

Tim busting out mad art skills at Make Meaning

We had so much fun talking and painting and just appreciating that a place like Make Meaning existed in Manhattan. I don’t even care that it’s not a standard grownup activity. I’d much rather have fun doing something I want to do than be miserable doing something someone says I should like because it’s fun for them. Of course we should try new things. New experiences are exciting and challenging. But once we know what makes us happy, those are the things we should focus on. Not what anyone else thinks we should be doing instead.

I get lots of emails from readers asking for advice. One issue I’m hearing more about lately is how teens are feeling pressured to do things with their friends that they don’t want to do. This problem has been around for a really long time, but I think it’s even more prevalent today. Here’s the advice I give them that I wish someone had given me:

Being unique rules. If you’re going to make a difference in this world, that means you’re going to stand out in some way. You can’t stand out if you’re an average person who’s following the herd. Part of the way you distinguish yourself is by having courage. Having the courage to live your life the way you want to is really important. So if your friends want you to go to a party where everyone’s going to get wasted and end up puking on themselves, it’s okay to be like, “Um, that sounds super fun? But I’m good, thanks.” True friends would never force you to do something you don’t want to. True friends love you because you are awesome.

I didn’t learn this the easy way. When I was in college, I felt the same pressure from my friends and people I wanted to impress. I thought that if I went to a few frat parties, I’d make some new friends. And get the attention of this guy I liked in one of the frats. So when his frat had a party, I was there. I was there fake-sipping my beer because if you didn’t have a drink in your hand someone was going to put one there and I wanted to fit in. So I’d tilt the cup back as if I were drinking, but I didn’t actually drink. Why? Because alcohol makes me extremely sick. My system is sensitive – even caffeine makes me feel disgusting. But when I’d tried explaining that to people, they’d just give me a weird look and walk away. So I didn’t bother trying to explain. I just keep fake-sipping like a total loser.

Living the life other people think you should live instead of the life you want to live will not make you happy.

We all want to be happy. Being true to yourself is the only way to make that happen. So let’s not waste any more time trying to fit in. Let’s not let other people decide what we should be doing. We’ll do the things that make us happy and give our lives meaning, even if other people think we’re huge nerds for doing them.

Some people are sad because they conform to everyone else’s expectations.

Some people are happy because they refuse to let anyone else dictate their choices.

Who will you be?

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10 thoughts on “make your own meaning

  1. That place sounds like Heaven. I want to go!
    And thank you for this–
    New experiences are exciting and challenging. But once we know what makes us happy, those are the things we should focus on. Not what anyone else thinks we should be doing instead.
    The therapist I see for my panic disorder always attacks me for my hobbies (scrapbooking, photography, and reading) and says they aren’t conducive to happiness or kicking the anxiety problem. I want to punch him every time he says it. Um, they make me happy. They relax me. That’s a GOOD thing.

    • Scrapbooking, photography, and reading have always made me super happy. How can they not be conducive to happiness if they make you happy? And all three are very calming activities, which helps soothe noisy brain. I agree with you – it’s a very good thing to be doing what makes you happy!

  2. I’m a proud nerd too! I’d rather stay home and read than go out to a club or party. I still watch cartoons, for Pete’s sake! haha. That arts and crafts place sounds like so much fun! You should post pictures of what you guys made.

  3. Romans 12:2 (NLT)
    Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
    (NIV)
    Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
    Have an awesome day! 🙂

  4. I love that first pic of you there! You look so thrilled. I’m sure Chicago must have a place like this. My friend on the West Coast did a candle making thing that was fun too. And then you get to bring home whatever you make, which is awesome.
    For the last couple years, I was friends with someone who was basically cool but his main flaw was that he was incredibly judgmental and a little snarky about everything, which is sometimes funny but sometimes hurtful. But I later found out that he actually really liked my quirkiness and that was the last thing I expected, because I am way more childlike/old school than him. So sometimes even those types of people surprise us!

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