Things I've learned even after failing at a 100-day project.
It has been 106 days since I decided to start my 100-Day Project. I totally failed, because I don't think I even have 40 letters written. The project actually caused a lot more anxiety than relief for me. But even though I didn't write 100 letters to strangers, I did write some letters to friends. I even wrote letters to myself. In the grand scheme of things, it's really okay that this project didn't quite go as planned. Because in the last 100 days, I've still grown so much. I don't have 100 letters to show for it, but I absolutely know it's true. 100 days ago, I was a lot more selfish. I didn't understand the true value of giving people your time -- whether you're physically with them or just thinking of them. I've continually been striving to be better at both. Today, I was working in a coffee shop and a man sitting two tables away from me struck up a conversation. 100 days ago, I would have been eager to put my headphones in and avoid any interaction with a stranger. But today I gave him my time. I stopped and listened. I had one earbud in, listening to Lord Huron. He asked who I was listening to, and then he looked them up on YouTube and listened to them himself. He said they reminded him of My Morning Jacket. He was procrastinating on taking an online exam for a mechanics class. He got up three times within an hour to go outside and smoke a cigarette to calm himself down. He's in school to hopefully work on semi trucks one day, but he really wants to be an artist. He knows a lot about Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his sculptures. He appreciates music more than most people -- commenting on the jazz music that was playing over the speakers in the coffee shop. He also knows a lot of bands -- most of which I had never even heard of before. He loves hole-in-the-wall comedy clubs and stand-up comedians, even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones. He cringed at the wording of his mechanics exam because he loves to write, and those questions weren't written by good writers. He really didn't want to be taking that exam, but "Art doesn't pay the bills," he said. His name is Phillip, and I'll probably never see him again. But how incredible it is that we can learn the stories of complete strangers by piecing together the bits and pieces of their hearts that they're willing to reveal to us?
100 days ago, I was a lot less compassionate. I encounter quite a few homeless people on my walk from my office to my parking garage. 100 days ago, I never made eye contact with them. I stared at the ground or looked the other way. But since then I've challenged myself to look them in the eyes. To see them. To acknowledge their humanity and their struggle. I've pushed myself to smile and say hello to them. I've stopped and listened, and my heart is even more broken for them because of it. I talked to one man loves reading, even though he only has one book that he reads over and over again. He handed the book to me so I could look at it, and I wanted to cry. I want to cry every time Isaac and I pray for the homeless. Because as terrible as it sounds, they've become more human to me than they used to be. They just want to be seen by somebody. Anybody. They are people who deserve love. I can't give them homes or jobs, but I can show them kindness. I can give them my time. I can make them feel seen.
Whenever I can, I read and re-read this quote:
Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection -- or compassionate action.
100 days ago, I wasn't as good at practicing self-love. Like most perfectionists, I fear failure more than anything. Every mistake and fault is magnified by a thousand times in my mind. I've always had very little patience with myself. I expect too much. I tell myself I should be better than this. I tell myself the dumbest lies -- so many lies that they start to crowd out the truth and I can't tell the difference between the two. I'm working on weeding out the lies, though. (I wrote more on this in my last post about self-love). Like I mentioned earlier, I've been writing letters to myself. When I take the time to sit down and make myself think about why I should love myself, I absolutely feel more lovable.
What's also helping me love myself better is having the intention of loving others more than I love myself. I want to love God more than I love myself. I don't want my worth to come from my appearance or how many Instagram likes I get. I want to be confident in the fact that I am worth more than that.
I jotted down a laundry list of goals I have for the coming months/years/lifetime in my journal. I'm sharing them here because... Well, because I want to. And because I can. And because maybe they'll help someone.
- To spend time this month getting to know God more.
- To limit life's distractions during this busy season.
- To be more thoughtful and less selfish.
- To remember to step back and really see people.
- To let go of my desire to control the outcome of my life so much.
- To stop putting my worth in things that don't matter.
- To have humility and a broader perspective of life.
- To possess a genuine, God-given confidence.
- To embrace the power of prayer.
- To be confident that God made me for a purpose and on purpose.