How a Neck Wrinkle Taught Me to Start Living
By Lindsay Detwiler
I was a few weeks shy of my 35th birthday when, staring into the mirror, my eyes landed on a prominent neck wrinkle and saggy skin that I hadn’t noticed before. Chest tightening, I ran my hand over the skin to find it droopy, dry, and scaly—the dreaded turkey neck, the epitome of aging signs, had appeared, and much earlier than I ever was prepared for.
Promptly, I studied photos from the past months to see if I had been living in some state of oblivion, blind to the fact my neck had become a blinking sign for my elder millennial status. I squinted and studied, trying to find the exact month it had happened. Then, my Enneagram 3 personality kicked into high-gear as I tried to conquer the situation. I read about neck creams, perused reviews, and ritualistically slathered on potions that seemed to make it worse. I spent so much time staring in the mirror for several weeks that the “You’re So Vain” song seemed to be my mantra. I Googled whether turtlenecks were spring and summer appropriate.
And then, one day last week, I asked myself: Why does this bother you so much? Because let’s face it, I am nowhere near celebrity status or a catwalk. And how many times do you actually notice the status of someone’s neck skin? I’m willing to bet rarely—unless you’ve recently become attuned to your own sagging situation. In the scope of things, a neck wrinkle does not matter. But to me, it did. And I know exactly why.
The neck wrinkle, the aging skin, it was a sign that my denial of the birthday cake candles tell in recent years. I’m getting older. That, in itself, isn’t a terrifying thing. But do you know what is? Realizing you’re getting older and you haven’t really lived the vibrant kind of life you want.
There it is. The truth haunting me—but I suspect it’s plaguing many women my age, too. The realization that you did all the “right” things and kept your head down. You sorted through until you could find a relatively stable life, if you were lucky. You got to a place where you can exhale because the choices have been made and roads have been followed.
This is where you’re supposed to be, that voice inside tells you as you put in the top knot to do laundry on Sunday mornings before your required steps on the treadmill to hit your watch’s demand. And then, you look around at your Live, Laugh, Love plaque and the carefully organized utensils in the kitchen. You study your filled calendar of things that even sound mundane like “Tax appointment” and “Vet check-up.” You stare out the window while you do dishes for the fiftieth time this week, studying the dead grass, the abandoned lawn chair, and the view that never would make it to a postcard. And you ask yourself: Is this it? Is this the epitome of living?
I think for me, the neck wrinkle was a wakeup call that life is going by—and I haven’t gotten around to the exciting stuff yet. Where was the sense of wonder, the sense of adventure? Where were the once-in-a-lifetime moments and exciting new sights and smiles worthy of Instagram? Or the unexpected surprises, the cocktail hours, the big wins, the monthly escapades to new locales? Staring in the mirror at that neck wrinkle, I felt a little shortchanged. At 35, my life wasn’t a bold, fun adventure worthy of a travel blog. It was taking out the trash on Thursdays, showing up to the office with coffee, my lifeblood, in hand to trudge through the workweek. It was figuring out what was for dinner and getting the mail and walking on the treadmill to try not to get too out of shape. It was surviving, in so many ways.
But when we’re faced with this revelation, the question becomes: What can we do about it? There are bills to pay, and flights are expensive. We have responsibilities of different varieties and only so many PTO days. And while giving it all up to travel the world or start the bakery or Eat, Pray, Love it sounds wonderful (and some have inarguably pulled it off), for many of us, it just doesn’t feel like the right choice either. I’m all about bold choices, about chasing big dreams. But a girl’s gotta eat, too. And although I love the van turned home in theory, my Great Dane is a bit too big to squeeze in there along with my shoe collection, cats, and bookshelves.
So how do you find the balance? How do you live a life that supports your dreams and excites you without giving everything up? How do you find a way to bring joy and passion back to your life so you don’t have nightmares about the regrets you’ll have in thirty or forty years?
I don’t know that there’s an easy answer to this question, but I do think it’s possible to find a sense of adventure, a sense of living boldly, without whisking away to a private island or disappearing into the wilderness like an explorer. At least, I’d like to believe there is. I’d like to think there’s a way to find a sense of magic, of wonder in a somewhat mundane life without having to do something worthy of turning into a Netflix movie. I’d like to think, in theory, there’s hope for all of us with our rigid morning routines and dinner schedules and budget Excel sheets.
After stepping away from the obsessive studying of the neck wrinkle for a few days, I’ve come to believe that for many of us, we need to sit back and ask ourselves: What really would light us up? Because maybe it’s not even as extreme as converting the van into a travel home or splashing in a waterfall or seeing a rare bird on another continent. Maybe it’s taking a ballroom dancing class we feel silly signing up for or that pole class that makes us turn a little red at the thought. Maybe it’s taking up a new sport, even if we might suck at it. It could be changing up our wardrobe and working in the dreaded crop top or making Sundays a day off from the morning routine we’re obsessed with. It could be joining a new group or going to a new coffee shop to explore. It could be going a town over and wandering around aimlessly on a weeknight, something you never do.
In short, I think part of the answer is just letting ourselves be free from the routine, just for a while. It’s about searching for what makes us excited and being willing to try new things we normally wouldn’t. It’s about getting away from what we should do or have to do … and doing something just for the sake of doing it. Those are the moments that we remember. Those are the times that we understand in our bones what living is all about, big and small.
I don’t think you have to spend a million dollars to live boldly, to live a life you’ll be proud to look back on someday. I think you just have to get out of the routine sometimes. You have to take the Curling Class at your local ice rink or get the tattoo you’ve been putting off. You have to say “yes” to that festival your friend wants to go to that you think might be strange, or sure to that jacket you love but think people might hate. You have to get a little wild in your choices, a little out of the norm. You have to break free of the mold society tries to put on you in order to break free a little bit. I think that’s where life really begins. These small changes, these tiny steps, can help us build the courage to perhaps, if we feel called to, take the bigger, riskier steps toward a life of passion. The job changing kind of steps. The new house or new purpose kind of change. But until then, the tiny swaps in our routine can be enough to bring the spark back and to help us realize that aging isn’t the end of excitement, not by a long shot.
I’ll be honest with you—I still study my neck from time to time in the mirror and in photographs. But lately, I don’t have as much time to peruse it and analyze it like I once did. I’m too busy going to that new bakery a half hour away on Sunday and signing up for a horseriding session. I’m too busy taking my dog to a different park and trying that coffee shop that’s out of the way but seems fun. I’m busy on Pinterest looking for a new outfit I never would’ve dared try out before and painting my nails a color way too loud for the office. I’m busy living my life, in essence, turkey neck and all.
It started with sagging, drooping skin on my neck and a wrinkle I hadn’t seen before. But that’s not where it ends. Not if I have anything to say about it—which I’m learning, I do.
L.A. Detwiler is a USA Today Bestselling author who lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, rescued cats, and Great Dane Edmund. Learn more about her books on Amazon.
Some people will read this and call me old-school or disgruntled. Some might say I was a bad teacher and the educational system is lucky I left. Some will say I’m stuck in the “back in my day” mentality and don’t have a clue about modern society.
I’m not here to argue with any of that. But I am here to say this--our educational system is failing in big ways. It’s failing teachers, which is why I left. But it’s also majorly failing students, whether we want to admit it or not.
During my ten years as a teacher, I knew there were problems, especially in the last few years. But now that I’ve left, my vision is even clearer. More than that, my voice can be louder in ways it never could be when I was under the scrutiny of the public education system. So, for all the teachers out there who can’t raise their voices because they’re still in the heat of it, I write this article to spread awareness of the beliefs so many of us hold but no longer witness in the current state of academics. These are the beliefs that made me go into teaching in the first place—and their absence in the classroom is what made me leave.
I know that what I mention isn’t the result of the school I taught in. Instead, it really is an epidemic nationwide in failing public schools across all states. I hope when you read this, if you’re a teacher, you know you’re not alone. And I hope if you’re not a teacher, you realize that we MUST do better. Somehow, someway, we need to do better.
1.Accountability for actions is a good thing.
One of the main reasons I left teaching was because of the lack of accountability for students. Talk to any teacher these days, and they’ll tell you that discipline has gone out the window. This shift happened before the pandemic, but COVID-19 definitely had a negative effect on students’ accountability for actions. It’s not the only reason, though. A permissive school atmosphere, pressure from parents, and a warped state of the educational system has annihilated the accepted moral that actions have consequences.
Most days, it feels like the classroom has become an excuse factory for behaviors as well as a blame-game for educators. A kid swore at you? Well, what did you as the teacher do to provoke it? Students are violent, acting out, threatening you? Well, they must just be bored or frustrated. They don’t pay attention in class? It’s not their fault.
I can’t tell you how many times as a teacher in my final years I heard the excuse, “Well, this isn’t fun for me.” We’ve somehow taught students that if something isn’t fun, it isn’t worthwhile and means they don’t have to follow rules. We’ve also taught them that teachers deserve zero respect, a fact they tout frequently in the classroom—and use as a valid excuse for their behavior.
It also hardened me to see how the lack of respect and downright toxic behaviors toward teachers really leads to a sexist atmosphere, too. In the past few years, I’ve witness numerous male students being horrible to female teachers, verbalizing egregious sentiments in front of the class and using the direct statement that they just don’t respect female teachers as adequate reasoning. Somehow, to my sheer horror, that seems to be acceptable in the world we live in. I’ve even had parents cite that their child just doesn’t respect women, as if that excuses the degrading sentiments uttered to me, the flippant attitudes, and the unwillingness to follow rules.
One of the scariest aspects of this, I think, is to think of all the female students witnessing vile treatment of a woman in charge. What are we teaching future generations about the power and worth of women? And really, what are we teaching generations about the treatment of humans in general? Things that are spouted to teachers in the classroom or violent behaviors that are treated as nothing more than an insignificant outburst are behaviors that I wouldn’t accept anywhere in this world to any human being. Yet teachers are being subjected to violent behaviors, physical altercations, demeaning statements, and scathing lies daily—with seemingly little or no repercussions.
Sure, you can say we signed up for this. Admittedly, a large portion of education courses involve classroom management discussions. None of us expect perfect children sitting with hands folded and only mannerly words every day. We understand that when you work with humans and especially teenagers, there are going to be conflicts. What we didn’t sign up for, though, is to be belligerently mistreated, discriminated against, belittled, and even threatened on an hourly basis by students who then have little to no consequences. We also didn’t sign up to go on the witness stand anytime we deem that consequences are necessary, yet that has become the trend in schools across the country. We are constantly having to gather evidence that being called a “bitch” in the classroom or having the stapler thrown wasn’t the result of something we did or didn’t do.
Somehow, as a society and a system, we’ve taught our kids that certain behaviors are acceptable if they have the right excuse. We’ve taught them to blame everyone but themselves and that culpability doesn’t apply. This dangerous game we’re playing in the education world isn’t just leading to impossible environments for educators and students to learn in—it’s resulting in kids who don’t understand how to take responsibility for actions, which is a dangerous game to play in the adult world that doesn’t take away detentions because you were having a bad day.
2.Most teachers are qualified for their job and deserve to be treated as such.
Now that I’m out of the classroom, it boggles my mind to see how teachers are questioned, interrogated, and mistrusted for doing their job. Are there bad teachers out there? Certainly, just like in any field. Yet it seems like the harder a teacher works, the more education they receive, and the more qualified they are in their area of expertise, the more they’re questioned, berated, and forced to prove their worth daily.
I am a USA Today Bestselling author with an extensive resume of published works. Still, I was consistently berated by kids and parents for my writing assignments, editing suggestions, and methods of teaching. I was told my methods of teaching writing were ineffective. I was told I wasn’t qualified to grade a paper by students and parents. I was told I didn’t know enough about writing to teach it.
Despite all the impressive accomplishments on their resumes, most teachers are treated as less than worthy of standing in front of a classroom. Gone are the days of teachers being seen as experts in their content area. Instead, they are constantly deemed by the Google era as insufficient at their jobs and knowledge.
I didn’t realize how much this wears on your psyche until I left. Now that I’m gone from that toxic environment, I understand my worth. I understand I deserve to put my skills to use somewhere where they are appreciated, not where they are constantly questioned and undermined.
Google can only go so far. It’s time we understand that yes, teachers are qualified to not only understand their content area, but to provide ways for others to learn it. We need to stop being so adversarial toward the teaching profession and understand that teachers really do have skill sets, ideas, concepts, and learning to offer.
3.Academics should come first.
I’ll be the first to say—there are things that are more important than school at times. A family crisis, a mental health crisis, the loss of a loved one. There are all sorts of challenges students face because they are human. We all have our days, our seasons of life that are valid reasons to not give something 100% of our attention.
Still, I grew up believing that education and academics were the key to success. Learning was how you figured out who you were and how you opened up doors for yourself. Education was the way to open up more possibilities so you had the choice to pursue what you really wanted.
This doesn’t mean you have to go to college to be successful, and it doesn’t mean that learning will guarantee you an easy, successful life. This means, though, that not just in school, but in life, learning is crucial to advancing who you are as a person and understanding how the world works. It means that the more you know, the more opportunities are within your grasp because you have the knowledge you need to pursue your goals. You have the ability to find the information you don’t have. You have the ability to make connections, to understand how you fit into the scheme of things, and how to continue to grow.
In modern education, though, it feels like academics have taken the backseat. We let students slide through so our school doesn’t show any failures. We give students who have done zero work half credit so we don’t ruin their confidence. We give students chance after chance after chance to try, and when they don’t, we blame the teacher for not working harder to motivate them. We teach them if they sit back and do nothing, someone will come along to make it all better, a concept that works nowhere else in the real world.
We promote sporting events, extracurriculars, and social media over learning. We tell students it’s okay to do this, that being well-rounded matters more anyway. We tell them that they only have to do work if they want to, another concept that doesn’t always fare well in life after high school.
As a former band nerd who was in all of the ensembles, I know the benefits of extracurriculars. I do. But I also think that when academics take the backseat to everything else, we fail to teach students the real value of learning. We strip them of the intrinsic value of an inquisitive mind, of exploration, and of knowledge. We teach them that they don’t need to care about history or know basic math to be successful. In a growing world full of challenges, it’s a disservice for our kids, no matter where they end up, and it’s a disservice to society. The fundamental knowledge that helps create revolutionary thinkers, dreamers, inventors, and doers has taken a backseat. We’ve taught our students that learning doesn’t matter—and in a world that provides endless opportunities and needs for daily learning, this lost skillset will certainly have an impact.
4.Cell phones and technology are killing the education system.
Sometimes, it feels like the school system is trying to be the cool mom from the movie Mean Girls. Truly. You want to play on your phone all day? Cool, cool. We’ll allow it. You want to play games on your laptop? Yeah, cool, we’ll just say it’s for educational purposes but give teachers zero potential to monitor it.
A big shift in our education system happened when cell phones were accepted into classrooms. Sure, you can argue they were always there. Ten years ago, students were sneaking on their phones during class. But it wasn’t as brazen, as accepted, and as impossible to fight. Now, not only are teachers fighting the war to teach students who are told academics don’t matter, their actions are someone else’s fault, and learning is irrelevant, but they have to do all of that while fighting for their attention against social media. Additionally, bullying during school has reached new heights as the phone in everyone’s hand makes social media attacks on each other possible all day long—even during time in the classroom.
We’ve taken away the boundary of fun and school, which sure, teenagers love—but at what cost? We’ve taught them that you don’t need to focus and that social media takes precedence over any hard work. We’ve taught them to rush through their work for the sake of getting it done so they can hop on Snapchat or the next big thing. We’ve taught them how to stay so wrapped up in the warped world of social media that they never come up for air.
And because of that, we’ve taken away the value of learning, the simplicity in a true discussion, in reading, in exploring content to better one’s self. We’ve digitalized the educational experience—and taken all of the creativity, analysis, and discovery from the process of learning. I am terrified of what this will mean for our world as a whole, if I’m being honest. Because for a generation with information at their fingertips, more than a few can’t tell you how many letters are in the alphabet or any prominent historical facts. Few can tell you what a noun is or remember to use capital letters in a professional document.
I’m not dissing this generation—I’m dissing the system that allowed this to happen. Because when you take away the value of learning, add distractions willingly to the classroom, tell them that teachers have no value and that learning doesn’t matter, how could you expect otherwise?
5.You learn the most when you are challenged.
In ninth grade, I had the most difficult teacher of my life for biology. Students avoided taking his class because he was notorious for excessively high standards, his booming voice of authority, and his huge workload for his students. That class was hell on Earth sometimes. I would spend weekends crying over projects only to have points deducted for a crooked line of text, and I would have a week to memorize all the bones in a frog. It was grueling.
But you know what else it was? A great preparation for the real world, which isn’t easy. In that class, I learned what I was capable of. I learned that hard things weren’t impossible. I learned that I was smart, capable, and strong. I learned the value of determination. I learned how to prepare for a life of not only college, but of life in the “real world,” where there always hard things to face. He prepared me for success. Now, when something feels impossible, I remind myself that I can, in fact, do hard things.
These days, I see so many posts online and often heard in the classroom why challenging students shouldn’t be our goal. We were forbidden from giving too much homework to our upper-level students and then encouraged not to give it at all. If students were struggling with a challenging project, we were told to consider how we could make it easier for them. In essence, I felt like we became an excuse factory. You didn’t do the project because you were tired? Bored with it? Didn’t feel like it? Okay. That’s completely okay. You don’t have to.
As an educator and a lifelong learner, the idea that we need to make school easier for students is disappointing. Not because I wanted to watch kids fail. On the contrary. I wanted to see them succeed. I wanted to prepare them for what I knew would be a challenging road ahead. Because when is adult life easy? There are all sorts of obstacles in life that you have to learn how to handle in order to find your best life. It isn’t about knowing all the bones of the frog—it’s about knowing that when things feel impossible, you are capable of handling it. That confidence doesn’t come from dumbing down curriculum or excusing students to step back when the bar feels too high. It’s about pushing them to find what they’re capable of—instead of coddling them until they feel comfortable.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this—whether you believe it or not, the education system in our country is in trouble. Teachers are leaving the field right and left, and for good reason. As a former educator and as a lover of learning, I am heartbroken at this realization that our academics are falling short.
Still, until we understand as a society that what we’re doing isn’t working for teachers and certainly isn’t working for students, the system will keep crumbling. I’m afraid when we finally wake up, there will be nothing left.
To the teachers still fighting the “good fight,” know that it’s okay if you deem the fight isn’t possible right now. It’s okay to prioritize yourself, to pursue a better environment, and to put yourself first. Most of all, know that you are not alone. Just because people are afraid to talk about it doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing it, too. I hope if nothing else, this article gives you the confidence to know that you are not a bad person for feeling frustrated, hopeless, and angry at a system that is failing.
L.A. Detwiler is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Widow Next Door with HarperCollins UK as well as twenty other novels. She formerly taught high school English for over ten years and is currently a Communications Specialist at a local corporation. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, their cats, and their Great Dane.
Standing in front of a classroom of teenagers feigning interest in Shakespeare and commas, I steadied myself with a hand on my desk. I’m going to pass out, I think to myself while smiling through and pretending all was fine. I sent out a silent prayer to the universe and any higher power listening that I wouldn’t faceplant in front of a room of judgmental, Tik Tok savvy teenagers.
It took eight weeks of intermittent fasting for me to realize the truth: No matter how many influencers swore it was the best way to feel energized and lose weight, it wasn’t right for me. Eight weeks of feeling dizzy, of feeling moody, and of fantasizing at unnatural levels about food, I learned that what everyone said would work just wasn’t it for me. So I changed it up.
As a chronic self-improvement addict and goal chaser (I’m an Enneagram 3, if that means anything to you), perfecting my routines and trying to live my best life is a habit of mine to a fault. I’m always looking for ways to be better, do better, and live better. Especially since turning thirty, living the best version of my life has become an absolute focus. But one thing I’ve learned these past few years is that if you’re going to try to find a life you love, you’re going to mess up. You’re going to mess up a lot.
Intermittent fasting isn’t the first or last failed effort on my part. Yoga, seed cycling, learning the violin, learning to cook, and many other endeavors are on my growing list of “failures.” These were all choices I thought would heighten my life and lead me to happiness. Instead, they just didn’t turn out. And you know what? That’s okay. That’s more than okay. Because by crossing out things that don’t work for me, I’m more apt to find things that do.
We live in a world of constant access to resources and ideas, which is a wonderful thing. However, it’s also a dangerous thing when we start to feel like all ideas are equal. It’s a harmful thing when we believe that just because something works for everyone else, it will work for us.
When you’re seeking your happiest version of yourself, you’re going to try things that work for everyone else and fail miserably for you. You’re going to implement tried-and-true tactics that make you miserable. But that’s part of the journey. In order to find your best self, you have to be willing to first explore and then to mess up. You have to be flexible enough to try new things and also let go of things that don’t suit you. Finding happiness isn’t about perfection, after all. It’s about being adventurous and flexible enough to try a different way–and perceptive enough to self-reflect and realize if it’s a good fit for you.
This willingness to fail isn’t limited to health journeys, either. It applies to love, hobbies, careers, and everything in between. From that new haircut you think will make you feel amazing to the new job you hope will change everything, the key to happiness, I think, is to be willing to take the risk in the first place–and then to be honest with yourself as to whether or not the thing you chose is actually making you happy.
Most of all, I think we all need to remember there is no formula for success or happiness. It’s a journey, one we go on alone at the end of it. It’s a journey without road signs or stop signs. It’s a journey that requires turning inward, not outward.
And, most of all, it’s a journey that will require you to fail sometimes.
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'Zoo' by James patterson and michael ledwidge is the dystopian novel you need now
Zoo by James Patterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"There is no soft living now."
This dystopian, scientific thriller is not usually my kind of read, but I found myself flying through it. Essentially, all of the animals in the world have gone mad with some sort of virus or illness that causes them to attack humans in droves. Will the protagonist, a scientist named Oz, be able to make the world listen to reason, or are things too far gone?
I loved the premise of this book. It was exciting and also felt realistic in its portrayal. It wasn't too science-y to be boring but also felt grounded in intellect. The main character was likable in his flaws and his strengths. I also enjoyed that the book covered a span of years in an effective way. the chapters are super short, which makes it perfect for a busy person who still wants to fit in an exciting read. I also found the ending satisfying.
I really didn't have a knock for this book. Some will argue it is unbelievable or unrealistic. However, I enjoyed the sort of out-there premise. Fans of Hitchcock's "The Birds" will love this modern, updated, and arguably enhanced story of animals leading to the downfall of man.
View all my reviews
Sweat beading on my forehead as my stomach sank, I bolted awake and tried to wipe away the nightmare. But those thirty candles flickering on the cake were not some unrealistic phantasm of my imagination–they were a fast-approaching reality. The nightmare was coming for me, and at twenty-nine, I feared those candles more than any monster that could prey on me while I slept.
My fear of thirty potentially started with Jennifer Garner’s appearance in the movie Thirteen Going on Thirty, where a thirteen-year-old girl wishes she could be thirty, flirty, and thriving. When magic happens and she wakes up as a thirty-year-old, she realizes her life is nothing like she could have wished. Her thirties were not, in fact, thriving because she’d made all the wrong choices. The movie infused my then teenage self with terror.
Maybe, too, my fear stemmed from a social standard all around me–and the women’s magazines I used to steal from my mom. They made your 20s look like a wild cocktail party while your 30s, in contrast, were about settling down. Your 20s required, according to the magazines, a lot of sparkly, work to after-work looks, while your 30s just required a smart blazer and a great appetizer recipe. Talk about game over.
Regardless of where the fear started, in my late 20s, I found myself terrified of turning the big 3-0. I would jolt awake night after night, thinking about how I was going to be that troubling age soon. I was terrified of the prospect I had hit my peak–and, to be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with the peak of my life if that was it. I dreaded watching my body age and of having to have life figured out when I still felt like a teenager on the inside.
I sit here now just days away from turning thirty-five, half-way through the decade that haunted me.I won’t lie–it hasn’t been a perfect or easy decade in any way. I suffered a lot of loss in the past five years, including the loss of my soul dog, Henry (our mastiff). My husband lost his job, and we spent a few years in financial scarcity. I lost my passion for teaching, my career, and switched jobs, which has been wonderful but also tough. It’s been a decade, so far, of change and fluctuations, of questioning and soul-searching with few concrete answers.
Remembering that twenty-nine-year-old’s panick, I wish I’d known then what was really to come with those candles. I wish I’d understood what turning thirty meant and what it didn’t mean, for better or worse. So, whether you’ve already hit the milestone of thirty or you’re getting ready to face that warped birthday song, I hope you’ll glean some understanding about your own journey in your thirties from what I’m sharing below.
1. Yes, your body does change in your 30s.
Recently, I saw a study that mentioned how metabolism doesn’t change as she ages. Other scientists argue that it does due to fluctuating hormones. Regardless, I’m here to tell you on a purely anecdotal level: your metabolism is going to shift. I swear on the skinny jeans that stopped fitting in my thirties, which are still balled up on the floor of my closet.
As soon as I turned thirty, even looking at a cookie added a pound. I found that I had to clean up my eating habits to stay healthy–and not from a size standpoint but from an energy standpoint. If I threw fast food and sweets into my mouth with the wild abandon from my twenties, I would not have the energy to power through my day. Also, those glasses of wine I liked to toss back on the weekends suddenly seemed to lead to a migraine-inducing, comatose state the next morning like I’d never experienced.
In short, your body will change. Your metabolism will change. I’d like to put a positive spin on this and tell you it’s all okay–but in truth, I really do miss those cookie-eating, wine guzzling binges of my twenties that didn’t seem to have any effect.
2. You still won't know what you want to be when you grow up.
There’s this myth in our society that your 20s are for exploring and sorting through who you are. They’re for adventuring and switching jobs. They’re for figuring it out so you can be set in your 30s and stable.
But I’m here to tell you that you still might not know what you want to be when you grow up in your 30s–and that’s more than okay. There is no cutoff to career happiness or to finding what fulfills you. Also, what makes you happy in your 20s might not fit you anymore in your 30s. As you change, perhaps your dreams will, too. I think the best gift you can give yourself is to cut the deadline for “figuring it all out” and to be flexible with what sets your soul on fire.
3. Society will tell you that you've peaked. You haven't.
There’s this tendency to see thirty as an endpoint, both good and bad. Society tells you that you’ll have your shit together by thirty, but also that you’ve lived your most exciting moments by then. They are wrong. Wow, are they wrong.
There’s a new glow that comes when you reach thirty, mostly because of #4. When you learn to stop living for social standards and for others’ validation, your life begins in a new way. You walk differently through life. You seize new opportunities because they light your heart up. Sure, you might still fumble. You still might have doubts, and you still fall prey sometimes to questioning your worth. But overall, your thirties will bring a newfound sense of confidence that comes with experience, with maturity, and with aging.
Once you understand that, you understand the most important truth: It really isn’t about the candles at all. It’s about your inner confidence. Once you can own that, you can own any age.
4. You'll learn to validate yourself. It's freeing.
The same way a switch seems to be flipped in your metabolism when you blow out those thirty candles, I think an “I don’t give a shit” switch is also flipped. I’ve found that in my thirties, I just don’t care as much about what people think of me. So my side part and skinny jeans are out of style? That’s okay. I love them. So you think I dance weird or that I’m too quiet or too loud or too bossy? Okay. I’ll sleep just fine. You hate the career path I picked? Luckily, it’s mine to travel and not yours.
I can hear my twenty-something self reading those statements and audibly gasping. There was a fatal flaw with my twenty-something self, though–she cared a heck of a lot about the opinions of others. She was worried about image, about living right, about others’ validation. The beautiful gift your thirties can bring if you let them is that you’ll learn to live for yourself and validate yourself–and more importantly, you’ll understand that it’s not selfish to do exactly that. If I’d have understood that at twenty-nine, perhaps I would have had more well-rested nights.
5. You won't survive--you'll thrive.
Like any stage of life, your thirties won’t be a cakewalk. You’ll shift friendships and relationships. You’ll struggle to prioritize. You’ll spend a lot of time wondering if you’re living out your purpose. You’ll stumble and triumph. You’ll move mountains some days and barely get out of bed others. You’ll face all sorts of hardships, successes, challenges, opportunities, and experiences. But you know what? Just like your twenties, you’ll find a way to not only survive but thrive. Your thirties aren’t perfect, but neither is any other decade. Still, turning thirty should never keep you awake at night with a sense of dread. Instead, your thirties are a way to showcase who you are, how far you’ve come, and to set yourself up for the next part of your adventure.
So whether you’ve already blown out those thirty candles or are just getting ready to, I hope you can not only come to terms with your thirties but really value the magic they can bring to who you are.
So blow out those candles–all thirty, forty, eighty, or one hundred of them–and know that every decade has the possibility to be magic, pure magic.
L.A. Detwiler is the USA Today Bestselling thriller author of The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and numerous sweet romance novels. She is married to her junior high sweetheart and works as a Communications Specialist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, their rescue cats, and their Great Dane, Edmund.
Should you leave teaching?
It’s been four and a half months since I put in my resignation and left my teaching job for a Communications position in the corporate world. Of course, it wasn’t easy saying goodbye to my teaching dream, a dream I’d had since a little girl and thought would be my forever. Still, I knew it was time to leave education for a variety of reasons which I wrote about in my article about quitting teaching.
Over the past few months, I’ve had so many teachers reach out to me about my experience. I think like many in the education field, they’re ready for a change but terrified to leave. It’s hard to leave any job you invested so much time and effort into. However, with teaching, there’s a whole other level of guilt and stigma. People assume you’re a bad person for not wanting to fight the good fight anymore. I’m here to tell you that’s simply not true.
Perhaps more worrisome for those thinking of exiting education is the propaganda we are told as teachers—that we have the best jobs because of the time we have off and our pensions. We worry that it would be a fool’s errand to try to find something better. We’re made to believe that the struggle in our job is normal, to the point that we sacrifice our mental health and physical well-being sometimes.
Four and a half months into my new job and I can tell you I don’t regret leaving for one minute. Are there moments when I’m like, “Holy shit! I left!”? Yes. All the time. Are there moments where imposter syndrome kicks in and I wonder if I can actually do something different with my career? You bet. Are there times I miss my friends from the school I taught at for ten years? All the time.
Leaving teaching hasn’t been a walk in the park in the sense it has taken a lot of courage. Change is never easy. However, I can also tell you that when former co-workers see me around town now, they inevitably say the same thing: “You look so happy.”
And I am. I am happy in ways I didn’t realize were possible. I am calm and collected in ways I haven’t ever known in my adult working career. I am a different person in ways that make me so thankful I found the guts to leave.
I’m here to tell you the truth about leaving teaching, the truth that perhaps don’t want you to hear. I’m here to warn you about what it might feel like if you do make that choice, good and bad. Mostly, I hope I’m here to inspire change—if you feel the need to leave, I hope you can find the strength to do it here.
It won’t be easy—but from where I’m standing, I wish more teachers knew how worth it the change would be.
Here are the seven major things I’ve learned since leaving teaching.
Now, in my new job, I walk into the building and feel energized. Truly. Physically, my health is so much better, probably partially from the fact I’m not walking around stressed every second of the day. Most of all, I actually feel like I enjoy my evenings again because I’m not sleeping every spare moment I have. I come home and have energy to exercise, to run errands, and even to pursue different hobbies I’d abandoned.
It's easy when you’re in the middle of it all to think that how you feel—sapped of energy, half sick all the time, and just run-down—is normal. I’m here to tell you that it’s not. Sure, there are days I’m tired or days I wish I could just stay home all day. But I don’t feel that same kind of illness I felt from being burnt out in the education field.
2. Your weekends should be just that …weekends.
During my ten years of teaching, I thought I enjoyed my weekends. I’ve now realized I didn’t. I understand now how free I feel when I clock out on Fridays. I don’t think about my job again until Monday morning. I don’t stress about the upcoming week or replay all the scenarios that happened in my head all weekend. I simply step away from work and enjoy my time off.
More than that, I enjoy my Sundays now, too. I no longer wake up on Sunday morning fretting about the return to work. I truly enjoy every moment I’m away from work because there is a distinct, clear boundary between my personal life and my work life like there never was during teaching. In fact, in education, it’s often seen as selfish and shameful when you put up that boundary. Ignoring student and parent emails all weekend? But what if they need help with something? Not preparing your lessons for the next week? That’s unacceptable. And what about that stack of papers you didn’t have time to grade? The students need that feedback.
Having weekends off again, really having them off, has reminded me that work life balance can exist, truly. And it’s been a freeing feeling to enjoy them once more.
3. It can be lonely starting over.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that starting over is a walk in the park. There will be moments of self-doubt, moments when you wonder if you can really pull it off. For me, teaching in the same district for ten years meant I had really close friends and knew everyone in the school really well. Going somewhere knew wasn’t easy—it’s never fun being the new girl. Having to build new relationships and friendships at work has been difficult. I went from knowing everyone to really knowing no one, and that’s been lonely at times.
Still, I keep pushing on. I know in the long-run, those relationships will be built. I remind myself that my relationships at the school didn’t happen in a few months. It’s really about managing your expectations and understanding that starting over isn’t a bad thing. Scary? Sometimes. Still, starting over, especially in the right place, can lead you to even better relationships that stem from a healthier place. Plus, I still stay in touch with my closest friends from the school. A new job doesn’t mean you have to abandon your past relationships. It just takes a little more effort to keep them strong.
4. You don’t need summers off when you have a job that energizes you.
This is perhaps the biggest question I get about leaving teaching: Don’t you miss summers off? I started my new job at the beginning of August and got a taste of what it was like to work during the summer. The thing is, it’s hard to explain to those in the education field. We live for our summers, don’t we? Even though we certainly aren’t lounging all summer long—some of us have other jobs, curriculum writing, classrooms to design, etc. Still, having those few months off are essential to our well-being. By summer, I would be dragging myself out of bed in the morning and barely getting by. Summer was the only way I could power through.
Now, though, because I am enjoying my evenings and weekends in ways I never did before, I can honestly say I don’t miss all of my breaks I had. I have worked almost five straight months without taking a vacation day—and I don’t feel the need to. When you are working at a job with reasonable expectations and work life balance, those long vacations aren’t necessary. Plus, my schedule has been way more flexible than the school. If I need to go to the dentist, I can switch my hours around to make that happen without taking a sick day like I used to have to do.
5. It’s not normal to be treated like anything less than a professional.
In my new job, I’m treated like a professional, plain and simple. No one swears at me daily or throws things. No one threatens me or questions my professional opinions. No one is out to get me every single day or looking for ways I could potentially mess up.
I’m trusted to do the work I was hired to do. I don’t have to prove my worth every single day. I don’t have to defend my worth, either. I am treated with respect and appreciation.
This has been the biggest lesson learned since leaving the classroom. I think so many of us are taught to just accept being sworn at, degraded, lied to and about, and put on the defensive. I liken teaching to being in the courtroom—you always had to be ready to prove your innocence and defend your value. I didn’t realize what a mental toll that was taking on me until I left.
You are worthy. You are skilled. You deserve to be treated with respect. When I think about all of the comments students made to me and about me without consequence, it makes me frustrated. Excuses like “they’re just kids” or “well, you need to be the adult and not provoke those comments,” are told to us as means of defending behavior that just isn’t acceptable. What’s really worrying to me is that many of the teachers I saw verbally abused were females; it’s sending a message to our youth that females in charge don’t have to be respected, which is a terrifying premise in my opinion.
Kids aren’t perfect, certainly. We all know that going into the job. But the fact that in many classrooms, kids saying inappropriate things has turned into daily verbal abuse that has little consequence is more than worrisome. It’s wrong. You don’t deserve to be berated daily. You deserve to be treated with respect and professionally—by students, by administrators, and by parents. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.
6. Making your job your life is not a badge of honor. It’s a warning sign.
I realize now that I’m gone how much it is encouraged to live and breath your job in teaching. You leave at 3 p.m.? You must not be committed. You don’t get the papers back in a day? You aren’t taking enough work home. You don’t volunteer after school? You must not really like kids.
There are so many lies told to educators. We’re told that nothing matters more than the students. I’m here to say something controversial—you also matter. Your mental health, well-being, family, and personal life matters, too. You should not be a human sacrifice for your job. You should not be guilt-tripped into working 70 and 80 hours for no extra pay. You deserve to be compensated for your time.
Outside of education, I have found a position that promised work life balance—and it delivers. I am not expected to work for free off the clock. I am not expected to work 24/7. I am not expected to have no life outside of work.
7. It takes courage to leave …but it also is how you grow.
Saying goodbye to a career always will be difficult, but leaving teaching seems like an extra heavy burden sometimes. It feels like a very public decision. Sometimes, the fear of judgement weighs heavily. Other times, it’s the terror around making the big decision to leave because we’re told we have the best jobs.
Maybe for you, staying put in teaching is what you feel is right. But, if like me, you’re starting to see that most days, you are unhappy, maybe it’s time to find the courage to take a step in a new direction.
I think as teachers, we’re made to believe we get one career choice and that’s it. I’m here to tell you that’s a lie. It’s a big, wide world out there. You have more skills than you even realize. Companies would be thrilled to have your organization, communication skills, presentation skills, technology skills, and multi-tasking skills. Truly. And maybe you won’t get it right the first try. Maybe you’ll start in a job that doesn’t feel like the best fit. You know what? That’s okay.
Because after leaving teaching, I now understand that change is growth. It’s okay to change your mind, and it’s okay to explore. It’s okay to do some searching for what makes you happy.
You might fall down a few times. You might struggle. And that’s okay. You’ll be okay.
The only thing that isn’t okay? Spending your life going to a job that doesn’t fulfill you, a job that makes you sick, and a job that just isn’t your passion anymore. Life is way too short to stay in a job that isn’t right for you.
I hope teacher or not, you find the courage to soul-search for what you really want and, if that’s leaving teaching, I hope you find the bravery to do just that.
L.A. Detwiler is a former high school English teacher of ten years and a USA Today Bestselling thriller author. Her novel The Widow Next Door was published with HarperCollins UK and is an international bestseller. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines and websites, including Huffpost, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Thought Catalog. Follow her writing journey on Instagram or Facebook.
It’s a Warped World When It Comes to Women’s Weight
I’ve been seeing so many Facebook posts lately that have jarred me to the core—because they’ve all demonstrated that when it comes to women’s weight and social expectations, we’re living in a warped world.
Certainly, this isn’t a shocking revelation. We’ve been talking about the role social media plays on our self-image for years. We’ve all seen the before and after retouching photos that remind us what real women’s bodies look like. We’ve subscribed to the motivational body love accounts and sworn to ourselves we’d chant positive mantras when we look in the mirror.
Still, sometimes it feels like we’re fighting a losing cause because it really is a distorted world we live in. It’s a twisted view of women’s weight and ridiculous expectations that are reinforced over and over and over again. No wonder so many of us can’t escape from the demented rabbit hole.
Repeatedly this week, I’ve been seeing evidence that as a society, we have a true problem that we need to address when it comes to the expectations we put on women regarding their weight.
When a woman thinks she has to remain the same size and shape she was at 18 for her entire life—despite fluctuating hormones, life circumstances, stressors, and aging—it’s a warped world.
When a woman thinks her husband has the right to say he doesn’t love her anymore because she’s put on some pounds—and she believes that—it’s a warped world.
When a grown woman finds herself swamped with murderer-level guilt over a cookie, a piece of cake, or an extra glass of wine—it’s a warped world.
When women spend billions of dollars on potions, pills, weird underclothing to suck it in, diets, and exercise machines that look like torture devices—it’s a warped world.
When a woman thinks the number on her jeans determines how worthy she is of unconditional love and support—it’s a warped world.
When a woman walks into a room with her eyes averted and head down because she gained some weight—it’s a warped world.
Changing the Body Image Narrative
All around us, there are signs that we’re not okay, not by a longshot. There are signals that our society has a sickened view of women’s bodies, women’s worth, and women’s expectations.
This is not to say there aren’t pressures put on men. There are absolutely are. But I think one of the problems with this battle women are facing is that many of us believe the lies we’re told to our core. We build our personalities around them and our lives. We believe them, even if we say we don’t. We believe them to the point of cutting carbs and starving our bodies and exercising until we can’t move.
Some of us believe them to the point of never looking in the mirror or covering our bodies in billowy fabrics so a single ounce of fat doesn’t show through. Some of us believe them to the point we stay in relationships with people who tell us we need to lose weight so they can be attracted to us. We believe that we don’t deserve an unconditional love because we have a few extra pounds on us.
That’s the problem, ladies. It isn’t the media or the warped social standards or any of that. Yes, those things make it hard to break the cycle. They plague us and challenge us. They unfairly put ridiculous standards in our heads. That’s not fair at all. Still, at the end of the day, the real problem is that we give into them. We believe them. We don’t fight against them.
If we’re going to create a new view of women’s bodies, of expectations, and of true self-love, we need to fight. We need to stand up to ourselves when we feel that negative thought creeping in about our stomach roll or our thighs. We need to stand in our worth as women and know we are millions of other things besides our weight or physical appearance. We need to know we are worthy because of who we are, not what size we are. We need to start believing it and saying “no” as a collective whole to the dangerous narrative out there—that to be happy, you must be a certain weight.
Yes, we should strive to take care of ourselves, to bless our bodies with healthy foods, and to move our bodies. But this shouldn’t come at a cost of mental sanity or self-love. It shouldn’t be to “earn our keep” in this world or to make others respect us more.
Because there isn’t a weight or an amount of reps that can do that for you. In order to get the respect you deserve—you need to first know you deserve it.
We can do better, all of us. We can remind each other that bodies change, that weight fluctuates, and that we will not be the same weight we were when we were 18—nor should we be. We need to celebrate change in our bodies, in ourselves, and in where we’re going. We need to stop accepting others’ critiques as truth when it comes to how we look. We need to look inward, each of us, to understand that there is a powerful warrior woman in each of us. And we need to start valuing her for who she is, not the size society wants her to be.
L.A. Detwiler is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Widow Next Door and numerous other thriller novels. She is a Communication's Specialist, a former English teacher of ten years, and a dog mom to her Great Dane, Edmund. Visit her on Instagram or Facebook to learn more.
You’re not here.
The words tumble through my heart like an oil-laden ocean, like gritty rocks that eviscerate your leg as you hit the bottom.
No matter how many cookies I bake or gifts I buy or times I let the Christmas carols reverberate, the stark truth stands. You’re not here. You’re gone.
Everyone tells me to live in the memories, to remember you were loved, that we loved. But love and memories don’t fill the gap your absence left. They don’t warm the blackened night. They don’t illuminate that wondrous star that seeks to guide.
You’re gone, and I’m here in your empty spot, aching for something that can’t be. The futility of the wish doesn’t make it dissipate. The heart is foolish but strong.
The holiday hustle and bustle distracts me for a while, but in the Silent Night moments, I am drowning.
Still, I trudge on, knowing time won’t heal this wound. It will simply mask it, a patch that allows me to limp forward. A bandage that stops the life-threatening injury from completely usurping my life force—just barely, it feels sometimes.
I hang the mistletoe and drink the hot chocolate. I numb myself when the holiday movie comes on you used to love. I brace myself as your favorite cookie sends grief washing over me. I readjust the bandage on the wound, put more pressure on it, and try to keep from flat lining. Sometimes, if I’m honest, I wish I would succumb to the rotting injury that is grief.
But tonight, I took a moment to separate from the Christmas carols and sap of the tree. I stepped onto my deck and let the bitter cold envelop me. I exhaled a cloud of guilt, of regret, and of melancholy. And standing there, looking up at the same stars that graced our memories, I inhale you. The love we shared fills me, embraces me from the inside out.
I realize the truth I’ve almost forgotten. I realize the magic that is still alive.
Because it’s true, you’re not physically sitting here at the holiday dinner.
You’re not stealing my scissors or hiding the tape as we wrap gifts.
You haven’t helped the elf take flight this season or sang out “God Rest You Merry, Gentleman.”
You’re not glowing with the thought of that gift you bought me and are hiding.
Still, the magic is still there, perhaps even bigger this year. Because the magic is this: against all the impossible odds, you ARE still here.
You’re settled into my weary bones. You’re wrapping my heart in the love I know still exists between us, even though we’re farther apart than we ever were.
You’re here in the courage I find to go back inside, to wash down the candy cane with eggnog like you taught me. You’re here in the magical moment I realize I can carry on the traditions.
You’re here, still, always, because as I realize now, love does not simply vanish. Love is not banished to memories. Love subsists, even when the body does not.
You’re here, so I find the power to uncover a sense of magic. Not the same magic, of course. But magic, nonetheless.
Because you were here, and because you still are, I know I must find the magic for the both of us this season.
You’re not here—yet you are. And that, perhaps, is the biggest sign of holiday magic there is.
~To all who are grieving during the holidays. The magic will be different, which is okay. But it’s also okay to still find a version of the magic, no matter what that looks like.
Author L.A. Detwiler
If you don’t have kids, you’re missing out. Your life is less.
As a 35-year-old who has been happily married for 11 years, this statement has been spouted to me more times than I’d like to count. Especially around the holidays, there is this overwhelming sense of pity for my husband and me that we don’t have kids, that we don’t experience holiday magic.
But I’m here to say: Our lives aren’t less magical because we don’t have kids.
I know, I know. This can be a controversial statement. Let me be clear: I am not judging anyone who has children or saying I can understand what that undoubtedly magical experience is. I am not here to say my husband and I live a life of luxury (We do not. I know many couples with children who travel 10x more than we do, have a much better social life, and live in houses much more worthy of a magazine than we do). I’m not here to say having kids is a mistake or that your holidays aren’t magical if you have them.
I’m simply here to say that you don’t have to have children to have a magical holiday season … or life, for that matter.
Finding the Childlike Wonder Without Kids
Finding the Childlike Wonder
Without kids, certainly our holidays and lives look different—but the magic is still there. It just means we’ve stopped barring ourselves from experiences just because we’re adults.
It means that we find ways to make the holidays special, like adding a 12 days of stocking stuffers tradition this year for each other or baking cookies or making that horrid looking gingerbread house.
It means that we watch The Grinch with alcohol and whiskey instead of hot chocolate.
It means we go to the tree lighting just because we can.
It means that we go see Santa with our dog (when we had a dog who wasn’t afraid of Santa).
It means that throughout the year, we find ways to experience that childlike wonder that so many think we miss out.
It means we still go to the zoo several times a year or that I stand in line with the kids at Harvest Fest to get into the petting zoo as a grown woman—and I admittedly have a bigger smile on my face than the children in line.
It means that we go to parades and arcades and play the carnival games at Delgrosso’s and see fireworks and make each other Easter baskets. It means we play in the snow with the dog and still smile with glee as the local fire station carts Santa through the streets a few weeks before Christmas.
It means we buy Dunkaroos and popsicles and all the dream foods of children just for ourselves.
The thing is, we still have those experiences of magic and adventure in our lives. We still find ways to have the childlike wonder—it just looks different.
I’m not diminishing the fact that having children is a bond like no other and is something I can’t understand. I don’t know what it’s like to see your child experience Santa for the first time or take first steps or call you Mom.
Still, I’m here to say that a childfree life can still be a magical life. Really, I’m here to say that no matter what kind of life you choose, the important part is just that: that it’s the life YOU choose. Not society, not your family, not even your significant other. It’s the life you find happiness, peace, joy, and worth in. And that can be found kids or no kids; house or apartment; partner or single; cold or hot weather.
At the end of the day, magic doesn’t come from making choices others approve of or even understand. It comes from making the daily choice to find your own magic, no matter your circumstances, and to make your own adventures, big and small.
To Those Who Don't Want Children
I write this not to stir waves of controversy or even pity. I write this because I know somewhere out there is a woman in her twenties or thirties or forties who worries that because she doesn’t want children, her life will be less.
I write this because I know there is a married couple out there who is being hounded about children to the point they wonder if maybe they can’t find happiness with just the two of them.
I write this because I think social media tries so hard to pit the childfree against those with children when it doesn’t need to be that way.
There is not a limit or a recipe for happiness, for holiday magic, or for fulfillment in this life. There Is not one path that is better—there’s just the path that is best for you.
I think the more we talk about that, the more we understand that there are so many ways to live this life, the more we can be happy for each other and, most importantly, find happiness, real happiness, for ourselves.
Happy holidays, wherever you are in life and whatever you’re doing,
Author L.A. Detwiler
L.A. Detwiler is the USA Today Bestselling author of numerous novels including The Widow Next Door.
The World Needs More Wednesdays
You’re the girl with the seat on the corner, straddling the legs awkwardly as you try to fit into the swatch of leftover table.
You’re the girl invited to the party—sometimes—but never the one at the center of the crowd who everyone turns to see walk in.
You’re the woman in the meeting who tries to speak up but is always an afterthought to the more boisterous voices in the crowd.
You’re the one who has never had a friendship bracelet, a best friends forever necklace, or someone to drink mimosas at brunch with.
You’re the one on the edges, the fringes of the group. You’re the one always trying to step into the inner circle a little more but never quite making it work. And, if you’re being honest, it’s hard being the invisible girl on the fringes who never quite fits in enough to be called one of the crew but isn’t completely on the outskirts, either. You’re somewhere in the middle where you just feel invisible.
Life in your twenties or thirties isn’t like the movies—we all know that. It isn’t always filled with the girls’ trips and the best friends you can call and confess your sexual exploits to or go for drinks after work in that work-to-weekend look. There’s really nowhere to where that sparkly shirt to or anyone to call for a mani/pedi date or a girls’ brunch. For so many of us, female friendships aren’t the thing of a chick lit novel. Even though social media tries to make us think otherwise, many of us women in adulthood struggle with female friendship. Even the somewhat dysfunctional friendship in Firefly Lane seems out of our realm because we don’t even have a Tully to love/hate. In honesty, many of us smile in the group photographs or at the luncheons—but behind the mask, we just feel alone and, quite frankly, like there’s something very wrong with us.
Why Female Friendships Are Challenging
As one who has consistently been on the fringes of female friendship her whole life, I’m here to tell you that the more and more I talk to other women in person and online, the more I realize that this isn’t a rare occurrence. So many of us women feel exactly this way—like some sort of female friendship predilection alluded us in the gene pool.
Some of it certainly is a result of the chaos that is adult life. Whether it’s our careers, kids, significant others, pets, families, hobbies, or just life in general, things are hectic. It’s difficult to make friendship a priority sometimes, and for many of us, it just falls near the bottom on the list of priorities. Connection, true connection, requires time, and that’s something a lot of us don’t always have the opportunity to put in.
For some of us, the lack of friendship comes from hesitancy and walls. Many of us have tried to be vulnerable in the best friends’ necklace kind of way only to be backstabbed. Once you’ve been hurt by someone you thought would be a lifelong friend, it isn’t easy to trust again. Even when we feel someone getting close or find a potential friend, we sometimes sabotage it because we don’t want to risk getting hurt. Female friendships are complicated relationships, even though the movies want to make you think that’s not the case.
And sometimes, it’s just that who we are differs significantly from the mainstream. We might try to be who we really are only to get weird looks from the main group of women in our lives. We may feel so different than the women in our workplace, our families, or our hobbies that we just feel it’s easier to gravitate to the edges so we don’t risk being embarrassed. Our teen years often remind us that not fitting in is a shameful thing, and we carry that with us into adulthood.
But I think there are lessons to be learned here. Maybe it’s not about trying to escape from the edge to worm our way toward the center of the group. Maybe, instead, it’s about learning to love the fringes and own the fact that we belong exactly there.
Be a Wednesday
So many blogs and articles I’ve read try to give you advice on how to fix your friendship woes. They tell you where to meet new friends, how to play nice, and how to make those connections. But I’m here to tell you—don’t change who you are to fit into the girl group. Truly. I think the real answer to our lack of friendship is to accept who we really are and be unapologetic about it, even if that means we have to stand outside the circle sometimes.
The older I get, the more I realize this: Maybe some of us don’t fit in with the traditional female friendship model because we were never meant to. Maybe the popular, girls’ trip girls aren’t actually our crew. Maybe we were meant to accept our otherness to inspire others, to connect with those who also feel invisible. Maybe it is when we own our placement on the fringes that we can really abate the loneliness and find our true sense of connection.
In truth, maybe more of us need to learn to be a Wednesday Addams as portrayed in the Tim Burton adaptation. We need to stand firm in our outfits that don’t match the others. We need to stop smiling to impress others, stop trying to be part of the crowd. We need to learn to dance at the party to our own rhythm and not care who is watching or poking fun at our eccentric moves. We need to learn to love the fringes sometimes and own our otherness. We need to bask in our weird, our different, our aloofness in order to not only reach our own greatness but to attract the kind of friends who will accept us for who we are. Even Wednesday eventually finds a friend in Enid, not because she changes who she is or tries to fit in but arguably because she stays unabashedly true to herself.
I think more of us need to be a Wednesday and step into our truth, our own version of ourselves, and know that it’s okay if that puts us on the edges sometimes. Happiness can be found in all sorts of ways, and connection doesn’t have to be the trip to the winery and movie nights like social media portrays.
In short, those of us who struggle with female friendship need to learn that the best friend we can ever have is ourself. We need to learn to validate ourselves and not seek validation from others. Wednesday doesn’t look to others for approval—she is fine with being who she is and unapologetic for her own sense of worth.
This isn’t to say we don’t all need connections or should push people away on purpose. It’s more about being your own friend first and foremost and learning to love who you are, even if that doesn’t make you popular. We all need to learn that we don’t have to have girls’ trips and mimosas to be valued. Being alone sometimes doesn’t have to feel lonely. And, in truth, there are worse things to be than to be alone—like being someone you’re not.
I think the lesson we can all learn from Wednesday is this: Keep showing up exactly as you are. Keep putting yourself out there, sure, and keep looking for connections when you can.
Keep sitting at the edge of the table if you have to … but don’t be afraid to take up more space. Keep speaking up in the meeting, but don’t be afraid to get a bullhorn if you need to because you know your ideas are valuable.
And don’t be afraid to walk into the center of the party if you’re on the edges. Some people won’t get you. That’s fine. Because I promise that somewhere, there’s a girl on the edges just trying to find the courage to do just that—and maybe that’s the encouragement she needs.
Maybe if more of us on the edges stepped into the spotlight in an unapologetic way, if we showed our otherness and our weirdness, if we showed we aren’t afraid to stand alone—maybe more of us Wednesdays could find each other.
In short, you don’t have to be the popular girl or the girls’ night girl or the one the others laud in order to be happy. I think the world needs more Wednesdays.
Or, in other words, the world needs more of you, girl on the fringes, exactly as you are.
L.A. Detwiler is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Widow Next Door with HarperCollins UK as well as numerous other thriller novels. Follow her on Instagram for more advice for modern women, inspiration to chase your dreams, and book recommendations.
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books