Put your oxygen mask on first

We can all name a time when we completely, totally, and quite depressingly lost ourselves.

Ouch, those memories hurt, don’t they? Fine. If you won’t go there, I will. Let’s sit back and watch former Kara walk the plank and plunge into the depths of throwing-her-life-away.

I really should start walking around naked instead of writing. Equally humiliating, much more profitable.

I lost myself three times in this life, and I’m confident I’ll go through a couple more rounds in the next fifty-sixty years.

The most notable is a story you now know quite well—quitting my first job at 23 and moving in with my grandparents. The most recent happened in the last six months.

The Kara that waltzed the streets six months ago? Not a fan. At all. She had her head shoved so far up her ass she couldn’t see the homeless people outside her apartment.

Editors note: You better believe I just switched to third person, because it kills me to claim that girl as me.

Six Months Ago Kara was stressed. And agitated. And not really a great friend. And even more of a space cadet than usual (oh yes, it’s possible).

There are a million reasons why a person loses herself.

Some people go through really, truly, horrible things where you might, quite honestly, question their mental sanity if they didn’t lose their way. Out of respect for those people and the brutal things they went through, I’m not going to pretend a single, generalized explanation lies at the root of each story. That’s plain insulting.

There’s no single reason WHY you might lose your way. But there is a pretty bulletproof method to ensure you don’t find your way back:

You don’t take care of yourself.

When you board an airplane, what is the second thing the flight attendant tells you to do? [Store your belongings in the overhead compartment, is the first. Categorize that in your Irrelevant Knowledge folder for the day.] On every flight ever, they tell you, If the cabin loses pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first.

Have you ever stopped and wondered why?

From the time of our first scolding as a toddler to our dying breath, we are told to take care of others.

Or at least until we gain senior citizen status, because only assholes yell at old people. This world raised us to sacrifice our general health and sanity for the better good. We skip the gym to stay late at the office. We eat take-out because working on Sunday trumped Meal Prep Day. We drive our kids to soccer practice (or whatever parents do) instead of exercising for the first time in three weeks.

We put our diet, workouts, and hobbies on hold for the betterment of our families, careers, coworkers, significant others, and friends. And as someone who is as guilty of this as anyone, I am here to tell you to STOP.

I will never forget the first time I skipped the gym to stay at the office until 11PM.

It was my second week of work. One of my personal commandments is to do something active every.single.day—even if “something active” entails going for a walk or rollerblading (I own two pairs, in case you want to join). When I crawled into my bed that night, all I could think was, “I don’t remember the last time I let a day pass without a workout.”

My friends saw every warning sign—watching me unravel like a Gatorade commercial. They watched me stop running. They watched me gain weight. They watched me go weeks without writing a single blog post, something that makes me genuinely happy as a human being.

I find it morbidly humorous how easy it is to dissect other peoples’ problems, when our own can be so damn confusing. I watched so many friends quit jobs, transfer schools, give up on awesome business ventures, or just go radio silent because they lost their way. I wanted to throw up my hands and scream, “DON’T DO THIS! THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT! DON’T GO DOWN THIS ROAD! THIS ISN’T YOU!” But when I was in the same situation, I couldn’t say that to myself.

So I’m here to say it to you.

Put your own oxygen mask on first. Take care of yourself in every way imaginable.

Sweat, eat healthy, write, find your outlet, have crazy sex with your boyfriend (I live vicariously through you all). You cannot be the career woman, the mom, the entrepreneur, the social influencer, the best friend, the big sister, or the activist you aspire to be if you are not your best self. You cannot save the person seated next to you on the airplane if your mask isn’t in place. It is physically impossible to be your best self without taking care of yourself.

You have to come first.

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For All the F Words
You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.