You’re going to be okay, kid. But maybe don’t do everything the hard way.

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Ah, to have a time machine. I’ve often fantasized about showing up in my old bedroom circa 1977 to knock some sense into my teenage self. Would she listen? She was smack dab in the era of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, about to make a whole raft of mistakes. She didn’t know it — and probably wouldn’t believe it — but some of those mistakes would have lifelong consequences. Some she would keep making over and over again.

She wouldn’t listen to her parents. She wouldn’t listen to her teachers, or her guidance counselor. She wouldn’t listen to…

How one night to myself gave me new life.

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It was the incredulous reactions of my loved ones that clued me in that I was about to do something unusual.

My husband: “Wait, you want to spend the night away? Alone??”

My best friend: “But…what are you going to do exactly?”

My son: “Mommy, why do you want to be all by yourself?”

I was coming up on my 45th birthday and couldn’t think of anything I wanted more than sweet, sweet solitude. As an introvert always surrounded by people (including my extremely talkative 6-year-old), my batteries desperately needed a recharge.

I hit on the idea after reading Gift…

Just a few simple things to remember so I don’t stab you in the eye with a fork.

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I have been a restaurant server for more than four decades. On most days I really enjoy my job. I love my coworkers and our manager, and I’m proud to serve at one of the best, most popular restaurants in the city. Our guests are a mix of locals and tourists, and in normal times serving them is (usually) a pleasure.

These are not normal times.

Any server can tell you horror stories of the occasional entitled, miserable guest. It comes with the territory, and we veterans have learned to just let it roll off our backs. …

Don’t wait as long as I did to finally see through them.

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I joined Medium almost two years ago. I just published my first story last week. That’s how long I’ve been here, reading and clapping for others’ work, following great writers and publications, and wishing I could be one of them. Oh, I had plans to start writing someday…but I kept pushing someday further into the future while I told myself lies about why I couldn’t start now.

If you’re a longtime reader who hasn’t quite gotten around to writing yet, read on and see if any of these lies sound familiar:

I don’t have time.

This has been an insidious, persistent lie. I work…

Embrace this one thing and be free.

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Many years ago I was leafing through a magazine and came across a really funny piece called A Short Guide to Comparative Religions. Nobody seems to know the original creator, but you might have seen it circulating on posters and T-shirts. It’s a genius list of variations on “Shit Happens” organized by religion:

Taoism: Shit happens.
Buddhism: If shit happens, is it really shit?
Zen: What is the sound of shit happening?
Hinduism: This shit happened before.
Jehovah’s Witness: Knock knock, shit happens.

And so on, you get the idea. I remember laughing so hard that day because it was…

Making peace with my deepest fear.

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I have been terrified of cancer my whole life. I’m not sure how or when this fear originated; it doesn’t run in my family and I never knew anyone who died from it. I just knew — probably from books and movies — that cancer is insidious. It’s sneaky. It lurks. It waits. Often by the time you know you have it, it’s too late.

This fear became so ingrained in me that it seemed inevitable that I would one day be faced with it. As I became older I was convinced that every ache, every cough, every unexplained bruise…

Are we brave, crazy, or both?

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I have every reason to be done with marriage. Divorced the first time, widowed the second, I was left with a shattered heart it took years to put back together. And I’m not the only one. There are millions of us walking wounded, broken by broken marriages. Most of the married couples I’ve known over the years eventually divorced, including my own parents (my dad twice).

Same with every last couple in our circle of friends. When my first husband and I were in our twenties, we hung out with three other couples at parties and barbecues while our kids…

Denise Vitola

Writer, reader, lifelong rebel. Learning things the hard way since 1963.

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