I’ve pitched my butt off lately, so the well in my noggin us running a little dry for ideas at the moment. So instead of posting nothing I decided I’d share this throwback clip of me dancing around for my friends to Lady Gaga’s “Donatella”.

Yes, I’m aware that I use my hands a lot when I dance. I’m a handsy queen.

1. You get what you give, and can’t make something from nothing (tōka kōkan).

2. Talking isn’t the only way to show someone how you feel.

3. Physical strength fades. Beauty fades. Money controls us, not the other way around. Knowledge, however, remains and is the greatest power.

4. All you can do in life is keep moving forward, no matter how much you’ve lost or how much it hurts.

5. Even the worst monsters in the world can be human. It’s hard to accept this because it’s so much easier to think of monsters as creatures of horror, as opposed to people just like us who either lost their way or never had a chance in this world from the start.

6. You can’t spend your life looking for answers to everything. It’ll be your ruin.

7. You’ll never reach the top on your own. It’s okay to lean on people.

8. Life is meaningless without death.

9. The road to power and success is a painful and difficult one. You don’t become great overnight.

10. Both faith and science are dangerous when used for profit, power, or personal gain.

11. It’s okay to trust adults. They’re not so bad and sometimes they’re really there to help.

12. The only way you truly fail is when you stop trying. Keep moving forward.

13. Love comes in a nearly unlimited number of forms. It can be deep, selfish, beautiful, heavy, all-consuming, or fun.

14. Revenge will ultimately destroy you. Not all things that feel good are good. Just because something is justified doesn’t mean it needs to be done.

15. Your enemy today could be your greatest ally tomorrow.

16. Never underestimate a kind, innocent, or empathetic person, because it’s much harder to be nice than it is to be mean.

17. It’s okay to run home when you feel like you’re falling apart.

18. Age is a determinant for very little aside from one’s physical appearance. There are young people who understand the world better than those twice their age and older people with a stronger will to live than those in their prime.

19. Romantic relationships are far from the only powerful connection one can have. Don’t overlook the friends and family members that help build you up.

20. The world is awful. That doesn’t mean you have to be awful. Choose the harder road: give people a chance, help others even when you’re running on empty, stick to your morals, don’t use people to further yourself, and be the hero that your neighborhood, city, country, or world needs.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the balance–or lack thereof–in my life. I feel like I’m trapped on a seesaw, bouncing between exuberant, joyous highs, and depressive lows, never knowing the peace that can be found between the two. A life without balance is a life without consistency. It’s hard to be content when your only gauges are whether you feel like life is a beautiful journey or a never-ending cycle of failure and disappointment. I don’t know how to be OK.

I was introduced to the concept of equivalent exchange (or tōka kōkan) by Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA), an anime to which I am far beyond late. **Feel free to roll your eyes at me if you’ve liked the show forever.** For those unfamiliar with the show, the storyline follows alchemists and brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric as they journey across the country in pursuit of a powerful object that will make their life right again.

That’s as simple as I can describe it because it’s so much more. I’m also being purposefully vague because if you haven’t watched it you need to queue it up on Netflix immediately.

To clarify, this post is NOT an overview of the show. If you would, just indulge me for one more short paragraph.

There are two completely different, separate versions of the show: the original Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009). Despite fervent online suggestions that I start with the latter interpretation of the series’ original manga, I went with the first. Long story very short, I adored it entirely whilst simultaneously feeling like my heart had been tied to a railroad track and run over by many trains.

The concept of equivalent exchange existed before FMA and exists far beyond it. However, it was FMA which first made it real for me. While the concept in the series most prominently relates to alchemy–having to give something to get something–it was also presented it as a concept related to human effort and relationships. That’s where it sunk in for me.

I’ve taken a lot in this world, and I’d argue that I’ve paid for far less than I took. My life has not followed tōka kōkan. I eat a lot even knowing I don’t have the money to replace the things I’m eating. I damn near expect the time of my friends and loved ones to satisfy my emotional shortcomings without genuinely considering their needs first. I call, text, and FB message often and for long durations, expecting a consistent stream of love and attention.

I’m selfish but working on being a better person.

And it hasn’t always been about me taking without paying the price. For me, tōka kōkan works in many ways. There are certain people whom I both choose to stay away from and/or can’t have in my life. In many ways, I feel guilty for cutting people out. I find myself wondering if they’re suffering; if maybe I matter to them more than they’re able to express. I have a very guilty mind.

But I’ve managed to find peace in equivalent exchange. I keep these people out because relationships, like most things, require a give and take. If you’re constantly giving, or the other person is constantly taking, there is no balance. You’ll always be left hurt or wanting more. I’ve felt this way. I’ve been in relationships like that, both platonic and romantic. In some cases, I was the abused party and in other cases I was the abuser.

When I’m the abused, I settle on showing the person the permanent door. It’s not selfish to bar people from your life. I sure don’t feel bad, anymore. I’ve felt feelings beyond intense, cried for people, and attempted to fix things, all to no avail. From this point on, I’ll let people back into my life when they pay the price of equivalent exchange. I need to see that they understand the pain they’ve caused, the emotions I’ve gone through, and the lack of balance in the relationship. If not, I wish them the best in their life over there while I continue my life over here.

On the other hand, when I’m the abuser I find it simultaneously simpler and more difficult. Simpler because I know I have to pay a price, and that the responsibility of effort falls on me. More difficult because only when you’re paying the price do you see how much destruction and selfishness you’re capable of.

I’ve hurt people, bad. More often than not relationships in my life end with people going away, far away from me. I’m talking blocked on Facebook and ignored text messages. But there are the rare few who stick around and allow me the chance to rectify my wrongs. It’s a process based on hope, because even after paying the price, you may not get back what you once had. But a life of balance is a life of peace, and I want that so fucking bad.

So I’ll just keep on paying good, where I once gave bad, I’ll give, where I once took, I’ll listen, where I once shouted, I’ll smile, where I once frowned, and I’ll laugh, where I once cried. I will live by tōka kōkan because I’m tired of always being at the top or bottom of the seesaw. Resting calmly in the middle doesn’t sound so bad to me.