It began with sweetness and purity; open arms spread out wide to welcome my naivety. I lived within my own impenetrable fortress of optimism. Everything was great- friendships, family, home life, work life, mental health- a stability I wasn’t used to. A life that made complaining extremely difficult. There wasn’t a single nudge towards how the rest of my year would unfold. I had no clue how many times I would shatter and the ways that I would gather up the pieces and glue myself back together, never quite the same as before.
Throughout this last year I’ve strengthened friendships that already seemed as powerful as can be, spending countless hours soaking up the sunshine along the beach and pool, bar-crawling and devouring the finest meals over a symphony of laughter. I’ve probably read over 50 books and taken over 50,000 photographs. I went to familiar places: Lake Gaston, OBX, RVA, and Asheville. I ventured to some new places like Costa Rica and Pittsburgh. I spent days away from civilization backpacking in the mountains. I swam beneath massive waterfalls. Three, to be exact. I watched friends get married. I danced on the lawn of concert venues like nobody else was around. I saw my first professional football and hockey game, in person. I gained another niece. I never stopped being immensely grateful for the family that I was born into. I said I love you and I meant it. Every time.
From the window, I’m sure the view is wonderful, but as usual, I want to make my walls transparent. The battles that I’ve fought internally far outweigh any negative events I may have dealt with. This year was weird for me. Mostly smooth sailing, but with some rough seas here and there. The usual, but still strange nonetheless.
Do you ever feel like a complete stranger to yourself?
I’ve spent so much of my life trying to meet expectations that I never created. I’ve been untrue to myself while seeking the validation of others. A constant need for approval, if you will. The revelation hit me randomly, but it hit hard. I felt like I had lost myself somewhere along the way. I decided to use this year’s resolution to emphasize my independence. Twenty-three years of hearing people tell me how I should present myself. Twenty-three years of hearing PEOPLE THAT AREN’T ME tell me what kind of person I need to be. What kind of woman I need to be. What kind of life I need to live. I was sick of it. I’m still sick of it. I don’t care if I’m not your cup of tea. I don’t give a fuck if I meet the goals that you’ve set for me and I’ll let you in on a little secret– if you feel you have the entitlement to critique my behavior, you haven’t wooed me either.
Do you ever feel like your life is literally bursting at the seams?
Sometimes my life feels like a graveyard of dreams that I desperately need escaping from, but on the other hand, the idea of what could come after is so terrifying that I want to sink back into my safety net. Stay just like this, forever. My loved ones are my constant. They are my security. They are everything.
Do you ever feel like you can’t separate yourself from your emotions?
My toughest lesson of the year was understanding that I am not my emotions. My entire life, I’ve made decisions because of feelings. I nurtured my emotions like they were vital organs. I wholeheartedly believed in their power until they started controlling every inch of my spirit. I battled against fear, resistance and self doubt. I couldn’t detach myself. Who am I if I am not my thoughts or emotions?
My identity is entwined with strings of brokenness and anxiety and I’m trying my hardest to unravel it piece by piece. I am not anger, anxiety, sadness, or fear; I’m not even excitement, joy, and contentment. My emotions are only masks that I put on temporarily. This thought process has helped me dig deeper into the reasoning behind these feelings. It has helped me accept them until they pass by. (They always do.) I’m learning to let go of this idea and it makes me feel all the more naked and vulnerable. I’m learning how to connect with my intuition as well. Sometimes they can be hard to differ. Is this my intuition speaking or my emotional body? Is there a difference? The realization that I can observe my feelings and that they don’t have to identify me is groundbreaking.
I’m aware of my thoughts but I’m not defined by them and I believe our true power lies in our ability to reclaim our hearts. We exist regardless, and we are enough. Whether you’re drowning in fear or feeling over the moon with love and joy, you are enough. You will always be enough. Time enables us to mature and heal and have self awareness to accept our flaws.
I talk quite often about my anxiety and what worries me because I know that many of us share the same journey and being open is important. Though so much of what I write may ring true to others, I feel that too many people keep everything bottled up. They keep quiet about the difficult things in life and I think that’s what makes us all feel so out of place. Not seeing all the different sides of a person.
This is definitely a lesson I have to pay attention to over and over again, especially in the feelings of rejection and fear, but we are absolutely loved and valid and whole outside of how we feel– about ourselves, about others, and about life. My only hope for 2018 is that our feelings and reality start to coincide more and more.
Be still with your emotions. Sit with them in a room with an open fire and cozy armchairs. Take the time to learn their history and perspectives, but be careful not to pay them too much attention– they all have their flaws. Be distant yet understanding. Like an old friend you lost touch with, don’t grow too attached: you never know when they will make a stranger out of you.
Do you feel like 2018 is going to be better?
And I’m happy to leave those strange feelings behind.
Happy New Year, friends and followers!