Because I Care

I wrote last year in The Opposite of Apathy about how I care a lot about a lot of things. That’s just who I am. It’s been a lifelong struggle of figuring out how to balance letting this passion lead me and letting it be. Notice how I didn’t say “letting it go,” or “leaving it behind.” I know myself well enough that there is no off switch for my feelings or passion, that I cannot simply just let it go, as much as I want to. And I have wanted to let my feelings go and disappear so often that it’s become a part of the cycle: I care a lot, I become disappointed or get rejected, I feel hurt, I want out of this body and out this personality, I step back, I heal, I become myself again. It’s been difficult to navigate at times, but what usually brings me back to a sense of peace with myself is the realization that this is who I am and that I should accept it for what it is.

I’ve gone through this cycle so many times over the past few months, and during the healing process, I’ve come to realize the beautiful things about this part of me. The enduring empathy, the fiery passion, and the full-blown rainbow of feelings.

I have realized that not everybody cares as much as me. Yes, it hurts. Yes, I feel misunderstood and sometimes lonely as a result. But – and this is actually something that my best friends have told me – not everybody is capable of caring this much. This is actually quite rare to witness in another human being. What I have may just be a superpower. And it’s something that is completely mine.

I’m pretty sure I’m classified as a Highly Sensitive Person, one who just feels the world and is acutely and terribly aware of other people’s energy and emotions – including their pain. Which is why I sometimes want to fix other people’s problems and inspire them to reach new heights. I know that they’re capable of doing it, and I hate to see people settle for lives that are less than the ones they are capable of living. It actually hurts to see that happening. I see it all the time with my family, friends, colleagues, and people I meet every day. I don’t understand why they’re not going for their dreams, why they’re not even trying, and (God forbid) why they don’t even dream in the first place.

The fact that I feel all of this means that my line of work is something that I take seriously (in hopefully the right away. Life’s too short to be taken too seriously, after all). I want to do well, to do good, to make a positive difference. And I can frame it so that I am actually doing this every day, and I probably am. But I know that I am capable of doing more. I know that I am meant for more. And this, my friends, is the source of my stress and pain. I feel stuck in my life, and I’m constantly in the aforementioned cycle of caring and hurting and healing – and this is making me feel like I’m the one who’s settling for her current situation. But I know that I’m not! I’m constantly striving for a better me, because I know that she’s in reach.

Perhaps, then, the stress and pain is coming from this constant struggle in becoming this person. Existential, metaphysical growing pains, if you will. I have actually felt impatience with my situation, which is not good. I need to learn to be as caring and empathetic and sensitive to myself as I am with others. Perhaps this whole “caring too much” thing should be more directed at myself.

So, because I care about my well-being and want to become the best version of myself as possible, I’ll do my best to show as much compassion and empathy to myself as I do to others.

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My Self-Help Phase is Not Over

I have to laugh at past Camille and her blog post. She really did believe that she was done with looking for inspiration and help in other places, that she was fine with her life and would be okay living out her adventures. Not that she was wrong back then, no. She really was able to find happiness and inspiration within, which is an incredible achievement in itself. But this was seven months ago.

I’m back in that self-help state now. Relationship-related grief, career-related confusion, and life in general have combined to test me in ways I never would have thought possible. In a way, I guess it makes sense for these things to happen. I turned 25 this year, quarter-life crises are a thing, and most of all, I’m learning and yearning to grow and evolve as a person. There’s a saying that the lesson repeats itself until it is learned, and boy do I need to learn them.

Here are some lessons that need repeating:

You are enough. You are a complete person on your own. You don’t need to seek others’ approval or to prove anything to anyone. The ones who matter will love and support you no matter what. And they are the ones worth seeking out.

Hold onto the people who inspire you to be yourself, to be a greater version of yourself, to reach new heights and forgotten corners of your being that you neglected or forgotten had existed.

Let go of the people who do the opposite of lifting you up, inspiring you, and loving you. Do not even let them take space in your head; they do not deserve to be there. Clear that shit out, yo.

On that note, treat your head and heart as space for the things and people who actually matter to you. Even if it hurts. And it will. It will hurt when they don’t feel the same way, or don’t care to the extent that you do. You care a LOT, a frightening amount, actually. Not everybody shares that superpower, so please be as patient and kind as you can with others. Importantly, be kind to yourself (more on that below).

Your conceived weaknesses are not just your strengths; they are your superpowers. Your capacity to care, empathize, and feel can often be too much for you and others to handle, but this is who you are. This is actually a gift to the world, which can be a scary, violent, awful, evil place. Believe it or not – actually, believe it, please believe it – you bring a special kind of light to the world, a light that is your own. Don’t let others try to dim or block or turn it off. They’re probably confused or scared, and may just need it the most.

Self care is something you’ve been hearing a lot of this past year. Please make this a habit. And not just the little, superficial things like painting your nails or having another Old Fashioned. Self care includes big, spontaneous things like that trip to Chicago you had booked in less than 10 minutes with no thought whatsoever. Self care includes little, important things like making sure you drink enough water and talk to your family. Self care includes the big, important things like saying no to extra work or re-evaluating your career choices. Self care can be tough. It can be overlooked. But please don’t take it for granted. If you treat yourself now the way you will definitely treat the love of your life, you will be so grateful that you took the time to use your superpowers on yourself.

You’re not done growing. The moment you believe that you don’t need to learn anything or that you’ve seen it all, is the moment you revert back to being naive and selfish. Look around, and see how life doesn’t work that way. You will always be surprised. You will always embark on new adventures. You will always be curious and in awe of how life works, and actually works in your favour. Be grateful for this.

 

Well, I’ll definitely be writing more often here. Of course I’d be back. Reader, if you’re going through anything like I am, we’re in this together. Allons-y!

That’s Life

A lot of shit has happened between my last blog post and now. A lot. Some good, some awful, some terrifying, some exhilarating. Personally, politically, locally, globally… a lot has happened. History has been made. And it’s been a ride.

I think that the overall theme of this year has been extreme living: the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Friends, family, world leaders, citizens, all of us, have strongly felt something. Whether we have experienced love, heartbreak, loss, confusion, exhaustion, defeat, rejection… it’s all a part of life. And I’ve learned that we are all resilient and passionate enough to keep going back to the things that bring us joy and fulfillment, knowing all too well that we could be torn down again. And again. And again.

And yet, we keep going. We push to think higher, feel deeper. We strive to be the greatest. We act like heroes, even just for one day. Because one day can make a difference. We know this. And damn it, we are optimists and we want the best that life can give us. And we work hard to make sure that we get what we deserve.

I’ve said this before: I’ve had to fight for my happiness. For the past few months, and especially the last 30-odd days, I have put more into this fight than I thought was possible. The saying goes that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. What if life hands you a pile of shit? Do you ignore it, hoping it will go away? Do you toss it somewhere else, hoping that somebody else will deal with it? Or do you sift through it, hoping to find the rich fertilizer that will bring life to whatever metaphorical garden you are growing? (Because when life hands you shit, you deal with it, because it’s yours to handle. Sorry.)

Indecent expressions aside, I have to say that these past few months have been interesting and wild and revealing. If I’ve realized anything, it’s that no matter what is thrown at me, I can rise above it and be a better me. Because life is worth it.

We’re halfway through 2016. Let’s make the other half worthwhile.

Unconditional

This article called “Maybe You Don’t Know What Love Is” really made me think about the kinds of relationships I currently have in my life, and the kinds of relationships that I want. The author makes a distinction between “conditional” and “unconditional” relationships. Conditional relationships aren’t truly based in love; there’s a give and take that is inherently selfish, scared, and insecure. They’re kind of like the relationships you brag about: my girlfriend has a kickass job, my dad gives me whatever I want, my colleague is always there to help me. And while it’s not exactly wrong to sing the praises of those people in your life, you have to ask yourself: Are they in my life for this one reason, or because we genuinely love each other?

When I first read the article, I was worried because I wasn’t sure which of my relationships (family, friends, romantic, professional) would pass the test. Do I really care about these people? Do they really care about me?

Thankfully, my closest relationships seem to be unconditional rather than conditional. Unconditional relationships are based in truth, empathy, and patience. Basically, love at its core. When you are in an unconditional relationship, you and the other person care about each other. You’ve peeled back the layers of deceit and armour and see each other for who you really are. And you don’t run away. You stay. You help them, you care for them, you talk to them. You love them.

What I found to be interesting, though, is that what I had learned from networking and my professional experiences is that a lot of relationships are conditional, and are the norm. What is up with that? Is that why so many people don’t feel satisfied or happy with their jobs? Is that why there’s a lot of tension, gossiping, drama, and flat out hatred in my current workplace?

I think so. And it’s sad.

While I can’t necessarily change work culture, I can at least make sure that I’m aware of how I’m treating others – conditionally, or unconditionally.

Courage & Creativity

Something that I’ve only heard a few times recently and have only fully realized and appreciated today is this:

You can’t be creative without being courageous.

Whether it’s sharing a new idea, or starting a painting, or continuing that short story you had left years ago – it takes a certain kind of courage to let your creativity flow. And creativity does flow. But it also comes in crashing waves, then disappears into nothingness. It can be frustrating, but that’s what happens when we don’t let it simply flow. Creativity is like a muscle that you need to exercise regularly, otherwise it won’t work for you.

(Or do you work for creativity? Elizabeth Gilbert seems to think so. But that’s a question to be addressed at another time.)

I honestly think that everybody needs to exercise their creativity on the regular. Whether it’s through music, visual art, writing, storytelling, dance, strategic planning, teaching… anything can be done creatively. Because we were meant to create, to deconstruct, to recreate, to envision, to see the world and ourselves with different and multiple lenses. And I think that’s beautiful… And scary. Being creative is so damn scary, because it’s so damn vulnerable. You’re allowing others to see a side of you that society doesn’t necessarily like or pay attention to. You’re bleeding on a page, canvas, screen, whatever, and allowing others to see and feel it. You don’t know how they’ll react. You have specific expectations of this piece, and whether you find it garbage or consider it to be your baby, you have to deal with whatever is staring back at you.

Not all art is good art. There is bad art. But we have to remember that it is all art. And that’s a brave and beautiful thing.

Still afraid of what will happen if you express yourself and create? Here’s one of the most powerful passages from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, a book I urge anybody to pick up. It deals with courage by looking at Resistance and what we need to do in order to look past it and make art. I say “look past” instead of “overcome,” simply because Resistance will always be there. And that’s okay. We just need to be able to be vulnerable with Resistance and do what we were meant to do.

I know it’s difficult, but there are so many wonderful possibilities on the other side of fear.

 

Half-Assed Kindness

I’m not one to half-ass kindness. I either love fiercely, or let it drop. I don’t like to keep my feelings hidden, although that’s what I do on the daily. It’s hard when you’re scared or hesitant to let people know how you truly feel.

But when I do, it’s mostly in my actions: I share food. I ask people how they’re doing, and listen. I try to be fully present for them, to be a listening ear or a sounding board. A shoulder to cry on when necessary. And I think the world of them. Yes, we all have our flaws and we’re imperfect – but I love my people anyway.

I think that the one thing that sums up how I show my love for people is time. I give my time, I share my time, I divide my time between those I care about. Simple enough, right?

But lately, it’s been difficult to care. I like to be authentic as possible, so it’s hard when people I know are not being authentic. They’re being kind on the surface, but I know that they’re not genuine in their actions or words. It’s disheartening to know that they’re half-assing their kindness. It’s not real, what they’re doing. And it’s a shame, especially for somebody like me who loves whole-heartedly and whole-assedly (yes that’s a word).

It’s a shame because I mostly am afraid of showing people how I truly feel, and so not being kind at all scares me – what will they think? I already know that they don’t really think the world of me, and I should be okay with that. But deep down, I know I’m not. I’m so used to pleasing everybody and having them like me, so whenever things like this happen, it’s off-putting to say the least. And so I half-ass my kindness. I selectively care when I have the energy to do so. I lie and pretend. It’s exhausting.

So where does this leave me? Do I choose to spread as much kindness as possible, knowing that in some cases it won’t benefit anybody? Or do I let these cases and these people go, with as much compassion and patience as possible? I already know the answer, but it’ll be hard to put it into action. Even though giving something your all is exhilarating. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

Let’s whole-ass this thing.

My Self-Help Phase is Over

At this time last year, I was exploring many professional and personal interests: volunteering, working, networking, writing, etc. The professional and the personal got mixed up quite a bit, but I was happy that it did. It meant that I would find all of these fulfilling in some way. But, looking back, this was just part of the self-exploration and self-help phase I had put myself in for the better part of a year and a half.

I had read books about how to find your passion and to design a life that suits your authentic self. I watched videos and documentaries about personal truth and attracting what you most want in life. I took on a career/personal coach who kept me accountable for working on my goals. And it all made perfect sense to be that kind of person for the year and a half: explore, question, be kind to myself, be true to myself.

But now? Well, I’m still exploring and questions. I’m still being kind and true to myself. But I’ve shed the protective layer that allowed for all of these self-help and self-improvement resources to protect and guide me. They were my support system, kind of like tools that help people move about their daily lives. I don’t need these now. I’m strong and confident enough to stand on my own two feet and to move at the pace that I want, without fear of stumbling or falling over. Because I know that I’m able to pick myself up.

Not that I won’t deny these supports whenever I need them. It’s just that because I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years, I don’t need to schedule my day to include career growth. I have a full-time job that allows for that in such a way that I’m gaining new skills and putting myself out there. I also don’t need to constantly learn about how my mindset is holding me back. I feel at peace with my mind and know that our relationship is now a positive one.

So goodbye to self-help blogs, books, movies, and coaching programs – of course I’m grateful for them, as they’ve helped me transform into who I am today – but now’s the time to focus on new and exciting things.

My Own Boss

Lately, I’ve been telling myself, “I am my own boss. I am my own boss.” This isn’t exactly a revelation to me; I’ve been made to believe this by former employers, supervisors, and pretty much all of the important people in my life. I’ve actually been asked, “Who is your boss?” by a former manager. When I hesitated, he said,”You. You are your own boss.” I’ll never forget that. Yes, I control my destiny. Yes, I am the one who makes the executive decisions in my life. Yes, I am the hero of my story. Seems so straightforward, doesn’t it?

But when you take somebody so wide-eyed and optimistic as me, and put me into a professional situation where there’s a not-so-subtle hierarchy and a hostility towards that hierarchy, things change. Yes, I still believe that I am my own boss. But in a way, I’m not the only boss. It’s unfortunate in some respects but understandable and fair in others, so this can feel conflicting at times. I am the one who is ultimately making decisions that impact me (as well as the organization I work for, of course!), and so I must remember that in order to maintain my sense of freedom and independence – as well as my mental health and well-being. However, I have to play the game of power and politics and go through a series of tests and obstacles in order to get through a door I’ve been so used to opening for myself. It’s strange, to say the least.

And yet, it’s interesting to see “actual” adults playing this game and often acting like children when things don’t go their way. It seems as though you never really leave high school. It’s a sad truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless. And it’s a truth I have to be mindful of whenever I go about my day and interact with real people with real problems and real feelings. Dealing with people has somewhat changed compared to my previous work experiences, but the core and heart of it all has been untouched. And I am thankful for that. I am thankful for the wonderful people I get to meet and work with everyday, and for the amazing opportunities that I have in my role.

However, and I say this with a smile on my face and with compassion in my heart, I am The Boss. I am the one in control. I am the sole decider. I am the hero. And I’m not about to let a job change that.

25

I read my birthday blog post from last year, and boy did I sound confused and unhappy. I was doing my best to make sense of what I was feeling, which is fine, but now I know what has changed for the better in the 365 days since that post.

This was the first birthday I’d been looking forward to in a long, long time. Maybe it’s the number, maybe it’s the relation to Adele’s latest album, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been saying to myself that I’m 25 in the weeks leading up to this day. It’s funny how people joke about this particular age and say that the quarter life crisis is looming, if not already happening. I’d say that I went through my “crisis” at 23 and 24. I did develop earlier than normal people, though. And I tend to re-evaluate everything in my life more regularly than most people I know.

But this birthday was filled with gratitude and love, which is a huge difference compared to last year. I didn’t feel entitled to be lazy or be doted on by family and friends. I just knew that I would be greeted and loved, and I did. I have been practicing kindness and gratitude for months and both came naturally today. It’s so strange how much one can change in a year. Strange, but beautiful.

I have achieved another year, and this year was full of other achievements in my personal and professional life. It felt like small infinities that were a part of and made up a larger infinity, and it was awesome.

Thank you to everyone who has loved me, supported me, shown kindness to me, and has made this world a more beautiful and not so scary place. ❤

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

I’m experiencing something that happens whenever I’m settled into a new job and going through the motions. I’m wishing for something better. As selfish and ungrateful as that can be, it’s something that I can’t help but feel whenever I know that whatever work I’m doing just isn’t enough. It kind of sucks.

I know what I want. I know what the ideal job would be. And I know that it probably doesn’t exist. I’m not sure whether it will ever exist. In a way, it’s fun to play around with those fantasies in my head. In a way, it keeps me going when I’m feeling stuck. It feels nice to know that I can still imagine better for myself.

However, it doesn’t really help the situation that I’m in. And the situation is that I don’t feel satisfied with the way that I’m living my life. I keep going back to 2014 and 2015 and reflecting on whatever job I had or what my lifestyle was like at the time and comparing how I had felt with each experience. And this is what I’ve realized: As secure as it was to have a job, as nice as it was to meet new people and learn new things, and as grateful as I was to have a source of income – I knew that I wasn’t deeply happy. And that was because I was so focused on what I didn’t like and therefore so stressed about the fact that I wasn’t doing anything about it. I wasn’t making my situation better.

On the flip side, as lost as I had felt when I was unemployed or working part-time or just volunteering – I was still happy. I was in control of how I spent my day, of what I did with my time. I was planning on going to events of all kinds, of writing more often, of exploring my personality and the depth of my passions. I was happy. But I still wasn’t satisfied.

And then there’s that spot in the middle, where I was employed and happy with the job, but unhappy with the pay or the environment, but was mindful of how I was going to make the most of what I had. I was happy. But again, I was unsatisfied.

So what does that mean? Am I never going to be satisfied with my life? With myself?

It can feel like a curse to never be fully satisfied with yourself and the life that you’re living. It prevents you from truly appreciating what you have and being grateful for the infinite amount of blessings you experience every day. But I’m taking this reflection as an opportunity to continue making the most of what I have, and being grateful for what I have. Believing that you are enough and that you are doing everything you can do be a good person is a very powerful thing.

 

The value of life