Wait for It

On Tuesday, my dog got sick, and I got scared. It was digestive issues: she had diarrhea and was vomitting a bit. She was never sick like this before in her 5 years of life, so I got scared. I didn’t know what was happening and couldn’t really help her other than sitting by her side while she tried to get some sleep.

She’s okay now. But the next day, while she napped by my room after taking the medicine the vet had prescribed, I got hit with the lovely realization that her health and well-being was always her number one concern. It was so easy for her to just sleep off the pain and sickness. What a nice life, my family likes to say about pets.

But the thing is, my family jumping to take care of her was really nice to see, and again reaffirmed the signs I’ve been seeing about slowing down and prioritizing self-care. I get so caught up with work, volunteering, projects, ideas, outings, conversations, and life in general – and I get pretty damn excited about it – that I forget to slow down and collect myself and be still in the chaos and passion. I’m working so hard and am so focused on an ideal or end goal that I forget that life is always full of surprises and won’t always give us what we want and when we want.

Perhaps it’s a 21st century, first world millennial problem, but instant gratification and our fast-paced lifestyle has made us expect for everything and everyone to be ready at the slightest tremble of our fingertips. Which is ridiculous and rude, if you think about it. We are all moving at our own pace, and we shouldn’t compare our speed or direction to another person’s. Our journeys are our own, and we often forget how precious and significant they are.

I am quite guilty of taking my personal journey for granted. I see my peers and family and friends moving at different paces and taking on their own struggles, but I usually focus on the ones who are relentless in their race to riches, whatever these riches are. Looking at these people, I yearn to be as energetic, as focused, as smart, as non-stop. And that’s where the stress starts. Another lesson that needs repeating is to stop comparing myself to others, to continue to believe in myself – because that is where the answers lie and where I get my strength and validation. I also need to trust myself and the process, and wait for it, whatever “it” is.

Before, whenever I heard the words “wait for it,” I would get reminded of Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother. Now, I get reminded of the song from Hamilton. A much better pop culture reference, in my opinion. It’s a song that will likely resonate with other 20-somethings as we go about our own journeys. Aaron Burr is the foil to Alexander Hamilton, and compares himself to Hamilton in the song, but I think that there can be a healthy balance. We’re not completely alone in life, after all. We just have to figure out how community affects our sense of individuality and well-being. And we must remember that we are inimitable and are able to control how we go about our journeys.

Let’s go.

Lion Heart

Around this time last year, I started to become more out-going, more extroverted. I’ve chalked it up to working with kids and having to yell and be enthusiastic all the time, but when I re-examine 2015, I just happened to have become exhausted with being silent. I grew weary of waiting for my turn to speak. I knew that I had so much to share with others, and I wanted to be around others more. I grew to love the constant stimulation of different voices, opinions, ideas, and stories. And I came to expect and crave that interaction.

I took the Myers-Briggs personality test several months ago, and got INFP, same as usual. But deep down, I wasn’t 100% okay with that. I felt a strong need to continue asserting myself, to connect with others more.

When I re-took the test a couple of months after that, I got ENFP. Huh. I thought I was quiet, introverted, private. Wasn’t I shy growing up? Didn’t I redirect the spotlight whenever it hovered close to me? I was confused and refused to accept that result (even though I am fully aware and appreciative of how a test cannot define me, that I am more than four letters).

But then, I realized that I shouldn’t let my past define me. Just because I was a certain way before doesn’t mean that who I am was set in stone in that period of time. The people around me accepted this fact so easily that it made me realize that I was clinging onto something that may have been true then but is not now.

Around the same time, I also became more of a Gryffindor. Growing up, I knew that I wouldn’t completely identify with that House, even though I desperately wanted to be bold and brave. I suppose the extraversion and the Gryffindor-like tendency to stand up for what I believe in came into play last year. What’s cool is that my friends have been telling me that it makes sense for me to have Gryffindor as a secondary House, because I do stand up for what I believe in, and I have a strong moral compass that I like to think always points north.

Thinking about these two developments has made me wonder if I’m finally developing that idealistic lion heart that I’ve seen in my favourite characters, especially women. Hermione, Anne, Leslie… they’re so fearless in what they want and what they believe in. They keep pushing forward despite all the obstacles and failures, and I admire that so much. I hope I’m reaching that point. I hope that people compare me to these characters, with the newest addition from Hamilton: An American Musical.

Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton, or Eliza as she’s called in the musical, is such a lion heart. I strive to be more like her. She’s fierce in her convictions, she doesn’t take bullshit, and she always asserts herself in every situation that life puts her in. And yet, she remains soft. In the way she sings and speaks, in the way she interacts with her husband, sisters, and everyone else around her. And her line, “look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now” is aligned with my personal philosophy of gratitude and awe.

I love being able to surround myself with inspirational, strong, fierce women, both fictional and real. I love exploring these parts of my identity, especially since I admire these traits in others. Perhaps I could use some falling in love with these parts of myself.

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.

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.

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.