Uncontained

I went to see a psychic about a week ago. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing; it felt like this was a precious secret and moment I had to keep to myself.

As soon as she opened the door to greet meet me, I felt a wave of love and energy. I won’t get into everything we talked about – and we talked about a lot – but I will share one of the first things she told me:

“You cannot be put into a box. Even if the box is big, it still can’t contain you. You are too big and too unique to be put into a box.”

That was a recurring theme throughout our session: being uncontained. It was something I’ve known all along, from the way I feel out of place and restless no matter where I was and who I was with, to constantly asking myself and the Universe how I could be more. A different kind of ambition from attaining accolades or adding letters to my name, dollars to my bank account.

Brene Brown wrote in her latest book, Braving the Wilderness, that true belonging is paradoxical. Quoting Maya Angelou, Brene shares how she has finally come to understand what it means to belong and to be free, and to be in the wilderness:

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place β€” you belong every place β€” no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

I did not realize I’ve been in that wilderness pretty much all my life until I read this book. Re-learning about my unique gifts and purpose in life over the past few months has been such a signficant thing to experience. Learning what it means to let go, to be abundant, to live lightly, and most importantly, to love yourself… these are lessons I’ve struggled to remember, and I sincerely hope that this time I finally understand.

These past few months, while supporting a rich inner world, have also seen some of the most isolating and lonely periods of my life. I’ve felt so separated from others, simultaneously wanting to shut out but also let in people. It was confusing, and to be honest it still is. But I guess this is what it means to be in the wilderness, to live uncontained. High price, great reward.

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Where is the magic?

Right around this time of year, I look around and can’t help but feel a little disappointed. This feeling creeps up sooner every year, sometimes just within the first week of December. It’s a feeling of disappointment in not seeing magic.

It was so much easier as a child to marvel and wonder at all of the amazing things that Christmas had to offer: the TV specials, the movies, the sweet treats, the decorations, the gifts, the music, the sheer enthusiasm and genuine joy that you could actually feel in the air.

But I don’t feel that anymore.

Instead, I’ve felt stress, annoyance, frustration, and a desire to just get it over with: the gift shopping, the party planing, the entire thing. I kinda hate it.

I so wish I could call back the magic of the season, and I’m going to try this month to do so. But it’s just not the same anymore.

So what can I do differently in order to feel the magic? What can I do as an adult to feel like a child again? I can’t get rid of my responsibilities and obligations. So what would I need to add or take away or change in order to bring back that awe and wonder?

I hope I can find this feeling again.

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.

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.

Imposter Syndrome, Part Two

I had written about not feeling good enough back in July, and thought I’d revisit the topic. I’ve noticed in between these two posts that feeling like an imposter comes and goes. That feeling has never really left, to be honest. It’s like it’s taken a vacation knowing that it will come back with regained strength.

I’ve been ready for it, though. Just yesterday, I was about to browse through strangers’ LinkedIn profiles fully aware that I would push myself into a downward spiral of guilt and inadequacy – but as soon as I knew what was about to happen, I stopped myself. It was one of the strangest “about to” encounters I’ve ever had with my ego. Yes, I was proud of myself, and that I had come a long way in how I compare myself with others… But I knew deep down that I could be better, and fully rise above that downward spiral and avoid that cliff fall into what we know as the imposter syndrome.

Which brings me to this video of Natalie Portman delivering the commencement address to Harvard graduates. She talks about going through the various stages of life (school and work and the transitions in between) and how she had a nagging feeling about how she wasn’t good enough to be where she was.

We’ve all been there. I had felt the same way when I was in school and other students talked to the professor at the same intellectual level, while I struggled to complete the readings. I had felt the same way when I started any job and saw how much of a family my colleagues had, while I felt like an outsider about to push the boundaries. Whenever these situations arose, I did my best to be as likeable and hard-working as possible. Often, those two things conflicted, especially when it came to my relationships with co-workers and superiors. Achieving a balance only came naturally when I was able to be myself.

“The only thing you can be the best at is developing your own self.”

This one line from Natalie Portman’s speech really stood out for me. I’ve always thought that being brave enough to be yourself was one of the most spectacular things that a human being could achieve. And developing your own self takes a while – often a lifetime – to accomplish. But is it ever worth it!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Brief Hiatus

Working at a summer camp can really tire you out. I had made time in July to write here, but now that I’m working in the youth leadership program, I’ve been thinking about work more often than usual. And while youth leadership is something that I’m really passionate about, it’s making me shift priorities in a way that I am not okay with.

I miss this. I miss writing, sorting out my thoughts, sifting through the words and finding meaning. I haven’t done this in a while. I don’t feel like myself.

I also miss yoga. A couple of days ago, I went into child’s pose (one of the most basic and relaxing poses) and felt so at home that I thought about becoming an instructor (not the first time). I actually feel out of shape, even though camp has made me lose weight.

I miss the freedom that I had at the beginning of this year, when I worked part-time and was able to volunteer with two organizations at once. I was able to write, do yoga, read, and practice self-care and mindfulness everyday. I want that back.

But, I also want a job that pays. And so I’ll get back to this when I can. I’m actually looking forward to the end of this job, even if it means going back to square one. I know I’ll be okay, though. πŸ™‚

Imposter Syndrome, Part One

I often feel like a fake adult. Before, I would work with children for a few days a week, and then work with adults either my own age or older. I felt a disconnect between the two – obviously communication style had to change – but I had also become incredibly aware of how small I felt in comparison with the other adults. It’s still weird to call myself an adult. But it’s weird to call myself a youth, because I’m not. And it’s also strange to call myself a young adult, because that reminds me of John Green books and teens (neither of which are terrible, by the way).

This is probably a problem that is common amongst other 20-somethings. We’re in a never-ending transitional period between graduating from school and looking for work or getting settled into a life we can be comfortable and happy with. That’s really difficult to do. I have no idea when I’ll reach that stage, and while I know that this is ultimately fine… I don’t feel fine with that right now. (I probably will be tomorrow, but you know how life is: you panic, then gain perspective, and then lose that perspective, panic again, and repeat.)

I don’t feel 100% fine with the fact that I don’t know what my life will be like when September hits, because that’s when my job contract ends. I’m not okay with the fact that I have a lot of free time and still have to form the habit of being productive in the way I want to be. I’m a little annoyed that I’m still scared of trying new things and asking for what I want.

I also don’t like that there are times when I don’t feel like I’m good enough. “I’m not worthy of being with other adults at this workplace, I’m not interesting enough to be in conversation with this person,” etc. If I were to step back and observe myself, I’d be annoyed by how often I feel this way. And I’d wonder just how long I plan to keep up this habit.

But I am trying to break that habit, and replace it with the habit of being kind and gentle towards myself. “Yes, I am good enough. I am more than enough. I am an amazing person and have accomplished so much. I do deserve success, whatever that may be for me.” It’s definitely a process, but one that’ll be good for me.

I have more thoughts on feeling like an imposter, which is really interesting considering how far I’ve come on my path towards fulfillment and being myself. I guess it’s my ego talking again – which is why I found it important enough to write two more posts about the imposter syndrome. Until next time!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

100%

In a post from last month I gave my opinion that relationships are either 1 + 1 = 2 or half +half = whole. For a while after that, I honestly believed that the healthy relationships follow the first formula. You have two complete, independent people who come together in an equal partnership. You share successes and failures with each other. You team up for life’s adventures. You’re happy together, but happy on your own. And it all works out.

Recently, though, I’m not sure when I’ll ever get to that point in my life. I felt incomplete, and that I’m missing something. And now, instead of reverting back to the fact that it’s because I’m not in a relationship, I’m looking at the big picture. I’m asking myself whether I feel complete with my work, my other relationships, my passions and interests, and with myself as a being. The scary thing is that the answer is no, I don’t.

It’s weird, though. Before, I saw this as a matter of my eventual growth and maturity into a whole and complete person. I was just becoming, instead of being. And lately, it was getting more difficult to find ways to propel that growth and put myself back into the perspective of being on an evolving journey. Because life is a journey, and we’re all going to continue with our own development. I suppose the difficulty comes with growth.

This lovely article from Tiny Buddha called, “How to Shine Your Light, Even When You Don’t Feel Whole,” has helped me get myself out of the funk of feeling incomplete. It made me realize that it’s okay if I’m nowhere near 100%. I don’t have to feel obligated to reach that level, or a state of completeness. I can focus on what makes me happy and good, and work on sharing that with others.

We all have highs and lows, ebbs and flows. The trick is to find your inner joy, your inner light, during the times you don’t feel whole, and to gain perspective and become grounded during the times that you do. It’s a tough balancing act, and it’s all part of the journey.

I hope that my thoughts have somehow helped you with yours.