It’s important that I let go of my fears in order to progress. I’m not sure if my worrying is just a side effect of anxiety or if it’s my brain’s general disposition, but it comes before everything. It’s over the fact that I’m getting nothing done in my creative life, although I write almost every day. Even if it’s just random thoughts in my notes- poetry floating by. Even when I write an entire blog and post it. Even when I share any of my creations. Nothing seems to be enough to satisfy my standards.
I stress that I’m not tending to my social life enough, especially when I’m reclusive and invested in my own little writing world. It’s not something I can be very social while doing. I worry that I’m not making my rounds to everyone and pleasing them, making them feel loved and cared for. There aren’t enough days in a week for work, creativity, and all relationships. And conflict happens when needs are not met. Or worse, they aren’t communicated. I can’t go MIA for too long before someone is wondering ‘what’s up with me’. I must answer texts and make sure everyone’s good. I must share a good amount of information about myself so people can be involved.
That also means sacrificing sacred self time. Time to sit and exist and do nothing- to just be, because it is, in fact, okay to do nothing sometimes. It is valuable. Our minds and bodies need to rest. I can’t give pieces of myself away and not be drained. When I do too much of that, I dissociate. It’s supposed to be give and take. I have to tend to my own garden of emotions and let pieces of me regrow. I have to let go of everyone else’s problems for the moment so I can deal with myself. Not letting everyone in all the time doesn’t mean they are uninvolved or that I don’t want them there. It just means that right now, I can’t get to it.
Both parts of my life are equally important. Creativity helps me discover parts of myself. And I find comfort in other peoples words, especially when I can’t find my own. Feeling their presence is healing and being able to share my space- in silliness or seriousness. I can relate. We help each other navigate. Each person ignites different parts of ourselves as we do in them. I shouldn’t have to let go of one aspect for there to be harmony.
Life is moving incredibly fast. It’s like watching a train pass by and everything is blurry and racing past you. It leaves you with this stolen feeling. Time passes quicker with age for whatever reason. We’re too in our heads or invested with work. We stop looking at the people we’re with and instead take our phones out to record them to watch at a later date. We stop running through the backyard and turn the TV on instead. I look down at my phone, it’s 3pm. I turn away for a second, look back, and it’s 8pm. It never stops. It’s fleeting no matter how much you try to wave down the conductor.
I’m so eager to change and learn and grow all the time. So much that in the time I’m supposed to be letting past lessons settle in, I’m overthinking and creating problems for the future. I’m busy over-analyzing. I fail to recognize sometimes that old growth must be put to the test. We are thrown challenges to see if those lessons have actually done their job. And they will keep reoccurring, whether it be in a new form or not, if we haven’t. If I end up in the same rut more than once, I should understand why.
I have to stop worrying about when and what if. It’s a waste of time- trying to anticipate and always waiting. I could be living. Everything has to come as it may. It can’t be done in one sitting. It’s really just too much.
It’s okay to get lost in the current of life’s enormity; to feel without guilt and insecurity, without need for validation.
The summer between eighth grade and freshman year of high school marked a point of great change in my life. My parents had just recently gotten divorced. My self esteem was extremely low and I struggled with self image- I obsessed over having a ‘thigh gap’ and being thin. I’d count my calories and started dieting at fourteen years old. I had trouble in school, not with grades, but with my acquaintances. Then I moved to a new state and begged to be homeschooled because it gave me too much anxiety to go. But that didn’t work out exactly as planned. Although I did make friends, I had many fallouts and spent a lot of time alone. Plenty of people didn’t like me. Most of them would openly degrade me to their friends, sometimes even make jokes to my face. The more I heard them, the more I believed them about myself and repeated them when I went home.
The cloud that appeared over me that summer carried through, on and off, to my senior year of high school. As more emotional weight appeared, I began to further empty myself. I pushed everything down and detached. A cavity grew inside me. And I became numb- acting recklessly and hurting people in my wake. Which made me feel like an awful person, someone who deserves bad things to happen to her. Then when it got so deep that the numbness was too much and started scaring me, I resorted to self harm. It became not only a source of punishment, but also a mode of release.
There were people who had an idea of what was going on, but I neglected to ever openly ask for help. Instead, I entertained the idea that someone would fall in love with me and rescue me. Or that something wonderful and life changing would happen and I’d forget I was ever sad. Maybe I could just run away and it would stay behind. I waited patiently for that day. It never came.
I felt so incredibly alone and regretful of the pain I caused. Everything was too much to handle. I decided I had two choices- end it or see this through and put the effort in to keep from slipping further away.
I did get better. I worked really hard on myself, to cultivate self love and a loving environment for myself. I searched for the joys of living and found them in the little things. I suffered through many, many setbacks. But I learned to stop criticizing myself over them because humans mess up. I can’t expect myself to be perfect all the time- that’s unrealistic. Nothing about it was easy and so much of it was ugly. But four summers later, this photo was taken. Whenever I look at it, it is a reminder of the happiness I felt. It was genuine. I had stopped self harming. I stopped judging myself and instead I forgave. My reality had turned light.
But very slowly, the shadows crept back in in 2019. I’ve been a morning person my whole life. I started feeling resentment towards each day ahead and sleeping in more. I didn’t see the point to getting up, especially if there wasn’t anything planned. When people asked about my future, I’d almost get offended. But only because I didn’t know. I couldn’t think of any goals. What was the point of having them anyway? I wouldn’t make it to next year. And even when I tried looking through the veil, the only thing in sight was a black void. Time disappeared and all the memories and moments ceased to exist past where I stood.
I waited for someone to kick the dirt in. I romanticized it because there are so many awful things happening in the world- what could I possibly do to help or make a difference? It wouldn’t be so bad if I just left. I gave up my creations and let all the stars burn out.
Depression is a real bitch because most of the time, you don’t even know what’s wrong. It’s hard to fix something when you don’t know what the problem is. There are days you’ll wake up and you don’t know what’s come over you, but you are empty. You become fearful of the next day because living is a pain. Keeping your eyes open in the morning is difficult, so you keep the blinds closed. And when you do finally work up the courage to go out, you can’t stop thinking about when you’ll be able to go home, shut the world out, and go to sleep again.
The fact that you have no control over when it’s going to act up is really disheartening. You just have to let it come through. Some days I can’t find it in me to clean my room, to throw out the water bottle that’s been laying on my floor for days. Everything becomes a challenge. You fight yourself to get out of bed. Then to shower. To get dressed. To eat. You start figuring out what the bare minimum is for doing things- not because you’re lazy. It just feels so mindlessly repetitive to do the same things over and over again each day.
There are days I’ll be out attempting to accomplish things and I’ll have to turn around and go home. I just can’t find it in me to do it. On Christmas Eve, I was about to leave to my grandparents house for dinner and one thing happened and I just burst. I had a full ‘episode’ and delayed everyone an hour. Then had to pull myself together to go out.
There’s a feeling I get in my throat that feels like something trying to crawl up. It starts at the pit of my stomach, heavy as a rock. And it scratches its way up my esophagus until I burst. Sometimes I’ll start feeling it when I’m out with friends and I’ll leave without giving a ‘good enough’ explanation as to why.
And when even the littlest bad thing happens, it feels like a monumental inconvenience. It sticks with you and you begin to fear that your future will be a repeat of the past. Your current experience is eternal and whatever happens to you stops mattering. You’ll slip out for days and stop answering everyone and then have to try to explain why.
“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Go into your healing knowing depression is going to be one of the most difficult battles you will ever face because when you’re fighting, the end is unforeseeable. You’re in conflict with your own mind and thought process- the shadows that follow you around and feed off your irritability and misery. Hold onto the mindset that life doesn’t throw you anything you can’t take. You are strong- as corny as it sounds. Be incredibly patient. Because the more you fight, the more light you let in. There are going to be ups and downs. Without the bad, there wouldn’t be any good. We need to be able to see the difference.
You can’t keep waiting for things to happen because when you do that, you end up disappointed. And if you’re going to be disappointed, you might as well know you at least tried. Work on yourself with little expectation and be consistent. Time alone is good. Baby steps because even the littlest amount of progress is still PROGRESS. Take it as it comes. You might not notice any big changes until you’re far down the road, but keep moving forward. Don’t stop. Only look back to sort through your baggage and to reflect.
Start small. Set a goal for the day; i.e., fixing your bed, brushing your hair. Practice switching your thoughts from negative to positive. Create a routine and switch it up a little bit so it doesn’t get boring. If you stop seeing the point behind it, change it. Stop doing things that feed your numbness. Trust your intuition and if something makes you feel icky when you do it, that’s a clear sign to not do it again.
When your foundation is based in self love, it becomes difficult for the bad to get in. Self love is a goal, but it isn’t something that when you reach, you can stop working on. It is a conscious choice you make at every moment in the day. It’s the way you treat yourself when something happens and it’s the way you project onto others. Take care of yourself. Yes- face masks, massages, and painting your nails are self care, but it’s about maintaining your mental health. It’s about prioritizing yourself and self respecting. Master your balance and happiness regardless of circumstance. It comes from within, nothing you buy or engage in can give you that.
Nurture your inner child. When I start feeling sad, I notice that doing really simple things help get me out of it. Think back to what made you happy as a kid, then think about what you can recreate. Be playful and don’t take life so seriously all the time. Things happen to us as we grow up. We hurt. No one is excluded from pain. We experience things that linger and carry them everywhere. Take a good look and don’t hold the emotions in. Allow them to get messy, then flow out. Spend time with those emotions and understand them. Try to forgive yourself and whoever hurt you. Let go.
Let go of toxic people who feed your negative thoughts. Having people around who you can be vulnerable with and who are positive/encouraging are so important. Surround yourself with people who awaken the joy inside you and make you laugh. Friends are meant to be uplifting. We need those good memories to awaken the liveliness within us.
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was not reaching out when I just needed someone to listen. To have someone to tell me things were going to get better or simply have compassion. Even if it’s only to one person, speak up. We all have hard times and there’s someone out there that can understand at least one thing you’re going through. It’s honorable to ask for help and want to fix yourself. We can’t do it on our own all the time. We recognize our pain, but another eye can help us recognize our patterns and help prevent us from falling too far in the future.
I’m not going to lie, life is unbearable sometimes…but get crafty. When you find an outlet, when you focus on it and let it bring you bliss- life goes from gray and fuzzy to full color in HD. It can be anything; drawing, writing, biking, hiking, reading, working, gardening, etc. When everything seems useless, give yourself a purpose. We can create our paradise. The human experience is not supposed to be suffering. And whoever made you think that was terribly mistaken. We are to enjoy life.
I’ve never felt like I belonged here. And that can be unmistakably lonely- feeling like I’m on another plane, being uncomfortable living. I try really hard not to focus on what’s sad or evil in the world. It makes me happy to think of all the good things and I shouldn’t be condemned to my pain. When I thought I was getting bad again, I made a promise to myself to try different ways to get out of the depression hole and stay out.
I began creating goals and giving myself things to look forward to. What do I want? What makes me happy? Then I wrote it all down on colorful post it notes and put it on a goal board. Then I made a list of the little things I could do to help me feel okay:
Putting reminders on the mirror and repeating them to yourself every morning-“My heart is good.”, “I am worthy.”, “Everything takes time.”, “Be Patient.”, “I am beautiful.”, etc.
Journaling every day and looking back every month to track progress
Talking things through- in your journal or with loved ones
Practicing turning negative thoughts into positive ones- “I’m terrible at rock climbing.” to “This is my first time trying it. I will get better. I am learning.”
Allowing time for self reflection
Creating goals for yourself- short term and long term
Going for long walks and getting fresh air
Planning activities or events to give yourself something to look forward to
Breathing- slowly, in for 5 seconds, out for 5 seconds
Naming things you are grateful for
Trusting yourself and your cycles
Setting alarms so you wake up earlier and not sleep too late in the day
Practicing being present and not thinking about anything other than engaging in the current moment
A mentor of mine I had in high school once told me that when she’s sad on the inside, she’d sit in front of the mirror and smile really hard until she felt so stupid, it made her laugh. So if else fails, give it a try.
One last thing that has always helped me combat not wanting to get up in the morning is leaving the blinds open. Let the sun in. I overheard the little girl I care for tell her older brother, “All you need is a warm sun, not a volcano.”. And she’s right. The power and healing nature of the warm sun is often underestimated. What you need isn’t something gigantic or fantastical. It is simple.
If you live near the ocean, go sit in front of the salt water. Feel it run over your hands and cleanse. Feel it hit your bones. If you live near the mountains, walk to the top of one. Look how big the world is and find the comfort in being small. Walk barefoot through the grass. Run down your block and feel the wind hit your face. Remind yourself what it’s like to be living.
I’ll say it a thousand times over- YOU MATTER. Everything you do has an effect. When you’re happy, the feeling tends to radiate outward and make other people happy too. And when we all put in the effort, the world becomes a better place. Know that everything you’re feeling is valid and I hear you. Things are going to be okay.
In September, I got into my first car accident. I wasn’t distracted when it happened, but it was my fault. I was coming out of a jughandle, looking into oncoming traffic, and smacked the bumper of the car in front of me. I tried to approach the owner of the vehicle, but it seemed she was uninterested in my apologies. So, I went back to my car and hysterically cried until the police came.
No one had died. No one was even injured. There was little damage to either car and that woman wasn’t angry or upset at me, just shaken up. She ended up hugging me before she left too. But despite the big picture, I treated it like I had taken a sledgehammer to someone’s life. I sat there going over all the possibilities, thinking my license was going to get taken away. I warped reality in my mind while I buried my head into my mother’s living room couch until I fell asleep and forgot about the whole thing. When I look back, I can see how silly I looked freaking out over something so underwhelming. I thought my world was coming down over a scratch in a bumper.
Now now, none of that was a big deal. In fact, many people have been in the same predicament. That moment doesn’t even come close to putting a dent in the things I’ve done in the past. It wasn’t the first fuck up and definitely wasn’t the last. As much as I try to prevent these things from happening, they never stop. A secret will slip out of my mouth and I’ll break someone’s trust or I’ll do something against my own morals. A lot of the time I feel like I’m just barely holding my head above water, trying to propel myself to the next destination without getting my own feelings hurt or hurting someone in my wake. Even when I feel like I’m doing well and acting right, I slip up and am back underwater again.
So you’re in a pickle. You broke a glass. You broke someone’s heart. You touched something you weren’t supposed to. You have a big mouth. You lied, everyone found out, and now you’re in trouble. And on top of that, you’re disappointed, upset, hopeless, troubled, stressed, etc. What now?
It’s hard in the moment, but the first thing you need to do is take a giant step back. Freak out a little bit. Have your moment to scream or cry. Feel it. When you’re done, take a long, deep breath. The inside of your head probably looks like a mushroom cloud of smoke. You can’t think clearly or see everything for what it is when your view is blurred. You might be angry or upset and say something you don’t mean. It’s a bad time to speak and start assembling broken pieces. You’ll hurt yourself trying. And hovering over the situation will only fuel the fire.
The first few days are always the worst. When you’re not feeling so good, especially if you’re alone, it’s hard to get out of your head. Let yourself grieve, but be gentle. Sometimes when I feel confused or powerless about a problem at hand, I tell myself that my tomorrow self, my future self, can handle it and fix it. This way I can feel what I must in the moment without worrying too much. A little distraction can help stop you from overthinking too. Do something pleasurable. Get a hobby and turn it into your safe space. When you come back, you can reflect. You’re not the only one in the world to have messed up. There is no sense in hating yourself over something that is going to be very minor in due time. Know that better days ALWAYS come.
Try talking to someone who doesn’t hold judgement. They could be an acquaintance, a best friend, a teacher, a parent. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone running back to my mother for advice or because I needed someone to hear me out. Or just to have her tuck my hair behind my ear while I go through it. It’s nice to have a shoulder to cry on. The comfort is healing. A fresh pair of eyes can provide insight. And the person you turn to might end up saying something you really need to hear.
There have been many instances where I’ve messed up and I’ve had no one to turn to. Maybe because I didn’t want to tell anyone about what was going on. I felt embarrassed. These ended up being the best lessons because I not only had to single-handedly conquer the situation, but also my fear of isolation and the pain of being alone. I learned to find comfort and solace in my own company. I looked for advice from myself because I had to trust I knew what was best. I tried to see things in a more positive way. These trials are difficult, but they are for the benefit of us, as well as the other party. Life has a funny way of removing what doesn’t belong and isolating you, so you can take a good look at yourself. Ask yourself how you can be a better person, where you went wrong, and how the future can be different. Maybe it’s simple and you just need to start loving yourself.
It’s time to own whatever you did. Let go of the fear of consequence and what will happen when you are honest. It will be worse if you aren’t. Forgive and make peace with yourself first. Don’t let anyone else’s perception of you get in the way. There may be an image of you existing right now, maybe it’s not your own, but every second you are changing. You are not the same person you were yesterday. And you always have the option to change, to rise, and to learn.
This may take a really long time, but when you’ve collected yourself and the matter has cooled down, it’s okay to approach or speak to whoever you hurt. Come from a loving place, but understand that no one in this life owes you anything. Try to see it from their perspective too and offer understanding, as should they. You might not be able to get back into that friendship or relationship. People are allowed to feel the way they do. They are allowed to leave you in the past. You cannot expect immediate forgiveness or sympathy, but you may find harmony in knowing you gave yourself a voice and communicated. Don’t hold onto it anymore. Let go for your own good. Move forward.
A lot of the time, when we think of fucking up, we think of it in a way where we have messed up something with someone else. But sometimes it can be in a way where we mess up with ourselves and it is solely in our own world.
A few weeks ago, I did something that hurt my own feelings. I got lost with an image of someone I had in my head. After months of not feeling like me, I realized I was living in the past. All that time, I was consumed with creating this whole other reality…somewhere else. I chose not to realize the truth because my creation was much more ideal. I let myself down because I made an old mistake, even embarrassing myself by thinking my delusion was real. I was upset because I hold my growth so highly. I was mad because I went back on my own word and broke a promise to myself. And how could I ever be an example, how could anyone take my word for advice, when I can’t take my own? I felt my heart sink until my chest was empty. Being half on Earth and half in the clouds is uncomfortable.
I kind of beat myself up over it. I felt stupid, but shortly after that realization, I had a talk with a good friend. I wasn’t looking for anything out of her, but I felt like if I said it out loud I would feel more honest with myself about it. I told her I felt like I hadn’t grown or changed at all, like I was just the same person I’d always been.
She looked at me very calmly and said, “Don’t ever say that to me again. You’ve come a long way from where you were. You have learned and that’s why you can speak of it right now and recognize it. That’s why you’re not letting yourself continue down this path. That’s why you’re stopping it in its course. And besides that, you honored what your heart was feeling. You were true to yourself and your word at every moment. You were honest with your emotions, even if you stepped out of bounds for a bit.”
We overthink. Yes, we have to look inside ourselves to change and grow, but we also need to come out of our shells to actually live. Some of us live in fear of heartbreak and of change, so we avoid being vulnerable and stay in our comfort zone. The armadillo tells us that there are different paths with different trials. There are endless opportunities to move forward.
There is no question, you will fail dozens of times. Life gets the best of us now and then. But we have to plan ahead. Be smart and know you will fuck up and get hurt. That’s out of your control. But it is in your power to choose and minimize the damage. Don’t fixate your growth on never failing because you’ll end up in the same spot where you started, trying to protect your heart, but never exercising your feet. The only way to get stronger is to face it. We cannot roll up and run away to protect ourselves all the time because if we do, we will never get ahead of the obstacles. If you stand behind the mountain, if you never summit, you won’t ever get to see the view.
Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is an extensive collection of trails through the French, Italian, and Swiss Alps. It runs around the base of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. In July of this past year, I thru-hiked 130 miles of rugged terrain, which included 30,000 feet in ascent.
When my father first proposed the idea of doing this, I agreed, but never actually thought I’d follow through. I even told him I wasn’t going a week before the trip. I wasn’t anywhere near being ready to put my body through something like that. Then a few days before the scheduled flight, while hiking in Bear Mountain NY, I discovered how good hiking made me feel and how it affected my mentality. And on a whim, I decided to go.
At the end of each hiking day, I journaled about my experience. And because I went without expectations, I had so many more opportunities to discover. A strength and mental focus presented itself that I never knew and I accomplished something I never dreamt of. I began to understand what authentic love and happiness feel like. I laughed a whole lot. I ate slow. I enjoyed myself and each moment. I felt every emotion and cried without restraint when I needed to. I walked through my thoughts and evaluated the life I am living. I forgot about technology and immersed myself in the life I sought. I conquered myself.
Although there are truly no words to show the majestic beauty expressed in the Alps (not only through the landscape, but also its inhabitants and visitors), I am going to try my best to replay the experience, so that you too may get a taste.
Day 1 Les Houches to Les Contamines-Montjoie 13.2 miles / 3,400 feet elevation gain
Last night we slept in a charming hotel in Argentière, France. One with a beautiful breakfast buffet- and an espresso machine. We woke when our bodies allowed, in no rush because our plan wasn’t to start today. But since our first destination wasn’t too far from where we were, we hopped on a bus to Les Houches and began our journey.
For the first two hours, the path was steep, up dirt road and pavement. It was hot in the valley, the wind suspended. The sunlight reflecting off the asphalt didn’t help. It only contributed to burning my skin. The horse flies took advantage of my bare legs- and I suppose everyone else’s too.
Four and a half miles ahead was the first refuge- a place where people stop for; food, water, to use the bathroom, and to sleep. We sat for awhile, watching the children play, laugh, and dance. The surrounding tables seated people from all over the world. Each of my ears were entertained by the different languages.
We trekked through the forest before emerging and wandering through the quiet, French villages of Bionnassay and Le Champel. And when I say quiet, I mean there was not a single soul. It was like walking through a pristine, Sims neighborhood. Most homes had white concrete walls with brown roofs and pink and red flowers spilling over the windowsills. This is with the exception of the ancient homes built from white and gray stones and the classic Alps chalets, built with chestnut-colored wood. The lawns were trim, a standard in France, and pleasing to the eye. And not a single piece of garbage. Glacial water fountains waited for us as we passed, more places to fill up or perhaps stick our heads into.
Back into the trees, we entered through a bridge that had vines tangling on either side. The sun peeked into the leaves just perfectly so that the waterfall ahead sparkled as it fell. The water rushed under us. Captivated, I was hesitant to move on from here, but I was assured there would be “more where this came from”.
I lost track of time easily. The day progressed leisurely. The signs measuring distance don’t mean much. Ten minutes to the destination really means an hour. And everything looks close, but is a lot further. I put away my trekking poles and fought my legs to get up the last hill into Les Contamines, pulling myself up the guardrail.
When I got to the top, I threw my pack on the ground and laid in the grass. My legs couldn’t walk another mile, so we waited to see if there was a room available anywhere.
There was. And that bed felt like home.
Day 2 Les Contamines-Montjoie to Les Chapieux 15.5 miles / 4,300 feet elevation gain
Movement the day after a difficult hike is rough. My hips ached from my pack pressing hard against them. My feet sore from carrying my body weight, and some, for eight hours.
We left around eight a.m., passing along the white glacier river that wound itself around the perimeter of the village. Runners hurried by us in practice for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, a race that occurs in August. On average, one hundred and ten miles are completed in under thirty hours. As I trudged forward up the hill covered by trees, I was met by a waterfall cascading down into what seemed like an endless abyss.
We were exposed to the open fields, walking alongside other hikers headed towards Col du Bonhomme. I was less prepared for today than yesterday. The route became vertical and challenging fast. The closer we got to the top, the less my legs wanted to lift off the ground. So wasted in my own movement, I would’ve missed the three Canadian boys sliding down a glacier if it wasn’t for their laughs and ‘WOO HOO!’s.
At the Col, I came face to face with the snowy peak. We climbed across the jagged, dark ridge. I couldn’t look up or down or sideways or anywhere other than at my feet to keep balance. Even then, I ended up falling over. Above that snow was cold, slippery rock and I struggled to find crevices to place myself. I was afraid to step- what if it couldn’t hold me. We broke through the halfway point here and tried to stop for food at a refuge, but the kitchen was closed. We were a second too late and hadn’t packed any meals in anticipation of this, but the views held my hunger off.
We spent the rest of the day gliding down the beautiful, but tortuous switchbacks into the valley below. Not only did we hike fifteen miles, but it took us ten grueling hours to get through. Day two outdid itself.
We arrived at a sweet campground adjacent to a river. There was a small sandwich shop with generous amounts of candy and pastries. And a refuge where we ate a three-course dinner at the only lopsided table. Before bed, I soaked my achy feet in the torrent- something about the frigid water of the Alps is instantly healing.
Day 3 Les Chapieux to Rifugio Elisabetta 10.7 miles / 3,650 feet elevation gain
I think I’ve only just realized how much I love never having service. I love waking up to bliss, a space without worries or anxiety. Waking up to cool, clean air and mountains and my bare feet running across the grass. Everything is enhanced, colors more spectacular, especially when I don’t have a digital screen to compare to. I think a lot about the little things and feel extremely grateful. I move slowly and consciously, planning out every move, but at the same time, going with the flow and ready for whichever direction today might go.
Last night, a thunderstorm shook the valley furiously. The sky cracked and broke open, releasing its tears. I was clammy from the tent being set up improperly. But to our luck as we were leaving, we just missed a second storm coming around.
The majority of the route today was on a beaten path through meadows, steady and easy on the legs. Before long, we stumbled upon a lake that we had seen from the peak yesterday. It was the brightest shade of blue, glistening and surrounded by wildflowers.
This is unreal. Everything is so divine. I have no choice, but to be present. The more I am, the more I feel at home between peaks and stone and hay, somehow more connected to the Earth than to any person I’ve ever befriended. And when I really think about it, nothing matters except this, right now. Hiking makes me feel like a child again.
A white horse greeted us at the entrance of Refuge Des Mottets, where we had crepes. Beyond here was the French/Italian border and I could feel the landscape changing as we moved along. There, I stood with the sun and clouds. I viewed the mountains on all sides, spying into each valley, and imagining entire worlds below. I can’t believe we’re already in Italy- I walked here.
When we arrived at Rifugio Elisabetta, we were only hoping for food and somewhere to hangout for a bit. (Usually refuges are completely booked.) But the owner overheard us talking and offered us to stay there. We did not refuse- hot showers, food, and bed all sounded AMAZING.
Tonight, I had the privilege of holding a napkin to some girl’s profusely bleeding pimple in the bathroom, while simultaneously trying to steer clear of a conversation with a nearly naked, older man. Dinner was communal and we sat with a lovely Australian couple. We spoke about the places they’d previously been and the journey it took to get here. They had gone three hours in the wrong direction today. It’s nice to know that we aren’t alone in everything we’re thinking and having the same trials. They too never know what they’re eating, but agree it is very exciting.
Day 4 Rifugio Elisabettato Courmayeur 10.9 miles / 1,700 feet elevation gain
I barely slept. We were all lined up like sardines under the slanted ceiling. The air was congested and I was in a pool of sweat. Sleeping in a refuge is not as luxurious as it may sound.
We followed crystal and green pools out, meeting waterfalls that laid low in the valley and trailing up hills that looked like they could be homes to hobbits. Stunning views. The pastures were HD, green like artificial grass, complemented by the charcoal background and clear sky.
Italy is much drier than France. Every drop of moisture is consumed by the Earth at the chance, which makes walking downhill harder. Dust makes the ground loose. The descent into Courmayeur was unrelenting, but every step I took, took my breath away. Dozens of grasshoppers would hop over my feet as they rose and came down again. The varying insect voices fit together harmoniously and create music. I’m in a fairytale.
Day 5- Rest Day Courmayeur, Italy
Ahh, sweet Courmayeur. An Italian town that sits at the foot of Monte Bianco and spends its time enamoring people. Almost everyone speaks a little English or is at least willing to bear with broken Italian. The town is crawling with hikers, climbers, and tourists in general. Each store is thoughtfully placed and a large, open theater lies in the center of town. Italian women, dressed in all black to complement their olive skin, spend each morning and each night sweeping the outside of their storefronts.
Everything is in walking distance from our hotel, which a slightly spicy woman let us into- a room with two full bathrooms and a balcony overlooking the town. In the morning, she served freshly baked croissants, yogurts, jams, and coffee upon request. All of which I took advantage of.
Mid-day, I napped, catching up from past nights. It felt so good to just lay there- mind blank. My body drifts through long, long hours, only recognizing the light of day or the dark of night.
Day 6 Courmayeur to Val Ferret (Tronchey Campground) 8.5 miles / 2,900 feet elevation gain
Early morning, we walked through town one last time. I powered up our “only” hill of the day and happened to run into someone from a town I used to live in. He had broken a trekking pole and was making his way up with just one. I can’t imagine losing or breaking either of mine- they’re my lifeline.
We took an alternate route- a shorter hike to a campground somewhere in the Aosta Valley. The views were much duller than the previous days. But I suppose I’m spoiled for saying something like that while I’m here because even the dullest places can’t be compared to. Watching the metallic blue beetles and butterflies land in front of me was entertaining.
We spotted a restaurant on our way passing through a town and received some pretty interesting stares. It was probably unavoidable because 1)we smelled bad, 2) were sweaty, and 3) carrying massive backpacks. And when I tried to order two dishes, the waitress stopped me, insisting I would not finish both. But as it turns out, she was right. I could barely even stomach one.
Our campground was small and peaceful. We arrived very early. It was just us and the gorgeous, unsaddled horses that belonged to the farm on site. I spent a lot of time staring out into space, wondering what they were thinking and how it must feel to live in such freedom.
When dinner came around, a white haired woman waited on us at her family’s restaurant. Children in muddy boots and men with unkempt hair, drinking beers, gathered at the entrance. There was a lot of pointing at things and smiling, trying to win her over. She was reluctant to bother with foreigners. But by the end of the night, she was smiling and laughing too and even brought out the chef- a Cuban man, who had moved to Italy to marry his love (her daughter).
I don’t think I’ve ever seen my father this happy. As an immigrant, nothing in America compared to the Ukrainian country quite like this. At dinner, he began to tell us about how the meals used to be cooked similarly, how the hills and energy reminded him of childhood and home and how he could stay here forever. I suppose this little valley brought him way back. The quiet air. The slow life. This woman and her meals embedded with love had my grandmother’s name written all over.
Day 7 Val Ferret to La Fouly 19.8 miles / 5,013 feet elevation gain
On our way out, we grabbed apple cakes and cappuccinos. We passed a glossy river and met a fence that was blocking the way. Others followed behind and we all, collectively, couldn’t figure out how to get through. A construction worker nodded to us, as if he was saying “just open the gate”. The one thing about trekking with other hikers, especially if they’re with a guide, is you will be caught behind them for miles if you don’t pass and move quickly. They are inconsistent, running up and stopping every ten minutes.
When we stopped to use the bathroom, the women’s restroom was taken, so I thought it would be okay to use the mens. After all, both had the same utilities and they looked the same. But when I was walking out, a man shouted at me in another language with his hands up. I shrugged and swiftly made my way out.
Standing in the valley, we were in perfect view of the breakneck mound in front of us. The ground was sandy and baking. I put all my weight on my poles to boost myself up. Concentrating on the dirt, I minded the caterpillars rolling down, getting caked in dirt, then trying to get back up again.
Atop the mound was a gray stone building- Rifugio Elena. I had regained a bit of energy, but it still wasn’t over. The Italian/Swiss border was waiting around the cliffs edge. And the dark clouds were rolling in and it even began to drizzle.
The border was brilliant. On one side, the rolling Swiss hills nestled together like couples in the honeymoon phase. Lush mountains met by snow banks. On the other side, the crisp Italian landscape and the depression we came from. I felt as though I overcame a massive feat. Two French boys and a Spaniard stood at the crown. They spoke of a glacier in ten minutes distance that was safe enough to walk across without proper gear and dazzling views. My father couldn’t resist.
When a half an hour passed and he still wasn’t back, I got worried. I went to check expecting a dead body or worse, nothing at all. But he had been walking back up and said he couldn’t really cross its entirety.
From there, we continued on. Marmots danced across the meadows, chasing each other and tumbling somewhat gracefully. And sometimes even disappearing into the land that stretched down and down into infinity. The sun was already setting when we decided to take a different route to La Fouly, instead of the original TMB one. It was, in exchange for being shorter, more trying. My mind and body were tired, but I had to ground myself once again. Switzerland doesn’t leave room for mistakes. You have to be careful.
Twenty miles and twelve hours is what it took us. The roads were long and winding and every inch of me twinged. The village had turned blue upon arrival. We tried to find somewhere indoors to stay, but there was no vacancy. So we made our beds at yet another crowded campground and drifted off.
Day 8 La Fouly (Ferret) to Champex 12 miles / 1,778 feet elevation gain
We had WiFi, which led me to sleep poorly. Everyone at home was still awake and I was eager to chat- fearing I was missing out on something (better?). As per usual, I woke up sore, disinterested in walking another ten miles to the next village.
Outside the campground was a playground, complete with a zipline. Even hikers had stopped to play on it. This part of the forest in Switzerland looks a lot like home. Thick roots and moist soil cover the ground, pine trees in every direction. And I didn’t have to adjust my feet amongst the stones to gain footing anymore.
Along one of the cliffs was a thoughtfully placed chain, just in case. Halfway through, we stopped to have lunch. The town seemed empty, homes resembled barns. Old, dark, wooden buildings, tall and wide, reaching to kiss the sky. But a few houses with white stone bases had painted hues of orange and coral on them. Gnomes ornamented the gardens and whatever risen ground was open occupied hungry hikers.
From the town, you could spot a tall structure between the trees at the very top. That was our destination and in total took us twelve miles to get to reach. We wandered up and against the hillsides, peering back into where we were and the other Swiss cities below. I felt powerful- one of the first times I was unphased by thoughts or exhaustion. My twenty-five pound bag had lost its weight.
We prayed for a rest day ahead. In the case we couldn’t find a place to sleep, we’d have to keep moving. And while there wasn’t much available, we landed in the upstairs apartment of the village boulangerie, bushes of crimson flowers spilling over the perimeter porches.
Day 9 — Rest Day Lac de Champex
The smell of bread baking crept its way into my room around dawn. I cruised down the stairs and into the bakery to have breakfast. The boiled egg shells were colored pink- strange considering it’s nowhere near Easter, but it’s the norm for everyone here.
A Czech couple also found their way into the bakery’s apartment. They decided to do TMB on a whim, driving a days worth to get here. “An extended weekend trip”, they called it.
Once again, I spent the day catching up on the sleep I’d missed, with the exception of the few times I went out to walk around the lake. I watched the ducks and coots float past, children teetering at the edge of the grass trying to feed them. I dipped my feet into the water, so cold it hit my bones.
Although I have found myself to not be very fond of Switzerland for a number of reasons, it is still so gentle. It has energy that is caring and loving. The fog always moves out by noon and the sun comes to shine on the lake, warming it up for everyone to paddleboard or kayak. There are even a few brave souls who choose to swim. Everything is done with taste. And people are generally hospitable, aside from the store clerks who get frustrated with us for forgetting to weigh the fruit before we bring it to the register. Did I mention they don’t use plastic bags here?
Day 10 Lac de Champex to Col de la Forclaz 10.5 miles / 2,700 feet elevation gain
We left an hour or two earlier than normal ready to hit the trail. The excitement of completing the tour was growing.
Light beamed down on the river so hard that its reflection made it hard to see where I was stepping. The forest onward was carved with a winding trail- I could tell it was going to be one of the steeper ones. Little neon backpacks exposed the way. The man behind us was following notably close and when asked if he wanted to pass, he replied, “That’s okay. I’m using your tailwind. I’m only as weak as you.” What an empowering thing to say!
After the last push up, we ended up in a safe area plotted against the hill. Cows were scattered throughout and each of their bells participated in a symphony. A refuge with a dozen picnic tables overlooked what was most likely Chamonix below. It’s funny how you can see where you’re going, but have to understand it’s going to take a few days to reach.
The campsite was a few miles past here, set aside a fancy hotel on a main road. They were unconcerned with hikers. And it was far from quiet or private, I suppose a tourist attraction. Col de la Forclaz is about a mile above sea level and has attractive views of the layers of mountains in the distance.
Day 11 Col de la Forclaz to Tre-le-Champ 13.3 miles / 3,900 feet elevation gain
At dawn everything was wet, the sky opaque and it didn’t seem to be passing through. I dressed in full rain gear and organized my things in the small hut provided for eating/charging electronics. It was one of those days where you move extra, extra slow because you never know when the trail is going to decide to take you out.
I saw yaks for the first time. They made their home in the pasture below the hotel, grazing peacefully, but cautious. We hadn’t seen any particularly spectacular views for a minute. But coming out of that valley, I was shocked by how the damp weather complimented the Earth’s shades, moistening the terrain until it turned deep evergreen with hints of turquoise. As the clouds peeled off the peaks, I discovered the bare rocks standing firmly atop and the chicory flowers waiting patiently for warmth and light. Still, the closer to Col de Balme we got, the harder the wind blew. My hands couldn’t escape the chill. The refuge at the Col was packed with people hiding from the weather.
Although the rest of the trail wasn’t anything I haven’t done before, climbing up the rocks made my feet pound. Everytime I thought I was going back down, there was a new turn, returning upwards. The hill was formed into what looked a lot like steppes, where hikers stopped to eat their lunch or to just admire the land, one of the last views they’d get to see before completing TMB.
To the right, the mountain fell back into itself creating a narrow canyon. And to the left, the slopes met each other, unfolding miles and miles. Flowers sprouted out of rocks and their pink complimented the dark contour. I had missed seeing such magic.
We landed around the same area we slept the first night. The French homes were just as I’d left them. Our campground was kind, against a stream and with a more welcoming shelter beside it. Around seven p.m., the site filled in. Dinner was communal. Tables were assigned and we sat to chat with strangers.
Mistakenly, a Welsh father and son, as well as Kiwi, sat with us. We had finally run into people whose company we honestly enjoyed. We talked and laughed and made jokes about the journey here, connecting on the fact that we didn’t want this to be over.
But eventually, when they discovered they were at the wrong table, they were switched out for a Korean family- a twenty year old boy and his parents, who had previously trekked through the Himalayas. His mother and father did not speak English, but he made a great effort to translate. They were wonderful- she had looked at me and told me I was strong. Coming from her, that sat with me as a tremendous compliment. Strong feels important. Strong feels beautiful.
Day 12 Tre-le-Champ to Chamonix 9.5 miles / 2,835 feet elevation gain
I didn’t need to wake up nearly as early as I did, but there was a cat running through the tent. An orange tabby wandered in without regard and was interested in the blow up mattresses. Or maybe he was hungry. We filled up on juice, bread, and cereal, then began our very last day. It was blistering hot, much like day one. And the trail was easy until we reached the side of a rocky cliff and I questioned how we were supposed to get up. I couldn’t see far enough ahead to recognize a trail.
The answer to my inquiry was LADDERS nailed to the side without any type of harnessing and a solid drop down. My hands gripped the wooden planks and I moved up, paying careful attention to if they were going to fall through. My legs shook uncontrollably. Almost the entire way was ladders, but it was worth it. There was a perfect view of Mont Blanc from here.
This was our concluding look from a neighboring peak before descending into Chamonix. The refuge nearby was CLOSED for the summer and we had relied on it for water. The trail down was well beaten, but there were fallen trees and parts where you could tell an avalanche had come crashing through. Many spaces were constricted and ironically placed next to a slope. I climbed, shoving my hands into dirt when there wasn’t a rock to hold me and twisted myself whenever I thought my backpack might knock me over. I was drained empty from the past two weeks, but I put everything aside, every thought, and held my breath to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. NEVER in my life have I used such determination.
The campground we had planned to sleep at in town had also been closed down and turned into townhouses. So we migrated a few blocks to a more popular one, where we ran into the same people from last night and paraded through town.
So what did I actually learn from thru-hiking for the first time? Sure, I learned that there aren’t really words to what the Earth offers. She is not only beautiful, but a teacher and speaks in a language that can’t be heard, only felt. And that’s why I enjoy hiking so much. Because I let the lessons come to me and I can become more familiar with her voice.
There were so many times during this trip where I wanted to quit. But those were only times when I let the day or my thoughts get the best of me, when I told myself I couldn’t do it anymore. I wasn’t used to the physical toll this takes, but it wasn’t about that. It was about finding ways to get around the obstacles I set for myself- ways I had learned to self sabotage. My father says never quit on a bad day.
Sometimes before you’re going to do something difficult, something you’ve never done or something you’re afraid of, you just need to breathe. Deep belly breaths until you’re ready to move again. We don’t always have a choice in what we’re thrown, but the only bridge between can and can’t is a movement. And it’s okay to take your time. Seriously. Take your f*cking time doing everything because moments don’t last forever.
You’ll probably never know what you’re doing, but give your decisions the night because you might feel different in the morning. Keeping three points in the dirt at all times means keeping yourself grounded. Don’t take action until you feel steady and balanced. And while you’re down with the Earth, feel your feet against it and put them in the river too. Lay in the grass, the bugs won’t bother you. We need to carry weight with us, but we have to remember what it feels like to take it off- to shed.
And when you’re feeling alone, remember that this planet is filled with living creatures, even if they’re not human. Sometimes we need to connect with something greater than ourselves. The things out there are boundless and can be difficult to perceive. Give everything a try and you’ll be a little closer to understanding.
2018 was a major year for my growth. The end of the summer marked a point where I really started focusing on myself and what I enjoyed. I overcame previous fears and obstacles. I realized who I wanted to be around. I began an honest effort to change the parts of myself I dislike. My passion for writing came to me and I spent whenever I could with it, setting goals and following through. I was motivated.
As the year’s finish line became more visible, I felt like I stopped learning and changing. Being stagnant made me panic, so I forced whatever I had in me to create. I tried making it last in fear that I had lost a gift. But holding on too hard and suffocating my writing set me back even farther than I was before. I began to question my future, my choices, and struggled greatly with self-image. I didn’t want to move backwards, but it seemed like that was already underway.
I am not the best at following New Year’s Resolutions. And I didn’t want something staring me in the face, reminding me how big of a failure I am for not remembering to do it. Instead of brainstorming one big thing, I made a list of small goals that could be accomplished on a daily basis- simple actions to create better habits. I thought of things I wanted to become firsthand.
I made sure to write them down in a place I look in/at every day to make it unavoidable that they are planted in my head. It only takes 21 days to create a habit, so the only thing left is to practice my intentions.
This is what I came up with:
Create A Loving Space For Yourself And Your Creativity
Put Good In Your Body and Feel Good
Go Outside More
Be Kind And Put Your Heart In Everything
Figure Out What You Want To Do- College? Travel?
^I also made some more personal notes about creating a schedule for myself, finding jobs that would help me establish connections with what I want to do in the future, and various skills I want to learn.
In addition to those, I made a list of affirmations- what I want to manifest in the new year:
I am learning myself.
I will take signs for what they are- no sugar coating.
I will not force understanding- people learn at their own pace (if they’re meant to, of course).
I will grow unapologetically.
I will not allow my past back into my life.
I will build new homes.
I will re-pot myself as needed.
When creating these, I had to keep in mind that nothing is immediate. And I had to put trust in knowing that everything would come to me- like my future and what I want to do with life. I continuously have to be patient with the universe and myself.
I fall behind sometimes. I also get down on myself and threaten my growth by wanting to give up. But giving up doesn’t erase ink from paper, so I keep notes. I give myself time to wallow and grieve, if need be. And I’m not strict. When I’m not feeling it, I go out. I do things that make me feel good. No pressure. Then I’ll go back, reevaluate what I’m trying to do, and keep going.
My motivation? If I don’t change, the world won’t. And life won’t come to a halt for me. I deeply want to keep evolving with it. There is always something around the corner. To get to it, I must manage movement. And having people by my side that want to see me at my best, but are able to be there when I’m at the opposite, helps greatly.
Let it come in strides. Do things for yourself. Be good for yourself.
Everything will invariably fall into place- without hesitation.
Lately, I’ve been letting everything move me. I mean, I’ve been letting music saturate my brain, sweep me up, and dance with me every time he plays. He has me engrossed in his thoughts and I lose my train of thought. This is letting go. This is my meditation. I’ve been letting the voices of the people around me hold me through life. I let them sing to me and we laugh together and I stop doubting. I am reminded I am surrounded by divine company. I’ve been letting my hands lead me, so I can feel everything I must. They recognize lessons my eyes can’t. I’ve been letting my feet propel me…because they know if they don’t, I won’t ever get to where I’m supposed to be (wherever that is). And if they stop, I’ll shatter into the pavement. I’ve been letting my heart make the decisions. And I refuse to ever say she’s wrong again…because she’s been making thrilled (ecstatic!). And here I am, back at my conscience, letting her whisper ideas in my ear. What she’s been uttering most often is, ‘take action‘.
I’m at a crossroads in my life, it seems. After trying to categorize each section, I’ve realized it’s just a big jumbled collection of concepts I’ve been feeling over the past few months. So, after hours of trying to put parts of myself each into a special box, I decided I would lay them out, free of any labels. (At this moment) these are the pieces of me:
I often get tangled in my thoughts- lost in them actually. It always starts with a pleasant seed, then it transforms itself in loops until it turns into an overly complicated, dramatic, false piece of information my mind created to get me worked up. And that’s where my anxiety beings, halfway between fully functional and completely shut down. My brain is almost literally composed of parts of Dante Alighieri’s works; Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Each day I’m in a different book. And I struggle greatly with controlling my thoughts and trying not to worry so much- about today, about my future. I’d like to think knowing this means I’m making progress; the fact that I know what my number one flaw is. I know what I need to fix first. I’m going slow…with myself.
I (un)willingly dedicate a lot of time to myself. In intervals, I convince myself I am destined to be alone in this life because; the people I care about don’t care about me, or they don’t fully understand me, or they simply don’t have enough love for me. I am lost. And I don’t belong because I think too differently, because my emotions are much stronger than I can imagine anyone else’s being. Perhaps all the things I think are true, but who cares. I’m gaining appreciation for the people around me, whether they’re friends, or people I make casual conversation with during class, or people that test my patience. Without a doubt, they cross my path for a reason. And my uncertainty is fading because I recognize that they have a purpose. I’m allowing their balance, their flow, in and out.
I get up each morning and I wonder why I continue the same routine. Every. Day. I don’t know why I get up to go to a place to pretend to enjoy learning about something I’m not passionate about. Because I was told to. Without reserve, I would like to run straight to the mountains and allow them to embrace me. I am drained from living someone else’s life and I would like to live my own, thank you. I will live creatively, happily, and excitingly. All my dreams and ideas are surfacing. And I will leave my imprint on the Earth because it is my right- a right no one can take away.
My heart is gracious, kind, and open. And for awhile, I told her she was a fool. But she is not and never was. I think she may know better than my mind does. She is not confusing and she knows what she wants. I trust her in gravitating towards the places she belongs and she expands with every distance she treks, every person she connects with. Listening to a logic that wasn’t mine has only gotten me in trouble. You see, in the brain, lies all the things you’ve ever been told, but truth lies in the heart. So, for now, I think I’ll let her lead.
I wound myself into a cocoon long ago and I’m finally crushing it.
Growing is a part of life. And it doesn’t only happen after serious breaking points. It’s happening every day, fast or slow. It’s sitting right beside you awaiting acknowledgement. Being in a relationship or alone doesn’t prevent it. It’s a cycle in itself and it’s happening to each of us, we’re simply each in different phases. But we cannot begin the true process until we sit down and say ‘You know what, I’m ready for this. I’m ready for whatever the universe is going to throw at me. It’s time to break out of my seed and grow.’.
Knowing this, you will not grow until you are equipped. You won’t change unless you want to. (It’s a lot like puberty. I know-weird example, BUT our minds, like our bodies, do not develop until they are ready.)
I don’t remember exactly when it happened to me. And I suppose none of us do. When did you truly begin to develop intellectually? Now I don’t mean book smarts! When did we first learn something school, or our parents, didn’t teach us? When was the first time something hurt us, and we learned? When was our first ‘aha’ moment?
There are so many little notes for growth. So we start small…
You must set your space. When you keep aloe in a small pot, she stays very small. But if you move her to a larger pot, one that allows her to breathe and stretch, she will spread her limbs long and become even more marvelous than when you first took her in.You are the aloe. Evaluate what you’re surrounded by. Most of the time, it’s hard to see what you’re in while you’re in it. So you’re allowed to take a step back and reflect on it. And if the conditions aren’t suitable, it’s time to (re)move yourself.
This brings us to isolation. While isolation has a bad connotation, on occasion, it’s a blessing. Isolation allows us to see what we’re working with, outside and inside ourselves. When you spend enough time around people, you pick up things they do. ‘Alone time’ helps you get to know yourself. It brings you back to originality. What do you actually like? You won’t know if you’re constantly dependent on someone else and using them as a crutch. Get to know your likes, your quirks, your feelings…
Within, you know, your intuition may be an aid in this, the truth of your situation. You are present to see how the people around you are treating you. You know what you deserve. Although, you may choose to believe otherwise. Therefore, it’s time for you to clear your space and remove toxicity. I know this is the most difficult part. Maybe they’re the company you’ve been keeping, maybe it’s your family, maybe “they’re all you have”. But it’s time to stop keeping things in your life that stunt your growth. (And yes I know you can’t get rid of your family and I’m not saying you should!) It’s okay to set up a wall and not listen to the negative comments they have to throw at you. Ever heard the saying, “you are who you hang with”? It’s true and you don’t have to be a product of them. I promise, from experience, that when you let one door close, another will open. There will be something better on the other side!
While you’re removing the bad juju from your life, stop doing things you don’t like. I’ve never heard of someone who was happy doing something they didn’t enjoy. You don’t have to live according to anyone else’s words, only your own. Don’t seek permission, you don’t need it. Life is too short to be listening to everything everyone else says. What do they know if they aren’t in your shoes?
Now don’t get me wrong, having supportive people in your life is vital to this process because while you need to self reflect, you also need someone to ‘show you the way’. Certain people in our life show us what we’re lacking, not in a bad way. Constructive criticism doesn’t have to be scary. And it’s 100% okay to ask for help. Reach out to people you trust and are close to. Sometimes we need a little push, so we can see what our flaws are. Notice and acknowledge them. Say ‘I know you’re there and I’m going to bring light to you’.
Don’t forget to feel what you’re going through. Growing is about sorting through our baggage, then tossing it. If you don’t feel, you won’t move past it. Cry, scream, laugh, feel every single emotion because all it means is that you’re alive! And you’re human!
You’re probably wondering why this has to be so serious. But surprise! It doesn’t. Part of growing is expressing yourself and being creative. Take your growth seriously, but at the same time make sure you’re having fun with it. It’s okay to treat yourself. And life is too short to be wasting your time being unhappy. Your soul must flourish. Participate in things you actually enjoy and when you need it, remind yourself why you’re here. Life doesn’t have to be a harsh place. Be kind to yourself, I know this isn’t easy.
We all fall and mess up, dozens of times. But we shouldn’t be judged for any of our faults because, well, we’re blooming. And we won’t fully understand something, even if it’s said right to our faces, until we discover it for ourselves.
It’s important to accept that these ‘steps’ will occur over and over again. The obstacles won’t ever stop, we just get stealthier.
Anxiety…She feels like a long lost friend now, a friend who I had distanced myself from. Our relationship wasn’t healthy and it was time to break ties. It’s almost hard to believe that just a year ago, she was making daily visits to my door, creeping her way in, attaching herself to my hip. She was my conscience. She answered to every situation in my life. I didn’t have a voice. Now, her visits are occasional. She only arrives when something big is coming up or I have to get something done. Her presence is subtle, no longer overbearing.
EVERYONE gets anxious sometimes, but there comes a point when it isn’t normal anymore. It gets paralyzing and uncontrollable. It isn’t excitement or short term. It turns into everything, a way of living, and I know that life better than most.
I recall feeling anxious as a child over small things; trying something new, before performing in a school play, a little fight between a friend and I. As I grew older, it became more familiar and frequent. In middle school, it became my best friend. And, as I moved into high school, it was a roommate, an overlapping personality. Social situations felt overwhelming and hectic. Getting ready made my heart race and my hands shake. I would hang out with friends and all of a sudden, a switch would shut off inside of me. I’d become blank-faced and would barely talk. I was happy- and then it shut me down.
As I went into my sophomore year of high school, my anxiety was unstoppable. Getting up for school was a no from my mind and body. I’d wake up and immediately have to vomit from a night of overthinking and tears. It stopped me from going to school and on days I would, I was plagued with nausea and an uneasy stomach, making it difficult to focus on anything. It felt like someone was choking me, preventing me from getting words or feelings out. I couldn’t perform my daily tasks. Eating was challenging and sleeping a solid eight hours per night was nonexistent. I would lie there for hours, frozen, thoughts hovering over me. I wondered what the next day held and how it’d affect me. I thought of myself as worthless. I was shedding tears regularly. I’d sit in the shower, for an hour at a time, multiple times a day, just to calm myself down.
Doctors visits were no help. I’d try to explain myself, but I either couldn’t get anything out or what I did get out wasn’t a good enough explanation. Countless tests proved nothing. My body was fine. “Go to a therapist. If that doesn’t work, we can supply you with a medication that will rid you of the feeling.” And at that point, that’s all I wanted. Going to a therapist gave me anxiety. Medication seemed like the easy way out. I didn’t want to feel it anymore. I missed me, but I thought taking medication would mean losing myself even more. I wanted to function normally, like everyone else, but I didn’t want to be dependent and foggy. I also knew that there had to be an alternative. Medication and therapy aren’t the only outlets. What ever happened to self-healing?
I left my last doctors visit feeling determined. I had felt every ounce of pain anxiety bestowed upon me and I was done. I hurt. I hit rock bottom, harming myself as a distraction to what felt like millions of little ants crawling through my system. I spent so many hours of wasted time worrying. I felt alone and I would no longer allow myself to feel miserable over something, at the time, I had no control over.
Being so alone in this feeling, forcing isolation onto myself and drowning, taught me something extremely valuable. I held the power to get through it. I held the power to control it. I just lost myself and that stopped me from seeing it.
I started small. I held myself. I allowed myself to cry and feel whatever I had to. I taught myself that I wasn’t disabled by this. I removed myself from people and situations that hiked my anxiety up. I created art and wrote about my experiences. I spent more time by the ocean. I looked at myself and said, “you are not your anxiety”. I began to surround myself with supportive and loving people, who tried to understand what I was going through. I began to see that there were so many other individuals around me who were plagued by the same loneliness. Then, I communicated my hurt and began to feel more open. I started to help other people with their anxiety, which in turn made mine lessen.
When you look at things through anxiety’s perspective, they look much bigger than they are. You begin to unconsciously convince yourself that the world is intimidating, when in reality, it is a beautiful, inviting place. Where did your perspective go? Try and look through it, instead. Believe it or not, spending time with yourself, alone, is a crucial part of healing. Every tool you need to relieve yourself, your own mind and body contain. Use that time to look into yourself, to remember what you enjoy, what makes you happy. Create. Express yourself through art forms. Go outside and remember that the Earth wasn’t created to hurt you. It was created to heal you.
Be gentle with yourself. You are not worthless or incapable. You are NOT your hurt.