This year was different, but not because I didn’t cry- I did. It was that the tears I was shedding were different. The meaning behind them all along came to the surface. A shedding of the past. A whole year comprised of so many memories, happiness and heartbreak, all coming to an end. This was my way of saying goodbye and starting anew.
At the same time, I also realized the expectations I set on myself to have a “good birthday”. Yet again I was seeking some sort of validation to give me peace of mind. It must be extravagant. I must be doing something interesting- even when all I wanted was to relax.
A switch turned on inside me. I had a delicious breakfast that filled my belly with warmth and joy. I was full with love. I treated myself to a sweater I really wanted. I had one of my favorite desserts- creme brulee. And took a good nap, followed by a trip to visit the plants in a garden nearby. In that same place, I sat by a koi pond and just watched them swim to and fro, so elegantly. Simple, but that is what I wanted for myself. To do the things I loved and spend it with people close to my heart.
Over the years I’ve seen myself shed and grow and transform. But 2020 is special. 2020 is the year of unveiling everything, of letting go and learning, of growing and ultimately transforming- both on small and large scales.
I find myself having to completely trust the universe because, to be honest, I’m not sure of anything anymore. Things come and go. The pendulum swings back and forth and knocks whatever it wants out of the way. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I do know that I need to stay positive.
Although I have not been on this planet for a super long time (20 years; a little baby in the grand scheme of things), there are lessons I’ve picked up along the way that I deem to be extremely helpful. So with that, here is the wisdom I carry in my pocket.
20 Life Lessons
Go SLOW. Savor every second of your day. Take the time to be present with everything, and soak it in. There’s no rush. You don’t need to move so fast. Plus, I guarantee that the faster you move, the less you’re taking in, and the less you’re getting out of whatever you’re doing.
Discover What Matters Most. And once you do that, don’t waste any time. Make space for it. Do it. Embrace it.
Say, I love you. Tell the people you love that you love them. Over and over again.
Don’t hold onto fear. When you let fear overcome you, you give away your power. I know it’s a scary time. I know there’s a lot to worry about. But it’s important that you don’t give in.
“Be the Light”. Share good things. No more fighting. Inspire a bright light and cast it out into the world to see positive change.
The Universe Works Around You. Through your decisions, actions, and thoughts. You are constantly creating. What you put out, you will receive, and what you believe is what you will get.
Don’t Make Judgements. Making assumptions about people, or about yourself, will never be good for you. Keep an open heart.
Be Honest. In any way, shape, or form you can- be honest. You will feel better and lighter.
Make the Plan as You Go. There’s no telling what tomorrow might bring. Just be here today. Set goals, but don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
Set Intentions, Not Wishes. When we set wishes, we are hoping for something else to grant it. In truth, we don’t know if those wishes will ever come true because we’re placing the ability in someone else’s hands. When we set intentions, we are planting seeds. We care for these seeds until they’re fully grown. Yes, it may take quite a bit of time, but you can be assured that it will happen.
Work Hard. If you want it, it will come, but you also have to work for it. The outcome of what is thoughtfully put together is much greater than the outcome of what is half-assed and done through a shortcut.
The Way People Act is a Reflection of Them, Not You. This is not an excuse for being shitty to people then wondering why they’re upset. This is saying we need to stop blaming ourselves and feeling bad (and making assumptions) when it’s not our fault. Sometimes people place judgments when they feel some way about themselves. And although it hurts, it has nothing to do with you! Sometimes someone is having a rough day, and they come home upset, and you wonder what you did wrong. But guess what! It’s not you!
Don’t Hang Around People Who Don’t Make You Feel Good. It’s not worth it. You could be taking this time to make new friends or immersing yourself in a hobby you really love.
Stand in Your Power. Standing in your truth is something no one can take away from you. Stand firmly in your decisions. Know in your heart what’s right.
Take a Hike. Align yourself with nature. She will help you heal. She will lift you up. Listen to her, and look for signs. And in reciprocation, protect her. Tend to her. Love her back.
Explore as much as You Can. Within yourself and the world. Take that adventure, big or small. The time is now.
Value Silence. Where there is “silence”, a gift awaits.
Overthinking Won’t Change the Past and Won’t Affect the Future. Your worry only burdens you. It can’t go fix a past mistake. It can’t change what’s already happening. The only thing your thoughts can do is change your perception.
Eat Good. Eat whole foods that were responsibly harvested and produced. Your body and the Earth will thank you. This is another way we can nourish ourselves. (P.S. Cook at home!)
Laugh It Off. Something my friends taught me was to not take things so seriously. Life was not meant to be so harsh. And it’s really not worth your energy to constantly stress or be upset. Just laugh. Laugh hard. Laugh good. Let it out.
***Bonus*** Be Open-Minded. The world needs more people who are willing to listen rather than emit mindless chatter. Being open may help you to understand someone else’s way of thinking and being.
Cutting My Hair, Severing My Ties to Beauty Standards, and Recreating My Notion of Self-Love
I’ve always prided myself in unwavering self-confidence, a tightly woven, unbreakable love for the vessel that holds my spirit close. I’ve reveled in my ability to bounce back from the darkest depths of my life. A resilient young woman who never lost sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. I never thought there was anything that could take that away from me. I thought I was doing everything right.
But those were just expressions of my ego, not my soul. These were images and ideals I created for myself in order to feel accomplished and safe, to feel like I’d pushed much farther than I actually had.
Cutting my hair and being forced to embody someone that didn’t feel like me shattered the image I created for myself. Everything I claimed to be had fallen away, and there I stood, staring blankly into an empty mirror.
How do you measure the love for your own soul? How do you get comfortable in this body that is so foreign, that just barely scrapes the surface of what and who I truly am?
I’ve been dyeing my hair since (about) eighth grade. I was always experimenting and that filled me with excitement. I didn’t see it as expressing myself, perhaps I was, but what I was really trying to do was copy someone I thought was my version of pretty. I wanted to be them, and I thought that if I changed my hair, I could change myself.
It started with pink streaks (I apologize in advance for the cringiness you will soon read). Then electric blue hair like Katy Perry. Then orange hair and bangs like Bella Thorne. Then black hair with blue ends like Kylie Jenner.
Once I stopped obsessing over celebrities, I branched out to whatever I thought would look better than what I already had. Auburn. Red. Magenta. Black. Golden Blonde. Bleach Blonde. Ombre. Highlights. Balayage. Dark Brown. Black. Bobs, bangs, layers, extensions. I may have looked ridiculous, but I loved it. I loved feeling like a different person, like I was wearing a disguise. Doing my hair began to feel like therapy. My hair held my pain, and if I cut it off, it’d go away. If I changed the color, I was no longer the me that hurt.
With my many great dye jobs also came some really sucky ones too. I’ve endured blotchy bleach jobs, accidental green hair, frayed ends, uneven cuts, you name it. The more I changed my hair, the more of a compulsive perfectionist I became. The mirror was my worst enemy, fostering my obsession and hypercriticism. If my hair was, in the slightest bit, messed up, I’d fall apart.
After years of being a hair chameleon, I realized there was one thing I hadn’t tried- being myself or at least looking like her. I got tired of messing with it and let it grow.
About a year after that, my hair had fully grown in, and I began experimenting again…just with hair glazes (temporary hair color that lasts about 2-4 weeks) though. I liked the way it made my hair shinier and a touch darker. Then, after a few washes, it’d be back to normal.
Where It All Went Wrong
One day, I picked up a glaze from a local beauty store and didn’t see it had an auburn tint in it. I lobbed it on my head, then quickly realized my hair was turning orange. I scrubbed my head ferociously, but the damage was already done.
This was unacceptable. I had worked so, so hard to grow my hair out. It was so beautiful, and I wanted it back. I called around looking for a hair appointment on very short notice. Maybe they could reverse it?
They said they couldn’t. There was no way to take that red out, so the only way to go was darker. It seemed there wasn’t anything else to do, so I let them dye it. Maybe it’ll just be a little darker than my natural color.
Nope. It turned out dark brown like cherry coke. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was fine for the moment.
The more I stared at it, the more I didn’t like it. I had messed up a good thing. You can’t really come back from a really dark color either, and the thought of my hair growing into some kind of opposite ombre drove me nuts, so I scheduled another appointment at a different salon to go blonde.
They balayaged it, but it still wasn’t good enough- it was blotchy! In the same weekend, I scheduled another appointment at a different salon for a double-process (which basically means going full blonde in one shot).
It was what I asked for, but I was left with super dark roots.
A few days later, I had it glazed to smooth the harsh lines.
The glaze faded within a month’s time. I didn’t want to deal with the maintenance and unevenness. Enough money had been spent. Now, all I wanted was to be full blonde- root to tip.
The Hair Horror Story
By the end of the month, I had another appointment set. I asked the hairdresser to make it all even- to make me as blonde as I could possibly go. I had bleached my hair many times before, so I wasn’t concerned about the damage or how fast I had transitioned between all these colors. I trusted her. After all, she had gorgeous, long, platinum blonde hair. She covered my hair in bleach, then covered my head with a plastic cap and placed me under a hot steamer.
While I sat there, her assistant began pouring boiling hot water into the steamer and accidentally spilled some on my neck. It hurt, but I didn’t think it was too bad. I couldn’t see it. They gasped and asked if I was okay. “Yes, I’m fine“, I said.
I sat there for about half an hour maybe, then she rinsed me out. As I sat up in the wash chair, she told me she didn’t think we should blow it out today. “Let’s leave it in a hair mask.” Weird, but okay, she knew best.
Then she showed me the brush. My heart sank. There were clumps of white hair in it. She brought me in front of the mirror, boasting about how light we had gotten my hair. My once shoulder-length hair was now dangling just beyond my chin in strands. The thickest part was just below my ear. The back was in shambles. Whenever I tried to brush it, more clumps would come out. I was speechless.
I covered my head on my way into the house. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I ran into my room and immediately went to the mirror to check myself. I pulled away my shirt and unveiled a second-degree burn on my neck. Yellow pieces of tangled hair stuck out from my head in all different directions. Some were matted patches of gummy fur. I looked like Cynthia Pickles (Amanda’s doll from Rugrats).
I turned away and started to cry. What do I do? How do I go back? I pulled at each end, feeling the dry, stretchy hair rub against my fingertips. I examined and assessed the damage- it was ruined beyond belief. I then drowned my hair in coconut oil and laid in bed, shaking. There wasn’t a sound or cry that could express the pain I was feeling.
The next day, I sat in front of the mirror and had one of those movie moments where the main character takes a pair of scissors and just chops their hair off. I held back, but when I look back, I see that it would’ve been a great opportunity to shave it all off.
I eventually made an appointment at a new hair salon to clean up the cut and fix the color a bit. I felt super embarrassed walking in looking all silly and disheveled. I sat down and explained what happened to my hairdresser. I told him I wasn’t looking for anything crazy. I just wanted to look alright. He toned my hair and tried not to make me look too much like a middle-aged white lady.
I left with a platinum-blonde pixie cut.
It definitely wasn’t a terrible look. It was actually really cute, but at the time, I was already demoralized, so I absolutely hated it. It was shocking to me how bright and unmissable this blonde was.
Everywhere I went, I felt like people were staring at me. I could no longer blend in. I felt like a hermit crab out of her shell. Like a big neon sign in a world of gray.
Stage One: Losing Myself
I know it’s just hair, but my hair had been a greater extension of myself. Like my hands, it felt and touched and held. I was sewn into the idea that my looks were a big deal and defined me, then was unexpectedly thrown from that.
The moment my hair was cut, I felt my femininity be swept away with the tide. And there went my personality too. In a society where long hair equates to being beautiful and girly and sexy, I was now boyish. I should change to fit that persona until I can grow back into being a girl again. What should I wear? How should I act?
It was undeniable that people looked at me differently now. I got looks in passing in my small town and comments about how “interesting” it looked- like I was doing something no woman would dare to do. And on the other end, I was no longer romantically appealing. Some thought it was cool, others were horrified at the drastic change, and some thought it looked more like a Karen haircut. I was ashamed. I remember I was working one day (in a big t-shirt, shorts, and no makeup on), and I was waiting on a table of two young girls. While I was walking away, I heard one of them ask the other if I was a girl. That hurt, but I understood.
For the first month or two, I felt like I needed to warn everyone before I saw them. I’m no longer the old Lia, so don’t expect that. I actually didn’t know who I was. But I knew I wanted to avoid the shocked face they’d have. It was just another reminder, but even with a forewarning, there was still a curiosity about it in them. I explained over and over what happened. I didn’t mean for this to happen. It was an accident.
When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me. It left me with such confusion about this body that was no longer mine. Something had been taken from me. A part had died, and I was suddenly far, far away from everything.
I’d spend hours in front of the mirror analyzing myself until I started taking photos of each of my profiles to further scan over the parts of my face that I disapproved of. It made me even more insecure about going out because if I could see it, that meant the world could too.
I stopped giving myself compliments. I began relying on boosts from others to affirm and reassure me of my beauty. And only in those moments did I feel good. I had stopped loving myself- but did I ever even love myself in the first place if it was only skin deep? Why did I suddenly feel uneasy about the person I was going to bed with now? How was she different from the person she was before?
Short hair exposes your features. I couldn’t hide myself anymore. I had to look. Not only could I no longer conceal my physical features and feel protected by my mane, but I was also exposed to what was going on inside. In a way, my hair had muffled my ability to hear- I didn’t know what was going on in my heart. And there was something that needed to be tended to. It was ugly, rotting and spreading terminally, and it was time to clean up.
Stage Two: Cleaning Up and Rebuilding
I purposefully subjected myself to loneliness. And because of this, I found myself clinging to social media. What I was looking for was similarity and closeness, but I was only to be lost in the sea of comparison, swimming in insecurity. Everywhere I looked were these perfect women, and I didn’t look like them.
That is what I chose to see- a variety of facades on the Internet. People put out what they want us to see. I realized how threatening that was to my mental health- what I had done to myself by engaging in all these different activities. Instead of helping myself through this and being my own friend, I was self-sabotaging. I could try a little harder. There was no more time to waste away. There was no changing the circumstance, only a way to move forward with it. This was an opportunity to learn about myself and to love myself again, to care- for real this time.
I started unfollowing anything that made me feel bad about the way I looked. That was a standard of beauty that didn’t need to apply to me, and I could leave it behind. I replaced these people with accounts that empowered and inspired me.
I freed myself from my self-built cage. And that’s how my self-esteem started building back up. I learned how to own it. I didn’t have to self-isolate. And if it weren’t for a really awesome, nurturing community of women in my life that made me feel so beautiful and whole- I would’ve completely lost it. I grew more comfortable with myself. And after a few months, I decided to shave the back up.
I left on various trips over the course of that summer. It helped to take me out of my head because I was engaging with the scenery and staying quiet as the observer. My typical surroundings had made me feel like that was all there was. Once I was out of that, I was shown a world that was, well, not so small after all. There were so many different people out there. Everyone looked different, and it rocked.
During one of those trips (in Europe), I had noticed that there were so many women who had short hair. And they seldom wore any makeup. Their beauty was carried in their strength and their smiles- that wholesome loveliness that not even editing can replicate. These were the things I admired in the women around me. That is what I wanted.
When I got home, I trained myself to spend less time in front of the mirror and on my phone. There was much more important work to be done- inner work. I covered the mirrors with sheets throughout my room.I swapped it for being outside and hanging out with me, getting to know myself and all the things I loved about me. These qualities weren’t new, but I hadn’t taken the time to see and appreciate them. I was finally breaking the surface. And I was never wrong about being strong. I am strong, and that’s beautiful. The pieces of me that left, returned to assemble the girl in the mirror. I wrote love notes to her.
Stage Three: Returning to Myself and Owning It
For the first time, I felt kind of…cool, more badass than ever. I had always felt kind of cowardly and at the same time, stand-offish in my zone, like I had something to prove. But I’d grown to understand my soul. And while I was, and am, still growing into my physical self, I felt us reconnect. I felt powerful in owning me.
The idea of beauty I was carrying wasn’t my own. Confidence, intelligence, and strength are sexy. When I realized these things, it’s almost like something locked back into place. I saw how the adoption of this ideal for myself was not only detrimental to my own reality, but also the present and future reality of women in general. I had not only done myself a disservice, but also the women around me- the women that I love and want to protect. I saw how society picked women apart, how we are supposed to abide by some sort of rulebook; how to dress, how to do your hair, how to act, how to speak. I saw how unfair it is and has been.
Cutting your hair doesn’t mean you’re having a breakdown (though it may result in one). It may mean you’re changing, shedding, or turning a new leaf. It could be a symbol of rebellion. But perhaps it is just what you wanted to do or ended up with- simple as that. No question about it. And maybe the reason I ended up feeling badass was because I felt like it was something against the grain according to society. It was how I ended up mastering myself in a society that gives you chips for being all the same.
When I was insecure about the way I looked, I was so focused on what people thought of me, how I’d be perceived in the eyes of others. It wouldn’t matter how accepting I was of myself because I was still subject to public opinion. But now I realize that regardless of how I put myself together, what’s most important to me as an individual is that I feel like ME. I don’t want to pretend anymore.
Your navigation through your own story is probably different. That’s the cool thing about being an individual- you pave your own way and figure it out somehow. The ultimate choice in whether you decide to let these things bother and affect you is yours. I didn’t have control of the initial situation, but I did have control over where I’d take it from there. I held that power. You hold that power. Looks are not the be-all-end-all (hair really is just hair!). They are simply the way we express ourselves. And truthfully, those whose glow is most prominent are those who have tended to what is on the inside.
I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned my lesson. The biggest part of that was to appreciate what I’ve been given. My hair grew and grew and grew. I praised every centimeter, and suddenly, I’m here. I’ll probably chop it off again sometime. This time on my own terms.
I used to wonder when I’d be done picking up the pieces, when renaming and reclaiming would come to a halt. But then I realized, creation takes a lifetime. It may not even be complete by the end. There are many steps. I might have to go back and redo a few. It won’t be perfect, and I definitely won’t be. But that’s okay. Abstract art isn’t supposed to be perfect. It takes different shapes, moves in twists and turns, explores in all different colors, and is perceived differently according to the individual. And after all, you can’t erase paint. You can only keep adding to your canvas.
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.
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.