the past 365 days of my 23 year long life have been some of the most overwhelming (also underwhelming as i find what is dubbed as “real life” is truly like), confusing, rattling, exciting – the whole gamut and more. these days have been some of the darkest, most humbling and saddening days, tears running down my face sitting on the floor of a bathroom stall at work, unable to swallow the life i see before me as my own. i have been virtually chewed up and spit out by this year of this immediate post-graduate universe, in many more ways than one. i have never in my life felt such constant stress around every corner; fatigue to even be my authentic, true self; and massive confusion as to what i want and deeply need my life to not only simply be, but what i fundamentally require my life, my world, my body and mind and spirit to be. nothing less.
to embark upon a type of writing that in never have out of fear of being vulnerable to an audience potentially judging and critical, i think it may be best to open up after so many years of placing brick after brick on the proverbial wall that i have chosen to build around my own self and my heart.
to preface, i deeply understand that everyone leads challenging lives in a multitude of different ways; this story, my story, in no way shadows that daily battle and struggle, that emotional or physical turmoil, or otherwise. it simply includes my story, my heart, in our whole, connected world, as that is what i believe: we are all connected.
for much of my life i have felt that my central and essential life goals – vibrant happiness; internal and external peace; life (actively leading my life) embedded with laughter, sunshine, light, love, adventure, intimacy, openness, and acceptance; work-life balance, pure spontaneity, deep indulgence, self love, and exploration of all kinds (emotional, spiritual, intellectual, sexual, physical, geographical, the whole lot) – was, simply put, overly self indulgent, selfish, and simply put just wrong. from my perceptions and experience at my current age of 23, this is how i was raised, and it always felt wrong to me. i have felt for as long as i can remember that living a lifestyle like my parents’ (i.e. negative, unchallenging, judgmental, isolating, and by all means not centered on love, laughter, and pure fun) is very clearly not a style of life that is compatible with me on any level; i can no longer live in this way, at all, in any manor whatsoever. to provide some background, my mom has quite a story: she was adopted into a family that had just lost a baby boy to sids (sudden infant death syndrome), and her father left that family when my mom was only eight. Her mom, my grandmother, was left to raise three kids on her own with no money and no job. in so many ways, my mom has never been able to overcome this trauma, and, from where i stand, has allowed this to overtake her life and herself and reek havoc within every single aspect of her life: her family, marriage, career, and most importantly her self. my mom seems like she can hardly get through the average day without feeling palpitatingly self deprecating. she casts this responsibility unto others, namely my dad and myself, just shoveling the task of affirming her, of carrying her baggage, of carrying the weight of her world on our shoulders. she has done this through exercising extremely harsh criticism and judgment, saddling my dad and i with keeping her happy through essentially making ourselves control factors in our family and repressing our own needs and feelings, shaming any decision she even slightly disagrees or takes issue with, being completely unable to accept anything outside her comfort zone even if it has no impact on her whatsoever – this includes especially choices that my brother and i have made that my mom, in turn, cannot separate herself from and, in response, becomes extremely negative and reactionary to, instead of supportive and loving and compassionate and understanding. she is, at its simplest, unable to incapable of working through issues in a healthy way for parties other than herself, of being selfless, compassionate, understanding and loving when circumstances are especially challenging, of accepting others’ choices as their own and non-reflective of herself, of being happy in her own skin and her own life.
this last one – choosing happiness (or the lack there of)- has been a very central in my own development of my life goals, tenets, beliefs, and means of living. it has very much pushed me to embrace every moment for what it is, positive or negative, challenging as hell or elating, laughter-filled or tear-warranting. i am thankful for every chapter of my life, as i have chosen to believe that each step, good or bad, has led me in the right direction; i am thankful for life everyday, i choose to be grateful, as it is a choice. this outlook is almost directly antagonistic to that of my mom’s. in many ways, i view myself as a very strong individual and young woman, someone my mom may wish that she could be, but believes is not a choice for her. she has chosen in every moment to take the easy route: fear. she is scared of literally everything – friendship, family, herself, truth, unconditional love, for she is unable to be vulnerable (what she is truly scared of) in order to develop truly loving relationships in her life, and this has cost not only her, but our entire family, my family, both extended and immediate, a bond that may be entirely irreparable. my parents are on the brink of splitting up, i have not spoken on the phone with my mom for about two months or so now, though i have texted her, my brother and my mom have not spoken for maybe six months now, though they live in same 4,000 person town, my mom has inserted a chasm between herself, and by extension my dad, my brother and i, and our extended family, creating a great distance between us for what i see to be a pathetic, enraging reason: her own personal fear of being vulnerable and in the same moment confident enough in herself to interact in a loving way with others.
this chasm has come to a head, and i have finally, after 23 years, put my foot down, choosing love and family over fear and hatred and distance. my mom, in many ways, makes myself and my dad every time we decide to spend time with family – her or them, as if this is even a choice…
amongst all of this is the factor of complete unpredictability in how things are going to go down in regards to the smallest things like taking a shower for too long, not cleaning up to perfection, not doing laundry frequently enough, being out too late even now that i am 23, not calling home enough, any of which could cause a massive argument and, by extension, a major falling out. this has been the focus of my family since i was young, and to cope with this, i attempted to take myself out of the equation, as to not upset anything, and repress my needs and emotions so that my mom’s could be prioritized and hopefully stabilized and made positive so that we could all be happy. of course, this worked splendidly well for a short amount of time, after which it exploded in my face when i told my parents that i was choosing to quite my job in downtown san francisco, come home for the summer, and then return to san francisco, as this is where i want to be. though i summoned the confidence to choose a path that i knew my parents, especially my mom, would disprove of and be inflexible with, i knew it was the right choice for me. how could i make a choice of any other nature?
after years of pain and some aspect of misery and great sadness in my heart, i have finally come to a place quite opposite from the place of pleasing everyone that i once inhabited. i have chosen myself. not in a selfish way or a narcissistic manor, but through courage and mindfulness, confidence and love, light and optimism. i have followed my deep desire to live my life, as it is my own, exactly how i need and want, through happiness and laughter and love and compassion, vulnerability and acceptance and adventure and spontaneity and exploration. i came to the realization that this is my one, wild, and crazy life, if i can incite mary oliver for a moment. i followed the path of love that i have experienced all around me for my life, yet did not have the confidence to follow.
as the yoga guru rachel brathen says, a small outtake of the longer quote shown below, “moving with love instead of fear takes courage, but on the other side of it lies liberation. enlightenment. joy. happiness. healing. acceptance. surrender. gratitude. magic. freedom.” she has been such a positively guiding force in my life in the past four years. in many ways, i am not sure i could have come to this place i am in now without her.
“the marvelous moments, the situations we find ourselves in that make us grow and evolve and expand our hearts-all are going to be covered with a thin veil of fear. we are stepping into the unknown, and this means different things to all of us. moving with love instead of fear takes courage, but on the other side of it lies liberation. enlightenment. joy. happiness. healing. acceptance. surrender. gratitude. magic. freedom.”
~rachel brathen, @yoga_girl
moving through the fear of loving my family, my parents, of quitting my job, of breaking up with my boyfriend and best friend of four years, embarking on a journey of exploring the western united states for three weeks, finding a new job, hopefully a dream job of mine, and finding new friends and my tribe, has been one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, as i learned to take control of my world, my life, instead of being complacent in the convenience and security of the life i had. in many ways, though, i was in one of the most insecure places i have ever been. i knew i had to find the courage to make these changes… rachel brathen also explains, “i found myself faced with a thousand scary moments that in the big scheme of things make up our lives, and i chose love. i chose love. that is all.” that is the choice, the one choice, that i must and i believe must be made in every moment of fear in order to live a life of happiness and love. it’s not an easy choice, but it is the only choice.
and with this choice, that i have finally come to, found the ultimate courage to make, i have just decided to go for it. “the thing about life is, you get what you need. not what you want. and everything happens at the right time.” -rachel brathen. i have come to the ultimate realization that this is the only way i can live, for so long i felt like a complete shell of myself, moving without direction or passion or energy, without life or excitement of anything, even the things i once found to be the most liberating, exciting moments and experiences. it’s almost as if the air of my life was sucked right out of the room that was my world, leaving me with no choice but to make the choices that i have made, however impossibly challenging they were and are everyday. i am just a girl who decided to go for it, to jump into the unknown, by myself, as no one else could ever do that for me, nor would i ever want to, as i have felt for so long that i have put that burden onto other people, as i did not feel i could make it on my own. i came to a point when i was quitting my job, when i felt my family was literally breaking apart like i had never seen, when i felt like my life was crumbling around me, when i knew that i was the only one who could make a change, that it would feel almost impossible, but that i was the only one who could embark upon that journey, that if i didn’t now, i never would. it was time, my time.
in the last few weeks, i have journaled more than i have in years. i have brought my voice back and embraced myself in such a way that i have been so incredibly distanced from for years, and i have begun to embrace that part of me again. but in the past day or two, all i can write is quotes, each of which have resonated with me incredibly deeply, moving me more than i could have ever anticipated, and helping me bring myself back to love, to the path that i know is right for me. in making these small steps that were once nearly impossible in my state of emotional paralysis, these quotes gave me the deeply, deeply needed courage and guidance to follow my internal compass. i allowed what i was feeling to speak through them and guide me.
- if all you can do is crawl, start crawling. ~rumi
- every single thing that has happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come. ~unknown
- as you begin to love yourself, you will find that pain and suffering are only warning signs that you are living against your own truth.
- try to learn to breathe deeply, to really taste food when you ear, and when you sleep, really to sleep. try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. and when you get angry, get good and angry. try to be alive. you will be dead soon enough. ~ernest hemingway
- you must love in such a way that the person you love feels free. ~thich what hahn
- you know you have made the right decision when there is peace in your heart. ~unknown
- surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.
- accept the fact that you will grow apart from people you’ve had significant relationships with. understand when someone no longer positively affects your life. let them go. don’t hinder your growth.
- the only thing that matters is how much you love. ~rachel brathen
- to receive love, we must first learn to give it away. ~rachel brathen
- love what is. don’t judge. don’t label. love. just love. ~rachel brathen
- cultivate mindfulness. being present in your life and being grateful for what you already have will attract more positive things into your life, and in the end you’ll have more and more things to be grateful for. it’s a never-ending positive cycle. ~rachel brathen
- do your best. it will always be enough. ~rachel brathen
- life is now. change your life by being compassionate, by staying positive, by forgiving, by focusing on love and light and space and abundance and happiness. what you attract your energy toward, you attract more of. meditate on the magical, breathtaking beauty of the world, and soon that magic will be part of your everyday life. ~rachel brathen
- come let go. ~ xaviar rudd
- life is short! what precisely is it that you want to create in your life? take a moment… we spend most of our time simply catching up with what’s happening around us, and we forget that we are the creators of our own universe. life happens for us, not to us.
in these recent days, weeks, i have come to a place of indulgence and self love that i never have before. i have allowed myself to feel, to meditate, really meditate, to practice yoga and move into a space i have never felt before, to embrace me, with that being my sole purpose and goal: just and only to embrace myself, my true, authentic self. and it has felt amazing. i have read more books, eaten more delicious food (even though i can no longer eat wheat or grains), written more journal entries, slept in more, stayed up later, gone out more, let myself just be more than i ever have in my life. i have been more in touch with myself than i ever have before. and it feels incredible. i feel as if i am being reintroduced to a good friend i have not seen or embraced in years…. and i advise you, all of you, whoever took the time to read these 2,900 words (check you out, homie!), to do the same, to take time for you, with that as the sole purpose, to see yourself and love yourself unconditionally for who you are, without question or judgment or fear or apprehension. with only embrace and unconditional fucking love.