Making the wrong choices
I’ve recently written about my struggles over the past year, and about how all my life, all I used to do was “eat, sleep, and science.” Working 24/7, never stopping, always achieving higher and higher- yes, it has gotten me to where I want to be professionally and I’m proud of myself for that. But personally, I was nowhere.
Growing up, I always had validation from others. It felt good. I idolized other people who I thought had everything, but never myself. I didn’t take a second to think about my own accomplishments, or ask myself who I wanted to be when I grew up. Who I really was when no one was around to soothe my insecurities, or to celebrate myself when no one did it for me. I never really had to stand on my own two feet before. Until recently.
This past year, I experienced a few major life changes all at once. It was the hardest thing I ever went through. Those challenges can rip your heart out, make you fall to the ground, and forget who you are, and who you could be. Yes they are real hardships, and I’ve learned that I had to go through the pain to come out the other side- there is no way around it. It’s hard work and it takes time. But I also learned that you won’t ever get back up unless you choose to.
And I was choosing not to. For one year, I was basking in my own negativity. Nobody was there to pull me out of it. I was complacent in that life. I became stressed out, complained, treated people badly, and let out all my negative emotions on whoever was around that day. Dealing with grief isn’t something we are taught, and people avoid it until they have to do it.
Fear is not a way of life
I knew that I couldn’t get through it unless I allowed myself to feel the necessary pain. But at first, I resisted it. The more I did that, the more it took a toll on me. I became depressed. I hated being alone, so I did everything I could to stop that from happening. I complained about not having things I needed to build my life back up. Although this was true, instead of fighting it, I let life take over me. I made some bad decisions. I waited for others to rescue me. But nobody was coming. It became worse. After depression came anxiety, and I struggled to control the emotions that came with it. For some time, I basked in these feelings and created a worse situation than it was. I struggled to understand what was going on. After a long while, I realized that it was fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being alone. Fear that no one loved me, or would rescue me. Fear of doing anything that would get me out of this so that I wouldn’t face the pain. But one day I said no more. I realized that I had a choice. I could let these emotions control me, or the other way around. I had to rescue myself, but I knew I could do it. I just had to put in the work.
Personal lessons learned
I didn’t know where to begin. One person understood me long before I did, and I will forever be grateful that he posed questions to me that I didn’t know the answer to. These will build the foundation for the way I want to live my life from this point on. How many of you know who you truly are? I learned by trying to answer this question that I didn’t know my true self, or maybe I was refusing to show it to others. Here again came that feeling of fear, and falling back into complacency. I’m now learning to be more vulnerable and show people who I am, and let them decide if they like me instead of assuming they don’t.
Going back to my professional life, I realized that this had always gone well, and I asked myself why. I had always focused on that. I never stopped, never took breaks, and never unplugged. Eventually, this lifestyle caught up with me and also affected my personal life. I learned that stopping to breathe and pause is critical. This is not a skill I was very good at, and perhaps a lot of us are not. I’m really trying to master this one now.
During this time of chaos, while battling my own demons, I realized that I didn’t know how to stand alone, in silence. Silence gives you the opportunity to discover yourself and stay with your thoughts for a while and not rush them. And if you can master being alone, there is so much power in that. I’ve also learned this the hard way, but now I enjoy my solitude.
I want to share a few lessons that this person taught me. I had to learn some of them the hard way, but I’m grateful because this is how I want to live from now on:
- Believe the best about other people.
- Always be kind to others.
- Give your time freely but use it wisely.
- Speak up for your needs.
- Use stillness to find yourself.
- Encourage others to be their best self.
- Less is always more.
- Be present in the moment.
- Help others if you have the chance.
- If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything.
Looking ahead into the future, and to end this post on a more positive note, I saw a quote recently that said “Something will grow from all that you’re going through. And it will be you.” Sometimes our greatest adversity can lead us to our best moments of self-discovery. I believe that is true, and I’m happy to say that I have since then found some answers to the question of who I am now. I’ve become more interested in stories showing the raw emotion of life, ways in which people experience failure but also resilience, as well as explanations of how people think and how thoughts can be changed. I’m planning to use this adversity for the greater good, and looking to figure out how to best do that in the future.