Updated: Nov 21, 2021
Maybe it’s unfair (I even feel a sense of guilt) to say this all began because of the pandemic. To be fair, the last twenty months… let’s say that again- the last twenty months have been nothing short of poo with sprinkles.
I use to think that nothing beyond death could challenge me as much as living through a pandemic. I thought I was 'experienced' at doing hard things. I survived many hardships in my life. Growing up for the most part in a single-parent household (Mamma you‘re the real McCoy!). Being poor, as a standard of living. Experiencing the reality of violence. Feeling grief that touched me so deeply I have never fully recovered. Failing at relationships… well, this one may be one of the greatest wins in my life. Please, don’t judge me.
Through all of this, I feel I emerged as a learner of something, which made me a better somebody. Reflecting on it, this is morbid thinking. To convince ourselves that going through hard is what progresses us to discover ourselves. Hard is important, but it has two potential outcomes: to grow and to destroy. What end of this you emerge can be by chance or by design. That is the greatest lesson I have learned over the last twenty months. My realization is that I was fed up with the status quo. The false safety net of playing by someone else’s rules. Always sensoring the fullness of what I really want to say and do. I realized that I had spent so much time focusing on how to get to the end of the pandemic that I wasn’t putting any value into what 'hard' was really teaching me about myself and others.
I woke up one day. I woke, to the sound of an alarm that made me rise like I envision the feeling of someone realizing they survived a near-death experience. Mixed emotions, like, “What do I do with this feeling?” and, “Where do I go from here?” I just decided to move… move, like risk was my hero. Move, like the only thing standing in my way was the version of me that was never my best self. I made a decision to do a hard shift in the way I was living life.
The funny thing is, my life was good before the shift. It was comfortable and predictable. In the midst of the pandemic, I got to a place from a professional standpoint where I felt confident in what to expect from people. I could empathize with almost any perspective, and if I were a director of a reality TV series I knew the storyline all too well.
I was theoretically safe. Safe, to eventually emerge from all the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Safe, to fail and put in the insurance claim that I was failing forward. I believed as long as I was doing hard things, I was doing the right things. I put way too much value in the mindset that I can do hard things to realize that is not the attitude or weight I wanted to carry. That is not the way I want to define my life. So, I shifted my mindset by evaluating what truly brings me joy and purpose. It was never what I do, it was always why I did what I do. This is not novel. However, it was on an even deeper level than my 'why'. Realizing that my why can never exclude me, changed me. I didn’t realize how fed up I was with excluding myself from the life I live.
As weird and maybe even selfish as that sounds, I was living to give value; not to receive it. I finally allowed myself to own that I needed to receive just as much as I was giving because without receiving my cup was growing more and more depleted. How could I give the best version of me, if I was living by isolating my needs from daily life?
What I know now is that I do not have to abandon ME in any place in my life.
I can do great things; not just hard things.
For me. For others. And… I can. I will. I must.