The Best Me – Whoever That Is

It’s everywhere – the constant struggle to figure out “who you are” and understand all of the things about you.  It’s frustrating.  It’s exhausting.  But it’s part of who we are as humans.

There’s been lots of research done and plenty of announcements made recently indicating that people’s brains aren’t fully developed until they’re 25.  Okay, great.  Except I’m 27 and often do not feel like I have any clue what’s going on.  And I think, partially, that stems from this long-lasting idea that people have where we believe you wake up one morning and know how to adult.

Which, let’s face it, is laughable.

Everyone is winging it. Sure, there are things you can tangibly figure out.  Like how to pay your bills.  And how to wash your dishes.  And how to clean the house.  But there are a lot of things that are more difficult to learn.  How to have a successful relationship.  How to enjoy your job.  How to make changes in your life that don’t flop on their face.

I’m watching people I love try to start businesses and be concerned about it in their 50s.  I’m watching people who thought they were going to do one thing forever suddenly realizing they dislike where their life is at in their 40s.  I’m watching people in their 30s who still don’t have it all together.

Life isn’t a measured recipe.  There isn’t any way to practice and perfect (or even practice & make permanent, as my friend Kerry’s wrestling coach once said).  Your best option is just to keep winging it and figure out what you can.

A lot of this year is about repairing parts of me that have been bruised or broken, and strengthening who I am.  And, honestly, figuring out who I am.  I’ve noticed recently that I’m more willing to say the things that I feel (even when I can’t hide behind a computer screen or a notebook), and I feel more resolved in my convictions.  It’s something I’m very proud of, and I can’t wait to see it grow.

This year is about being the best “me” that I can possibly be.  And I’m excited and ready for that.

Letter to 2015, Letter Ten

2015,

This is it.  The last day I have to deal with you.

I say that kindly, of course.  You’ve taught me a lot – about myself, about others, and about the kind of life I want to lead.  It hasn’t been easy, though, and there are certainly moments where I wish I could box you up and put you on a shelf, never to be seen again.  I hope you understand that.

There are lots of lists of “things I learned in 2015” or “lessons I’ll take to 2016” floating around the internet.  It’s the last day of the year, and we are nothing if not habitual as humans. I thought about not doing something but, let’s be real, we all knew this was going to happen.

So, with that, here are a couple of things I learned (or was reminded of) this year.

Caring is Sharing Showing.  Often we don’t realize how easy it is to say “I care about you” and think that’s all that needs to be done.  But if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that just saying it doesn’t mean as much as showing it.

Trust is earned, and can be broken.  This one I knew, but got a hard reminder this year.  Letting someone in is difficult, and becomes even more difficult when you get hurt.  I recently discovered (last night), that I’m scared to let someone in again.  Which I’m sure I’ll move past, but that fear is back.

Knowing you’re great is one thing.  Showing it is another.  I am capable of a lot.  I have a lot of great skills, and can do incredible things.  But knowing that and showing that are different.  And I can tell people how good I am at something, but then I have to follow through and show them.  Or I’ll continue to stay stagnant.  And that’s never what I wanted.

Vulnerability is tough, but necessary.  Several people have commented on my vulnerability in my writing.  They’ve thanked me for my willingness to share the things that make me most vulnerable.  And hearing that from others has helped me continue to be vulnerable.  Because it’s difficult.  I worry about what certain people will think when they read posts like this.  I worry that I’ll be seen differently or less than because I talk about times when I’m hurting or about things that I’ve never revealed before.  I’ve had people mention my career and how that might be impacted by vulnerability.  But here’s what I’ve learned – I have to be vulnerable in order to process through certain things.  I need to be genuine in order to feel comfortable with myself.  And if people have an issue with that, then they aren’t people I want in my life.  Our world would be better off if everyone was a little more vulnerable.

You know what you want from your relationships.  This means friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships.  I didn’t realize how much I knew what I wanted until I started not to get it.  And that means sometimes walking away from people who don’t treat you well.  Even if that hurts.

It’s okay to be uncertain about the future.  I’ve too often spent time wondering what will come next.  Wondering whether or not I’ll find where I’m supposed to be.  Or continuing having financial issues.  Or move on from heartache.  Or any of the other things I’ve worried about in the last few months.  It’s okay to not know the answers and to focus on the day to day instead of worrying about the future sometimes.

There’s more, I’m sure, but these are the most present ones.  You really challenged me to grow, 2015, and though I wasn’t always good at it or grateful for it, I know that ultimately everything I went through this year was important.  So thanks for that.

Here’s to you, 2015.  And here’s to 2016, and the repairing and strengthening that is sure to come.

Yours,

Melissa

Dear 2015, Letter Nine

2015,

Have you heard of “Kaizen”?  My (former) roommate and hetero-life-mate Audrey, who is back in town to visit & see Star Wars, told me about it last night.  It’s a concept I’ve heard about before, but never knew the actual word.  And it’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.

According to kaizen.com, Kaizen is “the practice of continuous improvement”.  It’s a Japanese term (kai means change, and zen means good), and is used by a lot of organizations as a base for their long-term strategy and success.  It typically means a everyone in the organization is involved in small improvements that make the organization better long-term.

I’ve long believed in continuous personal improvement. Now, when I say long, I mean for around 5 years now, because I didn’t understand the concept prior to that. I have previously referred to myself as a late bloomer, and didn’t really understand that growth and change are positive in a lot of ways. I’ve also seen negative change, though the two times I’ve been able to identify it I’ve been completely thrown for a loop (because the two people I saw it in were those I had never anticipated would change negatively).

I believe everyone has the ability to grow and change for the better.  Some people don’t take that opportunity, or let their egos get the best of them, but I still have high hopes for them.  In my heart of hearts, I feel like they will one day see in themselves the light that I originally saw in them.

Growth is hard.  If I could say one thing about this year and the growth that I’ve gone through, I would fully admit that it’s hard.  I would also tell you that I’m not done.  Because growth and change do not happen overnight, even as much as I want them to happen while I sleep.  I still have a long way to go when it comes to growth and change.  I still hold things in too long, and let balls of anger & frustration sit deep in my chest.  I’m still scared of certain things.  I don’t always take the chances I could take, and sometimes I wish I hadn’t taken the chances I did take (though that’s usually only temporary).  I sometimes forget that I’ll learn something from everything, particularly when I’m hurting.

What Audrey reminded me when she brought up Kaizen was that change takes time.  Growth takes time.  And it takes hard work.  And waking up wishing I could change a decision or have a different experience or no longer be angry at someone isn’t going to happen.  I’m going to have to do the work to get there.

So, 2015, let’s do the work.  Because carrying around balls of anger and frustration or fear isn’t going to help.  But doing the work to move through those things certainly will.

See you soon,

Melissa

Dear 2015, Letter Eight.

2015,

I’ve been sick for the last eight days. Last Sunday I woke up with a sore throat, which lead to a cough, which led to congestion & headaches & weakness. I didn’t start turning the corner until Saturday morning, though I still felt pretty tired the whole weekend. I missed two days of work and was late to work twice, which is probably my biggest pet peeve (both of other people and myself). It’s been a rough week on my immune system.

This morning, on my way to work, I started thinking about what I want to focus on for 2016. I stopped doing resolutions a few years ago and instead chose a word to focus on for the year. This year my word was Grow. And let me tell you, 2015 – you certainly filled that word. I learned a lot of new things about myself, and about others, and I am still growing.

That’s why, for 2016, I’ve chosen two words. They go together, and I think will help me challenge myself and also allow me to become an even better version of who I am and who I want to be.

The first word I’ve chosen is Repair. I started thinking about this while I was sick and noticing that the weakness and lethargy I’ve felt isn’t much different from how I’ve felt for a few months. I’ve been eating too much gluten. (My friend Kerry gave me a copy of Gluten is My Bitch for Christmas and I’m SO EXCITED to read it.) I haven’t been exercising. I sit all day at work. I need to repair the way I treat my body, and find a way to work around some of the restrictions I find in my job (and the ones I put on myself). I have plans to walk the Camino de Santiago when I’m 30, and if I’m going to walk the nearly 780 km (about 500 miles) from St Jean Pied de Port, France to  Santiago de Compostela, Spain in 3 years, I need to be training now.

On top of repairing my relationship with my body, I need to repair my relationship with my emotional health. That means everything from continuing to work through my depression, to opening myself up to people again, and really understanding what I need in order to be the best version of myself. It’s a process.

The second word I’ve chosen is Strengthen.  There are a lot of really amazing people in my life, and I need to strengthen my relationships with the ones that have stuck around. I need to focus on the strengths I have internally, and continue to build those.

If I’ve discovered anything in this year of growth, it’s that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was, and I’m now able to see the places where I need to continue to grow, which I was unable to do before.

So, 2015, thanks for asking me to grow this year. I’ve learned a lot, and I appreciate all of the ways in which you challenged me. Now it’s time to strengthen the most positive things that came out of that, and repair the parts of me that got a little more hurt than I anticipated.

See you soon,

Melissa

Dear 2015, Letter Seven

2015,

I thanked you for my friends already. It was one of the first things I did. But over the last 12 days, I’ve become even more grateful for the people in my life.

Twelve days ago, I posted a video about depression on my Facebook page, along with a comment about what I’ve been struggling with – both since I was 15 and very directly for the last few months or so. I’ve talked about depression, but not always when I’m going through it. I often talk about it as something I struggle with in a very abstract sense. It hasn’t been abstract for a while, though.

After I posted on Facebook, several people commented on the post. I got Facebook messages and text messages and even a couple of phone calls. They were simple, often just a “love you,” or “take care of yourself,” but they meant the world to me. I cried a lot that weekend, every time someone reminded me that I wasn’t alone.

It has continued since then, and people are so kind about it. “I know sometimes it’s hard to talk about it, so you don’t have to, but I’m here if you need to talk” has come out of several mouths. Specific questions about things have come up, like “how is your heartbreak?” or “how is your job?” or “how are your finances?”, but they’re never pushy or invasive. They’re welcomed, quite honestly.

In August, several things fell apart. Things changed in my life. And it quickly felt like the people I could talk to and trust the most were either gone or no longer worthy of my trust. My heart hurt. It still hurts when I think about it.

Finally saying something about what I was going through changed that, though. It reminded me that there are people that care about me, even when I feel like there aren’t. It also showed me that there are people I didn’t think thought about me that definitely do.

So thanks for that, 2015. Thanks for all of the people who have stuck around or who have come into my life this year who showed up when I needed them. It’s something for which I’ll never really be able to express my gratitude.

See you soon,

Melissa

Dear 2015, Letter Six

2015,

Words are healing for me.  They have been for a long time.  I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and retreating in to books for even longer.

When I’m sad, or struggling, words have always been there for me.  Recently, though, I haven’t been taking as much advantage of them as I used to, and I’m finally noticing the negative impact it’s having on me.

I built some bad coping mechanisms a long time ago, and even though I know not to use them and I know how damaging they are, I still fall into old patterns when I’m not in the place I wish I was.

2015, I forgot to use my words.  I forgot to settle amongst books and journals and move forward.  And the reasons for that, while important to me, aren’t so relevant now.  What’s relevant now is that the next six weeks will be all about words.

I’m going to finish books I’ve started.  I’m going to write the political things I’ve been wanting to write. I’m going to stop listening to the voices in my head and the feeling in my gut that keep telling me that my writing isn’t strong enough, or that being asked to write something that never gets used means that I’m not a good enough writer.

My writing can’t get better or stronger if I stop.

I’ve long been someone who lets others influence me in a way that is completely unnecessary.  In my heart of hearts, I believe that people can help one another grow, but I also know that sometimes people do things that hurt others – both intentionally and unintentionally.  And those are the things you have to take with a grain of salt so you can move forward.

My ability to write has long been something I’m proud of, and I let go of that.  I let go of my words because of outside influences, and if you’ve taught me anything, 2015 (and you’ve taught me a lot), you showed me that honoring who I am is one of the most important things I can do.

So here’s to the words.

See you soon,

Melissa