Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Friend. Advocate. Introvert. Ally. Bookworm. Changemaker.
My need for productivity has infiltrated my very spirit. Not only do I battle shame when my body is at rest — because I feel I should be creating or working or cleaning or improving — but when my soul is at rest these days, a little voice gnaws at the corner of my mind: “What are you learning? How are you growing? What does it all mean? How will you be better?”
And most importantly: “What are you?”
To say that I’ve done my best to dedicate every waking moment to becoming a better version of myself non-stop for years is an understatement. Even during periods of time when I was scraping the bottom of my will to live, I was asking big questions and evaluating every move. My brain is a constant jumble of figures and values. I sometimes have to shake myself by the shoulders and give myself explicit permission to disengage if I ever want any peace.
This year has been too short and too long all at once. I’ve unearthed deep-seated flaws that I didn’t know I had. I was shown latent biases, not-so-latent biases, and have had to take responsibility for things that I’ve never taken a sliver of the blame for. It’s been a reckoning with my perpetual victimhood — a role that I can choose to step out of whenever I want. The last few months have been an intense moral and personal inventory, and I’m dripping with exhaustion and doing my best not to run out of hope.
I know where my loyalties lie, what my values are. I know what I have to do to help cultivate the world that I want to live in, that I want my kids and grandkids and great-grandkids to live in. There is no “us or them” when it comes down to it. We all have to share this earth whether we like it or not. I know in my bones that change is coming, that the work we’ve been doing is going to pay off. It’ll be a long road to recovery, and I hope that we can all travel it together.
This spiritual and metaphysical growth spurt has nearly depleted my resources. I will never give up, but I do need to rest. I’ve been in such a hurry to become the best version of myself that I lost sight of who I truly am, how young I truly am, and how much I miss out on when I’m constantly calculating how to level up. “Maybe right now isn’t about growth,” my therapist said. “Maybe right now is about maintenance and rest.”
If we’re being honest, I don’t really know how to do that. I’ve been running full speed ahead since I learned to walk. I’ve had to have the very notion of “rest” explained to me, because most of what I do isn’t restful at all. I’m not very good yet at existing in stillness. It’s a kind of alone time with my own thoughts that I’m actually quite frightened of. But I’ve been told that leaning into that discomfort is a magical and transformative act, if you can muster the bravery to do it.
There is no perfect algorithm for living a wholehearted life. I’m not going to find a recipe in a spellbook or a devotional. Despite my ability to articulate the human condition, I’m really not that great at being human yet. But I think I’d like to learn how.
I’m not sure where I go from here, if I go anywhere. I am here, and I am learning and growing, but I am also working and wilting. It’s time to learn my own rhythms and surrender to the stillness. Whatever that means.
I’ve grown accustomed to wearing labels like badges of honor, pigeonholing myself to make sense of my existence and make myself more palatable for others. These days, a label is a subscription that is very hard to cancel. Not just self-imposed labels, but labels that are thrust upon you by people you’ve known and people you don’t yet know. What’s been the most challenging for me the last few years has been finding the label of what I want to be — psychologist, writer, journalist, activist, mother — and ascribing myself a path to get there, then chastising myself when I wander.
But life is about wandering and exploring and experiencing. I am nothing more and nothing less than a spirit in a body having a human experience, and to deny myself the wonder of trying different paths and wearing different hats would be denying myself the capacity to be fully and remarkably human.
The truth is, we are all multifaceted beings who must view each other as such. Reducing one another to one or two words isn’t part of the solution; it’s part of the problem. We have substantial potential to bond on an infinite amount of levels, and yet we choose to focus on one and let that drive a wedge between us. Trust me, I know it isn’t easy — I’ve been working hard to practice what I preach and see the humanness in everyone that I can, even those that I’ve so maliciously denounced these last few years.
At the end of the day, we are all more than the sum of our parts. We all have trauma and memories and families and stories, but we also have each other. I may not know exactly “what” I am, but I do know that whatever it is — and it changes moment by moment — I want to be a good one.