I’ve reached a point in my life where I am choosing to full embrace this saying:
“Things are not always as they seem; the first appearance deceives many.” – Phaedrus, a Roman poet
When I first moved to New York from California in 2004, some unwanted baggage managed to come along with me; my many fears, self-loathing, and a sense of disconnect from the world. Luckily, my personality compels me to attack my fears head-on even if I am feeling hopeless, so I was able to put myself out there and network, find work, and eventually feel comfortable with calling NYC my home.
But I’ve since realized that, in the process of overcoming so much culture shock and repressed fear, an unhealthy part of me continued to approach everything like a situated that needed to be attacked.
That attitude narrowed my world view. To everyone around me, I did my best to present this “Self” who had everything together and was relentlessly ambitious. But inside, I was always secretly on guard, waiting for something terrible to happen. I didn’t really trust myself and – by extension – anyone else. I always saw the worst in people and in myself. It was exhausting and I’m surprised I’ve achieved as much as I did with that lens tainting everything & everyone around me, including my own family and significant others.
Now, as I mentally kick-off the countdown to my 30th birthday in September, I’m happy to realize that I am finally able to look at a person or a situation and see beyond the surface. The things that once triggered fear or anger rarely do so anymore. And when they do, I can step back and not give those negative feelings the fuel they require to eat me alive. I put my attention elsewhere, and the feelings subside.
My fears don’t rule me anymore, I see them for what they are: just ghosts from the past. I can tell myself, “This is nothing worth stressing out all day over. I will not let these old thoughts and feelings drag me down.” Everyday it gets easier to do this.
After I moved to New York, I did try many things to improve my way of thinking. I stopped believing in God, a being who I already thought I had a contentious relationship with thanks to confusing messages during childhood. I read works by Sartre and other thought leaders. I tried Landmark Education. I tried meditation and yoga. I started believing in the God in all of us and starting talking to that collective spirit. From all of these experiences, I was able to acquire some helpful insights, but ultimately all the insights in the world were not going to help me until I was ready to change.
I can’t pinpoint the moment I decided to “change,” or how I did it, but it happened. It was a culmination of baby steps. I think the important part was that I truly WANTED to transform my life and my attitude, but I just didn’t know how to achieve that. My desire I think and my constant thoughts of transformation acted as kind of a lighthouse while I drifted along, picking my way through my issues.
So here I am. A work in progress. The best side-affect of changing how I think about things is that I am now able to find extraordinary beauty and lessons everywhere I turn. It’s really up to me to choose another way, another perspective.
Knowing that I have this incredible power over myself and my actions is a small but life-transforming baby step into a world where I could finally relax. I can breathe. And I can give myself permission to love who I’ve become and the progress I’ve made.
These days, I am able to find peace and happiness with an ease that wasn’t possible in my early 20s. The more I am grateful for what I have and pass on support to others, the more blessings come into my life.
I’m not a self-help guru, this is just a note I’m putting in a bottle and throwing out into the Internet sea. I hope if you find it and are feeling hopeless that this helps you in some way.
Yes, life is a struggle. Life is not easy. And often there are things that happen to us that our out of our control, particularly when we are children. These decisions made by others can cast shadows over our own sense of empowerment and choice. We can get so accustomed to our victimhood, thrust upon us at vulnerable stages in our lives, that we start to think that what people did to us makes us who we are. But it doesn’t. I define my life. Not my job, or my family, or the media I consume. I do.
If I’m bent on being miserable, I will be miserable. If I want to smile, I can find a person or experience that will draw one out of me. If I want to isolate myself from friends and feel alone, there are things I can do to ensure that happens. If I want to forgive myself and others, I can. It’s all a choice. But the quality of my life increases by leaps and bounds when I choose to approach life from a place of love and trust. I know what it feels like to approach it from fear and anger, and that wasn’t working for me.
This new way works for me so much better.
Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from experiencing the abundance you deserve. You have permission to start over every time you blink. You could start over right now if you wanted to. What would be the first thing you would change?
If I may be so bold to advise you, my suggestion is that you give yourself permission to surprise yourself. What you are truly capable of could astonish you.