At one point, I was an eight year old girl daydreaming about owning my own credit card (big mistake), having my driver’s license, and living near an art museum. Oddly enough, all of these dreams have come to fruition, but the heaviness I carried in my childhood heart found its way to stay throughout the next 15 years.
I’ve always remembered myself as someone who’s felt things very deeply. Loved very earnestly. Tried with all her might. Got heartbroken wholly, but somehow was still timidly herself. I have told a close friend that it often feels like my life is a performance. It feels like I am expected or sometimes even expect myself to perform recovery. Sometimes it feels like I’m expected to perform who “Michelle” is not to myself, but through the eyes of others. There are breaks in this performance where I feel genuinely myself, but I once wrote in my journal, “I don’t know who I am besides a performance.”
Sure, call it people pleasing if you’d like. Call it fear of abandonment or anxious attachment style if you must. Regardless, I have faced this disconnect between who I want to know myself as versus who people expect to know me as.
I somehow feel such a strong contradiction that I am who I’ve always wanted myself to be and yet I despise this person as equally much. I’m entering this new chapter of my life. I’ve graduated from therapy and other mental health services. It feels like I’m running without a destination, but carrying just as much urgency. I’m scared to lose time, scared to lose more people, scared to keep going with the risk of still being unhappy. My therapist once asked me, “Do you fear failure or are you afraid of success?”
I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my 23 years of living, but the one thing I cannot bear to accept is a life not well-lived. The metrics for this, I’m not too sure of. The timeline? Toss that out the window. I know we are not promised anything, even the idea of tomorrow is a hopeful yearning for most. So where does this leave us?
I used to hate the despair I felt in my life. I tried to escape it many times. It’s not necessarily this life I am unhappy with, but rather the pain it has pushed me into feeling. But here are three big lessons I’ve learned in the past few weeks:
- We are not our circumstance. What’s happened to you does not define you.
- Time isn’t a measurement of your capacity. How long you take to do something does not equate how good/bad you are at achieving it.
- Life doesn’t happen in superlatives. Heck, life doesn’t always happen on our terms.
So yes, I have many of the things my eight year old self wanted. I have been blessed with so much love, good fortune, and kind company. At the end of the day, I don’t think I want to be the person that holds me back. A performance holding me back. What an awful thought. This is not to say at the end of this blog post, I have somehow found myself. Reconciled the love I thought I lost for myself. Instead, this is to say it’s a process and as my past academic advisor once told me “Trust the process [and yourself within this].”
I think it’s a comforting thought that many people I look up to in my life have told me, “Lots of us are faking it till we make it. No one really knows what they’re doing.” There’s no code we have to break that will guide us in living out our lives. We put the terms of that every day with how we choose to live and love.
So if there’s anything you’ll take from this, I hope that whoever it is people expect you to be, whatever it is you are expected to do, don’t lose your voice in all of this performing. Our voice is our might. Without it, we lose ourselves. If we don’t figure out who we are to ourselves and to others, those around us can easily decide for us. So be the person your childhood self needed most and thank them for holding on. Life is hard, but it’s even harder if we do not carry ourselves through and through.
All the love to you.