Fear v Courage

There’s a lot to be said about courage and fear. Everything I’ve seen is usually in response to some vague stressor that makes us feel doubt, concern and general consternation. And I think that that’s worth mentioning. However, I want to do a good old fashioned mental health blog today. The kind that’s more or less just preaching to myself.

In Facebook, you can look at all the things you posted on that day throughout the years. And today pulled up a piece I’d done here that was designed as a letter to myself. I talked to myself about abusive relationships, about self-hatred, about perseverance. And all of those things are important. But they’re not the only things I need to tell my younger self.

Anyway-fear. I found myself at a place mentally where I knew I wasn’t poised for success. But I’d convinced myself that it was completely necessary for me to be there. I told myself the list of reasons I had to be there, and then told myself that list again. And the louder I yelled that list at myself, the more I hated why I was doing it. So I shushed that voice that told me I had to and I got out of it. The list of reasons isn’t gone, but I sure am.

Do I have a plan? Nope-I have like 12% of a plan.

But what I do have is my mental health. And as I told someone today, that feels very selfish. That person then told me that mental health is never selfish.

And they were right.

I was so caught up in the embarrassment that I was going to ignore the voice telling me I had to because I couldn’t be happy with it. And I looked down.

I’ve told you this story. About how a little girl said the four words that changed my life. I wish for this. And the truth of the matter is, I couldn’t bring myself to say those words. So I left. I made myself feel better, happier. I chose me over all the reasons telling me “them”.

So here’s the deal.

Courage isn’t the thing keeping you rooted to the bottom of the ocean, fighting the tides. Courage is the thing whispering quietly to uproot yourself and be free. Fear isn’t getting swept up in the breeze, not knowing where you’re going. Fear is never leaving the mundane because you’ve convinced yourself not to take chances.

And so I took a leap of faith. Which was rewarded by an opportunity. I am pleased to announce that I now have a series on Channillo! You can find out more at: Coffee and Criticisms

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Thankfulness, Day 20

More and more I find it hard to be an extended conversationalist. I write better than I speak some days and when I am at a loss for words, it is truly an off day for me. However, for the first time in far too long, I had a friend date today and I found myself stagnating in coversation. It was by no means anything she did. It was simply that I was so in awe of how amazing the friends I have are. And so, it is for her that this post is dedicated today. I may have taken over the conversation at some point, and I am eternally grateful for your unfailing listening abilities.

I am thankful for closed doors. 

Our generation is one that is afraid to make a commitment, to say “no” because that could mean an opportunity lost. Opportunities come infrequently for 20-something college kids and so we keep all feelers out, just in case. But there are benefits to being able to decide and take a stand. When you close a door, you are devoting yorself to the possibility of something better. You are taking the chance that you trust yourself and your decisions enough to make a change. And what is even better is that you’re approving your confidence. 

Not making a choice is making a choice. When you remain neutral, doors will close around you. And those are the worst kinds of closed doors-the missed opportunities. Wouldn’t you much rather have made decisions to stand by (even if they were wrong) than never know if you made a large mistake by not making the mistake? So yes, I most definitely am thankful for closed doors. 

But I’m also thankful for open ones. For example, it was a very large struggle for me to get out of bed this morning. It was warm, comfortable and my bed doesn’t care if I want to be in pajamas all day. But I knew that if I just got out of bed, I would get to enjoy time with my oldest friendship. And I took that chance. I had someone listen to my problems, and I listened. I was introduced to what is now my favorite coffee spot in Columbus and I walked 2 miles today. The thing is, I was scared. I was going somewhere new, somewhere I had never been in order to have our friend date. It would have only been too easy to blow today off and apologize with some lame excuse. But my heart needed a friend and in the end, I gained a great deal today. 

I talked to my friend (it was more like “fellowshipped” but po-tay-to, po-tah-to), found a great coffee shop (where the coffees are delicious, cheap, and named after authors-I had a Jane Austen and the guy made hearts in everyone’s coffee!!!) and faced my fears. All in all, very successful. Because I closed the door on my excuses and opened the one to my possibilities. My heart is full, my day was fantastic.

  

Thankfulness, The Sixth Day

I’ve been at this almost a week, and I came to realize that I’m not the same person I was last year, or the year before that. I mean, obviously I’m biologically different, but my mind has grown as well. I had planned on writing today’s post about coffee and conversations, but then a song popped into my head. It’s a pretty common occurrence for me, and yet that song made me pause. 

Chances.

The song is by Five For Fighting, it came out in 2009. I really didn’t appreciate it when it first came into my life. But then again, when do we appreciate things immediately? 

This semester, I’ve been pushed to my limit. Classes with no posted grades and crazy attendence policies, professors with no filters (and bad manners), time that never seems long enough, money that never stays. I’ve changed schools, changed addresses and changed jobs in the last year, not to mention, vehicles and personalities. I’ve missed opportunities because of depression, passed on opportunities because of anxiety, taken opportunities and made mistakes. But just when I’m about to close the door on something (or the door closes on me), something happens.

Chances.

Looking for a job, grad schools, a car, really anything that can be looked for (my marbles?), it’s so easy to become discouraged. So many things seem just slightly out of my reach. I’m not quite good enough. And the thing is, that’s how it’s always going to be. But I am good enough. I know that. I just have to convince everyone else (or do I?). And while it’s easy to get frustrated at all the things I’m not quite ready for, the lyrics come back to my mind.

Chances lost are hope’s torn up pages

Maybe this time

Chances are we’ll be the combination

Chances come and carry me

Chances are waiting to be taken, and I can see

Chances are the fascinations

Chances won’t escape from me
Chances are only what we make them and all I need.

  

I’ll Never Be

I’ll never be good enough, will I?

Excessive demands around every turn,

Lies that we all tell 

But noone believes.

I’ll never live up to the bar, will I?

The one I set so very high

All starry eyed, 

Looking for that hint of perfection.

I’ll never be perfect, will I?

The way you thought I should be,

The way I should look, or behave, or think

But I don’t.

I’ll never be that girl, will I?

The one with her life together, 

Making strategic moves to get ahead,

Even at the cost of others.

I’ll never be so lifeless, will I?

That when all is said and done,

You’ve lost the me that I’d always bee,

That I always wanted to be.

I’ll never be far away, will I?

Just below the surface of the one

Who was forcefed all the bullshit excuses

About why I could never fit in.

I’ll never be the winner, will I?

Making my way across a size zero, plastic stage

With crimson grimaces in place of 

Raw emotion.

I’ll never be a work of art, will I?

The pristine capture of a timeless tragedy,

Wraught in crisp jackets and perfect makeup

Like a mannequin.

I’ll never be like them, will I?

The ones who think that the only thing that matters

Is the size and color of the skin I wear

Like a toy in a skeeball game.

I’ll never actually care about those things, will I?

I’d neer forgive myself for being a carbon copy

Of the unnecessary lies told by everyone else

When all the world ever needed was someone who told the truth.

But that’s never been my strong point.

So maybe you were wrong.

And the truth was something you murdered a long time ago.

I never gave up.

You did.

You gave up listening, seeing, believing in the truth.

You gave up unconditional love for the immitation.

You gave up looking at the heart inside, didn’t you?

But don’t worry, so did they.

And when they buried me in artificial waste, 

They didn’t know:

I was a seed.

  

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

Years ago I had an art teacher tell me that I was no good at drawing, or coloring, or creativity. Those concepts carried into my time as a high schooler, making me avoid art class with a passion. I chose instead, to put all of my efforts into music-where I learned to play various instruments with adequate skill and sang my  heart out in groups and solo. It is the story of my music education that I will hold onto for another day. When I found myself in a visual art class one year, I went to the teacher and explained that “I sucked”. It wasn’t because I had been certified as an individual without artistic powers or that I wanted mercy in the expectations, but because someone had told the impressionable child-me that I was no good and I carried that with me as my own truth. My high school art teacher told me that I didn’t suck and kept after me to keep trying. When my first entry on a larger project was complimented by TWO art teachers, I was confused.

I thought I sucked.

And yet here I am, a number of years later still and I find both coloring and drawing to be comforting. My skills are unpolished and although I find it relaxing, I would not say I am an artist. If you ever wondered what a difference havig art in classrooms can make, please use this story. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I have the utmost respect for teachers with passion, use this story. And when you combine the two, you’ll understand why this is one of the life-defining moments in my life.

I struggle daily with how to define myself. The labels which have been handed to me do not present a complete picture, and there are not words for the other parts of me. As I explored this, I realized that I am in a transient state, changing, moving and shaping myself constantly. I have no labels, because I do not need them. I am an unfinished work of art, still being planned out by an artist who hasn’t decided where this project will go.

I look back on that moment in high school when I struggled with my identity. Perhaps it’s just high school, perhaps I was different. I didn’t know that by breaking down the walls of my childhood-the misconceptions that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth investing time in-I would be doing the best thing for myself.

It has been 8 years since I stepped foot inside the high school I would graduate from. I was a junior when I took the art class that convinced me I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful. 

I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful.

So here I am, almost a decade after I began my transformation into the adult I will become. I haven’t finished changing, and in fact, I imagine I will be someone new before I finish. But the thing is, those words stuck with me. The teacher I had in high school is both someone whom I admire deeply and a source of great inspiration to me. She pushes me still to see the world in a different way than may be easy, or colorless. And so one of the things I’ve been working on this semester is exploring that change. What I came up with I’ve been putting into writing, becoming more assertive in what I need to say. What I don’t show people often is that I also put my messages into drawings. Sometimes they are tattoo sketches far too big and detailed to be reasonably priced, sometimes they are metaphorical and drawn in an utmost surreal context. But then there’s this piece.

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

  I so named it that because I wanted to show how my change is both reflective of who I am now, and the product of who I was. I’d like to take a moment and explain what I feel the message is. You don’t have to like it, just consider it.

The basic content is: a waterfall, a phoenix and two sets of hands. That much, I gather you could figure out for yourself. The next layer are the words in the background: Transform, Brave, Love, Acceptance, Beautiful, Hope, Life, Forgiveness, Growth. There is the color scheme to consider, the level of detail (and shading) in the hands, the size of the hands and the “decoration” of the hands, as well as the way the background is set up. 

The nine words are the ones I had to learn the hard way. They are reflective of self, things that were not always easy for me to fully grasp.

The background grows darker, more assertive as it approaches the bigger hands, more concrete. The waterfall is closer to the small hands. The left side of the picture in general is lighter, less defined, more washed out. 

And the hands themselves. On the left, you have a child’s hands. They are reaching out for help, open and expressive. The nails are painted black, and the waterfall is suggestive of losing oneself, “going off the deep end” and trying to “keep my head above the water”. The hands themselves are lightly shaded, as though the owner is becoming invisible. And yet there are bright red marks on the arms-dashes, hope and love. I can promise you that this isn’t a shock-and awe piece, but a true to life representation of the way my arms looked spring of my freshman year. I don’t talk about it often, it isn’t a story too many people know, but now they will. Those two words were the things I wanted most out of life-hope of a better life and love that would heal all wounds. And yes, I really did cut them into my arms with diamond Os and the Es facing vein length. It is honest and brutal.

On the right, there is the me that I am now. older, stronger hands with imperfections (like crooked fingers) reaching out to the younger me, the me that is representative of the 2-3 million people who engage in self harm each year. The right side reaches out, without judgement, offering safety and hope and love to those without. The nails are blue and a silver wedding band is there. But if you look closely, the scars are still there, silent reminders that what was done cannot be undone, but can make you stronger. 

In the end, it was never about being right or being wrong. It was always about being the person who broke free from their shell to embrace something new. I may not be perfect, but I made something beautiful: a new life. And that is the true evolution. Like a phoenix, I took my failures and created brilliance. I cannot wait to see what comes next.