There was a time in my life that lasted two years where the size of my world was an approximately three mile stretch between my house and my workplace. I would spend nearly all of the time that I wasn’t either at work, at yoga class, or running in my bedroom, and every single week was exactly the same, barring my monthly trip down to Asbury Park to restock the muffins and granola bars I’d eat for breakfast each day. Occasionally, there were breaks in this routine, but when there were, the anxiety I faced was crippling.
Set up room for dinner later.
At work, eat breakfast.
Pick up dinner.
Switch to Netflix.
Short yoga practice.
Soak feet in Epsom salt while eating dessert.
Go to bed.
Day after day after day after day after day after day times two years.
And within that time, I believed I was doing better, because at least I didn’t want to kill myself.
I had once been someone that thrived making plans for her group of friends. I believed myself to be burned out.
I had once been someone who found immense comfort in her friendships. I learned to rely on myself, not realizing I had developed high, strong, high-strung walls around me.
While I did lay the foundation for self-love and self-reliance during this era, I too forgot entirely how to trust or even interact with other people. I feared them.
An untimely death inspired me to take an honest look at my life and realize it was being wasted away. So I signed up for improv classes in New York City. It was the first time I was really meeting new people in my new state of mind. I entered those classes expecting to be who I was before, a weirdo who loves to laugh and make others laugh. And there were moments where I did feel like that person, but often I was someone else. Someone who cared deeply about the judgement of others, who wanted to fit in and be accepted to the point that every interaction I had I ruminated over until I found something fatal wrong with it. Rather than getting better at socializing, the more I exposed myself to others the more mistakes I felt I was making, the worse I felt about myself. And inevitably, when conflicts would arise, I was ill-equipped to handle them. I tried my best to have integrity, to put my loyalties in the right places, to stand up for what was right when it was appropriate, to let things go when they didn’t matter. But I just couldn’t get it right. I had lived in a black and white world for years, and when problems occurred between people, who are inherently complicated and neither good nor bad, I had no idea how to gauge the right thing to do. And if I couldn’t feel good about my decisions, how could I feel good about myself?
As it turned out, many of my decisions had not been good. I had, once again, trusted the wrong people, liked the wrong people, put them above myself, and ended up miserable for it. So once again, my world began to shrink, this time between my school and my home. It never did get quite as small as it had before I moved to the city, but I found myself craving my bed whenever I left it, sweating at the thought of having to face another human being. I had no idea how to make friends, and I seemed only to know how to love myself when my perceptions of others’ judgments were not a factor.
It’s been many years since I have been in that place. Since then, I have again put trust in dishonest people, yet I have learned to forgive both them and myself for it. I have learned that there’s nothing quite so simple as bad guys and good guys, and that extends to me, too. I have learned that it’s okay to make mistakes, and I’ve learned I’m allowed to be angry. I’ve learned to confront the source of my emotions, even if that means confronting another person; I’ve realized that my feelings are worth standing up for. I’ve learned how to express my truth, and I’ve learned that doing so helps me to feel comfortable in places far beyond my bedroom, where now I rarely am alone. I’ve learned that when something happens that causes me to feel extraordinarily bad about myself, to break down the event into what happened and what it makes me believe about myself, and realize there is no real connection between the two, and recognize what is real. While I haven’t quite returned to the carefreeness I once had, I’ve come very far, and in doing so I am equipped with coping mechanisms I never had before things got bad.
And that brings me to now. Both this year and last. There is a way to look at them that makes them look very stagnant, and at the end of last year, that is how I chose to see them. But this year my eyes are tuned into a different wavelength.
I was once the girl whose greatest ambition was to make it back to bed by the end of the day.
I have become the girl who would travel every weekend if I could, and while that isn’t feasible, I see how much I’ve done.
Just on my bike between this year and last I’ve covered New York City many times; Westchester, New York twice; Long Branch, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, California; Columbus, Ohio twice; Lake Placid, New York; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Patagonia, Chile. The size of my world is limitless. I do not have any simple routine, so it causes me no anxiety to break it. I’ve become adaptable, gotten the freedom to make whatever plans I want to as a result. I’m not afraid to get on an airplane — no more tears on takeoff or goodbye texts on boarding. I’ve made many friends, reconnected with ones who never really left. I’ve let go of wishing for people to love me again who maybe never did while allowing myself to still love them and not be hurt for it, to simply wish them well. I am not invincible or fearless, but I am confident and I am strong. I would rather take risks and get hurt than hide in my room where it’s safe but where nothing ever happens.
It’s been a roller coaster, which is a common way to describe life. I have no expectations that the crazy ride is over. But after all, I don’t want it to be. May it continue to be wild and adventurous. May my world and my life continue to expand. So here’s to the bumps along the way. Here’s to 2019.