“… With only a couple of exceptions, all of my friends seemed to be in the same places – emotionally, financially, and geographically – that they were in as of February 2012. And, with only a couple of exceptions, as much as they complained about their situations, they had done nothing and were doing nothing to change them.”
A friend of mine wrote this after a visitation from the Dominican Republic, where she is a Peace Corp Volunteer. I noticed two things about her: She is exhausted. She is more present than I have ever known her to be.
I was unexpectedly hurt by these words, but it has taken a while for me to understand why. A few months ago, I was engaged in a rewarding internship in pursuit of the finish of my college degree. I wasn’t rich, but I wasn’t dirt-poor. I was looking towards the future every day with eagerness. Now, I am a recent college graduate, living off $700 a month, with only a vague sense of direction. I have no savings, no health insurance, a large amount of debt, and a half-working car. I have gone on multiple job interviews with no other results than, “You didn’t do anything wrong; you’re great. We just went with someone else.” … and I am so much happier.
I realized that I couldn’t be hurt by these words from my friend, because during our conversations, I chose to focus on the things I do not have versus the things I have gained. What change could she see?
I took seven years to finish my degree. During the last two, I wasn’t even taking classes. For so very long, this unfinished task kept me chained to a geographical location I wasn’t emotionally committed to. Fear of the unknown kept me from creating a future without a college degree. The greater limitation was my utter lack of self; the result of a tumultuous and abusive relationship that overshadowed most of my “college life.” Attached to this lack of confidence and direction was anxiety that made basic decision-making seem insurmountable. In the past six months, I began facing that anxiety with intention, in order to stop chasing a set of pre-determined goals and gain the presentness my friend has managed to attain. I attend therapy, I meditated, and most importantly, I graduated college. Finally.
For a number of psychological reasons I don’t feel like airing on the internet, graduating became a deep fear of mine, one that I constantly self-sabotaged. My internship was like exposure therapy. After it was all done and official, I could feel how every muscle in my body had been tensed for years, because I could suddenly relax. I am able to focus, find quiet within myself, and notice the unnecessary muscles I use in my every day activities.
Am I perfectly content? Of course not, but now I feel actually able to accomplish something … but also aware that “accomplishing something” isn’t a worthy pursuit. So, I have decided something else:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”- Howard Thurman
I was hurt by my friend’s words because this change within me seems so important, because I expected her to know all of this by just being with me — how ridiculous. I’m still looking for work (hey, eating is still a big priority of mine, and paying off my debt is important to my independence), but I’m not worried about it. It concerns me without preoccupying my mind. And that is a difference in my life I didn’t expect.