I have written a lot of empowering pieces about the importance of being self sufficient in the past, but having turned 18 this year and being considered a somewhat more official ‘adult’ in modern society, the most bizarre, paradoxical thing has happened. I realized that I need people more than ever before. Not because I’m afraid to spend time alone, not because I need help jump starting the car, but because I realized that I would not be where I am today without the love and support of people around me. For the longest time, I had convinced myself it was a weakness to show people you care, to speak openly about your insecurities, or to feel a craving for company. I thought it was a fault by being such an open book, and letting others dissect who you are. Since entering the precipice of adulthood, I have come to the conclusion that real courage is seen in the way you allow others to see you. I say ‘allow’ because most of the time, we do not give permission for ourselves to be authentic. We create an ideal image that we project into the world, or sometimes we distance ourselves. The problem with that is, we will never find real happiness because profound connections to other humans are derived from honesty, from vulnerability. You will never do justice to yourself if you don’t share your ideas, your love, and your truth with those around you.
I graduated less than a week ago from high school.
I have yet to fully comprehend the fact that those were permanent goodbyes that I dealt out, that it would be the last time my grad class would be assembled together. In the heat of the moment, and I mean it literally because the auditorium was incredibly warm, I found my mind drifting into nothingness. I kind of wish I had something more poignant that struck me as my peers’ names were being called, but my overall sweatiness forbade my mind from wandering elsewhere. Now that I’m finally winding down from the events, I suppose I have some sentiments that I could express.
Gratitude is the first thing that comes to mind. I have received an education that was relatively affordable whilst others in this world are deprived on this necessity. I also have immense appreciation for the people who have supported me the last five years whether it was inside or outside the classroom.
High school has been a tiny representation of the world that exists beyond me. It has taught me a lot about myself, the meaning of resilience, and the importance of relationships. I am finally learning to feel comfortable in my own skin, but I’ll admit that some days are harder than others. It’s all part of a process, and one that will continue as I embark on a new chapter.
In the last year, as part of becoming more confident in who I am and what my values are, I have ended and begun new friendships. I feel more connected to the people that I choose to spend my time with. A part of growing up was about accepting that friends grow apart and acknowledging that I have a choice in maintaining relationships or not. People who end up dissipating from my life are results of choices I have made to stop trying. And that’s ok.
My health has been at the forefront of the last few months, both physical and mental. I had taken it for granted for so long and it wasn’t until I experienced what it would feel like if my health were to limit my every day life, that I realized just how valuable a sound body is. My body is my home and I had been neglecting it. I have since made an effort to establish better habits because the truth is, I have to learn to care for myself because it’s no one else’s responsibility.
If you told me a year ago that I would have to come to terms with graduation by this point, I would have scoffed and immediately forced that thought to the farthest corners of my mind. But here I am, addressing it the best that I can and learning to accept my reality. A part of me is unsettled my the amount of change that is about to take place in the next few months, but another part of me knows that it is what I need, when one is comfortable for too long, we become stagnant, and I guess this is my time to push those boundaries. Here is to a new era.
While scrolling through the onslaught of posts on social media from my friends wishing their mothers the best this mother’s day, it prompted this post. My mom is on the other side of the world this year for mother’s day, but I did make sure to send her a message to wish her well.
Our relationship has never been easy. I have struggled to be very communicative with her growing up as the residual fear and resentment derived from my childhood has placed itself between us. Life has placed us in circumstances that weren’t conducive to the most loving relationship. I know that my mom is far from perfect. I know that she has many less than admirable features. Her temper and insensitive edge has hurt me on occasion and I sometimes worry that I may resemble her on my bad days a little too much.
As I have gotten older, and especially since turning 18 this year while figuring out where I want to pursue post secondary education, I have found that we have been able to ease the dynamics. I am no longer as dependent on her, and perhaps that has lessened the weight on her. It’s like she is finally letting me breathe because I can finally relieve her pressure. There are words that remain which I think we are both hesitant to say to each other, but there is a feeling of understanding nowadays. I know that she has sacrificed her youth for my sister and I, encountered a lot of less than favorable situations, felt completely alone in raising her children, and felt obliged to maintain a tough exterior. For that, I appreciate and respect her tremendously. For better or for worse, I would not be who I am today had it not been for this woman. For that, I owe her one.
The past seven days have been torture.
I have always known I have a tendency to overthink and become extremely anxious in mundane situations. But never to this extent. It was as though my body was being commanded by a force that didn’t belong to me. My pulse would race continuously, showing no signs of relenting. This was all while my body was sat perfectly still in a seat. My body was betraying me as I would find nausea engulfing me, clouding my thought. My sweat glands were on overdrive, and a skim of my finger across a sheet of paper would render it damp. Water was pouring out of my system like a cell in a hypertonic solution, my muscles tensing without my notice.
It was a battle in waves. The opponent would fire volleys of flames into my belly at random intervals, pause to let me barely extinguish them before attacking once more. The scariest thing? I was the enemy. Anxiety has been eating away at me the last couple of days and it all reached a boiling point today at school. It had initially begun during last week’s Calculus test when my teacher’s well meaning advice of “relaxing and breathing” because she saw the nerves in student’s eyes when she handed out the test, ended up triggering something that had remained buried in my subconscious. It brought the fear into the forefront, and it was like the understudy to a performance; the moment you let it have the spotlight, is the moment it begins to develop a strong greed for attention. Gradually, it started to demand for more screen time, creeping into my biology class, then my exercise science, then into my naps in the car, and into my studying at the library in the morning. Even when there was no test, the anxiety remained, its presence bleeding into every part of my daily life.
I started crying. It was the only catharsis I could find. The issue with that is when it starts, there is no way of stopping. It was like opening up a dam and pouring all the water into a barren desert. The desert would soak up the water and demand more to replenish itself. It was greedy just like the understudy to the play. But not as sadistic.
I wounded up telling my teachers about my anxiety and luckily they were all very understanding. I first approached my biology teacher to warn her that I may not do so well on the test because I was dealing with the physiological disturbances and she called my counsellor and set up a meeting for me with her. I had been reluctant to tell anyone about when it first started happening because I didn’t want to feel like a disappointment, I didn’t want to seem weak. But the thing is, I realize that there is a certain strength in vulnerability and being able to admit it when you are having a problem so that you can begin to heal.
So off I went to see the counsellor at her office where I had another good sob just to release the tensions. She walked me through different strategies to deal with my anxiety and I have to start practicing some meditation on my own time so that when the understudy insists on performing once again, I can tell her to fuck off.
My counsellor tried to put everything in perspective in that I had been carrying a little too much in my metaphorical ‘backpack’ and everyday, I should try to empty it out before tackling a new day. She reassured me that like anything in life, anxiety too, will pass. She asked me if I had spoken to anyone in my family about it, and I had only told my sister. She encouraged me to speak to my mom about it, so I unwillingly brought it up today. It wasn’t poorly received necessarily, but unsurprisingly, my mom was surprised. She thought it was out character to hear me struggle with nervousness because I have always had the reputation of being the calm one in the family. This was one of my concerns that I brought up with my counsellor and she told me that just because I get anxious doesn’t mean I can’t be a calm person in general. Everyone is prone to becoming victims of their mentality and I learned a valuable lesson this week on how our mental state plays a tremendous role in the manifestation of reality around us, how we function, and how we feel.
Most importantly, I learned that it’s important to ask for help when you need it and that it takes a hell lot of courage to speak up sometimes. I have developed a lot more compassion for others battling seemingly invisible forces of their own. Staying connected to people means staying healthy and this is coming as an epiphany for someone like myself who always thought being independent was the biggest priority. It’s ok to seek the comfort of others at times, it’s ok to be vulnerable, it’s ok to feel like you need someone for help. It made me realize that in a world where we constantly confuse trivial things like grades, social status, or wealth for being indicators of happiness, the truest measure is in the relationships you build with those around you.
If any of you are reading this who may be struggling against an understudy of your own, or maybe even future Selina who has encountered another hiccup along the road, behold the view of the people around you, the people that care, never lose sight of the things that truly matter. Simplify things, will this matter in ten years? Then you can begin to marvel at the lightness you will feel in your core, how effortlessly oxygen seems to stream into your body, nourishing every cell within you, every little part of you that keeps you ALIVE.
In the mean time, I will keep you posted on how this meditation thing goes.
Until next time.
There are certain encounters that last with us a lot longer than we would have thought in the moment it happens. I was on break at work a few months ago, had ten measly minutes to spare to munch on an apple before returning to the chaos of retail business during the holiday season when the lady next to me casually comments on how hectic the mall is, echoing my mental sentiment. I turn to face a blonde woman in her late forties who was gathering her winter coat with shopping bags in hand.
I nodded in agreement. I still don’t know what seemed so inviting about my nod, but the woman ended up telling me her entire life story in the next five minutes. She was a dual citizen who had recently moved to Canada because of the American election and her husband was in the military on deployment. She told me how she suspected he was going to come home and surprise her because her grandmother was celebrating a major birthday milestone and he loved her very much. She then told me how she was a pediatrician, a Duke med school grad and had returned to do a Canadian residency. She had worked as a nurse for over ten years before deciding she wanted to pursue more and attend medical school. It was a fascinating story and she gave me some meaningful advice about how I should keep an open mind going into university and beyond.
It was a brief encounter but something really refreshing to here from a stranger’s first hand experience. I still marvel at the odds that I happened to stumble across someone like her, as if it was fate. Now as I’m more than one month into 2017 as I am now trying to decide where to attend university, I wish I could have another conversation with her, I wish I had asked to keep in touch.
Just like that, she wished me happy holidays and disappeared into the crowds. I don’t think I would ever be able to find her again to thank her for providing that tiny sliver of inspiration in a critical moment. I’m not a religious person, but that encounter made me believe that some divine force drove us together.
I received an offer of admission to the university she did her undergraduate degree at a few days ago and right away, it reminded me of her and for some reason, I just really wished I could call her up and share the news with her. It was a bittersweet kind of moment.
Life has funny ways of working and I thought I would share that for today.