I feel cheesy sort of, for writing this. It’s a reflection upon the past year, since I feel like it has been a significant one for me. I think I’ve learned a lot and have become much more aware of who I am as an individual. Also, for some reason, I have nothing funny to say. Probably because women are child-bearers. Anyway, one of the things I learned (or tried to) this year is to be less afraid to speak. So here is this.
Without being too specific about the events and details of my life, I have been thinking about the past a lot lately and how far I have come since then.
I remember in October 2008 a lot of things were going on. However, for all the things that happened a year ago, back then I was still hung up on the past and the future. I missed the summer where I had met people I thought were (platonic) soul mates. I looked forward to the future when I would no longer be in college and have to worry about directing student films. I worried about the outcomes of certain situations I had gotten myself into. I was constantly writing myself off as being “irrational” or “too emotional,” and trying to cope with midterms, common colds, and some of the hardest life lessons I have had to learn.
In rereading everything I wrote about that time, I am starting to realize that the hardest thing about dealing with those troubling things was a naive understanding of myself and unreasonable expectations placed on me by both myself and others.
I asked people who treated everything I said ambivalently, because they didn’t know either. I turned to people who criticized me, made fun of me, and generally spoke down to me. It was cruel. And at the time I thought the latter person was my best friend.
And I continued to write everything off. And I kept trying to do too much and ended up doing nothing well in trying to do too much. And I kept feeling like a failure for not being able to keep up that workload and do a great job at it. And I kept thinking that certainly, the problem was me. I kept thinking that I did something wrong. Or I should have done something differently. Or, why didn’t I? Why did I cause these things to happen? Or I kept thinking that maybe my perception was wrong, that I just needed to look at it differently.
The pressure to be a certain person can be too much at times. We are not perfect. There is a tendency to try and mask our flaws as seamlessly as possible. Being honest is never a great idea, because it also comes at the cost of being vulnerable.
Having problems in general never seems acceptable either. What I think I have finally learned about my own struggles is how to accept them. Back then my attitude was, “this isn’t that big of a deal.” I would write it off. A slight emotional trauma was not as significant as like, starving children. Plus, I’m a grown up (kind of). I should be able to move on. So I would do that. I would move on and forget it. I’d immediately jump to the next thing without ever going through any sort of significant grieving process.
We all want to be strong and intelligent. To accept your struggles sometimes feels like accepting defeat. You lost. Losing is terrible. We are always at odds with someone or something. We’re trying to climb ahead. Survival of the fittest. It’s an instinct. And if you can’t “be a man” and “forget about it” then you are also revealing your weakness. You’ll be killed off next.
But I’ve both learned and observed that becoming defensive and nonchalant about the challenges life presents us with is generally not the best route to recovery and growth. I’ve seen stubborn relatives ignore the problems to points of insanity. I’ve seen myself repeat similar mistakes due to my refusal to learn the lessons properly by never getting past the “denial” stage.
I don’t know what psychological “stage” I am at now, but things seem different, from this side.
I remember in October 2008 I was taking level 101 of Improv. I had decided I knew my way of doing it. I had decided that I was going to be dry and sarcastic always. I had assumed, at level 101, that it was just my style. And I was upset and offended when the teacher called me out on it each time. My sarcastic, insincere manner of improv.
But now I am about to take level 501. And I don’t feel that way anymore. Or at least, I have abandoned the concept of a fixed style. An improviser is stronger if they are flexible and adaptable to any situation. Not to mention, commenting on a scene is never as wonderful as committing to a scene.
Without getting into too much improv jargon, the point is that the other thing I finally accepted is that I have more to learn. A year ago, I felt self-aware, and I was. But I was also stuck in my refusal to change. I wouldn’t learn hard lessons. I wouldn’t try to stretch myself. I wouldn’t accept that maybe I was wrong about somethings. I’m still not great at improv, but I do feel like I am much better at it than I was a year ago, and not just because I practiced. I feel like my outlook towards it has improved too. Back then I wanted to do it because I thought, “this is how I might become a comedy writer for TV.” But now I don’t expect that from improv. The only thing I expect from it is the promise of getting better.
I feel like things in general are much better, a year from last October. Jupiter is not in retrograde anymore, for one thing. But also, I’ve become better at recognizing who is a friend, and who isn’t. I’ve met very amazing people since then, and their existence in my life proves a lot of things to me. I no longer put up with crappy friends who don’t have my best interest at heart and instead criticize and judge me. Instead my friends and I seem more interested in growing together and helping each other rather than competing or “proving” things. I have been worrying less about outcomes (though not completely). I have been getting better at recognizing bad things and letting them go. I’ve also been doing a lot less things, but doing those fewer things well.
I’m still not perfect. I’m still unsure about a lot of things. I still worry. But I feel like the thing that has changed is that I know myself more. And I have slowly gotten better at everything. Recognizing that growth has been encouraging. Especially considering where I was a year ago.