A glimpse into 22: it’s all going to be okay

I haven’t written in a while and it’s not for any particular reason besides the fact that I haven’t felt inspired or incredibly moved to write something in my own voice. In fact, I’ve been so afraid of what I’m carrying around, that I’ve refrained from even expressing it at times. Tonight that changed for a moment, and I’m letting this all out freely because it’s the only way I know how.

The only way I know how to express myself is through words. Words have always been a key part of who I am. They fuel me, they connect me to others…they set me free. Free. Free to let go of what others are thinking for a millisecond and just be real. Just be…me.

In the last five months, I have graduated, moved away from home to a new place, a new city, and a new job. Even though I’ve known the city I live in for more than half of my life, it has never been “home” for more than a few months at a time. I’m on my own–living alone, sorting alone, and figuring things out as someone who is alone. And yet I’m not alone, not even in the slightest.

I’ve gone through so much change, that I feel like I’ve completely uprooted my life and everything I knew about myself, and I’ve been given a new pair of glasses through which I now view myself. That being said, I’ve discovered a few big truths about myself throughout each experience.

I’ve learned how to say no. 

Sounds easy, right? Saying no? But for me, it’s not. Saying no has always felt like failure, guilt, shame, or defeat. Saying no meant I let someone down.

I’ve learned that sometimes saying no to someone or something else, means saying yes to yourself. Saying no means that you can stop apologizing for who you are or what you believe. I’ve learned that no matter how much I want to have a community here–outside of the amazing work community I have–I am not at a place in my life where socializing after a long day at work sounds fun all of the time. Sometimes I come home and stand in my kitchen and stare at the wall, waiting for something to happen. Sometimes saying no means I lay in bed, thinking over all of the things I didn’t perfect that day or that week. And sometimes…saying no means laughing at myself as I spill something in my car while trying to rap with The Weeknd. Yes, sometimes I rap while I’m alone in the car, you heard me. Saying no means I get to go home and clean every inch of my apartment and reminisce over old photos of people that feel lightyears away from who I am now. Saying no means I get to shave my legs in peace and quiet, when I choose to, in the safety of my own company. Saying no means I found my voice. I’ve discovered that saying no in order to be ready for the next day is okay. In fact, apparently people have been saying no my whole life and I’m just now realizing that no isn’t a negative character trait.

I’ve learned that I don’t have it all figured out, and that is okay, even if it makes me anxious, distraught, and confused. 

Being a planner and perfectionist has always made me feel prepared, ready, and most days, successful. Turns out you can’t plan your life, because by the time you’ve made your excel spreadsheet, it’s Tuesday of next week and everyone is moving forward. Everyone is moving forward and you’re stuck wondering how you got left behind. I have never been humbled so quickly and brutally. I have to-do lists that aren’t going to get done, and that’s okay. I have a workout schedule that isn’t actually being accomplished for a month or so, and I’m still breathing and healthy. I’m not hanging art on my walls, and maybe there won’t be art in my apartment until next November. That’s okay, too. You see, the planner in me is struggling to breathe, looking for any familiar landmarks to grab onto, any streets that look familiar, but that’s not how life is. You get comfy and then realize the schedule has changed. If we’re really supposed to have it all figured out, how are we learning? Surely the discomfort of being fresh out of college and a twenty-something in a new city is preparing me for bigger things in life. It has to be.

I’ve learned that my students have the answers I can’t find at midnight or 9 a.m. when I’m lesson planning. 

In fact, I’ve learned that there aren’t always lesson plans, and that’s okay, too. Even if we get through one of the five activities I have planned, if the quietest student in my class can say their name out loud for the first time during category of the day, I have found success. Success is hidden in the smiles you don’t see when you’re worried they aren’t learning from you. Success is in the hands of the child that can’t sit still, or the student that has every answer in the book. Success is when the plan gets railroaded because your students discover their voice and you just want to take a minute to listen. Being a first year teacher is TOUGH. It is not easy because you took copious notes, studied all of the right lesson plans, had the best professors, or went to the top conferences. It’s tough because no matter how much I want to teach, sometimes I don’t have the answers, and that unravels me. I feel like I have nothing to offer, material that isn’t reading well, and questions that aren’t making sense, and yet…I’m simultaneously in awe of everything that happens when I see growth in our kids. I fall asleep and wake up thinking about lesson plans, activities, warm-ups, ideas, lists, unanswered emails, overwhelmed parents, and all of the other things that come with being a teacher. In fact, I’m so busy thinking of all of the things I didn’t accomplish, most of the time I’m too anxious to see how many things I am accomplishing. At the end of the day, one great class can remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing.

I’ve learned that people will surprise you.

The amount of times I assume what someone is thinking or not thinking has lead me to realize that I can’t and shouldn’t assume my perspective is the reality. Just because someone isn’t actively participating or smiling, doesn’t mean they don’t hear you or care. It means they’re tired, overwhelmed, or just thinking. And sometimes, it means nothing at all.

Most of all, I’ve learned that I have to be an advocate for myself. 

I can’t expect that trying hard always means success. I can’t expect that the schedule I have will allow going to the gym everyday to be at the top of my list. What I can do is listen to my body and my mind, respect my limits, and be gentle with myself. I can just be. I can be at the place I’m at and start believing that where I am is no indication of what I’ll be capable of in ten years. I can start to catch myself self-sabotaging and take the first step to redirect my thoughts to find my bliss. One of my friends told me that the other day; each time she gets overwhelmed, anxious, or frustrated, lately, she stops and just thinks out loud in that moment, “What is my bliss right now? What lesson am I learning?” I’m so far from everything that I want to be, but right now, I’m exactly where I can be. I’m here, present, leaning into every uncomfortable crevice of this experience, learning that at the end of the day, the person I’m becoming can be loved, empowered, and cherished.

So no, I don’t have it all together. In fact, I am flawed, imperfect, and scared, most days. But today I choose to see the sparkle in the flaws, the perfect in the imperfect, and the way that the word scared can be rearranged to spell sacred. Because that’s what this life is. It’s messy, brilliant, and sacred, and I only get to live it once. So I guess it’s time I started focusing less on how far I am from the end goal, and more on the journey that will get me there.

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