Summer is drawing to a close, and the coming season inspires reflection.
I’ve found myself in a metamorphosis. Shedding a skin which, in the past crazy months, began to dry and shrivel tight around me. A skin grown for another life, wearing thin. Now shreds have begun to peel away, revealing flesh burning brightly through the tears. I am so conscious of my own potential, consumed by the rush I feel standing at the brink of transformation.
But for many months, I was caught beneath the surface; fighting for just a little more time, a little room to think. Fighting inevitable change.
I moved to Berlin exactly a year ago, leaving a job, family, boyfriend, social circle, an entire life behind in Washington DC. I moved out of necessity to pursue an affordable education in a country that is supposed to be my “home” (you can read more about my TCK identity crisis in my first blogpost here) finding that when I arrived, I felt more foreign than I had anywhere before.
Living neither here, nor there, I idled. I survived every day in Berlin waiting to visit my old life, then spent my time in DC dreading leaving again. My coping mechanism (or lack thereof) was distracting myself as to avoid confrontation with the real issues at hand; refusing to reach out for help as I waited for the unhappiness to pass like an overcast sky. Instead it poured, and my lingering misery warped to became immobilizing…
What do you want?
The question ran through my head on an endless loop this year, like a riddle to be solved. Nothing had ever seemed more urgent, or more elusive. Did I want love, or for my parents to be proud of me? Did I really want a degree, did I want to live in Germany? What did I want of my career, of my future?
I overanalyzed at a microscopic level, blowing everything out of proportion. My angst erupted. I avoided my educational responsibilities, got fired from my first contract assignment, abandoned my great self-discovery blog project, relapsed into bad habits. I pushed away my family, failed to nurture friendships, neglected my well being and began to withdraw in my relationship.
Then a few weeks ago, I was gifted perhaps the most meaningful present I have ever received. A beautiful handmade drawing desk, equipped with paper, pens, paint and plants; a space to make my own. But more than it’s material value, the gift was reaffirmation that, even if I didn’t right then, someone believed in me and my potential.
I purged my fears and frustration and disappointment onto rolls of craft paper taped to the wall, and scribbled my heart out on dozens of sheets; inspired by every line and shape and color.
I made an important realization in those days of healing; covered in paint, positively exhausted and slightly cross-eyed sitting back looking at my work. Without passion in yourself, there isn’t much of a journey to be had.
It had been years since I had last experienced that tide of passion. Time is suspended, and doubts stand down, and your very being is committed to the next brush stroke, word choice, shot, cut, mile, whatever it may be; and you command total control of the outcome. Those moments are completely your own, and they are golden, not gilded.
Everything outside of you can, and will, change regardless of your effort. But it is solely your responsibility to commit to yourself, to create and lead the life you want to live.
See, I had been looking at the riddle all wrong. No matter how much you want anything, there is nothing you can change in the equation except yourself. You can’t want someone to be someone they aren’t, or want someone to love you just how you want to be loved. You can’t want success, only want to work harder to achieve your goals. You can’t want happiness, you have to want to let go of the things that make you unhappy.
Sitting here today, I am not where I thought I would be. I am certainly not where I thought I wanted to be. But I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting and can say with confidence that, more importantly, I am where I need to be.
I didn’t need a perfect relationship, or pleased parents, or a degree, or for everyone to like me or what I do. I had worried insistently about everything, dedicating my energy to problems and people I had no influence of, and ended up weary and completely out of touch with myself.
This is an important reminder to nurture yourself. To admit bad days, ask for help when you need it and promise to do what makes you happy, for you. It means making hard decisions; knowing when to stand up and go after what sets your soul on fire, even if it means disappointing others. I’m finding the value of sacrifice can be overrated, and am just putting to practice the advice to invest in yourself before you go pouring yourself into others.
It’s time for me to heal, time for me to devote the energy I’ve wasted trying to control what I couldn’t into myself. I am taking responsibility for my happiness and my future. Everything else will fall into place.
I’m committing more focus to my art with many projects planned for this fall, and I look forward to sharing more of my work in the coming weeks.
I haven’t got it all figured out, but I’m on my way.
And I am happy.
Photography: Dave Mentzer