What I give

Our lives are full of giving and taking, but today I have an urge to write about the former.

What is it that you give? To others but more importantly, to yourself.

The past month has been trying, to say the least. I am balancing school, my passions and am trying to stay stable during the isolation. It’s also been a year since I’ve been home and I have no idea when I’m heading back. When will I even feel safe enough to do so? School is all different. It’s just sitting at my desk all day clicking one Zoom meeting link after the other. Then I video call home and its another screen. And when I attend my weekly Toastmasters (public speaking) clubs, its just more screen time.

Over the past few weeks, it’s been consistently below -10 outside and it’s made me not want to go for walks. Midterm season is here and there’s lesser and lesser time to read and introspect. I feel that, slowly, these months are taking away all the good/comfortable things that help me cope.

I am still trying my best to give to others. To give them my attention when they call or text, or to help when I can. Be it listening to what’s going on with them or to offer whatever support I am capable of in that moment. I am trying but it feels like I can’t give like I used to. Or it just takes more and more strength to stay the way I was.

That’s where I turn to what I give myself. And it’s what’s keeping me afloat. Maybe the only thing keeping me going.

It’s the smallest things, to be honest. Listening to podcasts for 3 hours straight. Adding an hour or two of sleep during the day between classes. Sometimes leaving an 80 minute lecture when there’s 10 minutes left but I feel done with it. Reading the Mockingjay when I should be studying. Listening to the same three songs over and over again.

Beyond these physical changes, I’m constantly reminding myself that this is a rough time for a lot of people, so it’s alright to feel this way. It’s alright to not conquer every moment. That the goal is to get through all this and come out on the other side still standing.

As of right now, things that make me feel better in the moment, are important.

The question is “What do I need to give myself right now?”

And whatever the answer is – rest, silence, a conversation with someone, a trip to the grocery to just pick up snacks – I move towards it. While this may sound like it, it isn’t a lifestyle of avoiding hard or unpleasant things like studying. Rather, they help me find the strength I need to deal with the difficult and challenging aspects of everyday.

I’m trying to show up for myself. To listen inwards.

When it bothers you

Imagine this scenario: A close friend or someone in the family does something that bothers you. It could be a recurring habit they have. It could be the attitude they foster or perhaps, the things they say. I don’t mean if they simply have a different viewpoint than yours but rather if they are being disrespectful, rude or hurtful in their words and actions.

What do you do?

Most people, I would think, do not prefer confrontations. I know I don’t. Most people would either overlook it or change the topic of conversation to something that isn’t so bothersome. And that makes sense. The flight response is often easier than the fight response. But there are some that choose the latter. There are people that call others out on their wrong actions on the spot. They don’t mind creating a scene because they wish to do something about what happened right then and there. It happens more so in movies than it does in real life, but it does happen.

Now I don’t really advocate for one or the other. I believe our childhood experiences, the company we keep and our environments influence us to be one or the other. We often relinquish control and do what feels right because past events have moulded us that way. But I’d like to talk about what comes after.

Are you someone who forgets and forgives? Are you someone who holds grudges and brings those moments up every now and then? Maybe you’d like to think you’re the first option but you have some of the second in you. That’s alright. It’s not a black and white world. There’s some grey in there too. So what comes after?

I’d say the first step is considering distance. I’ve recently distanced myself from people who are not good for me. It’s not all that easy and you may find yourself alone. But the important thing is establishing whether their presence in your life does you more harm than good? Distance can be tricky and has many levels. You need to find the one that works in your case. Some people you can’t avoid forever. You have to see them at some point and unless you wish to be one of those “watch me ignore you” people, you will need to find a better way to co-exist. If you choose to stay close and talk about issues and work on them, then I wish you luck and strong and positive relationships.

If you do decide to add some distance, the second step would be establishing boundaries. What topics are off the table if you do have to communicate? How often do you wish to see them? How long until you try and patch things up? These do not have to be set in stone but they will help steer you as you try to limit the negative presence in your life. Boundaries work because they give you space to think and re-evaluate. They do not have to be the equivalent of building a wall between two people. If there is mutual understanding, they could be lines in the sand that could be swept away as your relationship heals.

The last step in my opinion, is giving people a second chance. I have always put my faith in people, but that may not be the same for you. I find this step to be important because it’s about reconnecting. This step is difficult. It requires a leap of faith with the possibility of a painful landing. You may choose not to and you would be in your rights to do so. Ponder on this when you distance yourself.

I’ve gone out on a limb here and tried something new. I’m not one for doling out specific advice but this is a process that has worked for me in the past. The goal is to surround yourself with the right people. This past year has shown us that extended periods of hardships can come out of nowhere. When so much is out of our control, we must turn to what is.

Taking care of yourself is not a process that will leave everyone happy. You cannot get along with everyone. If something bothers you, you need distance or some positive change. Don’t let things stay the way they are and pretend it doesn’t bother you. That’s just adding more to a full plate.

I wish you all strength, patience and whatever you need to navigate difficult relationships!

Happy holidays! Make sure you wear masks in public places, take precautions and let’s get through this responsibly!

What we become

There’s always a rough patch around the corner waiting for you. As much as I want to be a person with a positive and sunny disposition, I cannot argue against this. Small or big, these patches await us all and they come and go as they please.

It could be a bitter argument, a time when money is tight or even losing a loved one. Each one chips away at us in its own way even if we don’t see it. You might find that things are just not the same after. I’ve had conversations which made me rethink entire relationships with someone. This summer I had went through the gruelling experience of fixing a big mistake I made.

When I think back to the days when I was working to correct things, I remember the kind of person I became. I created feelings of self-hate and loathed myself for a long time. Every day felt like I was paying for making a mistake and that I deserved it. I stopped doing things that made me happy. I stopped reading. I stopped listening to music. I was the only one punishing myself for making a mistake even after others forgave me. It seems almost silly now, but I was not then who I am now.

It took me a long time to start considering thoughts of acceptance and self-forgiveness and that didn’t come easy. Every day became replacing negative ideas with different ones. Every day became starting to forgive myself a tiny bit. And eventually, I put that horrid experience behind me and looked forward to better things.

To this day I think about the person I became after that rough patch. Someone filled with self-loathing. It wasn’t the person I’ve wanted to be. Perhaps the complete opposite. I’ve always wanted to help others and I’ve learned that I can’t do that unless I help myself first. You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself. That is who I chose to become. Someone who understands that simple fact. And I chose to start taking care of myself so that I could give back.

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” 

– Carl Jung

I’ll end with this thought: The day I realized that my hardships turned me into someone I didn’t recognize, I started looking for a way to correct myself. What happens to me cannot deter me from being the person I intend to become. It’s not strong enough to achieve that.

I hope you all stay safe, wear masks, check up on friends and family and let’s get through this responsibly!