The 10 Year Challenge
So, what is the challenge part? That hopefully we look and feel better than we did 10 years ago, or at least that we haven’t completely gone off the rails. I got curious about it when I had a hard time remembering what I was doing in 2009. I had to figure it out from how old my daughter was, and go from there. She was just entering middle school, and once I figured that out, the rest of my life started to fill in. My memories were so foggy though, it made me want to explore it further. I was working in finance, taking my daughter to theatre rehearsals, and going to her plays. We adopted a Saint Bernard that year and our weekends were spent working out and drinking with friends. But how did I feel? I was still hiding back then. I would make it through my days by being what I thought everyone wanted me to be. And I would spend my nights exhausted and numb.
But, when I would go to my daughter’s plays and watch her put her heart on the line and perform despite her fears, I would feel like crying. At the time I thought my tears were for her, but now I see they were for me too. I didn’t have time to be artistic and express myself like my daughter was doing. There were bills to pay, a corporate ladder to climb, people to please. The time for me to express myself artistically has passed, and it was too late to even try. I had to be a responsible adult. But, there was a desire deep inside me to jump up on that stage and be a part of it. There was a part of me that wanted to overcome my fears and express myself too. When I would see her doing it, it stirred up that part of me that I had buried and forgotten. It brought up a sadness and a regret that I carried with me without even realizing it.
In 2009, most of my social life revolved around alcohol. Happy hours, martini bars, making new drinks at home, trying new drinks with friends. I was working hard, and this was my reward. When I would have feelings of dissatisfaction and loneliness I would think that there was something wrong with me. I would get scared that I would fall into a depression if I looked too closely. I considered myself a person that was prone to depression because I grew up in an abusive household. I thought that being sad was at my core and there was nothing I could do it change it. But because I didn’t look closer at my feelings, I had no idea what I really wanted, or what fulfilled me. So, I relied on the people around me to make me feel fulfilled. If my family and friends were happy, then I was happy. I thought that I was a giving person, who worked hard to make people happy. But I wasn’t. In being so reliant on them for my own emotional state, I didn’t allow them to have their own feelings. Because if they were sad, I took it personally. If they were sad, then I had failed.
I had a hard time remembering my life 10 years ago, because I wasn’t really present. I wasn’t being authentic because I was using all my energy to hide my feelings of inadequacy. I had already given up on myself. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to limp through the rest of my life with my burden of regrets. It wasn’t anything I had consciously decided, it was who I had become, it was at my very core. I would live like this for 5 more years before my exhaustion and emotional state would become intolerable. The journey that led me to stop drinking and rediscovering my artistic side was not of my choosing. I didn’t sit down one day and say, hey I miss that stuff I am going to start writing and drawing again. It was a process that started with nothingness.
When I stopped trying to please people, stopped drinking, and stopped trying to control others emotions I felt a void that was the most painful feeling I have ever felt. It was a void and stillness that rang in my ears every minute of every single day. It was a void that made me feel like an empty shell of a person going through the motions. I understand why people don’t want to look inside. It hurts! But after a while my feelings quietly started appearing, my real feelings. They were like whispers that I had to stay calm in order to hear. I slowly started coming back to life, but in a whole new way. Life started to make more sense, and I started noticing things that had always been there but that had been invisible to me. I learned to allow anger, sadness, regret, loneliness to become a part of my life, instead of running from them. I realized that the sadness I had been feeling wasn’t all from my past. I was sad because I had written myself off, and thought that it was too late to follow my dreams. I was sad because I didn’t believe in myself enough to even try.
My challenge now is to keep living authentically. To live a life that speaks to my heart, and to have the courage to express it to others. My challenge is to keep believing in myself, even when my path doesn’t make sense or resonate with others. I need to remember that they are not living my life. They are not the ones that made the choice to look into the void in order to come to the other side. And they didn’t cry at their daughter’s play because there was a little girl inside of them that wanted to be heard too. No one but me knows the feeling I have when I connect with others through my writing and my drawing. And to think it almost never happened, to think I could have kept my artistic side buried for the rest of my life. That is the only thing that makes me sad now.
My challenge is to keep remembering where I came from, and to keep remembering where I want to be 10 years from now.