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.

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  1. I, too, have started looking inside the void, to heal the little girl who never felt loved or wanted, who still silently screams love me, choose me. You give me inspiration!
    Thank you!

    1. Thanks Kim. I believe it is an ongoing process. Just like we love our children or friends, or spouses, we don’t just acknowledge them once and say ‘I love you’, and move on. We show them often our love, and we have to learn to show that same love to ourselves every day! Love, Peta

  2. Peta, Another amazing insightful post. You made me think about what I was doing 10 years ago, and it was not pretty. I had basically given up on anything for me and was also going through the motions. I love your last line, ‘My challenge is to keep remembering where I came from, and to keep remembering where I want to be 10 years from now.’ That is my challenge as well!

    1. Thanks Susan, looking back it is so obvious to me why I was sad and dissatisfied. It was because I wasn’t listening to myself or doing anything just for me. Somewhere along the way I just thought it was too late for me. It was a hard journey to climb out of that mindset. We wouldn’t want our loved ones to just go through the motions, so why did we do that to ourselves? Love, Peta

    1. Hi Jae, it is so true! It is hard to stand up for myself every day, and state my true beliefs about the present and what I want for the future. I am scared of rejection, and people making fun of me, but I try and walk through those feelings and state my truth daily. Love, Peta

  3. Beautifully written and expressed Peta. I’m right there with you! I started my blog because I felt it was time to let go of secrets and what other people thought of me. Best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

    Take care of that little girl that needs to be heard…

    1. Thanks Loretta, I agree! It is the best thing I have ever done too! When I started there were some things I thought I would never write about, and by the end of the year I was writing about everything. There is something about putting my writing out in the universe that has allowed me to let go of some negative thoughts and emotions. All of the support, and positive feedback I have received have also made me feel not as isolated. Especially when you say that you felt the exact same way! For so long, I felt like I was the only one hiding and that there was something wrong with me. Thanks for sharing ! Love, Peta

  4. Great post! I like how you went back and really gave a lot of thought to where you were ten years ago. Now I need to do the same!

    1. Hi Lana, It came about when I was looking for a photo of me from 2009, and in order to find it I had to try and remember what I was doing, and it was really hard!! So, it made me curious as to who I was back then. It really was eye opening to write about it and see how I have changed. You should do it, I think you will discover things that you have forgotten that will help you now. Love, Peta

  5. As I read your post, I identified with the feelings you share. How do we get to the point of ignoring who we are, numbing our emotions, and moving through life without even noticing? I feel like that was my life ten years ago as well. And that’s exactly why I started writing my blog last year as well. We grow distant from our own selves and forget who we are, give up on our dreams, and live life like automatons. What a waste. And I’m so grateful my goal every day is never to go back to living by going through the motions, but by engaging with every single moment. Thank you for such a thoughtful post.

    1. Hi Sandra, I agree with you. I only came to the realization that I was living like that when my sadness and dissatisfaction became too overwhelming to ignore, and now looking back it is so obvious why I was sad. I was ignoring my own needs. I am curious also how we slowly let ourselves fade into the background. Maybe it is just a slow process over time where we let a tiny piece of ourselves go every day until there is nothing left. I am happy for both of us, that we have come back to life and will take care of our ourselves moving forward! Love, Peta

  6. Oh my stars! What a powerful post! You are an amazing writer… it is so raw and real. Your post completely resonates with me. “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.” Oh my goodness! Those words! Thank you, and I just have to say you are an extremely gifted writer, and so very kind to share from your heart that way.

    1. Thank you so much Amy. I am so glad that you like my writing and it spoke to you. I am very flattered that you quoted me, and it is from my heart! I feel like I did walk through a void and got to the other side, and that action has given me so much strength to believe in myself now. I just have to remind myself of that when I am feeling weak. Love, Peta

  7. This post really resonated with me! I started to do some serious soul searching about 5 years ago. I’ve come a long way and now feel more confident than I ever have in my life. It’s a journey that never ends. I’m excited about what the future has in store for me and I’m determined to keep moving forward.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Suzanne. Sounds like we are on similar paths, mine started about 5 years ago also. I just knew I wanted something different, but wasn’t even sure what. I am in such a better place now. I am excited about the future too, and I want to move forward and never go back to not stating my truth, and not following a path that resonates with me. Love, Peta