The last five years have felt like I’ve been moving through life in some form of vessel that propels through water. Sometimes slow. Sometimes steady. Sometimes it feels like I’m capsizing.
A canoe: When I feel like things are too stagnant
Mentally, it’s like I’m stuck in a room full of tree sap before it starts turning into amber. It’s stuffy and viscous. It feels heavy with every breath, and it’s occurred to me that I’m trapped. It’s the feeling of doing something you absolutely hate out of obligation. Or you know… working at a job you know you’ve outgrown.
And you can’t get up too erratically—you have to do it thoughtfully and strategically—otherwise the whole thing tips over.
A kayak: When things are moving quickly
This is like the week I had home renovations (I couldn’t sleep out of anxiety because I was certain something would go wrong), had four job interviews, and had been living off a cool 12 hours of sleep. It’s me mentally blacking out and I’m just blindly going, going, going. Honestly, I look back and wonder how I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel during that week.
I want to say this is like when pressure makes diamonds, but it’s not. It’s like… when you get blackout drunk and wake up the next morning, and instead of a hangover that makes you throw up bile and your head spin, you get one that goes away after a few cups of coconut water and some food. It’s magical in a weird and unpleasant way. It’s like, you’re impressed with yourself but wouldn’t do that again.
The Ben-Hur ship (especially at ramming speed): When I’m trying to live up to my fullest potential
This is this uphill journey meets hamster wheel. Sometimes I feel like I’m not going anywhere and it’s just… wading in water until someone jumps in and saves me. And then sometimes it feels like I’m trying to push my body though tree sap again—cause wow, this sucks but as a means of survival, I need to get out. And then sometimes it’s a wow moment—the rose in the concrete, the salmon swimming upstream for 18 days, a cactus flower finally blooming.
That’s the kind of beauty reserved for us mere mortals—where life is transient, and nothing is ever permanent.
In the last five years, I came back from a trip of a lifetime, I went through a really bad breakup, I lost a lifelong friend, I moved out of my parents’s house, I worked four different jobs at four different places, I watched friends I used to see everyday move across the country… I went from crawling into my friend’s dorm room window at midnight for a party to watching my friends have a mental breakdown at dinner because they were working 60 hours a week and their boss was treating them like shit.
In many ways, it broke my heart to watch all of us grow up so fast. I’ve always thought of myself as never wanting to grow up. You know how they say some men have Peter Pan syndrome? Well, same. I wanna have fun forever. I want to frolic in a Pride and Prejudice type field in a billowy dress and my sun-streaked hair tousled in the wind. I want to forget that as I get older—so do my parents. I want to jump into the water even when I know it hasn’t warmed up enough to the summer heat. I want to laugh—and in the most non-creepy way, I want everyone I love to be laughing with me.
So which vessel and which way next?
I said to my therapist the other day, “Sometimes I feel like I’m just rowing and rowing to be the best version of myself. I’m so tired. When does it stop?”
And she took my metaphor (love it when someone just picks that up and spins it back to you) and said to me over the airwaves of our virtual call…
“Well, can you ask yourself if you can stop rowing for a second, float, and just enjoy the view?”
In the last five years, I can say I’ve learned a lot, cried a lot, wrote a few strongly-worded emails, pep-talked myself up less than I’d like to admit, found a career I truly love, sent a lot of voice notes to people I miss, have been ashamed of myself but have likewise never felt more proud, and have said goodbye to things that had left before I realized were already gone.
Something that I didn’t do a lot in the last five years was love a lot. I did some, but not a lot. And by love, I mean all the kinds of love worth having—the love you have for your family, for your forever friends but also for people you never thought you’d be friends with, for someone trying to win your affections, for new favourite smells, for charming colour palettes in the sky and neighbourhood buildings, for moments you want to keep forever and stillness in time… for things you never thought you’d have room for in your heart.
I told myself I’d be more vulnerable in 2020 (praise Brené Brown). But even as I’m dog-earing the pages of Daring Greatly, I keep forgetting what that really means. I’d like to put it out into the universe in words that I promise to spend the rest of 2020 being more open. More open to life’s beauty that we sometimes need to spend the whole day searching for. More open to the unknown and the pleasure (and pain) of letting go. More open to unplanned plans. More open to being disappointed, but at the same time, pleasantly delighted.
More open to floating and enjoying the view.