Who I Am Now

Every year, I say that I’ve grown immensely. And every year, I say that I really, really mean it this time. Well, this year I say the same – but I really, really, really mean it.

2014 was quite possibly the worst year of my life, and certainly the most embarrassing. I apologize to everybody who knew me during that year. Even now, as a stable and confident person, I cannot help but feel a twinge of shame when I reflect on those times. How could I have been so appallingly immature? But alas, it all turned around, as things have a way of doing. 2014 was the wound, and 2015 was the bandage.

I crawled into the year feeling vulnerable and emotionally naked. I felt like I had nothing. 2014 had stolen from me. What plagued me most was regret. I hated who I used to be, and I felt like that immature, pesky me was in my shadow constantly. But even then, I was growing, even if I didn’t think I was. For the first time in my life, I didn’t hate myself. I hated my old self, which I suppose is an extension of myself, but the hatred was removed. It didn’t feel like a personal attack. I hated an image, an icon, a memory – not the skin within which I was confined.

Because 2014 had been the year of unhealthy coping mechanisms and emotional barrages, I wanted to find better ways of dealing with my strong feelings. The previous year’s self-hatred had left me scarred and exhausted. I was tired of the hate. No more hate, I promised myself. What, then, was I to do? Well, I turned to the opposite.

I turned to love.

When I felt sad or lonely, I decided to do something that would impact someone else for the better. I channeled my strong feelings into something good. From a terrible day came one of my most successful acts of kindness, The Lollipop Project. Seeing everybody else light up made me light up, too. I found my passion for making a difference. Helping others, then, became less about my happiness and more about the good of others. For once in my life, I started on a mission that didn’t have to do with myself. And even though I often had difficulty expressing my compassion, it was there.

Love made my burden lighter. I came back to God and brightened my outlook on life. I felt less dependent on others for validation, and I genuinely liked myself. My God, I can’t tell you how great that felt to realize that. I graduated sophomore year feeling renewed.

Yet there was still a lot more growing to be done – in fact, most of it hadn’t even begun yet. I had learned compassion, and my next lesson was confidence. Compassion is weak without confidence. I broke off relationships that were detrimental to me, relationships that caused me to feel weak and powerless, and replaced them with healthy connections to the truth. The next few months composed the most pivotal summer of my life.

In June, I felt shaky. I consulted other people for everything. Where do these plates go? Do you think these are ready? Where do I go now? What do I do? I got frazzled with everything and didn’t trust my own judgement. I was not a leader, but I would learn to be one. I worked for VBS and summer camp, which was far out of my comfort zone. Far. I didn’t know how to interact with children, so I felt uncomfortable. Camp especially helped with that discomfort. In just a few days, I gained more confidence than I had in all of 2014, possibly. I learned how to make decisions, call shots, know what to do, and be a leader – all things that had once terrified me. I also learned that I actually really love older elementary kids! I’d always felt a little awkward, but once I got to know my campers, all of that basically disappeared.

My growth spurt peaked and leveled off at the end of the summer, I think, but that didn’t mean there was nothing left for me in the last few months of the year. Here and there, I learned a few smaller lessons about conflict resolution, listening skills, self-control, and other assorted things. I picked up a few habits, too – like napping and staying up late (and I mean hardcore late. Maybe I could lose that in 2016).

For once, I don’t look back on the year with regret. I’m not ashamed of 2015 like I was of all those other years. I see it with complete love and fondness, because I learned so much. So much. I feel like a fresh and new girl – woman – who can handle life. I no longer feel weaker or inferior compared to my peers. I’m equal. I’m strong. I can support myself, and I feel confident enough to let others lean on me, too.

Who I am now is all I ever dreamed of in 2014.

Happy New Year. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ordisia

Before you read: do you enjoy taking personality quizzes? Consider taking one I created. Which of my fantasy land regions do you most resemble?

About two years ago, I started crafting the world of Ordisia. It was wonderful. I had histories; foods; climates; class, religious, and educational systems; wildlife, and even an alphabet, which I have since relearned and begun writing journal entries in.

When I created Ordisia, I was creating myself. All of it is just a mirror of my own soul. I found the different sides and outlooks I have, and I put them into a fantasy land. The region of Thrive didn’t necessarily represent me (though even I have a cruel side), but it was the demons and past bullies I ran from. Orbin was my ideal self, who I wanted to be deep down, who I was at my best. Interestingly enough, it was in the center of the land of Ordisia, probably because that ideal of who I wanted to be was most central to me. Oist represented what I was experiencing with clinical depression. Heben was my wounded, vulnerable, fearful side. I was desperate for love, but also afraid of it, because I felt inferior. I obsessed over my past and constantly searched for this perfect “healing” that would wipe away my insecurities. Armis represented my loyal and protective side. I was guarded and suspicious, always on the lookout for things that might hurt me. I wanted to rebel against conformity and injustice. Deep inside, there was a spark for revolution.

I am Ordisia. Ordisia is me.

I Had A Friend

Disclaimer: the following is a piece of writing. It does not reflect the author’s life in any way. The characters in this piece of writing do not exist. If you are concerned about the author’s well-being, please read through all her recent posts talking about how much she loves her life, and feels happy and satisfied. Just had to clarify before people got concerned.

 

A couple years ago, I met somebody who changed my life. I can barely write her name, because it hurts so much.
Jill.
She wasn’t a teacher, a mentor, or a coach. She was just a friend.
And I miss her. Because, for the short time I knew her, I could finally say that
I had a friend.

I’d never had friends, and Jill was special somehow.
Unique.
I met her in English class the first day of my eighth grade year. She was at the desk in the very back of the classroom
eating eraser shavings.
There were no other desks left, because I’d come in a minute late.
So I was forced to sit with her.
The first thing Jill asked me – a peculiar thing – was
“Do you have a best friend?”
I was taken aback.
There were plenty of acquaintances in my life, of course. But no best friend.
I was shy and reserved, not wanting to open up about myself, so I lied and told her that
yeah
I had a friend.

Every day in class, as our crotchety old teacher rambled on about who knows what
me and Jill sat next to each other, awkwardly.
Jill and I, I should say.
It was English class.
She drew fantastic pictures, truly lifelike, as if her sketchbook was a mirror to her mind.
And of course, she always ate the eraser shavings.
I wanted to ask her why, or how she drew so well. I had so many questions,
but I was too shy.
Jill noticed.
She did the talking,
and it began with
“I had a friend…”

“…who taught me everything I know about art.”
Jill talked to me about her childhood soulmate, a fictional character.
Apparently she learned to draw by listening to what the character told her
in a book.
I thought she was crazy, but intriguing. It took me until the end of the year to tell her anything about myself, deep down.
I told her that I was lonely.
I don’t know why I told Jill, of all people. Maybe it was because I was tired of having nobody.
Being friendless.
Jill looked up from her drawings and looked at me inquisitively.
I started to cry, and as I did
so did she.
No words were needed. I just wanted to be heard.
Jill heard.
And just like that
I had a friend.

We became inseparable, hanging out all the time.
Jill was so incredibly peculiar.
She pulled grass from the ground and put it in her hair, pretending to be the Incredible Hulk.
She couldn’t sing to save her life, but she did anyway
to everybody. Strangers in grocery stores, even.
Christmas songs in May, beach tunes in January. Everything she did was with the intent of idiosyncrasy
and amusement. She entertained me.
Captivated me.
I never even had to say much – I just took it all in. For years.
I wasn’t alone anymore.
I had a friend.

Sometime in my senior year, things changed. I still don’t know why.
Jill became angry. She threw things. Screamed at people.
Cried for no apparent reason.
One time, she called me at four in the morning, babbling on about how
she only wanted to be loved.
I told her I loved her.
She called again the next week. Then the week after that. Not always at four in the morning.
Sometimes at eleven at night.
Sometimes right after school,
and always with the same question.
“Does anybody even love me?”
I told her I loved her.
Time and time again.
Jill stopped being so gregarious and agreeable. All she wanted to discuss was
her own loneliness. Her own pain. Her own sorrow.
Her own, her own, her own.
The girl who had once taken everything off my shoulders, supported me, showed me her drawings
gave me light and weightlessness
now bore down upon me, endlessly.
I remember sitting on my bed one evening, alone, wondering if we were friends anymore.
She didn’t act like it. We never had fun. I never received love from her.
But I was shy and lonely, and I didn’t want to distance myself from her – no matter how much she drained every ounce of life from me.
I didn’t have a friend anymore; I had a daughter
to care for.
But I lied to myself,
told myself that
I had a friend.

In May, one dreamy evening, my phone rang
It was Jill.
I answered, annoyed.
I was tired of her calls.
“Shut up and leave me alone for once!” I snapped.
But it wasn’t Jill.
It was Jill’s mother, telling me that
Jill was dead.
I went slack-jawed, breathless, white.
“How?”
She was found locked in her bathroom, hanging from the shower curtain rod.
Her own doing.
I hung up and curled up on my bed,
and I began to sob
uncontrollably.
Because I hadn’t been good enough for her. A mother. A sister.
A friend.
Or so I thought. It was all my fault, I told myself. What was the last thing I’d said to her? I couldn’t recall.
Everything we’d ever done together, every memory we’d shared
just stuck in my mind like pins.
For the first time in four years, yet again, I was alone.
Jill was alone, too, in a coffin, wrapped up in a silly blue dress she never would have worn.
Nothing more than a corpse and a stone that read,
“Jill, a unique light to all.”
A bouquet of flowers, and
some eraser shavings.
Jill, my wonderful friend Jill, was dead. Forever.
I couldn’t tell anyone, “I have a friend.”
There was no present-tense.
Not anymore.
I have a friend
I have
I had.
I had a friend.

 

 

 

 

 

We Become What We Hope For

For the past two years or so, I’ve imagined myself giving these speeches to large crowds saying, “Hey, my life was total bullshit. [insert examples of bullshit] But things got better! [insert hopeful examples] [insert hopeful, inspirational message]” Which is weird, because public speaking is NOT my thing. One day, however, I will give a big talk. I will. I know it. 

-Me, 12/30/13

I was intrigued when I found this quote of mine, particularly because I have made several (informal) inspirational speeches since then, and I’ve loved every minute of them. For a good while, I wished I had public speaking skills. In my mind, as this quote suggests, I spent a lot of time dreaming about being stage-confident, and I always knew that I would one day achieve that wish. I didn’t think it. I knew it.

This same wish-know process applies to my interpersonal relationships today. It’s my intense desire to be able to better communicate with others in emotional contexts. Processing my own emotions is natural; processing others’ emotions is a stretch for me. I really do have an enormous amount of empathy, and I would listen to someone for hours, but I’m not yet adept with it. In my mind, I’m comfortable responding to and interacting with outside emotions, just as I imagined myself as a fantastic orator two years ago. I’m not there yet. That’s okay. Even though I don’t have many opportunities to practice my emotional skills, it’ll happen.

Think of it this way: I was a writer who wanted to extend her linguistic skills to public speaking. Now, I’m an introspective feelings enthusiast who wants to become better at directing those emotions outwards. Chances are, you already have the skills that will help you achieve your goal. Take advantage of opportunities to grow those existing abilities. Keep a positive outlook on your personal development. You will one day become what you hope for, so long as you believe that you really can.

 

Behind the Speeches

At the end of my sophomore year, one of my classes had a list of superlatives. We nominated fellow students, and then the teachers took our papers and tallied them on the board. I actually won more than anyone else in the class: most likely to save the world, best public speaker, most charitable, and…most optimistic. I was actually shocked at that one. I had never thought of myself as an optimist before. But as I reflected on the speeches I’d given to my class, the peace and self-acceptance efforts I championed, the way I told and lived out my own story of hope, I realized that all that really was optimism.

The public might not know it, but deep down, I experience an enormous amount of pessimism and self-doubt. I don’t give speeches about those raw fears alone–I always find a way to make it positive, because the last thing I want to do is spread more negativity in the world. My pessimism is actually very apparent on a one-to-one basis, or when I’m with my closest friends and family. I’ve committed myself to a genuine life of honesty. I wear no mask. So, when I’m talking or writing to someone individually, I’m actually pretty harsh on myself. I turn in school papers with “I’m sorry I suck at school; I tried, but I have no dreams” or “This writing is terrible” scrawled at the top. One-on-one with teachers, I tell them honestly that I feel somewhat inept. They tell me I need more confidence. When I’m sad, I have no issue telling people “I’m having a shitty day” if I really am feeling that way. I’ve come to school wearing all black on my most despairing days. People tell me I need to stop freaking out and assuming the worst. But I seem so optimistic because I don’t make public efforts to push my negativity on others. I want to heal the world, not dampen it. So when I’m working for world peace, I keep my personal doubts within myself.

Also, I must say that sometimes when I make these speeches about self-acceptance, I’m partly trying to remind myself. It’s easy to talk to others about how they should love themselves, because it’s so plain to see, but for me, for someone who lives with herself 24/7, it’s so hard sometimes. I’m learning, and I’ve gotten a lot better! When you stare too long at a piece of you’ve made, you start to see flaws and imperfections that aren’t really there. That’s how it is with self-image.

World Peace

Sometimes I begin feeling a little dejected when I think of the world. I’ve devoted myself to inspiring others and making a difference, but there’s just so much darkness around. My light feels dim in the vast expanse of gloom. Yes, I believe that most of humanity is good and noble at heart, but there will always be some who mess it up for everyone. Just take a look at ISIS. It is estimated that they have ten- to twenty-thousand fighters. That’s an enormous number, but compared to seven billion, they are so small. Yet look at the lives they have ruined. Look at the panic they are causing. Why do people have to be so cruel?

I wish we could all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but there will always be anger and hatred. It seems like nobody gets along. Is world peace even attainable?

Why Do We Love?

Why do we bother with relationships if most of them fail or fall apart anyway?

There is something delicately beautiful about having loved, and having been loved, just as there is secret loveliness in being broken. What other purpose is there in life than to fully experience being whole, broken, and finally made new? The woods of existence are crowded with brambles and roses alike, and it is our job to find our own trail. There are few better ways to find it than to love.

When we love, we learn to emerge from ourselves. Our trails are never straight, and certainly not completely desolate. Sometimes two trails meet and join for a time before forking again. We have walked another’s trail, left footprints on a path other than our own. For better or for worse, we’ve touched another human life. We’ve lived. 

I still cannot help but wonder why we love at all, even knowing all this about brambly trails and woven paths, but I suppose that it’s meant to be that way. I suppose that we’re meant to question. To know everything would be torturous monotony. Life is about indulging in what is, and yet always hungering for more.

 

The Goodness of Humanity

I’ve started holding up a sign in a crowded area in my city. On one side says “You are loved, worthy, strong, capable…amazing!” and on the other is “Have a nice day.” I want to help restore people’s faith in humanity, and in doing so, I end up restoring mine.

Rushed commuters see my sign and thank me. Some even stop and take the time to ask me about it. Teenage guys in hockey jerseys, guys I might normally feel intimidated by, see my “you are amazing” sign, smile, and say, “You are too!” These bonds of kindness and joy are blind to man-made stereotypes. In the face of racial profiling, discrimination, and unfair prejudices against non-whites, I’ve gotten the biggest smiles from African-American men. In a world of Islamophobia and anti-Islamic sentiment, the sweetest stranger I’ve met–a young woman who talked with me and gave me a hug–was wearing a hijab. My heart has been touched by the smiles of elders and young children alike. I have shared brief moments of kindness with trendy guys in pea coats, mothers with strollers, young women wearing Christmas elf costumes, white-collared career men, students, and security guards.

When I share those moments of kindness, when I see those genuine smiles, I know in my heart that humanity is not wholly evil. All of us are misguided and dysfunctional to some degree, but deep down, we have souls that mean well.

We really are good people.

Listen to Children

I am very tired of the “children are to be seen and not heard” mentality. We teach our young ones to talk and walk, and then spend years trying to get them to shut up and sit down. Their dreams and opinions too often go unheard, or at least not taken seriously, because of their age.

Why can’t we take interest in what children are thinking, and encourage them to think and create? We should empower their voices. This world would be a better place if we listened to the lessons children can teach us, because everybody can make a difference. In this world, we need all hands on deck, and there are age-appropriate ways for children to help out, too. Kindness knows no age.

 

Ten Minutes of Space

Time and time again, I’ve experienced it: overload. Whether it be emotional, mental, physical, or relational, I’m very prone to being tipped over the edge. That edge is never a very pleasant place. I cry, panic, or become just plain bitchy. Sometimes it’s best to resolve or discuss what’s going on, but many times it’s even better to step away and disengage for a little bit.

It’s a very simple concept actually–ten minutes of space. When things start getting upsetting or overwhelming, take ten minutes to do something away from the situation. This is especially helpful for interpersonal fights (I have siblings; I’ve lived this). Talking it out is nice, but when emotions are running high, well-meaning discussion could turn into further argument and upset. Taking time away can help both parties calm down and realize that perhaps the problem isn’t as enormous as it seemed.

Ten minutes of space, for me, is like refreshing the page or restarting the computer. It’s a way for me to find some inner ground, breathe, and get away from it all. I don’t even have to be thinking about the issue–in fact, it’s arguably better if I don’t, in order to prevent rumination. Just getting away, finding a space to decompress or distract myself with something calming, is enough to ease my mind and bring me back into a state of peace. Sometimes, after I’ve taken my time, the issue doesn’t even need to be resolved. It was all in my perception.

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a little break rather than trying to resolve it immediately. You’d be surprised how helpful ten minutes of space can be. I’ve seen it work wonders in many different situations and for all ages.