What It Means To Grow

I challenged myself to a year to growing into the person I want to be and the person I truly am. This is what I learned:

With walking I learned how to trust the earth. I found comfort with each foot placed firmly on the ground and the direction in which they pointed me. I learned to trust that my foot would find the earth and that the earth would support my foot when it made contact. There is always the chance of slipping up and being distracted while placing a less than careful step, but I found that the ground was still there. There was no chance of me falling through the earth to the pit of depression and darkness that scares me and characterizes my most hidden thoughts. I learned that life will move on if I take a step with it, and the simplest of actions  of placing one foot in front of another will get me farther than I originally thought I could go.

I recognized that growth is something that is worth the struggle and comes in forms that I never expected. I did not anticipate the day I was brave enough to say fuck all norms and pursue a life of my own creation. I did not foresee the day that I would take a chance on doing what I love instead of doing what others saw as requirements. I worked hard to get to a day when my body felt healthy and my mind felt confident. And I did not see the change building in me until I took a moment to give myself some credit. I did not always recognize growth for what it was, and I allowed myself to be bogged down by the struggle that it keeps as company — until one day I looked up and saw that I was no where I recognized and no where near the person I used to be, and I was proud of what I accomplished. I have a vague idea of where growth is leading me, but I have learned to trust that it will come as needed and I will recognize each opportunity to take advantage of the strength that is within me.

I had to get out of my own preconceived ideas of what I am supposed to do and what defines me as successful in other people’s opinions. I had to release myself from the confines of commonly accepted success and find what truly satisfies me. I had to mildly ignore the influences of others on my life and pick and choose the ones that serve me. I had to find what feels good to me and I had to recognize that is something unique. I had to embrace my unique traits and use them for the strengths that they are versus be envious of the ones others possess. I still value and listen to the opinions of others, but it’s how I process them that needed to change. I needed to see others as an inspiration, not a challenge, and I needed to recognize the value I see in them. Growth can be accomplished by following another’s life path, but it then becomes a question of if it is the growth I needed. I wanted change, in fact I craved it in my bones. But I had to trust that I would find the changes I needed to initiate and embrace, and not take the easy way out by ticking off the accomplishments of others. I cannot help but mimic some actions of others and I should always learn from their experiences, but I cannot claim them to be my own and there is something that feels false about following the dreams others have suggested for me. With a Straight-A-Student complex engrained in my bones, I wanted all the right answers and I wanted to get an A on the test that is life. But it took growth and bravery to recognize that there are no grades for life — it is pass or fail and the definition of each of those grades are determined by me and no one else. I can choose to live that way I want to live, or I can choose to not live at all. And that’s not much a choice really.

I felt an itch in my soul and a dissatisfaction with the way I was living life. I felt like I was lying to myself every day and I took actions to bury my thoughts versus pull them out for recognition. I tried hiding from it all and I tried denying that I was unhappy. I tried distracting myself with things and trips so that I would not notice the dissatisfaction in my soul. I wanted to hide from my own disappointment in myself — and that is that day that I decided to change. That was the day that I challenged myself to do more with what was handed to me. That was the day that I decided to patiently discover who I am truly am. And it did not happen in a day. In fact it is difficult for me to claim that it was done in a year and that I am a new person completely. Because growth does not change who I am completely, but it changes aspects of myself that I did not think to change. It addresses the harder questions and makes me look deeper than I thought possible in my young, shallow existence. It made me look past my actions and into my heart to see why I was taking them in the first place. And then it allowed me to work backwards and call out the actions I wanted to be taking. It allowed me to set goals and it allowed me to recognize small accomplishments. But most of all it made me recognize that its work is never done. Growth is something I have welcomed into my life, and it will be a new life long friend. It was the friend I always had but never recognized to be standing by my side the whole time. Growth is inevitable, but it is how I interacted with it at this point in life that defined the changes I made.

I went all around the world to find what I was looking for. I looked high and low, in the darkest caves of my heart and the highest mountains in my mind. I bought plane tickets to see new ways of living life and I scoured the internet for evidence that life can be different than I previously knew it to be. I sought inspiration from simplicity and returned to values that I was raised on. I accepted the influence on my life that others had and I began to choose the ones that served me and let go of the ones that were hurting me. I searched for honesty and truth, and but on a brave face for what I would find. I asked the questions I had been avoiding my entire life because I was afraid of what my answer might be. I faced the facts, accepted them as they were, and decided to embrace new facts into my life. I cannot change my past, but I can learn from it and use it as a roadmap for where I want to go. I made mistakes. I fucked up. But I also experienced life and what it is to be human. Because experience is what I receive when I do not get what I want, and that holds more value than any object I could dream of possessing.

I always avoided the limelight out of fear that people would see straight through me. I thought they could see that I was fraud and that I did not actually earn the accomplishments I collected. I was afraid that the baking awards I collected in my youth would fade with age and I would prove to have no skill when people expected it with age. I was terrified that my good grades were a result of not challenging classes and exaggerated understanding by my teachers. I thought that when I was recognized as Outstanding Senior for my college department, that they would also recognize that I was drunk in class and too high to attend the awards ceremony. I felt that all of my coworkers at my fancy sales job would see me as an infant without experience and undeserving of the salary I was being paid. And when I was surrounded by coworkers who praised me for my skill and experience, I was certain that their praise was unjustly given due to their lack of experience. And I questioned everyone who saw value in me and what I was able to produce — because I did not see value in any of it and I saw the flaws and errors that had mistakenly gotten me there. I did not feel the push to pursue any of those accomplishments, they kind of found me. And although others may find value in them and I run the risk of sounding like a spoiled first world brat, I did not find value in them — and that’s the only thing that matters. If I was truly proud of my good grades, it would be something that filled me with confidence. And if I truly found value in the professional status I held, I would humbly brag about it. If I felt that I was truly following my own path in life, I would proudly dance to the beat of my own drum. But I was listening to others and doing as they told me to do, and that left me feeling hollow with everything I set my mind to. I had to learn to set my own goals and to be proud of them. I had to set my own standards of satisfaction and stand by them. I just had to finally listen to myself and be patient when listening to what I had to say. I had to learn how to truly grow in my own way and I had to do stay dedicated to it every day of my existence. And I have to continue to be dedicated, not matter what struggle I encounter, because the view from here is worthwhile and I have never felt taller in my life.