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Tuesday, February 23

On Being Someone to Love, and the Love Affair with Myself


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This is a series of stories that is part of my own healing. I welcome you to read along, or not, but I'm going to write it anyway. I hope you take something good from it, and I hope I do too.
The leaves outside my apartment are turning a beautiful shade of golden yellow. If it were a crayon, it would be Goldenrod, for all you Crayola fans out there. The sidewalk leading to my apartment is covered in fallen leaves and the parking lot is sprinkled with hundreds of them, like confetti after a sad parade.

Fall in February might be a foreign concept to anyone out there that lives in a halfway normal continental climate. But me, I live in Florida, and apparently we have Fall in February.

So, that’s what I’m staring at outside my window, on this cloudy, rainy, windy day pondering what I should write about and what story I should tell next. A few of the ideas that popped into my head are:

  • How a Teacher Saved My Life the First Time - a story that sounds hopeful, but is actually pretty dark.
  • How I Called Myself Esperanza and Spoke Spanish During My Mental Breakdown - a story that’s kind of funny, but also weird, also kind of dark, but funny. So +1 to this story, maybe I’ll tell it next.
  • How I Was Convinced I Could Speak in Binary - a continuation of the story of Esperanza.
  • How My Watch Stopped Ticking the Day NASA Announced the Discovery of GW150914, and I Was SURE I Was an Alien - +1’s all around, really. This is a great story.

But instead, I think I’ll write this one. This is a story about being someone to love, someone I can love, and the tumultuous love affair I’ve had with myself my entire existence.

Self-love is hard. Self-love is hard because self-reflection is that much harder. It’s hard to face up to all your (my) flaws and still find something to love. I am very hard on myself. Failure is not an option for me. Failure is also a fluid concept. For me, it literally means something didn’t go my way. I think that sets me up for a lot of disappointment. I know that now, and it’s been a tough lesson to learn.

I’ve spent most of my adult life in search of what I had termed “The Real Me.” This was a me that was successful, happy and content; on an upward trajectory, shall we say. It was also a me that was never depressed or anxious, and a me that never had panic attacks. Ha, says 28 year old me, how little did I know about myself.

From 2007-2010, I had managed to live in four different cities (Tallahassee, Chicago, New York and San Francisco) on this search for The Real Me. I had thought I’d found it every single time. I was successful in my chosen fields, landed every internship or job I had interviewed for, and I even graduated college a year early. That sounds like success right? I thought it did. Except I wasn’t happy.

I want to remind you that 2009 was also the stage for the worst employment environment our country has ever faced since 1982. So, the job search for me was loads of fun and very care free. (Sarcasm.) It was awful. I hated it. And I internalized that failure. (Thanks Wall Street, hate you forever.)

The fact of the matter was, I didn’t have the luxury of being unhappy at a job, and I knew that. Even if I was severely underpaid in an ever growing metropolis, working in tech and living in a studio one street up from a homeless shelter - I didn’t have time to be unhappy.

But I was.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a story about not loving your job and how that makes you a failure, nor is it a story about how having a good job can make you happy. What I’m trying to say is -

I was impatient with myself. I forced myself to be this person that I thought everyone else would think was successful, because if they thought that, then maybe I was and maybe I could be happy.

I remember very distinctly a conversation I had with my mom when I told her I wanted to leave San Francisco and come home.

She said to me, “What about your year end bonus?”
And I said, “Mom, I’m going to jump in front of a bus.”

I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic.

That’s when I knew that money would never be a motivational driver for me. That’s tough when money buys you things like food and housing, and most other necessary things to survive. What did motivate me was passion (pasiĆ³n, as Esperanza would say).

I left San Francisco six years ago. I’m still trying to define what passion means to me.

Writing is a big passion of mine. Writing centers me, and organizes all the thoughts that are in my head. My brain, it seems, never turns off. I’m always thinking, always ticking, like a clock. So writing is meditative for me. It allows me to slow down and make sense of the circus in my brain.

Helping others is also a big passion of mine. This is a passion that I’ve had to learn to redirect over the years. Ever since middle school, my mother always made it a point for me to dedicate some of my time at children’s homes and homeless shelters. It was important for me to see that there were people in the world that didn’t have the things that I had. Very basic things - a home, food, parents, toys, a family. Huge things, in retrospect. That stayed with me and still stays with me.

The difficult thing about passion is that sometimes it manifests itself into frustration. That was me for awhile, and me still now. I mean that in the sense that I genuinely get upset with things like, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Flint Michigan water crisis, Climate Change, and Civil Rights struggles worldwide. I mean, take your pick of global crisis, seemingly obscure or not - the sovereignty of Tibet, for example - I’m probably upset about it.

That’s hard. As you know, as a fellow human (I’m assuming) on this Earth, life is full of crisis and ugliness. But beauty, too. Let us not forget that.

What I’ve learned over the past few days - yes, still a new lesson to me - is that I must focus on my immediate surroundings. I must focus on me. I must love me first, and get better, and then maybe I can think about making the lives of others better, too.

Focusing on beauty is one thing I’m trying to do. Beauty is a thing that can be amplified, and I tend to think that beauty will always win.

So that’s me.

Believer in beauty.
Learning to be forgiving.

That’s me, today. Me tomorrow? Not sure. See you when we get there.


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