heavy and light

the window behind me is cracked open. not enough to let the rain that is pouring down come in, but still open so i can hear the earth changing with each drop that hits the surface. i woke up this morning feeling heavy and everything around me seemed to follow suit. i had the chance to sit on my back porch this afternoon as the storms started to roll in. i was reading a book that was changing me and i was feeling the air change around me and i couldn’t stop thinking about where i am supposed to be going. the air around me heavy as an anvil just waiting to be dropped in some cartoon from my childhood.

but just as i was thinking that the skies opened up and the air changed again. in one simple action the heaviness all around me was lifted. the earth was breathing again and life was being pumped back into the ground around me. in awe, i just put down my book to soak it in and had myself convinced that this rain was a healing kind of rain for me. but really, it wasn’t ever supposed to be healing for me. it was healing for what was around me and it was never going to be the thing that took the heaviness away from in me.

i think we trick ourselves into thinking that different changes in our circumstance can change what is inside of us. but, like running away, all we are doing are changing our surroundings and not actually taking care of the very thing we’re running from. as i sat there considering all of this it dawned on me that my heaviness was because of all the worries and changes that i was trying to bear myself.

that realization is technically what brought me here, to sit in front of this computer screen at 11:13 at night to try to sort out my thoughts.

the heavy part of me had already taken up the majority of my day.

the light was just getting started.

that breathe of change and cleanliness and hope that i felt outside this afternoon is the light part that we have to cling to. maybe standing in the rain doesn’t help wash our dark parts. maybe it’s talking to someone about it. maybe it’s hoping that we’re going to get another chance tomorrow. maybe we have to sit down and watch the rain fall around us to see that even our world gets new chances, so why shouldn’t we?

accepting that the heavy parts of me will always come back actually took away some of the heaviness. i’m human. i make mistakes. i either learn from them or i carry them with me. but you’re human too. and we can carry the weight together.

maybe it’s time we all just took a moment to listen to this rain falling down around us. maybe we should take it as a good sign that new things are coming. maybe we need to not be afraid to get our feet wet.

maybe this is our second chance.

times, they are a-changing…

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Guess what, guys!

It’s graduation seasons, which means in these next few weeks 17-19 year olds will be graduating from high school and starting there last summer until the great unknown of college begins. I’m lucky enough to be on the other side of that great unknown and I think I have picked up a few pointers for those still going through it. The thing is, I wasn’t really expecting to see my youngest brother, an 17 year old himself, struggling with the thought that comes after senior year.

I picked him up from a friends house tonight and he just seemed off. After some clever prodding at his usually refusal to talk about what’s bothering him, he exposed the fact that he is scared for this next year. He will be a senior, and trying to navigate what is expected of him now can be kind of terrifying.

I remember being exactly where he is. I struggled with the thought of saying goodbye to people who I would probably never see after that fateful day we walked the stage and received our diplomas. The worst part was learning to accept that some of the people you think are such great friends of yours turn out to be great friends just when you spend 8 hours a day with them, 5 days a week.

I guess I just want to remind you guys that if you know people who are about to graduate high school or are entering into their last year, make sure they know that they are not going to be alone with it. Life is going to be changing pretty fast for them and not everyone is able to accept the fact that some things you can’t stop from happening. They’re going to be a little scared. They’re going to be excited. Most of all, they’re going to be looking for some sort of guidance from those who have gone through this already.

I am so glad that I got to have that talk with my not-so-little bro. I value my relationships with all three of my brothers so much and I’m glad he trusts me enough to let me in and tell me that he’s worried. I just wanted him to know that all the little things that are going to be happening this year are not impossible to handle, but that he can’t spend all his time worrying about it because he’ll end up missing some amazing moments.

For all of you who are graduating this year, I am so excited for you. You have so much ahead of you that most likely you can’t even imagine. Don’t worry too much, most of us “adults” are just big kids playing the part. We are just as lost as you sometimes, we’ve just walked the road you’re on a little bit ahead of you and can warn you of a few potholes… and make you figure some of them out on your own.

It’s going to be okay. Things are going to change.

feeling too much…

Today an amazing book came out by Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of the nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms. It’s called If You Feel Too Much and I sincerely want to send every single person I know a copy of it (and I’m only a few chapters in, so that’s saying something).

But this post is not a review of an extremely worthwhile book. No, it’s a small collection of my thoughts surrounding some of the things Jamie talks about daily, whether he is giving a talk or just spending time with friends.

Jamie is one of those rare people who have figured out a little bit better than the rest of us just how to talk about things that make us nervous. He knows how to talk about things that are scary or things that make us uncomfortable. But he really knows how it feels to be utterly human and with that, he knows what it’s like to feel like he is just feeling everything too much. There is a line early on in his book that sums this up pretty well:


 

“And it’s hard to tell a story you don’t like.”


 

Surely you know what I’m talking about. We all know someone or maybe we are someone who goes through life feeling the immense weight that somehow finds its way to our shoulders. We know what it’s like to wonder if there is a purpose for all this pain and if there is a reason that depression and mental illness effect so many people.

I think one of the hardest things for me to accept is that I am not alone with my illness. We are all together in this fight for ourselves and we don’t have to find our way out of whatever darkness is in our lives, alone.  It is so absolutely easy to be in the middle of a difficult period of time in our lives and think that we are the only ones experiencing this and that no one could ever understand. But what Jamie and TWLOHA does is show people that they are not alone. And that people, whether they know how to realize it or not, need other people. We need someone to walk beside us in the days where the sun is on our backs and fresh air is on our lips and we need someone to be there when we haven’t been able to get out of our apartment for four days and we are still in the same clothes that they last saw us in a week ago.

Really, we need to be reminded that we are alive. And that we are absolutely worthy of being loved by ourselves and by others.

There is something unlike anything else that happens when someone puts a hand on your shoulder and reminds you that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. It’s freeing when they tell you that they are not going to just leave you where you are. And it is life-changing when you realize for yourself that it’s okay to be who you really are and shed all of the expectations that you have stacked on to yourself over the years in this fast paced society.

If you feel too much, you’ve been where I’ve been. I’m so glad to tell you that we can walk through this together. Remember that this life is fragile. Be careful with your words. Be soft. And be honest with yourself. People need other people. And I’m going to be here for you when you need me. There is hope.

Authenticity…

What does it mean to live an authentic life? Does it mean we don’t lie about liking certain things like ranch on pizza and crop tops? Does it mean we tell everyone every single thing that goes through our minds? I don’t know about you, but being authentic seems to me to be something more than just telling the world on every social media platform that you just realized that you forgot to pay your credit card bill this month or that you just put in a fresh piece of gum.

Authenticity is something that I have been thinking a lot about as of late. I think it is an idea that is actually really intimidating to approach because to be completely authentic could mean being real about issues in life and the world that are hard to talk about. It means being genuine. Being open to criticism and open to trust and be trusted.

It’s kind of funny to think about because this whole idea of being “authentic” has really blown up in recent years. Sure, people have always asked themselves what their inner most soul wants in this life. We are creatures who crave knowing that they are here for a reason and that they can go after something they are passionate about. I think this idea of authenticity has become so prevalent in the media and online because technology acts as a fantastic buffer for each of us to hide behind. It is a lot easier to pretend that I’m something that I’m not when I can say it to someone through a few strokes on a keyboard or a quick two second text.

So yes, being truly authentic to who we are has become a little different now that we have personae’s to uphold online. I mean, can you imagine posting how you are actually feeling as your status? The people who do that are deemed “overdramatic” and “attention seeking” for one reason or another. In reality, if these people are being honest with themselves and then honest to everyone who is online, they are the ones who are living authentically while we sit back and silently judge them (even though we are really only judging because we are too insecure to put who we really are out there). I will be the first to admit that I am extremely guilty of this.

But that’s why I’m trying so hard to understand what authenticity means to me.

You may be reading this now (if you’ve stuck with me so far, that is) and asking yourself why it even matters if we are honest with ourselves or not. Well, let me just say that there are so many ways that our lives would improve if we could just be who we really are.

For me, past relationships have been messed up because of a lack of honesty between the two of us. It wasn’t that either party just out and straight-faced lied about things; it was just that we were not in a place where we were honest with ourselves about what we wanted and where we wanted things to go. Similar to the way some people say that you can’t expect someone else to love you if you can’t love yourself, I believe you have to accept yourself for who you are before your external relationships will work out. Authenticity goes a long way.

So who are you? What do you know to be true about yourself when stripped of every societal buffer? Are you living life to let that person show to the ones you care about? It’s not easy to be honest with yourself because you have to accept who you are in spite of your flaws and in spite of the ways you are different from everyone else. But once we figure out how to be that kind of honest everything changes.

We don’t have to be afraid of it. In the words of Grace Helbig in her recent commencement speech, follow your fear. It’s not as scary as it seems.

Community…

Somehow, I find myself extremely grateful for the small community that I have around me every single day. As the years pass, my community has become noticeably smaller, but much more important to who I am and how I live my life.

Every person we come in contact with, effects who we are. Whether it is the man in front of us at the grocery store or the professor lecturing in class, each of these people teaches us a little bit more about ourselves.

These communities we make consist people from all aspects of our lives. Some are our actual families and some are coworkers. Some of our communities are made up of people who have been in our lives for fifteen years  and some are people who you just met on the subway. No matter where they are connected to us, they help guide us down whatever path we are trying to make it down.

I was thinking on my run tonight about how different I would be if certain people hadn’t left my life. Who would I be if my father had not walked out four years ago? What if I had never met my mentor; would I still be be where I am? I get caught up in these thoughts of what if’s that keep me from realizing how blessed I am to have the people that I do have surrounding me. I forget just how much these people, whether they walked out or whether they chose to stay, have formed me into who I am today.

I probably wouldn’t be studying English Literature and Writing right now if I hadn’t had a certain English teacher in high school. I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am if I didn’t have the support of my little community. The thing is, in the last two years I have realized just how much my community of people has become my home. No matter how far away I am from my friends, I know that I am not ever going to be alone.

These people have loved me in spite of my flaws. They have helped me realize where I should go to follow my dream of being a writer. They have stayed. And with all of the people who have decided for one reason or another to walk out, I am even more grateful to have these strong people around me. When I think of the song Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros I think of this little family I have created.

This post may seem as if it does not have a real purpose, but in truth I just needed to express my gratitude for these people who I call my family. Blood doesn’t go as far as history would like to make us think. Family are those who stay, especially when life gets tough.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.” -Louisa May Alcott

Personally, I think a big reason that having a community to rely on while you’re finding yourself is because they help you to not be afraid of going out on your own. They know that you can come back and stay with them if you need it to but they also know that you are more than capable of taking hold of your ship without them by their sides.

It’s important that I have these people around me in my life because I am an extremely independent person. I like to do things on my own and I enjoy having to figure out how to do different things even if I have to struggle because of it.

The older I get, the smaller my community gets. Or maybe it just seems that way because the more people I add to it, the tighter we all become. For those of you who are still trying to figure out who is going to stand by you through the storms of your life, just know that the hard times are going to be extremely telling. And at times it is going to be incredibly difficult to accept that some people just can’t stay. But when the storm clears and you look to your sides and see those loyal few brushing themselves off and still supporting you, you will feel more at ease than when you had twice the number of people in your community.

“Perhaps there’s still a lot of beauty to be found here, and good people too. People to love and people who will say we’re not invisible. Perhaps there’s everything we need.”- Jamie Tworkowski