I find myself relearning how to be alone. And not in some sexy way, not in some glamorous way. In a way that is contested and hard because I chose it when I didn’t have to.
Kamille of WassupCaramel, who is also my friend, challenged me to change my narrative sometime in late 2017 or early 2018. I think I finally did it.
You see, I was so caught up in my pain. Mad at myself. Mad at him. Mad at her. Mad at the world for what felt like a constant string of disappointments. Resumes sent with no callback. Relationships that didn’t pan out. Shady actions from people I never knew were even capable of that level of deception. Little to no real excitement about my life or my future. I felt stuck in an endless pit of anxiety with sprinkles of depressive episodes on top. Somedays, I hid it really well. I’d work out and eat healthily. Laugh and joke with my family. Do work just to convince myself I had something to do. I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t feeding myself. I was ashamed that none of the things I thought would work out had. And I couldn’t bear the thought of sharing my shame with others.
I’m not always the nicest to myself in my head. There’s a lot of negative self-talk that goes on between me and me and I can usually work myself into a tizzy about almost anything.
I just didn’t feel like I could breathe.
Don’t get me wrong, I was doing cool shit. I’m always doing cool shit. But it didn’t make me feel better about not having answers to seemingly fundamental questions like, “What are you doing next?” “When are you going back for your doctorate?” “How’s your business?” “Anyone call or email you about a job application today?” “Are you okay?” “Are you still talking to X?”
I felt out of control. I was waiting for a response about a job I wasn’t sure I’d get. It was taking forever and I was starting to feel crazy for even applying, believing I could do something I actually wanted. Crazy for holding on to hope that my life wouldn’t have to be a series of decisions I didn’t believe in and couldn’t stomach. That life could be more than convincing myself to settle in location, work, love.
It was like, I needed to be reminded that what I want is out there and only asking I continue to believe in it. That’s what walking through NYC at 2 AM after leaving the club with him was. It’s what staying up on Facetime and knowing I’d hear from someone who genuinely cared about my day every day, even if I lacked the capacity to match that care back, was. It’s what being shown up for and paid attention to looked and felt like – being a clear priority. They, though disparate and by no means connected, made it easier for me to distance myself from what simply wasn’t enough anymore, from what should’ve never been enough
I went back to therapy this summer and learned I have a fundamental fear of being alone. It’s because I’m an only child and one day an aunt forgot to pick me up from school leaving me to sit in aftercare till seven a night when it was supposed to close around six. I couldn’t reach my mom or dad and ended up calling another aunt who promptly came and picked me up. Thank God for my village. But, I believe I was traumatized by that experience and unsure of what would happen to me if I was really forgotten. I didn’t realize I could be forgotten.
Maybe I moved all the way to Spain to directly confront that fear. To put an ocean between him and me, even though we all know phones still work and planes fly every day.
Maybe I moved to Spain because it just made sense to me as a natural step in my personal and professional progression. Maybe I moved to Spain because I was running away. Maybe I moved to Spain because my life was simultaneously so loud, but so quiet and I still couldn’t hear myself think. Maybe I moved to Spain to shock myself into letting go and figuring out how to do this life thing for me first, above all else.
My therapist tells me I have a fear of disappointing people. I worry I’m a burden even though I’ve never been made to feel that way. And I keep people, even after they have gone, probably because it is I who wants to be kept.
I found the sun this year and that brought with it a euphoria of its own. And now, I have to figure out how to be sunny when it’s still shining but not as brightly as it does when you first step out of the shadows. I’m in a new normal now that I’m learning my way around. What does it mean for my baseline to be good? What do I look, feel, and sound like without him, them in my ear, on my phone, taking up space in my insides? Who am I away from it all?
If who we are is what we do when no one is watching. Then I moved to Spain to reconnect with that person. After all, “You’re there by yourself Gabby. You should do whatever you need to be happy.” – My Dad.
I both love and hate that he is always right.
But, I have. I am happy resting. I am happy with how I look without makeup. I am happy standing up for myself and setting boundaries that take me into consideration first. I am happy eating better and sleeping more. I am happy when I drink a liter of water a day. I am happy sitting at cafes with friends for hours on end talking about what life is like all over the world. I am happy teaching beautiful and hilarious children every day. I am happy on planes, trains, and in cars. I am happy from the inside out.
I’ve become a woman who truly knows how to stay in and operate from her place of peace. That doesn’t mean that anxiety is no longer something I struggle with. Or that I never have a depressive episode. It means I understand my natural rhythms and do my best just to ride the
I will call this chapter: when the narratives I told about myself to others and myself became about more than who hurt me, when and how. When I became about the sum of my parts and finally realized they, my pain, and any one place
I will call this chapter: NEW.
Ling, you were right too. Thank you.