My Biggest Fear Became a Reality, but It Didn’t Destroy Me

Sometimes, I worry about my condition as a human being. I wonder if I’m a bad specimen of person because I struggle to express emotions, or rather the emotions that I deem as difficult.

I know people who are extremely expressive and in tune with their emotions. If they’re having a bad day, then guaranteed everyone knows. If they’re mad, then all hell is about to be unleashed. If they’re in love, then it’s literally all. you. hear. about.

Me, on the other hand, I am a bit more of a peculiar breed of human. When situations occur that elicit stress, anger or fear in most people, I often show no outward signs of alarm.

A recent example was a few months ago when myself and two of my roommates were home and the carbon monoxide warning went off. Everyone was freaking out! Fanning the alarms. Opening windows. Calling parents for help. Normal stuff. I was….well pretty chill. Now, don’t get me wrong. Not that I don’t care about a possible carbon monoxide leak. Yet, my response was simply to open the windows and check the alarms. No worrying necessary. My roommates were both amused and confused by my lack of reaction.

Weird, right? Sometimes, I think it is a good thing. Life happens, and for the most part, I am able to keep a really calm head in tough times. My motto has always been to push through. Lately, I wonder if my lack of emotional response also has to do with something else.

Last year, I had a moment where I had to come clean with some emotions that I buried deep down. Long story short, I realized that I had feelings for my best guy friend. To be frank, after three years of a great friendship, I realized I was in love with this person.

Pause. Yes, you read that correctly. It took me three years to realize I was in love with someone. So yea, a really long time. I wonder why sometimes I have delayed responses or have trouble processing emotions more quickly? I wonder sometimes what keeps me from owning fear, anxiety or in this case, love? What about those things makes me want to push them back? What makes me want to run away from them?

Vulnerability.

Perhaps, it boils down to wanting to avoid vulnerability at all costs. Honesty with emotions, whether it be fear, anger, stress, anxiety or love, requires a willingness to be vulnerable. When you are vulnerable, it leaves room for you to get hurt or disappointed, and nobody wants that.

If I express my anger or frustration at someone, then it means laying my cards out on the table. But what if they don’t respond well? If I allow myself to show fear, then I feel like I lose all control. What if things don’t go the way I hoped? If I allow myself to express genuine and true love for a person, then they could reject me. What if I get hurt?

Update on my love life: The love that I expressed turned out to be unrequited. It was my biggest fear coming true in real time. Falling in love with someone only for it not to be reciprocated. I felt embarrassed. I felt confused. I felt exposed. I felt stupid. I was hurt.

So what did I do? Oh girl, I hard core stuffed those emotions, deep, deep down in a dark tunnel that no one could find.  I worked out to avoid feeling emotions. I worked more hours to avoid emotions. I slept to avoid emotions. I shopped to avoid emotions. And guess what? Six months later the emotions are still here. They didn’t go anywhere.

A friend recently gave me some words of wisdom that really pushed me to do better. She told that perhaps the first step is to acknowledge what it was. I had been running, stuffing and avoiding for so long that coming to terms with how I felt seemed impossible. As we sat, talked and sipped coffee, my heart began to ease and my lips finally released the words that I had been holding captive: I was in love with him.

Twenty Something Advice (for anyone):
“Being honest about your emotions and being vulnerable won’t destroy you. In fact, it’ll only make you stronger.”

Guess, what? I’m still here. Being honest about my emotions and being vulnerable didn’t destroy me. It didn’t kill me. While awfully uncomfortable, I think it actually made me stronger. I am still here. To be honest, it was relieving to just be honest. It was like releasing pressure from a balloon. Once it was pierced, it all just came out.

I fell in love with someone and that love was not reciprocated. OK. That’s what it is, but knowing that fact doesn’t destroy me. Oh, most certainly it hurts like all hell, but if it was love, of course the loss of it is going to hurt.

Days later since that conversation, I am starting to slowly feel better. I surely don’t have all the answers, but I am finding that part of being an adult and an overall emotionally healthy human being means allowing yourself to be real and vulnerable.

Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, sometimes it means relinquishing your control over a situation. But it is truly the only way to live an authentic and happy life. Vulnerability is strength.

And hey, now that I know what love feels like and that I am capable of it, the sky is the limit, right? I believe love will come again in time. In the meantime, I am going to work on being a normal human being. I am determined to own my emotions and not let them own or control me. Because that is what being an adult looks like.

Cheers to everyone going through growing pains! I’m right there with you.

-Stephkt

Advertisements

If You Do What You Love

A wise person once said, “If you do what you love, then you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I heard this saying so much as a kid. I understood it. I rehearsed it in my brain. I understood it. Or so I thought…

Recently, I had the pleasure of going home to Michigan for a high school friend’s graduation from the University of Michigan. She received her master’s degree in nursing and is now a certified midwife! It’s so crazy, yet fulfilling to watch old friends walk out the dreams that you once talked about in your teenage years. I’m so profoundly happy and proud of my friend.

While I was at her graduation and waiting for her to take what felt like a million pictures with her college friends and sorority sisters after the ceremony, a guy who I know from (wait for it) elementary, middle and high school in Michigan walks up to me to say hello. We start catching up and talking about how weird it is to be adults (so weird!)

He tells me about his corporate based job in Cincinnati, and I tell him about life in Los Angeles, the hustle to make rent, the fast-paced city life and the unique, quirky people. Then, he asks me the most simplistic yet real question, “Do you love what you’re doing?”

My response, “Yea, I really do.”

“Well, that’s all that matters,” he says with a smile.

Contemplating that conversation a week later, I now see a meaning I didn’t notice at first glance. My old classmate is so very right. Life in L.A. sometimes is so hard that life’s difficulties become my focus. Rent is crazy expensive. Traffic can be a headache. Finding and keeping true friends is an uphill battle in the city. Yet and still, I am here, and I am doing what I love. I am writing, and for that, I couldn’t more grateful.

You see, adulthood is hard no matter what city you live in. Life isn’t always fair or pretty, and when you’re an adult, you are responsible for every overdue assignment, every speeding ticket, every health bill and every dent in your fender. It’s all you, but if you are lucky enough to wake up every day and do what you love, well, my friend, you are living a real-life fairy tale.  Sure, it has it’s imperfections, but Cinderella’s horse-drawn carriage was first a pumpkin and her ball gown was first a hand maiden’s rags.

Twenty-Something Lessons:
“If you are lucky enough to wake up every day and do what you love, then you are living a real-life fairy tale.”

There is so much joy and fulfillment in doing what you love, whether it’s writing, creating, directing, singing, acting or what have you. Pursuing your dreams and sticking to them is hard, I know. Yet, you have the courage to go after what you want whole heartedly. So many people are in unfulfilling jobs because work is, well, just work. Work is just a means of paying the bills. They wake up with that Sunday night dread every weekday.

You are pursuing your passions. The things you love. The things that make you so angry you want to change them. The things you are talented at. The dreams you had as a small kid? Hold tight and don’t let go.

If you are doing what you love, then that’s all that matters.

-Stephkt

Why Rejection Is a Semicolon and Not a Period

Life is hard, plain and simple. It is a truth that will forever withstand the lengths of time. Rejection is by far one of the hardest realities in this life. Whether it comes in the form of a breakup, a friendship ending, not getting accepted into a school or a job loss, rejection of any kind is extremely painful.

If we allow it to, it can leave us paralyzed with fear, the fear that we are not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not beautiful enough, simply not enough. We can allow rejection to set the trajectory of our thoughts, in turn our behaviours and ultimately our lives.

Rejection doesn’t have to get the final say though. We need to go back to the drawing board. Instead of seeing rejection as defeat or the end of our stories, why not see it as a new beginning, a chance to start again? I know it was probably a devastating blow. It may have caught you off guard and left you on your knees, but there is hope for you, yet and still, my friend.

What if what we really need is not the thing we think we lost but a perspective shift? What if rejection is simply a teacher? All rejection holds universal truths and lessons we can take with us for the road ahead. So grab your hiking shoes and let’s get to climbing out of this rut.

Don’t let rejection define you.

I know I am so guilty of this. Anytime a relationship didn’t work out, it meant there was something wrong with me. I am not pretty enough. I am not witty enough. I am not kind enough. I am too much. When I recently was laid off from my job, it was so easy to fall back into this trap of allowing the job loss to determine my value. I began to think: Maybe I am not a good writer. I suck as an editor. There are people who are better at this job than I could ever be. I’m not good enough.

Haven’t we all been there? When we lose something that is so important to us, a job, a marriage or a friendship, we begin to let the loss communicate to our minds a lack of value in and of ourselves. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our careers, our dreams, our passions and the things and people we love can easily start to define us once we lose them. I would challenge you to not let this be the case. I know it is hard, but remind yourself that no one person or thing determines your worth. You have intrinsic value that can’t be shaken.

Allow a “no” to serve as a confidence builder.

This might sound counterintuitive, but anytime you hear a, “No,” a “I’m sorry but we have to let you go” or a “It’s not you. It’s me,” be grateful. One door closing releases you from something that wasn’t the best fit for you. That’s all a no really means. Pick your head up and keep going.

This no will only make your skin tougher and your bounce back stronger. If things were always easy and all we ever heard was “yes,” then we would never know what resilience looks like. Rejection is the perfect time to see the stuff we are made of, perseverance, endurance, strength and grit. Confidence is built out of enduring hard times.

Surround yourself with positive voices.

When I lost my job earlier this year, I didn’t tell many people. I partially kept it to myself because I was in shock. I also didn’t tell many people because I was hurting and in a sensitive place. I knew the people I told would have to be people who would let me grieve the loss and then encourage me. I needed people who would sit in my pit with me and then help me climb out once I was ready to.

When you face rejection of any kind, it is painful, so very painful. The load of rejection gets lighter when we ask for help to carry it. Reach out to positive people who will be a voice of encouragement in your ear. Tell them about the rejection you are facing. Delve into all of your feelings of shock, sadness, hurt and fear. Be 100 percent real. This is your time to grieve. Be careful not to share with anyone who will cause you to worry or allow you to stay in a place of pity or bitterness. Positive voices are the key.

Determine that this is only temporary.

When we are faced with rejection, it is often unforeseen. We didn’t see it coming, and it can be difficult to know when it and the feelings that result from it will end. While there’s no definite answer, we have to remember this is just a drop in the bucket of time of our stories. It is only one chapter. Now is not your forever. Storms always come to an end. This is only temporary.

Get back in the game.

Dust yourself off and get back up. This is probably the most important truth to remember. Rejection can feel like a punch in the gut. It leaves you reeling and knocks you to the ground, but you don’t have to stay down. You can get back up. It’s a choice. It’ll more than likely hurt at first, but get back up any way.

Rejection is not the end of my story, nor yours, my beautiful friend.

This post originally appeared on Darling Magazine.