Note: I wrote this in early March 2017, right before I left Iceland and right before I flew to Scotland.
Lately I've been getting bored of routines. In my work, in my external relationships, in my internal relationship (most important oooone), in my personal life and hobbies, in my home city, in my house... I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Suddenly heartbroken, emotionally lost, mentally ill and unstable, in my early 20's wondering what the POINT of it all is: I was in a rut. But through learning to embrace my own weaknesses and the unknown, I am on the road to finding my strength. In learning to accept my vulnerability, I have found a path to bravery. That's what this post is about. Plus dreamy pics of Iceland.
Before I go further I gotta mention a couple things.
1) You can't fix mental illness by going on a big trip around the world, or "toughening up", or writing two million positive affirmation post-it notes, or "deciding" you're gonna be happy. You don't tell someone with a broken rib to choose to make the rib heal itself. Taking medication and doing whatever else you need to to help yourself feel better is 100% okay and good. Please do whatever it takes to make life more comfortable and bright for you, if possible. Pharmaceuticals can save people's lives. Meditation, sunshine and green juice only get some of us so far. I struggle with mental illness every minute of every day, and have for years. I have learned my boundaries and when I can help myself or not. I knew this trip was something I needed to do, and I also know it will not evaporate my depression or anxiety. What it WILL do is aid me in moving on from a particularly dark period of my life, and push me out of my comfort zone a little bit, which is something I feel safe doing right now.
2) I am extremely fortunate to have the ability to go on an international, 4-month long trip on my own simply because I wanna "find myself" or whatever the hell I am doing. My reasons are valid, as are my pain and struggles. But I must recognize the very fact of me having the time and access to resources to do this trip - and live the life I live - require privilege that most folks don't have. I live in a hierarchical world that advantages certain people over others. I benefit from systems of oppression. There is no denying this. I acknowledge this corrupt reality and do what I can to tear these systems down, while often having to work within them.
When I left on this trip, I chose to change my environment. I did something I wouldn't have done a few years ago, but had daydreamed about for centuries: I planned a huge solo adventure and WENT ON IT. I wasn't satisfied with what had previously satisfied me, so I decided to find out what would satisfy me. I was too hurt to stay, so I left. I was exhausted with doing the safe, reliable, predictable thing, so I took the other path. And? I am feeling better. There are little triumphs everyday. I am letting go of the pain I was begrudgingly gripping.
Now: I am strong enough to be vulnerable.
In this act of vulnerability - to myself and the world around me - I discover who I am. It's liberating, it's empowering, it's reassuring, it's scary. In my life and in this post, I am showing you a more authentic version of what I am. I don't just make raw vegan cheesecakes all day. I delight in capturing photographs of other things. I love these photos and am excited to share them, even if this post won't be "popular". I love myself and I am fed up trying to conform to what other people want me to be. I love my body even when society keeps telling me I am not small enough or feminine enough. I love my mind even though it's chemically imbalanced, makes life hopeless some days or convinces me I'm a failure. My "imperfections" are who I am and I am trying to celebrate them, though I am not always successful, and that's okay.
I am not going to hide behind a curtain of adhering to others' expectations of me anymore because when I do that I deny my own spirit the opportunity to bloom.
I tend to have expectations about everything. This tendency played a part in screwing up all my relationships. It caused me to be disappointed a LOT. It's not gone, but I am so much more easy-going and open to the unknown than I was a few years ago, even a few months ago. I think having boundaries, standards and expectations can be very important, especially for those of us who have been exploited, gaslit, or abused. You deserve the world and the moon and a big chocolate cake: don't settle for anything less. Having said that, in my own personal experience I am finding that letting go of expectations - for things unrelated to valuing myself - is useful.
On trips like this - and in life - things don't go as planned. Panic attacks happen in public places. You cry on the métro (and everywhere tbh, it's me afterall). You remember with terror in the middle of the night you and everyone you love will inevitably die. You don't experience the emotional breakthroughs you wanted. But this is OKAY. In these stressful, uncomfortable moments, it's really all fine. I take some deep breaths and soak it up. It's life. This is it. Instead of worrying myself about the path I planned to be on, the progress I wanted to make, the life I meant to lead: I embrace the Unknown and the Unexpected. I am open to the universe and whatever it brings me. This is me being vulnerable.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the concept of "emptiness" has to do with being utterly open (and therefore connected to the world around you); being present and willing to let what happens happen; discarding spiritual clutter and existing in your core meditative self. Inherently this emptiness has no room for expectations. This is a very rough understanding since I haven't studied much Buddhist philosophy. But it means something to me regardless. It is a kind of letting go of expectations.
Forgoing certain expectations and choosing to embrace my vulnerability are both uncomfortable and carry slight risks. Both take me into new places where I can learn and grow in meaningful ways; places where I am the most me I have ever been (whatever that means). Quoting Rebecca Solnit: "To embrace the future, the dark, [the unknown], you make. Making is a letting go of your own stuff into the world...".
I hope something in this post resonates with you, lightens your day, massages your heart or eases your mind. In this post as in my life right now, I am proudly but tentatively showing my underbelly to the world - and myself - and while at times this is frightening, it's in these moments I find who I am.