[“All Will Be Well” – Gabe Dixon Band]
I feel as though I can be comfortable with the expectations I have set for myself this year. Last year didn’t kill me, so if that is my base line, I at least know I can survive this one given nothing actually, physically, disastrous happens (I am currently knocking on every form of wood I can reach). I have said the purpose of life is to survive it, but that was admittedly during one of my darker moments. Right now, I can see with the foggy realization, the general though occasionally begrudging acceptance that despite the difficulty, the purpose of life is to live it—with some damn VIGOR where possible.
The tragedies of last year are of the past, I am clinging to them as a bad dream, lest I forget all together, but I now intend to live with some kind of intention after a really rough six months (at least, you know, until all the enthusiasm wears off and everyone leaves the gym again—kidding, mostly). It was all a bad dream (sorry for bastardizing the words, Biggie), it’s now time to wake up.
So, as I said, I have certain expectations, outside of mere survival, that I intend to honor to the best of my ability over the next weeks and months that make up 2018. Number one is fairly simple for me, I am a reader, I read, I have read the back of food cartons and toothpaste tubes when nothing else has been available (and let me tell you, 9 out of 10 dentists don’t agree on anything). However, I am ashamed to admit that I have not read as many of “The Classics” as I would like. Maybe I am scarred from the mandatory reading inflicted upon me during high school. When I was forced to read the classics, I rebelled and read something else instead, and then haltingly faked my way through the book report (mostly because Thomas Hardy can suck it, he ruined me for assigned reading. He is not on my list for this year or any other, not a fan).
It’s strange to think that I read with a voraciousness that was so selective. Selective in that I was obstinate, if someone told me I was going to like it, I knew with all of my angsty adolescent soul that they were wrong. Though, I remember fondly the three glorious exceptions to this rule to be Pride and Prejudice, The Handmaid’s Tale, and A Tale of Two Cities (unless the required reading was Shakespeare, then I read it twice). I don’t know why I read these select texts even though they were assigned, but I have always loved them regardless. Despite this early dislike for institutionalized reading, my English teachers collectively (and ironically) had more of an impact on me than any other educators throughout my life (special shout out to the incomparable Mrs. O, and Mr. W. If you’re reading this, thanks for putting up with me).
Given this propensity to pooh pooh any lovingly offered tomes, I KNOW I have missed out on some really great content for no other reason than I was a weak-ass rebel (yeah, it’s SO HARDCORE to refuse homework. It’s a miracle I didn’t end up some sort of street hoodlum). So, seeking to right my past ineffectual intellectual wrongs, the first book on my “to read” list is Jane Eyre, which I very much look forward to diving into—not only because I saw the film in which Michael Fassbender portrayed the dark and secretive Edward Fairfax Rochester; you’ll find no complaint from me in that quarter, particularly since they threw in Dame Judi Dench for good measure (it is an English drama after all, I am pretty sure it’s part of her lifetime contract with the entire film making industry that she has to be in every one—again, no complaints) but I digress—but because it’s a story of personal growth and of strength in adversity, I could use a bit of that.
Overall, when it comes to these classics, we know the book is always better than the movie but there are also phrases and themes we use on a regular basis because they came from these books. Personally I don’t want to share facts (or news) without first verifying and understanding it, so why would fiction be any different when it has had such a large impact on our society?
“It is a truth universally acknowledged”…
“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum”…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”…
What other literary nuggets have I yet to truly discover and understand? I’ll tell you what, I can’t wait to find out.
Adventure. It requires a budget… One which I have always thought myself to lack when in truth I did not have my priorities straight. I don’t have to spend millions to see the world. There are a billion things just outside my door I have yet to experience. True, the Schuylkill River does not have the same romantic and exotic appeal as, say, the Thames. But that’s just because it’s what I am used to, I pass it every day on my commute while the Thames is in another country. The appeal of the foreign is undeniable but there are things that are “foreign” all around us if we take the time to notice. Everything is just a matter of perspective. Additionally, I’ve come to finally have the adult realization that travel is well within your reach monetarily if it’s the thing you are passionate about, you simply have to allocate finds accordingly. Decide what’s worth it.
Essentially, I know that I don’t want to live vicariously through someone on social media… I want to see things for my own eyes (actually, I want to experience them with all of my senses) and I intend to do so.
Everything from solo camping trips to business trips, international jet-setting to local small town ramblings are on the docket for the year. Each month has something, someWHERE, I have yet to see. I cannot wait. I intend to send myself postcards as a reminder of what I am capable of doing, of who I am capable of being, if I motivate and empower myself to just go do it rather than simply think about it.
Which leads me to my last, and admittedly most difficult, expectation:
I am not going to lie, this third and final expectation I have set for myself is going to be hard, though I am actively looking for recommendations and suggestions as I proceed. Each month, I intend to do at least one thing that scares me. No, I am not talking about jumping across subway tracks or eating live bugs… I don’t want to be Fear Factor scared, I want to open myself up to new experiences and put myself outside of my comfort zone. My current comfort zone is, to put it gently, restricted. In truth it’s a pair of sweatpants and a tank top that I can wear in my comfy chair, in my room, surrounded by my cat, plants, and books. Fairly limiting in its scope, wouldn’t you say?
Honestly, stepping out my door currently puts me outside of my comfort zone. Nothing is predictable after that and it’s a concept I struggle with. I may fake it really well at times but I AM, at my core, an anxious introvert, and those qualities limit me in many ways. Ways I intend to change as much as possible. Life would be easier if I had the option to simply not be around people. Period. Then I would not second guess myself all the time or force myself think of the right words to say, words I can rarely find. The painful truth is, at the end of the day, no matter how hard I try, some people are just not going to like me. So, why should I still try so hard to impress them and allow myself to lose out on, likely embarrassing, but potentially enriching experiences? Particularly when I am already over-analyzing the likelihood that they even notice what I am doing in the first place. No, the portico of my door will no longer be the limit of my comfort zone, this is the year the damn thing expands to include a hell of a lot more.
There is an overarching reason for this endeavor… This monthly uncomfortable experience goal has a culmination point that I hope to reach:
Last year proved that I am not as breakable as I had thought I was; among other things, depression and anxiety had laid me out to absolute zero and I though I was essentially worthless. I still struggle, on a daily basis, to feel worthy of the love and support that surround me. The answer I had to solve this problem was to hide my issues as much as possible, to keep them out of the public eye and to pretend that everything was fine. This year I need to prove that I can be vulnerable while still being strong. There is a difference between being vulnerable and being weak and it has taken me a long time to learn that. Weakness is the inability to cope with anything, vulnerability is knowing when it’s ok to ask for help.
For the longest time, only one person saw my vulnerability, and even then I did not like it. That extremely flawed system hurt him, hurt us, hurt me. It also limited me. I was ashamed. Like I said, I thought it was a quality I had to hide as much as possible. It is not my intention to ever be a burden and that’s what I believed vulnerability to be… I thought opening myself up made me a burden. I needed to appear impervious even though, contained within myself, there have always been myriad faults in need of regular tending. Faults we all carry within ourselves, I now know, but at the time I thought I was the only broken one.
Well, no more. I intend to trust those around me enough to be entirely myself. Not in a “screw the world” / “I do what I want” / “you’re not my dad” / “viva la revolucion” / “stick it to the man” kind of way (well, not ALWAYS like that, anyway); but definitely in one that finally has an inkling toward self acceptance and love, despite my faults.
I don’t intend to be vulnerable to my detriment, but to use my vulnerability to learn and grow my whole strength.
I will absolutely get hurt, it is an inevitability, but thankfully it will now be on my own terms. And despite the hurt, I already know it wont break me, so what do I have to lose?
Join me? Set yourself free. You’re a beautiful human and I believe in you.
Photo: E. Campbell (2017)
Brooklyn Bridge, NYC, NY