Some Change

The inevitability of change is something I’ve always been aware of. Yet, I can’t easily accept. People come and go. Friendships are shaped and reshaped. We grow up. We change. Like the smartphones we buy and sell and buy anew, we can’t get out of this cycle. I can’t get out of this cycle. I’m so deep in that I think I’m subconsciously waiting for something else to shift under my feet. Not waiting excitedly, but dreading.

My therapist keyed in on the word “secure” as I was talking. There are some people who I feel safe with, some who I don’t, and those who I just can’t figure out which side of the spectrum they lie. I’ve basically categorized everyone in my head (not that I’m going to name the order). But they keep changing from week to week. I’m never sure of anybody anymore. Who am I actually walking with when my feet are wobbly? Who will I call? This sudden insecurity leaves me completely lost every time I’m given an opportunity to hang out.

I’m rarely annoyed, but I’m easily stressed. It bugs me how low my capacity for people is now. I’ve spent a lot of time with people, hearing about their lives (which includes their problems). It’s a joy to process with them. But lately, I find myself fearing the load. I spent today listening to a friend rant for an hour, and I could feel my heart speeding and my head spinning. I don’t give feedback or have much to say or ask. I go blank. Where are the life-giving conversations and thoughtful questions and the lame puns?????? How can I be a friend if I can’t BE a friend?

Not to mention, my walls. Very few people get through my barriers and even though I feel bad for shutting the rest of the world out, I just can’t deal. There’s too much stuff. And even when I keep a few secure people around, I get the feeling those friendships are changing too. Nothing stays the same forever.

How so?

Well, #SassSquad (my group chat with Maurice and Willa) have been pretty quiet lately. The FOTD and QOTD just don’t have the same spirit stirring effect it used to. Or maybe, it’s what happens when more than one person in the group is silently struggling and/or are weary.

Some of my friendships have been put on pause if you can call it pause (since I don’t really believe in pause). They’ve been hard to keep up with, emotionally and time-wise. I think, slowly I’ll be taken off their lists of people they feel close to.

Not to mention all the people who either have left or are leaving. Helina, Patrick, Katie, Kevin, Steven, and more. Either getting married and moving away or answering God’s calling to serve and work. I’ve made my peace with these changes (mostly). I’ve had the time. It’s sad, but I’m happy for them. Life keeps going whether you’re ready or not. Even if it’s not your life. And I know there are others who are contemplating a move too. To escape. To move forward. To do some soul searching. As sad as I am that they might leave, it’s their lives and I hope they find what they’re looking for if they decide to pull the trigger and go. It’s just hard bracing yourself for news that may or may not come.

Lastly, there’s a friendship I’m still not sure if it would be better for my soul to let go of or keep. Both options feel correct and incorrect. Healthy and unhealthy. I’ve tried the in-between and I come out feeling torn up, drained, and angry all the time. The devil laughs and I shake my fists in fury. Prayer. Just lots of prayer…

Anxiety. I’ve mentioned this before: I never know what I’ll feel tomorrow.

This weekend was the worst. After a fairly chill Friday-Saturday, I visited a new church with two friends. It was fine and dandy. A little draining but that was no big deal, until the drive back when an unforeseen panic attack ensued. I knew that this new therapy thing was going to take time and that nobody is fixed in a day (or rather a month). And I knew that I would still have episodes of sadness and detachment. But it was as if I was back in Ben’s apartment replaying my first panic attack.

The paralysis, the trembles, the heavy breathing. I was looking at my hands on the steering wheel and all I thought was “this is not my hand….” My heartbeat thumped above the traffic noise. As I drove the rest of the way home, part of me really wished I had asked Greg to stay with me before he left for basketball. But I already felt like a downer and a burden so I told him to go.

Home. If I had sleeping pills, I would have downed the whole bottle. Instead, I just hugged my pillow and rolled around and around. I kept thinking about that week of insomnia 2 months prior, and how by the end of it I was standing atop of the Meridian Garage, contemplating the fall and the illusion of peace. Being alone had always been a safe haven for me. But that day, being alone was the most frightening thing. I was afraid of what I might do if nobody was there keeping me accountable. Let’s just say I’ve been told more than once I’m reckless.

The episode lasted 2 ½ days. After going out for awhile Sunday night, I finally fell asleep. I stayed in bed most of Monday. I couldn’t get up. Going out seemed improbable. My chest thumped every time I thought I might be stuck there forever. Paralysis is a b****… Tuesday came, and it was July 4th. I got myself hyped enough to go to a BBQ. Sitting in the pool helped. I think the upbeat spirit of the holiday and the environment got me out of the hole for a few hours. I’ve calmed. The symptoms subsided. At least for now.

It’s so easy to be angry at God because of our moods. The why’s and the what-are-you-doing-up-there. Do my cries reach His ears? They must. They do. I have to believe that. And I have to believe that there is a lesson. That there is a purpose to this whether it’s to increase faith, create empathy, or grant me understanding. There HAS to be more to this suffering.

Yesterday was my birthday…

Yesterday was my birthday. And as much as I love my birthday, because I love myself and because there is a conceited, self-centered monster trapped behind bars in the dark depths of my mind, my birthday is always to say the least, stressful. Sometimes I think that I would have a lot less worry if I just plan to spend my birthday watching movies by myself and eating chips. Maybe even treating myself to a nice $12 seat in a greasy theater and big screens. But then I’d be just that: BY MYSELF.

But to not make plans means that I will spend my time thinking, and thinking on my birthday means counting how many people I think might actually care that I’ve made it another year. That I’m still alive and breathing. How many people find my existence significant and meaningful. How self-centered is that? The monster bangs its claws against the steel cage and rattles the bars. As introverted as I believe I am, I still enjoy people.

I’ve been pretty lucky. I’m rarely disappointed. My friends, old and new, are awesome. And even though I know they are awesome, I still catch myself feeling surprised that they would grace me with their presence on my birthday. I felt a mixture of gratitude and embarrassment when I walked into Lazy Dog with a large table of people yelling surprise. I didn’t know how to thank everyone or what to say, and I only wanted to laugh at myself because just 30 minutes before I was at the bouldering place asking people if they wanted to eat at Lazy Dog when apparently they already knew they were going to be there. Then there was cake, someone bought me a birthday martini, and just a lot of thank you’s and small talk everywhere. And even though I love gifts, I think I value that so much more. The presence of people who want to be there and them having intentional talks, good food, and a chill time.

There’s no doubt that I’ll feel the same anxiety every year, that my birth, in the grand scheme of the universe, is small and insignificant (which it is). That to celebrate it would be pointless to anybody including myself. I’ll struggle with self-love and acceptance which are things I wish I didn’t care about because I don’t want to have expectations. To expect things is to be selfish. To be selfish is to think I’m bigger than the world. And when I’m humbled and deflated, shrinking back to the human size I’m supposed to be, I will feel disheartened. Sometimes it’s hard to protect myself from a big head.

It’s Always Been About Security. And Maybe That’s My Problem.

Here’s the thing… I’m not very old. I’m 22, I’m educated, I have a job, friends, hobbies, and ambition. I’m in the prime of my life. Or at least, I should be. And maybe I am, but let me tell you one thing: it sure doesn’t feel like it. It shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve read so many blog posts and articles, encouraging the struggling and slightly-bankrupted young adults of to stop worrying. Why would those articles exist if  it wasn’t normal for 20-year olds to have so much anxiety about the rest of their lives?

Everybody’s been there. Do the grind and make that money. Everyone is just as lost as you are. Love will come. You’ll figure out who you are soon enough. Etc. That’s pretty much the general message I’m getting. And yes, a lot of that is true (or at least I would like to believe so). You can say I buy into the whole “work hard and be patient” propaganda our society feeds us.

Have you ever heard the saying: “Money doesn’t buy you happiness, but it buys you a big enough yacht to sail right up to it” ?

Well, isn’t that true? I always thought so. I slave away planning, thinking, preparing. All the while, hoping to procure enough experience, education, skills, and what-not to have some security in my future success. And at 22 (and maybe that’s too young to make this sort of judgement) I’ve started to feel like it might never be enough. I’ve made plans that some have said is a good idea but made others question “why?” I thought about grad-school, which my mother responded with “Why not just come out to work?” Most parents would be proud, but my mother makes decent middle-class wage without ever going to college, so she sees extra-college as somewhat wasteful (it was a different time back then I guess). And maybe she has a point. Do I really want to give up another couple of years stuck in school before getting a real career? I decided I didn’t.

My next option, which I jumped right into, was to sign up for an HR certificate program. I threw myself into that one while still getting my Bachelors. It was exciting at first and the material seemed interesting and useful. “I want to do HR,” I said whenever someone asked me what my future plans were. And I HATED that question (I’m sure everyone agrees with on this). What do I plan to do for the rest of my life? Kind of a loaded question. Everybody wants to feel like they have it figured out (at least somewhat) whether you’re age 18 or age 30, especially in the face of other people who look like they’ve made it or are making it. So I liked having an answer to give them. I liked feeling like I had a plan and I was seeing it through. Kelley, future recruiter and HR personnel of some big company. I liked having a plan. Because having a plan meant I have direction. And having direction meant I was going somewhere.

And yet, here I am, in my last quarter of college about to receive my bachelors degree and three classes finished in my HR program, and the only thing going through my head is: this isn’t who I want to be. I mean, it kind of is. I’ve always been told I have the personality for business. And I do find HR intriguing. And I enjoy working in an office and so on. That corporate-career girl; independent, self-sufficient, doing the grind, making that paycheck, and still have the time/energy to travel, own a home, and have a family. That girl sounded amazing. And I thought, THAT’S IT! That’s exactly who I want to be. But if this was really really true, then why does all my work and progress feel so utterly meaningless?

For so long, I’ve been frustrated. I’d be okay and happy and confident one moment, and in the next, I’m depressed and mopey and totally unmotivated to do anything. I just get into this state of self-wallowing, where anything can set me off the rails and I just want to curl up and be alone with my thoughts (which is really the most unhealthy thing because I just end up more upset than I was already). And the thing is… I would have no idea what I’m upset about. I’d think a little and make what seemed like logical conclusions to why I feel angry or upset. But those things seemed so trivial when I really thought about it that I’d start to think maybe it’s something else. Maybe, it’s not other people annoying me or this/that bad thing that happened. Maybe, it’s really just me. I’m just an angry person with no reason to be angry. Maybe I get a kick out of feeling like crap. I started to think I was crazy, that maybe not all my marbles were there, if you know what I mean. And it wasn’t until a conversation I had not too long ago with… let’s call him Mario Nose (because using real names is weird, and who doesn’t like reading about someone with a funny nickname, which isn’t his real nickname btw)…. that made me come to a realization.

Mario Nose said something to me that nobody has ever said to me before. And honestly, I don’t think anybody else would ever, so blatantly call me out. Our conversation always starts the same:

What’s wrong? – I don’t know what’s wrong…-Well something happened right? – No, nothing happened. – Then why do you look upset. -Because I just am, okay?! – Kel, what’s wrong?…

It’s a never ending cycle of the same questions and answers.  Just the lack of progression in the conversation can make you go crazy. But this time, he said something different.

You’re frustrated because you’re scared, he concluded. And I hate it when he concludes things about me. I like to think I’m a more complex individual than your typical emotionally inept girl.

And my smart-alecky self replied, Well DUH I’m scared. Who isn’t worried that they might not make enough money?

That’s not what I mean, he replied. You’re too scared to chase after what you really want. And you’re frustrated because you know that there’s nothing stopping you except yourself. 

He went on. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about you, it’s that you LOVE being the best. And you hate it when you find out you’re not good at something.

Well, who likes failing? I said.

He smirked. You’re just like me. You want confirmation. You don’t want to go in blindly and not have someone screaming in your ear that you’re exceptional. And you don’t just want to hear that you’re great, you want them to make you BELIEVE IT. 

I really did.

Some dreams are crazy and dumb. Like wanting to make a trillion dollars or being a pro-NBA player when you’re only 5 ft tall, he said. I nodded absentmindedly. And some people don’t have dreams. They just want to live and have a bunch of stuff and free time. But let’s face it, that’s not what you really want. Sure, you would like those things. But its not enough is it? 

Maybe it’s not, I thought. Then Mario Nose asked me this:

What sounds better to you? Kelley, the author? or Kelley, the banking career girl who travels the world during her time off? Which life would you chose?

With his questions, my usually answer would always be: I don’t know (because I really didn’t). But it didn’t take me even a second to figure this one out.

I’d choose Kelley, the author. Every time.