Life can catch us in such an endless whirlwind of survival that we forget to pause. And yet, it’s in the moments when I pause that emotion sweeps over me like a tidal wave in a monsoon – pound upon pound of powerful pressure, a tumbling wash cycle of nostalgia, pain, redemption… a strong sense of survival and courage and strength and an immense feeling of awe at how ABSOLUTELY different I am, today.
If I could describe in a single phrase the climax of my self-discovery as I approach my 30th year it is simply this:
Somewhere along this crazy journey I have managed to slowly shed layers of fear, apprehension, anxiety, cravings for approval, obsession with perfection, worry over what I cannot change… social constructions of ideology and a past littered with an inability to simply BE… alone.
You would never think that looking back on 30 years of life, I’d be more grateful for things I have lost than things I have gained… and yet, I find myself musing the most over what I’ve abandoned – discarded beliefs and fears that have become the catalyst for so much peaceful self-assurance. These “losses” have formed the foundation for major shifts in worldview and have ultimately brought me more peace than I’ve ever had in my life before.
I’ve lost a fear of differences.
This one is a big one and may not be well-received. I believe it is a direct result of leaving religion. Over the last decade I have slowly but surely left the church, left the suffocating pressure of boundaries constructed from a fear of differences and categorized by self-righteousness, hypocrisy and ignorance. As a result, I have GAINED a unique spirituality; a deep sense of gratitude for all life and for all beliefs, so long as they open the door for community and respect and a wholesome selflessness without an abandonment of autonomous thinking. I can now approach everyone openly, with an eagerness to dissect and learn from their spirituality and personal ownership of the deeper currents of human existence … I can explore all things with a willingness to be proven wrong, to grow and learn and connect and accept and challenge. There is so much fearlessness, so much richness and possibility for me now that I have left traditional religious beliefs behind. I can now connect with those who are different from me without fear.
I’ve lost a fear of being alone.
I am finally at a place in my life where I am content, alone. I value my community, I thrive in relationships and friendships, but I am no longer intimidated by solitude. An extrovert to my core, I thrive on human connection – but I also find peace in my single existence, my sole autonomy and the thrilling escape of my own mental pathways. I can simply BE, and revel in it.
Along with this loss has come immense gain… in the form of a reckless abandonment of possessiveness and dating in friendships and relationships. I no longer expect forever. Without bitterness or fear I am able to simply enjoy the moment with someone without a fear of “losing” them… because they are not, and will never be, “mine”. I find the thrill of connecting with someone on a deep and conscious level – emotionally, platonically, romantically, sexually… whatever it is, fulfilling and valuable, even when it comes without a “forever” tag.
This loss of a fear of being alone has resulted in the gain of confidence in walking away from anything that does not add value for me or is not in the best interests of myself, my son, or the other person: my “never settle” mentality. Just as I feel no one owes me a moment of their time or attention (autonomy has become paramount, above all things), I owe them nothing. I can freely give of my love, time, affection, energy, interest, trust, etc. – but it is just that…. freely given. As is theirs. I have gained a rich sense of gratitude and an ability to dwell in the moment with others, simply from “losing” a fear of being alone.
This evolution of mindset has been so astounding and influential for me that it has even resulted in an abandonment of many social “norms” – one of them being the concept that monogamy, above all things, is the end goal of relationships and human existence. As unpopular as it may sound, I no longer believe it to be “normal” to imagine that you or your significant other will never “want” anyone else. What this means for my future relationships, I do not know – but it has relieved all pressure of a fear of someone “cheating,” given me a courageous ability to openly explore emotional and sexual expression and conversation with new partners, and completely released me from the social construct of keeping “desires” to myself because they are “bad.” I am able to respectfully discuss all things with potential mates, and open the same doors for them. The resulting levels of trust have been fathomless and resulted in deeper connections than I’ve ever had before. I have gained the deep satisfaction that comes from COMPLETE openness and trust.
I’ve lost a fear of losing the approval of others.
From an anxious people-pleaser and a lover of approval to a peaceful, thoughtful, strong-minded decision maker… where did this happen? Somewhere along the way I have abandoned my fear of the opinions of others and focused wholly on making decisions as they bring value, adventure, and new experiences to my life. Just as I have stopped judging the decisions of others, I have finally road-blocked my never-ending urge to justify my life decisions to everyone around me. I’ve gained a complete confidence that those who truly understand me will approve of anything that brings value and happiness to my life.
I’ve lost a fear of the unknown.
I no longer seek to control the things I cannot understand or manipulate. Even in the darkest moments, moments of despair or illness or emotional pain – I have gained an ability to let things go. They may not all work out in my favor, but they will play out as they are fated to – and I will survive the manifestation of that fate. I’ve found a relentless ability to thrive on the tenacity of my spirit and a peace in abandoning what I cannot control. The freedom I feel in my daily life now compared to even a year ago is mind-blowing.
With the loss of a fear of differences, a fear of being alone, a fear of losing approval, and a fear of the unknowns… I have gained peace, self-assurance, confidence, joy, incredibly deep and powerful human connections, satisfaction, self-completion.
As I approach my 30th year, I can confidently say that the person I am now – albeit ever evolving and growing – is exactly who I would wish to be. Whether I live another week or many years, I am finally living exactly as I would wish to: