I woke up on the morning of my 21st birthday with a heavy heart. I was filled with anger, disappointment, sadness, and confusion.
I never would have believed that the girl in that bed was going to be me at 21. Why? A younger version of myself thought 21 would signify some kind of major change in my life – a time when I would be more together, have life sorted out.
I was 21, none the wiser, and nothing but a legal ID to show for it.
The day carried on as any Tuesday would and I thanked people as they wished me well but I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed each time someone said “happy birthday.” I had woken up to someone I didn’t like very much and didn’t believe that anyone could or would like me, either.
Looking back on the past year, I had allowed mental illness to seep into my life and fill all of the cracks with fear, anger, anxiety, resentment, a sharp tongue, and a bad attitude. I had reverted back to so many bad habits wherein I couldn’t even eat a piece of birthday cake without thinking about how many miles I would need to run in the morning.
Wadded up tissues and a half-empty glass of red wine on my bedside table looked more pathetic by the second and I did the only thing I knew how to do: write.
I pulled out my notebook and flipped to a blank page and poured everything I had onto it. There were things I wish I had never said, people I wish I hadn’t hurt, experiences I wish I would have said “yes” to, and times I had morphed into someone even I didn’t recognize.
Moments of weakness, cruelty, sadness, insecurity, fear, and negativity.
I looked over the page and my stomach did backflips, guilt once again welled up inside of me like a balloon. I knew that this wasn’t how my sense of self should both begin and end. I couldn’t enter in every instance over the past year in which I had done something or been someone I did not respect and just leave it at that. There had to be something…something more. So I moved over to another page and made a plan of action. Ten things I wanted to do in the coming year. This list included people I wanted to see more, strangers I wanted to love more, gratitude I wanted to be better at expressing, new things I wanted to learn, and a “me” I wanted to become proud of.
To me, these are our crucible moments. The times that self reflection really matters is when we are able to create change out of it.
When things seem the hardest, it’s often an indication that they are the most important. These experiences, these moments define us and our vision. It’s not enough to simply look back and say “this is what happened”, we must then do something about it. And I’m not talking about obsessively dwelling on the past, what I mean is that we have to set out to be different from this point forward.
Every moment of self reflection is like a clean slate just waiting to be filled with new goals, challenges, and visions of a better self. I love this idea. Knowing that we have the power to create infinite opportunities for ourselves to be more loving, more forgiving, and more brave humans.
It’s a good reminder that allowing space for both ourselves and others to change is so important.
When we box people in with the mistakes they’ve made, we prevent an opportunity for growth and evolvement. Instead, if we choose to approach each situation with grace and a generous expectation of growth, beautiful things can arise. New relationships, transformed world views, and a greater sense of overall harmony.
So from this day forward I challenge myself and others to be braver: to love more boldly, to speak our truth, and to connect with others in a way that elevates their very core.