I Stopped Believing in Myself – This is What Happened Next

I had been losing a lot of sleep.  I kept waking up in the middle of the night, worried about what I was going to do.  What if this is wrong?  What if I miss out on something else?  What the hell am I thinking?
I realize that it’s just too hard to believe in myself.  I’m as flaky as they come.  My mind changes by the week and my heart by the minute.  When I try to imagine the future all I find is uncertainty.  The more I dwell on the unknown the less I believe in my choice. Every word of encouragement my heart whispers is followed by two shouts of doubt.  I have been stuck in a storm of my own insecurities.  For years I have chosen the safety of stagnancy because I don’t trust myself in the ocean of the unknown.  It is hard for me to embark across the ocean when I’m afraid at the thought of a storm.  Because it is too hard for me to believe in myself, I decided the only logical thing to do is to believe in Something Else.  For me, that Something Else is God.
Because I cannot believe in myself, I decided to believe in Something Else.
So, I give away the trust in myself – it wasn’t working for me anyway.  Something Else can have it.  Something Else is in control and my job is to only accept.  I found that when I made myself the vessel instead of the Captain, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I found that the more I gave my control to Something Else, the more I was aware of Its presence.  The more power I give to the Captain, the less power I give to the storm.  I prayed that Something Else would take the control.  I prayed that a Captain would be willing to take over a lost boat.
When I got home that day, I had a letter waiting for me.  The letter is from a friend I met while in Italy.  We talk pretty often, and I had confided in her that I was afraid of leaving my secure life.  The letter was short.  “I hope you’re doing better since we last talked,” she wrote.  “If you are waiting for a sign, here it is.” 
I stared at the letter for a while and knew that my prayer had been heard.  I was filled with more hope and optimism than I had felt in a very long time and I was overjoyed with appreciation.
I slept soundly for the first time in days.  The ocean of the unknown was calm and I felt secure in my choice for the first time since I had made it.  After all, I  have the easy job now.  No captain wants to let his vessel drown.

A Lesson in Trust

In my last post, I talked about not having a past.  I am envious of the people who can just forget and move on, because forgetting is hard for me.  I am a  dreamer, and I have trouble remembering facts when my  mind is on some reminiscent stream of consciousness.  With Nick, it’s even harder.  You see, Nick was good at lying.  When we first met, I used to call him a salesman.  He was so good at words, great at making people like him, and involved as an onlooker to all drama.  This is me realizing it now of course.  At the time, Nick could do no wrong.  I watched him lie to his friends, lie to his team, lie to his mom, and lie to me.

So why did I ignore it?  How could I trust someone I witnessed lie over and over?

I looked up the word “trust” to see what the word is actually supposed to mean.

noun: trust

firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

  • “relations have to be built on trust”
  • acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation.
  • the state of being responsible for someone or something.

verb: trust

  • believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of
  • allow someone to have, use, or look after (someone or something of importance or value) with confidence.
  • commit (someone or something) to the safekeeping of
  • have confidence; hope (used as a polite formula in conversation).
  • place reliance on (luck, fate, or something else over which one has little control).
  • The word is beautiful.  If you talk about it like a thing, it’s a result of a firm belief of reliability.  It requires knowledge, acceptance, wisdom, and care.  “I trust you because I believe ___.”  If you have trust, it it the result of two choices: the choice to trust, and the choice to trust yourself on the decision.  When you trust, you are giving permission to someone or something to become believable.  You allow a person or idea to become believable and can commit to the truths with confidence.
  • I thought I trusted Nick, but knowing what I knew, I can’t say that I fully had that feeling.  I searched for validation in it’s antonym.

noun: doubt

  • a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction
  • something that is uncertain or that causes one to feel uncertain

verb: doubt

  • feel uncertain about
  • fear; be afraid of
  • be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening

It seems to me that doubt isn’t so much the opposite of trust, but a barrier to it.  The uncertainties I felt did make me ask questions at inconvenient times, made me worry when something didn’t add up, and made me skeptical when I should have trusted.  If that was all, our relationship would have ended when I caught him inviting girls over that he found on a dating website three months in to our relationship.  If that was all, our relationship would never progressed to the point where I was willing to transition my life to the east coast when I have no desire to live in a tundra of snow and snobbery (no offense).

It didn’t end there, because I realize I am the opposite of trusting.  I said I don’t think doubt is the opposite of trust.  Doubt is necessary to have trust.  I think it’s important.  It’s important because it gives you the confidence you need to make a choice and believe something.  No.  As much as I hate it, I think the opposite of trust is fear: the fear that your choice is not the right one, fear that your decisions are wrong or will lead you in the wrong place.  Fear means it’s easier to rely on someone else to make the decisions you can’t make.  Fear was setting aside what I knew to be true because I didn’t trust myself to commit to that belief.

Instead, I let fear get the better of me.  It was easier to trust in a lie than risk the reality of the truth.  Did I know I was putting off something inevitable?  Probably.  But it’s amazing how easy it is to ignore what you don’t want to see.  The problem is that the Universe favors truth, and it seems to me that it is always uncovered in one way or another.  When I found out he cheated on me, I said I was surprised, but I wasn’t really.  When I found out the other stuff, that, for the sake of the others involved I won’t talk about, I felt like I was reading a story about a different life.  But it wasn’t a different life.  It was the life I had chosen to live because it was easier to live in the dark.

There are no mistakes in life, only lessons.  I believe Nick taught me a valuable lesson: a lesson in trust.  The heart rejoices in truth and is strained without it.  Through my doubt, through my choosing to ignore my instinct, through my fear of decision making, my heart was broken.  I know now that if I had trusted myself I would have saved myself heartbreak, tears, and a lot of sleepless nights.  I would have been okay, the way I am now, but it was too easy to put it aside.  I chose to hide with a closed heart of fear and insecurity than embrace the life meant for me.  I have learned my lesson, and now I must rebuild.

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. — Buddha

My Day 1

I went to a yoga class.  After I found out, I felt my heart racing and I couldn’t stop crying.  I was sobbing in my car. I wanted him to come out to hug me, to kiss me, to tell me this was all some sick joke and he was sorry.  He didn’t come, and, in a way I’m glad of it.  Those initial moments of vulnerability are crucial and set the tone of your next weeks.  If we had talked it out, if he had apologized and told me everything would be okay, my insecurities might have broke through and I might be sadly curled in his arms right now, so worried, so oppressed, but with him.

I went to a yoga class.  I cried for a lot of it, but it was hot and sweaty and my tears mingled in with the sweat from my forehead.  Each breath is a moment, and then that moment is gone.  That was my focus.  Those thoughts brought me peace.

Yoga was over.  I remembered advice I got once, to go on a lonely adventure.  A friend needed help writing an essay, and I agreed to help him.  Anything for a distraction.

We got lost in words about moments.  He’s applying to grad school, and his challenge is to think over the last 10 years of his life and determine “why now” for higher education.  ”Why now?”  In my vulnerable state I couldn’t help but laugh at him.  Here he is, 30 years old, former aerospace engineer, accomplished businessman, fluent in 4 languages, smart, funny, talented, but not content.  He needs to go to business school to be “challenged.”  He wants to “be compared with people on a higher level,” “compete to excel.”  I read through his “moments,” – those days that felt extraordinary and accomplishing, that lead to the same feeling of discontent, and pride.

We talked about moments and time, about experiences and strength.  We ended up at a high school football game.  I felt myself laughing at the drama in the stands, the cheerleaders, the athletes – how big their world, how strong their insecurities, how unrelenting their dreams – all for some future.

I had beer for dinner.  It’s okay every once in a while, don’t you think?  Not in a binge sort of way, but in a – get caught talking and just sip on a beer situation.

I took the long way home.  I called my mom.  I called my best friend.  Talking helps.

My heart is broken.  I’ve been betrayed and lied to.  I’ve been taken advantage of by my best friend.  Now what?  I was cheated on.  I wasn’t broken up with in a normal way.  My boyfriend of two years decided to have sex with someone else.  The next morning, he called me and I came over to his house.  We ran on the beach, ordered Thai food, watched tv and cuddled.  I had no idea.

I feel embarrassed on top of sad.  I feel humiliated and unloved.  I feel alone.  But then I think, if I feel this way, that means others do too.  So how do we cope?  How do we get better, when it seems like you’re broken forever?

I’m taking my lonely adventure now.  I’m going to be lonely until my loneliness transforms into something else.  I’m not sure what yet.  I guess I have something to look forward to.

Stay tuned.

Why It Is Important To Sometimes Bite the Hand That Feeds You

“You must bite the hand that feeds you. You are perhaps always told the opposite of this. The opposite of this is often said to you, ‘Do not bite the hand that feeds you.’ But from time to time I tell you, you must.” – Jamaica Kincaid

I read this quote a few times, over and over.  I stumbled-upon it while sitting at work on one particularly boring day.  Lately I’ve been feeling like most of the days spent here are boring, a waste of time and energy stressing out over things I don’t (and never will) care about.  Why do I care about some huge corporation’s advertising dollars?  Why should I worry about the loss of revenue from traffic sent by shady vendors?  There’s an answer to that of course: they pay me.  They pay me to care, to come to my desk in the morning and care for 9 hours of my day.  They pay me enough to make my family happy, or at least make them feel like the hundreds of thousands of dollars they invested in my education was not a complete and total waste.  My family has made countless sacrifices for my education and given me the chance at success in a society where a degree, despite its relevance, is mandatory.

One of my best friends got me this job.  I was desperate for a steady income, the pay for freelance journalism not on par with the lifestyle required.  He recommended me for the position and I had a job two weeks later.  The position is not difficult, though it should be.  In fact, I would say that managing accounts on corporate levels is something that only takes time to get used to, but does not otherwise require much critical thinking.

I’ve been told since I was too young to give an age that you should not bite the hand that feeds you, that gratitude is the most sincere outcome of appreciation and should be expressed and not forgotten.  I was told to not look a gift horse in the mouth and mockingly would retort that I would not want a gift from a horse’s mouth.  I was eight years old and a sarcastic brat.  I have not changed.

You must not bite the hand that feeds you, the grown-ups say, and we accept this axiom as reality.  Who are we to disagree with an age old aphorism?  Who are we to say no to the gift horse?  To take a look at what is offered and then refuse?  They tell you it is bad (or another synonym that implies one should feel guilt at any sort of opposition) to disagree.  They tell you that you should not complain, to accept, and to respect.  In short, they instill a layer of accountability, a sense of allegiance, and the fear of perfidiousness.  We are all guilty of these expectations.  We give and expect that our gifts are used in a way that is egoistically correct.  In all of our “good doings” we set unspoken intentions and create the façade of idealistic outcomes for the people we choose to help.  When I read this quote now, I see that this proverb creates a layer of guilt, and a fascia of entitlement.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be grateful, but I believe there needs to be a level of loving detachment from both parties.  We learn guilt from a young age, and as we get older we struggle with that guilt and our personal calling.  If we are brave enough to dream, we are faced with that stigma under the guise of love.  We look at our gifts, we remember all of those hands, and instead of feeling thankful we feel burdened.  We are afraid that our actions are misinterpreted.  We do not bite the hand that feeds us.  We remain.

I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot lately, especially as I sit at my dual-monitor desk, Starbucks latte on my left, my iPhone on the right, headphones in, the sun streaming through on this January morning.   After taking the time to write this out, I can see that the phrase is wildly misinterpreted.  The people that extend out their hand in the hope that you accept their offering should be appreciated and respected, but not so much to deter you from your own calling.  The phrase “you should not bite the hand that feeds you” implies obligation and I agree that there are many instances in which we should obey.

But sometimes we should not. 

The WTF Years

The WTF Years

I’ve recently hit the age that I call the age of what the fuck.  I’m not even joking here.  I wish I was.  See, I’m  in my 20’s.  I had a pretty ideal childhood.  I was taught morality and kindness.  I was taught to rely on myself, but always had family and friend’s support.  I was told I could do anything I wanted to do.  I could be anything I wanted to be.  The world was mine.

At 8 I wanted to be a scientist.  I spent hours with my neighbors, kids who also wanted to be scientists (this was when science was cool and involved making things go boom), poring over how to books and DIY experiments.  I could be a scientist if I wanted to be, my mom told me, handing me a book.  I treated that book like a I mixed a few shiesty chemicals and the book was confiscated.  I didn’t think too much of it at that point.  Science was boring.

When I was 11 I wanted to be a doctor.  My dad taught me anatomy, biology, showed me diagrams of DNA and showed me how CPR really works.  Education is everything, he told me.  Ironic actually because shortly after that speech a thing called high school happened.  In high school I realized I hated math, science was not like Dexter’s laboratory, and essays were always more original when you haven’t read the book.  I started to hear rumors about college acceptances, the job market.  These speeches were treated like my geometry class.  It didn’t matter anyway.  I was 16 years old.  I had my whole life ahead of me.  The entire world was waiting.

I went to a good high school and graduated with an average GPA.  I got accepted to a good college and enrolled in classes picked by me.   Now people always say high school doesn’t prepare you for college.  I disagree.  For me, it was an easy transition.  My parents’ advice stayed with me.  If I wanted it, I could get it.  Hard work pays off.  I made good friend and went to fun parties.  I chose classes that interested me, from world dance to religion, Kafka and Milton, social anatomy and linguistics, Spanish and writing.  I joined a sorority and played dress up on Mondays, attended meetings and brainstormed ideas for philanthropies and projects.  I got an internship designing marketing projects for a land development company.  I learned quickly and worked hard.  On weekends I put off work and drank beer.  Friends who were older than me started complaining about the job market, moving home, choosing a career.  I wasn’t worried.  I could do anything I wanted to do.  I was smart, and therefore, the exception.

And then I graduated.  I went to Italy and taught English for a few months.  I came back and made rent by modeling teen clothes lines and a hipster jeans brand.  I wrote articles for a few local magazines and edited pieces during press time.  I tried to ghostwrite until I watched the “author” receive praise for my words.  I lived dollar to dollar.  My parents asked me what I was doing with my life.  I had no idea.  I liked not knowing.

And then one day I caved.  I took a job that allowed me to live stress free.  My paychecks came every two weeks and my days were spent in an office on the outskirts of a large city.

And so I did what any 22 year old working 9 – 7 Monday through Friday and living on her own would do.  I freaked the fuck out.

The outcome?  Ha.

No idea.