Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.Ovid
In life, people can make or break us. Let’s face it, we’ve all been hurt at least one time in our lives, and broken emotionally much worse than we have physically. Whether it was through bullying; being ostracized and left out; going through a tough living, school, or work situation; a bad breakup; or a crushing betrayal–which can be looped in with any of those options and even crazier ones–our emotional and mental woes can often bring on physical ailments. We ache, we shake, we panic–we cry, we hyperventilate, and we are as lost in our bodies as we are in our minds and in our hearts. However, as comfortable as it is to remain broken and adopt an attitude of “abandon all hope, thee who dares enter or exit my life,” we can’t–by doing this, the only person whom we’re truly hurting is ourselves.
In life, we must do the things we think we cannot do or will never–or not yet–have to confront. When I lost my first–and to this day only–boyfriend six years ago, it deeply impacted my life. I had a hard time adjusting to not doing anything every waking moment with someone, and not having constant strings of texts and calls flooding my phone. Yet I was also granted the chance to learn who I was again after devoting years of my life loving, nurturing, and helping someone else. During the last ten months, the relationship took an abusive turn–something that still affects me to this day. Although I loved my boyfriend so much–at times more than myself–I knew that I had to get out of an increasingly difficult and uncomfortable situation for the sake and safety of my family, my friends, and ultimately myself. It wasn’t my ex’s fault that he was bipolar, but he did make a conscious choice to lie, cheat on, abuse, and taunt me like a solider promising not to murder their prisoner of war, yet loading the gun behind his poor captive’s back.
I left my ex in 2012–it’s now 2018, and I still find that I am continuing to discover and love myself. Here are some ways that helped me move and “fuggeta’bout’it:”
Not all those who wander are lostJ. R. R. R. Tolkien
When we place ourselves in a new environment, we can tap into and discover things that we never thought possible. For example, my first international experience was when my family and I went to Mexico when I was 17. The first time, we stayed in Cancun and went to Chichen Itza and Riviera Maya; we stayed at the second one we returned–in Playa del Carmen–and went on a day trip to Tulum. Although we stayed in all-inclusive resorts during both stays, my eyes were opened to a new world around me–new cultures, new atmospheres, new people, new languages, and new surroundings. Having the ability to meet and interact with the native Maya peoples was a once in a lifetime experience, and my only regret was that I could not help them by buying their products. In Mexico, many locals use lead in their paint when they make little chachkis and nick-nacks. As a result, tourists are advised not to buy their products because the lead in the paint will cause security issues at the airport. However, this is a heart wrenching situation to say “no,” because the locals make a living off of the tourism. I felt so bad, one woman haggled the price of a noise maker down to $5 to try get me to buy it–but alas, I could not.
My eyes of the world continued to expand and open when I first traveled to Italy during my senior years of high school, and returned four years later shortly after graduating college. During my first go-round, I visited Catania, Siracusa, Taormina, Marsala, Palermo, and Messina in Sicily, and Napoli, Sorrento, Capri, and Roma on the mainland (except for Capri, which is an island). In 2016, I spent three weeks in Roma, and went on three day trips to Ostia Antica, Capri, and Florence (Firenze). Like Mexico, Italy was an enthralling experience–some days I wish that I could back to waking up in Rome’s Prati neighborhood and grabbing my “take away” cappuccino and croissant from my favorite cafe. What made the second trip to Italia stand out more than the first was that I was no longer with my ex–we were still together when I went the first time and both times I traveled to Mexico–and I felt like I could fully be myself in a far away place. However, I first realized this during the first time I went. I fell in love with a new land, new people, new cultures, new cuisine, and a new way of life. Yes, there are some things we have here in America that are better, but we can also learn so much for other nations abroad. Furthermore, sometimes the sad parts of our experiences cause us to reflect and be grateful for what we have at home. For example, the vendors in Europe are notoriously pushy, mean, and will physically grab and harass you into buying their junk. The best part is that the police won’t do anything–which makes me appreciate being in New York, where no one would stand for something like that. Yet it’s also nice to only pay 3 euros for a round-trip metro trip, and I wish and long for the day when public transportation on the East Coast can become affordable again.
So what is the message in the midst of my reminiscing and ramble? Just go out there–explore, enjoy yourself. Although I haven’t been abroad in two years, I ventured to new places with my best friend and sister two years in a row to southwest Florida and San Francisco on the West Coast. There is so much to see out there, even venturing only an hour from NYC to upstate NY, and we can truly learn a lot from others. Through travel, we forget about our past by using the present to be, realize, and prepare for transforming into our future selves.
We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.Ernest Hemingway
As many of you know, I’ve been writing from a young age, and it’s the one constant in life that’s made me feel most alive and myself. When I graduated college, I was ready to dive head-first into a creative role in the entertainment only–then I discovered that it didn’t want me. I didn’t do anything wrong, I didn’t not have the talent, and my resume definitely was not lacking–it’s just a competitive field, and for whatever reason that I can’t understand, it was not my time. I’m happy to be where I am now, both life and career wise. There are some good days and some bad ones, but there is always one thing that’s for certain–I’m always writing. Always.
When I felt disheartened, discouraged, and forlorn, I took a break from writing anywhere outside of work–and later–school. However, I know now that in order to truly be a success, I have to constantly be working on my craft, no matter how tired, exhausted, fatigued, etc. I get. When I lost my ex and was in an uncomfortable situation at my first university, the main thing that kept me sane was writing. I began to fully dive into writing prose, honed my poems, and dived head-first into making “fan fiction” soap operas for myself and my friends. I expanded this as I got older and transferred to my alma mater–and current school, since I not only work there, but am back as a student to get my master’s–I began to take more courses to tune my craft. I also learned some difficult things that I coped with my turning them in works for my poetry class. When our final was to make a chapbook, I presented some of the most difficult ones aloud to read for our class’ family and friends. By channeling my grief into my work, I was able to create art–and urge everyone and anyone to do the same.
You don’t have to be a Stephen King or Dante to write–just jolt something down. It doesn’t have to be a long screenplay or epic novel if you don’t want it to. A simple poem, line, or even just admitting “I’m not happy” is a great start. You don’t even have to keep it–rip it up if you feel like you need to “shred your stress.” Yet by putting our thoughts, feelings, and ourselves onto paper, we let part of ourselves loose, and feel light and free.
Work and School
A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.Colin Powell
When you’re a student, an employee, or both, your work life becomes a distraction from your lay being (outside of work/school life). This is a welcome thing when you are going through a rough point in your life because it forces your mind to focus on bigger things. You might not like going to school or be crazy about your current job. Maybe you’re thinking of switching major, or changing industries. Perhaps you haven’t even left the retail work yet. That doesn’t matter–what matters is that you are there, here and now. By focusing your energy on your work ethic in class and at your job, you are preparing yourself for a better and brighter future.
This might seem obvious, but it’s something that get often get overlooked. While I was always an honors student, I never had the “perfectionist” drive that propels my heart and soul until I got to college. When I lost my boyfriend, I had to find something else to harness my energy in. I was away at school for the first year, and even when I transferred, most of my friends were married, in committed relationships, and had their own lives. That’s when my passion for my schoolwork kicked in to overdrive. A’s became something I was happy and grateful for to something that I needed to get to feel alive. By the time I graduated, I had a 3.98 GPA with only one grade that fucked up my 4.0–a B+ in Math. However, I was grateful I passed–it was a horrible class.
Moreover, my work ethic transitioned into the workplace, and I remain a hard worker to this day. If I hand something in before the deadline, it’s on time. If I make it at the deadline, it’s late. And if it’s actually late, than there’s either too much going on at work or I’m dead in a ditch somewhere. These are the standards that I set for myself that may drive me crazy at times, but ultimately keep me grounded and guarded. You don’t have to slave for crazy hours just to feel alive. I, for one, believe that work is during work hours, and nothing more. However, my cancelling your energy into your job performance during a difficult time, you are creating a new life for yourself. And while you may seem stuck now, you will be out later. Find a way to make your job a paradise, even if it may seem like a hell at times. After all, be grateful that you at least have one.
Spending Time with Family, Friends, and Pets
Love overflows and joy never ends in a home that is blessed with family and friends.Unknown
This one is pretty obvious. We never know what can happen tomorrow–face it, we might get hit by a bus or a penny falling down from the Empire State Building. Ok, that sounds dramatic, but the point is true–unless you’re God or a fortune teller, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Therefore, it’s best to spend as much time with family, friends, and pets as possible.
Even though you may be troubled, the people who love you will be there for you during this difficult time. If they’re not, it’s one of two options–they themselves have a lot going on, or they don’t give a fuck. If it’s the latter, screw them–you’re better off. While you think the latest thing you need is another loss, sometimes you have to go through some more bad in order to fully get to the good. Also, cutting toxic people will make you realize and appreciate those in your life who truly are honest and care.
Make sure you let your family, friends, and pets know how much you love them and appreciate them. I might not have many friends, but there are family–one in a million. Together with my family–including my dog–I don’t know where I would be today without their love and support.
The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you.David Lynch
As human beings, we are constantly on the go, and our minds are often focused on two places: the future and the past. It is truly rare that we are ever fully in the present moment like a dog or cat satisfied and at play. We’re like Ariel in “Part of Your World”–we always want “more.” However, when we meditate, we are putting our constantly overactive and overworked minds to rest and focusing on the most important thing in the moment–our present selves.
I didn’t get into meditation until a year and a half ago. I did it everyday for two months, and felt great. Then I stopped–and became insecure because I missed a day and didn’t do it for “enough time.” While at least 5-10–an average of 7–minutes is ideal, even if you meditate for a minute or two, it’s still better than nothing. Also, we don’t have to have elaborate rituals to do this. It can simply be closing our eyes on the train or taking a few moments to focus before bedtime. When we pay attention to ourselves, especially during difficult times, we are helping ourselves by learning and listening to what we need–not what we want.
I feel better in my mind when I work out. It makes everything better.Keri Russell
When I left my ex, I gained weight. I also realized that I liked going to the gym for the first time, and when I shed pounds, I mentally felt better and reborn. Due to time and money constraints, I only went to the gym occasionally for a few years until I joined one at my old job. For six months, I went for at least 40-65 minutes for 3-4 days a week. As a result, I lost 20 pounds–it was the most confident I ever felt in my life.
Yet I cancelled my membership when I switched jobs, and indulged in fast food everyday because I was amazed by all the options downtown. I gained everything back, and felt like a slob–not good. So as the year went on, I became interested in going to the gym again. After taking advance of some temporary free memberships, I made a commitment, and joined Planet Fitness. For a while, I was going five days a week. Now, I’m happy if I get there once with school, and am going to make a 2-4 day commitment once the semester comes to a halt. However, I have been weight training through a class at my job on Mondays for a month that helps–and it’s at a gym.
So what’s the point? You don’t have to “feel the burn” every second of your workout, and you don’t have to master every weight, every dumbbell, every machine. Going to the gym helps you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The feeling one gets after is a sky high–even if you’re tired, there’s that sense of accomplishment, of “I did it!” And that truly helps when you need to distract and calm your mind. Which leads to the second-to-last suggestion…
Yoga is the space where the flower blossoms.Amit Ray
This is sometimes that can either put a smile on one’s face or fear in their heart. The biggest question and insecurity is, “but I can’t get my body to work like that.” That’s where you let your mind rest and body fully take over–you don’t have to be standing on your head, just building up your practice and technique over a period of time.
For years, I was afraid to try yoga because I was afraid I’d look “uncool” compared to everyone else in the class. Also–money. But there is a free, weekly yoga class at my job, and I began to go when I first started last year. Although I “gave up” due to a busy schedule, I began going religiously again last month with the exception of important days where it would be impossible, such as working at a different location or having an important meeting scheduled at the same time. In the wake of this difficult year of realization and self growth, yoga helped me focus on me. It also made me realize that I don’t have to try so hard, and when we focus and let go, we can literally do the impossible. Also, your body and muscles feel great after the session, and you feel so relaxed.
If you’re afraid of the physical pain, don’t–it’s a great substitute from the mental one. It also reminds us that it is only temporary, and that we can not only feel good again, but even better once it’s over. Moreover, yoga reminds us that with hard work and determination, practice makes perfect–not to the world, but to us, and connects us with ourselves and the universe.
It’s better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone.Marilyn Monroe
In life, we are always worried that if we don’t jump at the next person to hang out with, date, or talk to that we will be by ourselves forever. We are so afraid to be alone that we tend to latch onto other people, sometimes the wrong ones. Hens why rebounds–whether they’re as friends or as romantic partners–happen. In order to know what is it that we truly want versus what we don’t, we have to get to the point and stop avoiding the inevitable–be alone.
By being by ourselves, we learn what we want and truly life. Also, we can fully do whatever we want whenever we want, and don’t have to worry about adjusting our plans or lifestyles for anyone. It’s selfish, but in a good way–we are getting to know us after having lost ourselves in other people. I’m advising isolating yourself in your bedroom like a cloistered nun–only a coward would intentionally do that. What is good though is to spend a day by yourself. Do what you want to do, go where you want to go, see what you want to see, buy what you want to buy, wear what you want to wear. Go on the trip. Buy the dress. Eat the burger–don’t give a duck what anyone else thinks, feels, or says. It’s your life, and it’s up to you to live it–no one else is going to do it for you.
Happy Monday and namaste. ☮