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I’ve been moving from one state to another since graduating college in 2012: Vermont, Pennsylvania, NYC, and landed back home in Connecticut after ending a five year relationship (I dodged a bullet; he got engaged a month after we ended).
For most of my moves, I was “following my heart,” AKA co-dependently following MEN around with the secret hope that they would somehow take care of me and make me happy and solve all of my complicated young adult problems. Spoiler alert: these men failed to do any of those things for me.
I became pretty overwhelmed after eventually realizing I had to 1) do life independently, 2) be responsible for my whole existence, and 3) develop a healthy, loving relationship with MYSELF. It all seemed like a very tall order. I had to learn how to be my own parent, my own source of love, and to fulfill all of my needs without relying on others to do it for me after a lifetime of leaning on other people for a sense of security and even my own sense of self-worth.
I had to drop the idea that others opinions and perceptions of me held any real value. Call this a radical idea, if you want, but as an actively co-dependent person, I was hung up on seeking approval and validation from almost anyone...anyone but my own damn self. Why? Because I doubted if I really knew anything about anything.
I ditched the unhealthy relationships with men, friends I outgrew, and even detached (with love) from my family in an attempt to find this independence. I moved into my own apartment and decorated it exactly to my liking and needs. I busted my ass seven days a week to afford living alone, because that’s how much I needed to have that independence.
I started working with a specialist to re-wire my brain (old habits die hard) through EMDR treatments. It’s been a year and half of letting go of past self-concepts that were misinforming and misguiding me and replacing them with new revelations:
-I am tired of playing other people’s games.
-I am not a burden.
-I am valuable, worthwhile, and capable.
-My needs are important and are my first priority.
Thank god for therapy. And thank god for yoga — therapy for the body (yes, it has been that healing for me). I began to connect the puzzle pieces of myself that were formerly jumbled together in a box I kept (metaphorically) shoving into closets so that I could “deal with it later.” I quit dealing with myself later: I started “dealing with myself” in real time. I called myself out on my bullshit, labeling it for what it was: projecting my problems onto others, blaming others for my emotions, really blaming everything under the sun on anyone but me.
I began pointing inward, exploring myself with a gentle curiosity. This became my new habit. I slowly lost interest in clinging onto those I thought provided my security or my sense of self-worth. In time, I realized they provided no real security at all: that was my job. And no one could do the job for me.
The process is sometimes painful: sitting with the range of my emotions and letting them run their course. Not reaching for people, places, or things to numb out with (I quit dating, I chose new friends selectively, and I quit drugs and alcohol). I continue to sit with myself, because I know the only way to love myself fully is to experience myself fully. Without distraction. Without letting my fears control how I lived and who I let into my life.
The process is becoming liberating. I know myself more and more everyday: I can identify my needs and attend to them until I’m grounded. I can coach myself on what is appropriate behavior and what isn’t. I can spot healthy people and unhealthy people. I am becoming more vocal and mindfully assertive in how I communicate. I am developing personal accountability. I know what to do with my mistakes now: how to acknowledge them, correct them, learn from them, GAIN from them.
When I first set out to be an independent person, it felt like I was losing a lot. The reality was that I was gaining more than I could imagine: my sense of self-love, my self-worth, and my ability to navigate the ups and downs of life with less fear and more courage.
Now I’m passing on what I’ve learned through solitude to those still struggling to find their footing. It is my purpose, my pleasure, and my blessing. This is the work I have always wanted. It is the work of my heart.