I have spent most of my life waiting for “something better” to arrive – for the magic and the sparks, the right fit and the perfect job. I hated high school. Outside of all the oddities of being a teenager and a budding Black woman, my family life and the pressures I put on myself to succeed made it difficult for me to live in the moment. I did everything I could to ensure I would escape the life I had before. Even on the cusp of going the college, I thought less about how I could enjoy the next four years of my life, and instead clung to the idea that being in the real world was so idyllic.
I was so sure my future would be great that I refused to live in the present. I worked so hard to establish the life I wanted career-wise that everything in my personal life was left in shambles. By the time I graduated from college, I had no idea what I liked from what I didn’t. After four years of sleepless nights, self-deprivation, microaggressions in the classroom, imposter syndrome, and just overall being far too hard on myself, I was handed my diploma, went back to my dorm room, and just bawled. After years of chasing my future, my present had finally caught up with me.
Stepping out on my own was at first a beautiful journey of freedom. There were suddenly no more tests and papers to write, no board meetings and events to organize. If I wanted to lay in my bed for the rest of the evening after work, I did. And I did because I didn’t have anything else to do. I assumed all of my stressors in college were situational. It was because I was there that I felt so downtrodden and alone. Now I was on the cusp of adulthood.
I had my own place and secured my first job. I created a fancy excel sheet to budget my finances and could FINALLY cook my own meals (college dining halls were not my favorite). I was doing great…or so I thought. Get up, go to work, come home, eat, watch Netflix, go to sleep, and repeat. There were only so many hours of repetition that I could take until I found myself with the same defeated attitude. What was I doing for myself in this year of transition, out of this very mundane routine that was for me? For my happiness. For my joy.
I soon realized that while I wasn’t in the same environment anymore, my discontent came from the absence of self-care in my everyday life. I needed to quit the unhealthy habits that only made adulting more difficult. The responsibilities and societal pressures were not healthy, but true to form, I continued to run from my issues instead of dealing with them head-on. I had virtually hit rock bottom, over and over again. I spent many nights crying uncontrollably, vowing that I was trying to be better. As usual, I was being repugnantly and regretfully difficult on myself. I was an “A” student, but life was not something I could be graded on. I hated saying that I was trying when it felt like I wasn’t.
I know, in retrospect, that I was doing more than trying. I was finding my way in the world and to do that successfully, I needed to stop comparing what I wanted my life to be and what it actually was. I am blessed to have had many of the opportunities that I did and only needed to focus on creating joy and positivity in my life. So what if I felt broke or didn’t always enjoy my job. Those things were not forever. I was doing the best with the cards I’d been dealt and that is just a part of life. I had to be okay with the fact that there wasn’t a rulebook or a checklist.
Yes, I had a degree (check), a job (check), apartment (check), a car without a car loan shout out to my big brother (check and check), but that mental checklist didn’t define my life. I had to write my own rulebook in order to balance my reality and responsibilities. I was in the peak of self-discovery, unlearning practices that no longer served me, learning who I was now and not projecting what I wanted to be, and finding peace in the fact that all of these things would take time.
I was slow to start, but soon learned that to be fully prosperous in the real world, I had to take care of my heart. I stopped taking working lunches because I found that hours would go by, my students would be in and out of my office, and I was simultaneously working while barely scraping up the spoonfuls of my lunch into my mouth. By the end of the school day, I was burnt out. There was no rest or downtime in the midst of my workday and that is why I often languished in bed once I got home. Neither were healthy choices. Neither served me or made me feel good and so I had to change them.
I was eating, not working. I would take the time to close my door to listen to a podcast, meditate, or just be alone with my thoughts. I got up out of my office and began talking with my peers. None of these could cure my issues, but they certainly helped ease the pressures of my days. I had more energy in the evenings and the urge to get out of my bed and do more of the things that made me feel good about myself.
My weight had spiraled out of control in college and I no longer felt at home in my body. I joined a gym in an effort to get back in shape, but it turned out being there did wonders for my mind as well. It was no longer about monitoring my weight, although that did help to boost my self-confidence. It was something self-serving I did to get out of the house, to better myself, and it actually brought me joy.
Every day that goes by is yet another milestone. Whether it is journaling, spending an extra ten minutes in the morning to meditate, buying that slice of carrot cake, putting on my diffuser, or knowing when I need to just get out of the house and go for a drive. I am no longer waiting for the “something better”. I am here and I am living it now.
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