I’m turning 28 in a matter of days. My twenties are almost over and although I have some small successes to show for it I’m still nowhere near where I thought I’d be by this age.
Of course there have been a number of hiccups on my little metaphorical path like a diagnosis of major mental illness, drug abuse, dropping out of school and the like but still with the advent of the big 3-0 on the horizon, legitimate adulthood looms and I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it. Not nearly as hard a time as I would have two years ago but it’s still weird.
All that said, I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in my rough and rowdy ways; most notably, the great humbling task of going with the flow and learning not to worry about and question every little goddamned thing that crosses my path.
There was a time when the things that were happening to me on a day-to-day basis caused me an overwhelming amount of anxiety. With every little misstep that didn’t fit into my vision of what I wanted for myself my heart rate would increase, my palms would get sweaty and I’d have to exit the situation in desperate need of a cigarette or three to give me a period of examination and reflection. If things didn’t fit relatively back into place in that time, I’d leave the situation altogether and go home to worry out my night and hope that in the morning after a good sleep, I’d feel ok again.
That worked relatively alright for the time being, but I knew that if I didn’t want to worry about things so much, nearly every minute of the day I’d have to nip the problem in the bud, somehow, someway.
They say you only hate things because you see a reflection of the qualities you hate in yourself in those things. I think there’s a resounding truth to that. I also think that’s the basis behind most of the intolerance in the world but I’ll be the last person in the room to proselytize.
The answer only came to me in a small three or four meeting course of therapy I did with a hippy lady at the city’s mental health center. To say I hated it would be an understatement, and that’s why I quit going.
In those three or four sessions though, I talked about shit I’ve never talked about with anybody and maybe that’s why it felt so uncomfortable.
There was a point where she asked me what I wanted out of the experience and I told her I just wanted to be good, to not worry about shit and to be ok. Somehow she saw that I was blocking myself and told me to just try to learn to accept the things I was worrying about.
I went back one other time after that and tried to keep it light but she reiterated the acceptance thing and I took it in stride, I may have even laughed it off.
For the next year though, those words resonated in my head, I tried the technique myself once and tried to accept the things that scared me the most. It helped for about a month. For that month I was happy. Or maybe I was pretending to be happy. Or Maybe I was a little happy and pretending the rest of the way. Either way, the anxiety came back.
After one particularly hard night were I made my depression and anxiety quite publically known via a spur of the moment Facebook status, I decided I just needed to chill out. My parents called, my brother called and they told me quite bluntly to stop stressing out. Or at the very least, try to limit the stress I put on myself.
Over the next few days, with quite a few cigarette breaks on the porch of my apartment I decided to try the acceptance thing again, only deeper this time. I delved into my anxieties and tried to think of every tiny thing that bothered me.
Then I said, “I accept this thing that bothers me, I’m still the same person and what’s the big deal that this thing happens? Nothing’s gonna change.” Some of the hardest self-reflection I’ve had was during those few days and it was a hard time but with every little acceptance I had a deep sigh and felt a little more loose in the shoulders.
Eventually I realized that it was true. I was still the same person no matter what happened. Many deep sighs were had and many cigarettes were smoked and for some strange reason I felt better.
The days passed and I still felt better and every time something bothered me I accepted it as fully as I could.
Then I realized what everyone was saying when they talked about self-acceptance and being good with yourself before you could be good with someone else.
It sounds easier than it is. It takes some serious self-reflection to get good with yourself and I wish I could re-iterate that. There was some pretty heavy and deep-seated shit I needed to deal with and it was tough, but it was worth it.
It all sounds so cheesy and motivational and I’m sorry for that but it worked for me.
Time passed and somehow I was laughing again. I felt easier to be around and to just be myself, and somehow, someway, I slowly stopped worrying so damn much and questioning everything.
Things happened and it was ok that they were happening, it was ok to just watch them happen and let things pass, and then I figured out what going with the flow meant.
I’m gonna be thirty in two years, I’m at least glad that I’m able to relax now. I’m happy I guess, and I don’t feel as intense pressure to perform but I work hard and I do what I can to get ahead, but it’s all good, and I don’t really worry about it anymore.
There’s something to be said for self-acceptance, even if it sounds cheesy.