A Reminder That You Don’t Always Have To Push Yourself

Yana Toyber

My TV broke recently, and I had to buy a new one. So I called my dad because I didn’t think I could carry a box that big and wanted a second opinion, and also because he had offered to let me use his Costco membership.

Long story short, not only did I find a great deal on a replacement for my broken TV, I was able to grab one for my bedroom as well, but was completely terrified while we drove home with one of my purchases hanging out the back my dad’s trunk secured by some cable ties I found very questionable but got the job done as he promised.

My dad was also kind enough to stay and help me put the TVs together, except I didn’t own a real screwdriver and had been screwing things together with a kitchen knife for the past two years, so I had to go out and buy one. And while I was running to CVS, my dad went out onto my balcony to check my grill because I wasn’t sure I had replaced the propane tank the right way.

When I got back, he told me I had set up everything correctly, but that I wouldn’t be grilling anytime soon. A family of birds had made their way under the grill cover this spring and built a full-blown nest on one side. A nest that was home to some very, very tiny baby birds.

This was honestly my worst nightmare. Not because of the grill; I’m actually horrible at making home-cooked meals, but things popping out at me is my biggest fear, and I close my eyes every time I walk through the bird section of the Field Museum.

My dad left once everything was finished, and told me to check on the birds in a few days, to make sure the parents kept coming back. I was too afraid to lift the cover that afternoon and take a look for myself. What if these birds didn’t make it? What would I even do?

It felt like a lot of responsibility, maybe even too much, even though there was literally nothing I could do but wait and hope for the birds to grow strong enough to fly away. Patience is not my strong suit, and neither is waiting around and hoping for things to work out. I’m proactive to a fault, even if it means confrontation.

So if I had it my way, I’d ask those baby birds if they planned on surviving the summer under my grill cover and to kindly let me know when they planned to vacate the premises, since that would be the courteous thing to do. But obviously, that wasn’t possible. What I did instead, was lift the grill cover back, very hesitantly, almost a week later, which I know sounds bad, but I was honestly beyond busy and had commitments every night that week.

But there it was. A baby bird. It was so, so small, and twisted, and I couldn’t tell if it was alive at first, but then its little beak pointed upward, opening and closing, opening and closing, so I covered it back up inside its nest and ran back inside my own safe space, startled, but relieved I didn’t have a bunch of dead birds on my balcony.

The truth was I had been thinking about vacating the premises myself. After two screwdriver-less years in the same apartment, I asked myself if it was time to make a change. I guess I already had in more ways than I could, or wanted to, count. Some changes I made voluntarily on my own, which is why I had been so busy, and others had taken me by surprise, like that nest. The point was I had more and more commitments in the city, more and more ways I was trying to grow as a person and put myself out there, and I wondered if I should just go all in and move closer to it all. That way I could waste less time driving and Ubering from my semi-remote neighborhood and spend more time on accomplishing my goals.

When I say a lot had changed, I mean A LOT. And being the proactive, impatient person that I am, I embraced so much of that newness and forced myself even further outside of my comfort zone. I had to do more, grow faster, push myself harder. But part of me was overwhelmed. And that proactive, impatient part made the overwhelmed part feel guilty, made it feel weak for those days I woke up tired or sad, or tired and sad, for those sunny mornings I wanted to hide under my down comforter instead of getting out of bed. For wanting to be comfortable. For even enjoying comfort at all.

But worrying about that bird made me realize it was too much, that my expectations were too unrealistic. I was asking myself to break out of my shell and fly out of my nest all in one fell swoop, even though things don’t happen like that. There are steps. Steps I was ignoring, and steps I hadn’t given enough credit to.

I had built my own nest; slowly, but surely. Maybe I didn’t own a full toolkit, but I had bought new bedding to go with that down comforter, had hung my artwork, even if it was after a year, had filled my space with candles and books and wine. I was even proud of my new TVs. I had constructed a safe space for a new me to grow, a new me that was still in the process of breaking out of her shell, who was still in the process of changing, who was still vulnerable and just needed to stay put.

I was that little bird, and I needed that nest, which was bigger than even the apartment. My nest was all of the familiar places I had made my own in the past two years. The spots I went to for comfort food and hot fudge sundaes, the nail salon and chiropractor for self-care, my favorite bookstore that orders anything that’s not in stock and calls me personally on the phone when it’s ready, the Italian restaurant I had just discovered that plays foreign movies on a projector and serves complimentary limoncello.

I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. I had embraced all that change and managed to find comfort along the way. Comfort I needed to recharge during all that growth, because it wasn’t always enjoyable, and because forcing myself to be uncomfortable all of the time, to constantly push myself outside of the box, wasn’t going to speed things up.

I needed to allow myself to take a break. It was a part of the process. I needed to listen to it. That part of me that was overwhelmed. The part of me that was trying to tell me that whether it’s a grill cover or a down comforter, we all need shelter sometimes, and it’s okay to seek it out. To let what is tired rest. To let what is sad heal. That growing sometimes requires you to sit still. To wait. To be patient. Even if it’s just with yourself. TC mark

Nicole Stawiarski

I am always late. To everything.

One story, told five ways…

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