Selfless to Selfish: A Year of Self-Discovery
“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anaïs Nin
I have procrastinated this post for 12 months now, pretty ironic considering my only New Year’s Resolution last year was to procrastinate less. Whoever achieves those anyway? To be completely transparent, I was afraid and intimidated. The vulnerability of openly sharing the rational behind my 2016 plans overwhelmed me with guilt and fear. As other Remote Year participants Instagrammed their views and divulged in their blogs the past six months, I hid behind a facade afraid to disclose that I would be taking a break from my altruistic career in urban education for a self-indulgent trip working remotely around the world.
This year wasn’t about traveling to me. It wasn’t about social media posts or checking items off a bucket list. It was about beginning the entirely intangible and mysterious journey of self-discovery. It was an escape from “the real world” where shit definitely got real while exploring the world.
I write and reflect daily, but seldom choose to share my thoughts with others — until today. I have finally accepted and embraced my decision and can confidently look back at my year with extreme pride and comfort. These blog posts will be long, unfiltered and not as flawlessly edited as I would have liked. But in case I only get five posts up in 2017, I wanted to make sure it was all in there.
If I shared the truth any earlier, it would have solely been for the personal satisfaction of receiving the superficial reassurance I craved to justify my choice to be selfish.
But today, I am not sharing this for me. This is for you.
I share my journey for those of you who deeply believe that you are not worthy of happiness, unless those around you can share that same joy. Remember that their journeys will happen independent of yours. They will ultimately be better off because you took the time to become the very best version of yourself.
I hope this post will encourage you to finally put yourself first.
When Self-Reflection Leads to New Direction
“When you adopt the viewpoint that there is nothing that exists that is not part of you, that there is no one who exists who is not part of you, that any judgment you make is self-judgment, that any criticism you level is self-criticism, you will wisely extend to yourself an unconditional love that will be the light of the world.” – Harry Palmer
I realized pretty early into post-graduate life that every relationship I had was becoming a direct reflection of the relationship I had with myself. I should have taken this as a sign considering I didn’t have much of a relationship with myself at the time. When you are juggling a classroom of 36 third graders full-time, a part-time job, graduate school, and a broken romance, your relationship with yourself tends to fall by the wayside. The physical and mental exhaustion I was experiencing left me feeling angry, frustrated, and alone. My health became my last priority. My dreams of learning another language, becoming a yogi, starting a business and falling in love didn’t feel realistic or attainable anytime soon. But, I couldn’t imagine leaving those kiddos and this community that had taken me in like one of their own.
This was who I was now — a teacher turned social worker, counselor, coach, and auntie. And the funny part was, this was ultimately who I wanted to be.
I worked tirelessly to ensure I was providing the best possible education for my students and their community everyday. I would stay after hours to coach cheerleading and chess, despite the grad school assignment I had due at midnight. I would take extra shifts at my second job to afford the school supplies and field trip money I wanted to donate to my class. I would stay up for hours brainstorming how to turn two-digit multiplication tables into a relevant beat that my students could easily memorize. I called my dad every single day at 3:30 pm in tears broken-hearted by the injustice of our country’s public education system.
Don’t be confused — I am not complaining. I would do it all again in a heartbeat (and I probably will pretty soon)! There are dozens of people who do even more for a much longer amount of time in a variety of professions, beyond education. To those people, I give major kudos. For me, I knew that in order to avoid burning out and missing the essential growth years of my twenties, I needed some space.
I was constantly encouraging my kids to follow their dreams and reach their fullest potential while subconsciously resenting them for keeping me from doing this myself.
I knew the more I worked on myself, the more I could ultimately provide for those I loved. In my current situation, I didn’t have the space or freedom to begin building the foundation for self-discovery.
Time to Make a Change
This is not to say I wasn’t happy. I was definitely very content and comfortable in my situation. I knew what I signed up for and I would have been bored or unsatisfied doing anything less. I had more than most people dream of having. It is a privilege I never took for granted to have so many good things— an incredible apartment, talented coworkers, brilliant students, a supportive boss, the greatest group of family and friends, and a handsome boy who thought the world of me — all of which I adored.
However, in many of those relationships, I was known for what my current-read, Wake Up to the Joy of You by Agapi Stassinopoulos, refers to as a “people fixer”. Although I hate the term “fixer” because it implies that something was broken, which is not the case. It’s much more well-intentioned. I often chose to go above and beyond for those I love. My entire identity was consumed in wanting to push everyone else to reach their fullest potential. This habit absorbed any personal energy that remained leaving me feeling depleted and apathetic when it came to pushing myself.
By the time 2015 came to a close, I had decided that I no longer wanted to ignore the voice inside my head. Delaying my inevitable self-growth was only hurting those I loved. I craved the unprecedented challenge of disrupting the pattern society had set for me at 23. I had an unquenchable thirst for new knowledge and a desire to find a sense of freedom independently.
I decided I would spend 2016 pursuing a new opportunity that would add deeper quality and meaning to my life. This would come at the expense of leaving behind a job, community, family, and life I loved. How would I justify choosing my happiness over everyone else’s?
I slowly began to accept that those I love have the same power and ability to invest in themselves, as I do. I couldn’t spend anymore time focusing on what everyone else needed. After all, it was no longer serving them. Instead, I built up the courage to “break up” with the life I had built at home. I decided that it was time for me to further explore the potential of my newest relationship: the one I was building with myself.
“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours — it is an amazing journey — and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.” – Bob Moawad