As 2021 started I went into a new phase in my life. I had broken off a long term relationship. For the first time in a long time I had to truly face someone I had been neglecting, myself.
When I looked at who I had become I was scared. Scared because I realized that I was not the person I had wanted to be. Sure I had accomplished lots of things that look great on a resume. I was a top student in high school, had picked a tough major, made the dean’s list, and was involved in leadership positions for two organizations on campus. But none of that really brought me any joy. I had become consumed in a world of anxiety and fear, where I was never good enough, and I could never have it all. I felt like I always had to choose between school and fun, or my boyfriend and my family, or good grades and my sanity. Because of these choices I felt I had to make, I started to enjoy all of these things less and less.
Finally, it got to the point where I was so unhappy that I felt I needed to make a major life change. I stepped back from every competing voice in my life and focused on me and my immediate needs. I went back to school and started my classes. I dove head first into a crazy semester, and I enjoyed my classes, started to meet new people, and found real joy in my extracurricular activities. I worked on myself in therapy. I made a list of things that I didn’t want to see in myself anymore, and I committed to them. Every week I committed myself to doing the homework my therapist gave me, and I was happy. But, I still felt like something was missing. I started to reach out to my ex boyfriend and to my family, and really work through why I felt the need to cut and run. We had real conversations about where we felt like our relationships were weak, and expressed genuine interests in making them better.
Then it got me thinking about all those choices. Whenever I would think about new challenges or relationships in my life I always started with the phrase “I can’t”, “I can’t be with him because”, “I can’t pass this course because”. In a sense I think it’s human nature to believe the worst in ourselves. But I am beginning to realize that there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be able to have everything I want. I can pass my classes, I can have strong personal relationships, and I can still take time to take care of me. Choices trap us and limit our potential. Once we start replacing our “I can’ts” with “I cans” we can expand our horizons and start living our lives the way we’ve always imagined them. So the next time you think you can’t do something, think about what is holding you back? What makes you think you can’t? Is it your fear? Is it self deprivation? Is it other people’s opinions? And most importantly, Is the thing that’s holding you back worth not doing what you want? Chances are, it isn’t.