Some people see them as annoying; some people see them as exciting. For me, countdowns have always served as a reminder of events that I should anticipate, events that should change me. Events I should savor, reflect on, and work towards. For example, I had a countdown to my college graduation. I would remind my friends often of how many days we had until we would become “adults”. How many days we had to savor together before we fluttered to the wind into the next chapters of our lives. Not many of them enjoyed the (constant) reminder. But for me, I did my best soaking up the time that was left before the celebration of the transition to adulthood. And it was a celebration, despite the scary unknown that lay after it.
To me, if I don’t have some sort of countdown when a special event is creeping up on me, I feel as though I will let it pass without letting some significance imprint upon me. That I won’t take advantage of the time given to me. That I won’t prepare adequately, or enjoy the event itself.
Perhaps it’s dramatic of me to think this way. Making milestones bigger than they need to be. Unfortunately, I’m a dramatic person. It’s in my blood.
And I am currently faced with another countdown. A countdown to my birthday. The quarter-of-my-life birthday (assuming I live to 100 and not 200). Birthdays have been an “interesting” holiday for me since I turned 16, and this one is no different. I’ve been counting down all week, uncertain of what to expect, what to think, and frankly, what to do.
The past 10 months have been a whirlwind of ups and downs, transitions, travel, and adjustments. There has been little time to breathe, and little time to keep up; little time to think. And now as I face my quarter of the century birthday, I’m haunted by an age old question: what do I want to do? As I write this, I realize it’s not the question of ‘what have I done with my life,’ for everything that’s happened is done. It’s over. I cannot touch it, change it, add to it. I realize, perhaps finally, that this is not the question that is keeping me up, that it is not the question I should be concerning myself with, but rather wondering what is next.
I have been searching for clarity. I’m confused. Confused with where I should be, what I ought to be doing. What I want to be doing. The operative word of ‘want’ has been a struggle for me. And I’m not sure why. I mean, I know why it has been a struggle for me. It’s something that we all have in common when faced with our dreams.
Fear. Fear of failure.
It doesn’t matter how the failure could occur. It’s the possibility that it could happen. Which is silly since whatever we do, there is always a fear of some failure. But when you’re faced with the failure of your dreams to matriculate, what would you have then. However, this is not an unknown to me. I’ve been there, and experienced that. I’ve felt fear and pushed through it, despite my desires to cower and be safe. So why now? Why is now any different than before?
As a result, this countdown is one filled with anxiety simply because I don’t understand why I am paralyzed by it now. Why do I let it matter to me now when before it did not? Not to say I know exactly what I want (let me tell you, I do not), but I have some ideas. And the voices in my head keep me paralyzed.
The worst thing about this fear is that I’m conscious of it. I know it’s there, it exists, and I’m letting it control me. I make up excuses for myself. And perhaps that’s why I feel so crazy inside. Not because I feel like there is a force keeping me from things I want to do, but because I’m keeping myself from these things. That I’m refusing to take responsibility for my choices, my actions, and at the end of the day that’s what is hurting me the most.
It’s funny, as I sit here and write this, I’m getting very emotional thinking about it. Maybe some of this was unconscious knowing, and writing about it has finally given me the lightbulb moment, the kick in the pants I so desperately needed. It feels like I knew this all along, like it was hidden in a corner of my mind, on the tip of my tongue, but I did not know what it was until now.
I have hidden behind my job and its responsibilities instead of confronting my own emotions, past and present. I have allowed myself to prioritize my occupational obligations over my dreams. And as I know see, that has been a great detriment to my health, physical and mental.
I am grateful for these revelations because I realize how tired I am of being scared, of making excuses, of living a closeted life. And I hope, rather now I know, that I cannot permit myself to live in such a way any longer. So I find myself writing and publishing this to help me stay accountable because I’m about to turn 25 and I don’t want to live the next 75 years in fear. Because, as we learn growing up, the years will go by in the blink of an eye.
It seems I have figured out the lesson leading up to my 25th birthday. No more excuses, no more denials, no more fear.
Less than 16 hours until my birthday.
I couldn’t be more excited now.
Eventually I’ll stop with the melodramatic “N Months Later” posts. I guess it’s just an easy way for me to keep track of how much has happened in the span of so little time since I transformed my situation in life.
The first two months were tough. This last month, at least the last half of the month, I have finally been able to find some sort of balance. I have begun to mitigate work stress, keep it from affecting my personal life, and begun to set up boundaries for my own personal space.
There’s definitely a component of relief to these realizations. I have yet had the opportunity to tackle those personal dilemmas, though they have not been haunting my dreams recently. I have been too busy with the job these past few weeks.
3 countries, 5 days. That’s what last week was for me. I was asked to be a part of a business trip touring Europe for my division. Berlin, London, Paris. All unknown cities to me. It was exciting, exhausting, exhilarating, and extraordinary.
I love to travel, to explore, to see new places, to taste new foods, to breathe in the nature of the new and different. I am not a huge fan of flying, due to past turbulent experiences. This trip was all about flying, save for one leg of train riding. But I knew I couldn’t let my fear get in the way; I had to go.
I saw the Eiffel Tower; I wandered the streets of Berlin; I spoke with locals in London. But perhaps the most eye opening moments of the trip were those in which I had to guide myself through these countries. Getting from point a to point b without speaking the language, with a vague notion of time frame, geography and point of destination. In that second, there’s a tinge of fear, desperation, the uncertainty of everything working out and one being lost. But the success of finding the way through makes every second of anxiety worth it.
When I needed to get to the Berlin airport, through security, and onto the plane, I was terrified. When I needed to find the gate for the Chunnel, and make my train in time to get to Paris, I was nervous. When I needed to figure out how to get from my hotel to the conference and then airport, I had no idea what the timing would be. And yet, I successfully navigated the waters, charted my course, and arrived easily, smoothly, and punctually.
It may be a small amount of triumph to feel in these instances, but it has been empowering none the less. It has reminded me of my own capabilities, which in itself is something I have desperately needed over these past few months.
Hopefully though, now that I have passed the benchmark of month three, I can move forward from just focusing on my job, to focusing also on my life, those pursuits that I wish to devote my free time towards and see actual progress occurring.
Here’s to relentlessly propelling forward.
The demons that hide
in my head,
pull them out
smash them dead;
The devils that scheme
in my heart,
lure them out
rip them apart;
The poison that flows
through my veins,
draw it out
boil it away;
The darkness that clouds
my own eyes,
burn it away
with holy light;
Bless my body,
purify my soul,
sanctify my spirit,
make me whole;
The evil inside
Clear it from me,
Let me walk this earth
as a being, free.