In the past few years, I have been going through an internal struggle that has since culminated in the realization that I need to leave my current place of employment, stand up for myself more, and change the dynamic of many relationships that I have been in for longer than 10 years. Writing these changes is the easiest part of the realization, as the emotions of others that will inevitably be affected are not being taken into consideration (and rightfully so). Back in law school, a good friend and classmate warned me that any change that I make is going to be hardest for those in my life than it will be for me, and I have kept those words very close to me. Now is no exception.
I realize that the “new” me, which is still evolving and working to not fall back into self-defeating thoughts, has to include a side that internalizes much of the struggle. This is a fact that has been very hard for me to deal with, but I am making alot of progress. I am the friend that you can call and vent to for hours until you feel better and have a plan forward. I am the friend that knows that being down emotionally is a major roadblock to accomplishing even the most basic tasks. I have been and continue to be the listening ear.
Unfortunately, most of the people who have relied upon my ears have covered theirs. I have endured countless conversations about topics I would not spend more than a few moments on, without ever making the speaker feel that their feelings are not worthy of being heard. Yet, those same people make it clear, either by action or actual words, that my expression of feelings is not welcome. Yet when the topic changes to their concerns, I am once again expected to actively listen. Never have I seen such a blatant example of selfishness. It is already bad enough to feel like the people that you have to work with daily don’t even respect you, but to have a person in your life that can refer to you as someone they can rely on, yet they cannot be relied upon is asinine. Hell, it should be criminal.
So, in the past few months I have been growing a thick skin of DGAF (Don’t Give a F***) toward these people, be they family or friend. The struggle I am going through now is one that has had such an impact on me that even typing about it somewhat brings tears to my eyes, and rather than have that listening ear, or shoulder to cry on, I have gotten nothing more than a “No one really has time to listen to your problems.” As harsh of a reality check as it is, it is one that I needed. Not just to learn to go this struggle alone, but to learn to BE that person that has no time for the problems of others.
By birth order, caring for others is something that has been ingrained in who I am. It is unnatural for me to not care about those who are close to me, let alone not be there in a person’s emotional time of need. But I have to unlearn being that person when appropriate. I can recall numerous situations that were completely irrelevant to me and my life that I have listened to and provided emotional support (at a minimum), and yet I am completely shut out when I need the same support. And this is not the first time that this has happened. This is just the most significant. So here I am at a major life crossroad, having to go it alone. What the f***?
It is easy to say that if I had a significant other that I may not have felt the effects so harshly, but I beg to differ. Past experience has shown me that when I am trying to make a major change in my life, significant others have done nothing but try to make me do what they think I should do, not what will make me happy. And come to think of it, I think that is likely what all the rest of these “close” people in my life are suggesting. The conversations end up in frustration when I am promptly asked to change subjects, and resentment grows. And I am again reminded that this is something that I must go alone.
The beauty in facing a personal challenge alone is that when you get to the other side, you now have a increased confidence in your abilities. Loneliness is no longer a hinderance to progress, and lacking in support is not even a consideration. You make the decisions that you want to make when you want to make them, without regard for what others might think. You have a humbleness embedded in you, as you can easily recall going through struggle after struggle, all to fall flat on your face after numerous attempts, and the many nights you cried yourself to sleep but got up again the next morning to try again. Success is always appreciated, and the struggles of others are never lost on you.
The ugly side, however, lingers in the most uncomfortable of ways. Sadness keeps you in solitude, and the solitude of your sadness has tears welling in your eyes randomly throughout the day. Fear of failure paralyzes you from making the steps that you need to make. You are sensitive to even the slightest of remarks, as you ego and emotions are at their most fragile state. Worst of all, folks show you their ass, literally and figuratively. You question your relationships with most people, and a hardness about life grows. You want to destroy and rebuild your entire social life. None of those people currently occupying this part of your life are worthy anymore. You cease communication with most, and make no promises of commencing once you are on the other side. You have no time for fair weather friends, you tell yourself. The ugly rots you inside a little.
I am still in the ugly. Most people who have heard my story are not really listening; some like to keep all conversations light, but the rest fall in between pretending to care long enough to change topics (most times to themselves) and waiting for me to take a hint from their body language that they have not the slightest care about this aspect of my life. To receive the responses that I have received, given the person that I am to these people, I would be lying if I didn’t say that everything inside me wants to cut most of them off permanently. Sure, it is not confronting their behavior and letting them know their problem, but in my mind, if it is to the point that I have to even tell you that you are not reciprocating the courtesy that I extend to you, that just tells me that you don’t feel that I am deserving of it. Those same people are listening to the problems of others, and lending ears, shoulders, and just about anything they can give to others. I am just not on that worthy list. I know that telling them is what is recommended, but what is that going to change? I have to tell you to treat me like I treat you after knowing me for 10+ years? Seems kind of late doesn’t it? And I admit to being an enabler to selfish behavior, by not nipping some things in the bud earlier, but part of that is in allowing people to be who they are and respecting it. I just never forced the subject when it was time for others to respect who I want to be. I have created emotional monsters that have no qualms unleashing on me. But times have changed. I have allowed this behavior to go on so long, that conversations are nothing more than breeding grounds for arguments and manipulation. I have to let my actions reflect that change.
In my current struggle, I can admit that the worst of the negative feelings have left. My self-esteem is still strengthening, and my realization of what I have to deal with is also as clear as day. I occasionally slip and mention something related to my struggle, but for the most part, I am tight-lipped about my plans. Hell, even this website has only been shared with very few. I want to talk more about programming and golf, and clothing, and all the others topics of interest to me, but the mental clutter surrounding the issues I am going through makes it hard to focus. So I figure if I at least get these feelings off my chest, I am moving closer to cleaning my mind of this negativity. At least when I write, the computer (or the internet for that matter) does not tune out while I am talking, or remind me regularly no to “talk shop”. I have embraced that this path will be one that I have to do on my own, like Katniss during the Hunger Games. Sure there will be a few allies along the way, but ultimately no one cares about what I am doing or need to get done but me. The celebrations and cheers won’t come during the darkest hours. Instead, they will be in abundance with the success. That is why I will only be sharing the success when all decisions have been made, and ink dried on any contracts; no status reports or other updates will be given. If I can get myself through my darkest hours, I don’t need the bandwagon cheers of the same people that “can’t be bothered” otherwise. I know it will likely sting those closest to me when they learn about a major change in my life when the rest of the masses learn. I can imagine that some feelings will be hurt, but actions need to speak louder than any words I could say. If relationships are changed forever as a result, well, I think that change happened long before any announcements.
So I will use this future success and that happy place that I know I will be in when I have conquered this major life obstacle as my beacon. It is what has me typing this at almost 3am EST, only hours before I have to get up and go to church for Easter service. It is what has me learning coding on vacation, and working harder at my swing, and finding inspiration for my future clothing line. Writing will provide my release, and the universe will be my listening ear. I just need to keep feeding my goals and dreams with consistent hard work and patience. When times get tough, as they have been and will continue to be, I will remind myself of the pilot light inside my soul, the one that keeps the greatness I am to achieve in life alive. Until that light blazes in this world like an inferno, I still have work to do. And to that I say: Challenge accepted.