Since the Pickle Jar Project, I haven’t published a personal post in a while. It’s time. I’ll be back with your regularly scheduled snark tomorrow evening. What was originally supposed to be a quick update to my Airbnb profile last week quickly spiraled into a musing all of its own, which I felt the need to develop into a blog post and share with you all. Without further ado…
One could say that July 14, 2015 is the day I reached my tipping point. I was fed up with ‘that’ feeling, which had been pelting at my psyche for years.
What exactly am I talking about? It was the feeling that would overwhelm me upon seeing friends and family sharing vacation photos on any social medium in existence. The rest of the world was out having a grand old time. And I? I would be home on the couch, face in an iPad, feeling one with nature because the sliding glass door in the living room was wide open on a summer Saturday.
This feeling is best described as a toxic cocktail of hopelessness and inadequacy, topped off with a splash of envy. Five years ago, I felt a steady stream of this disheartening substance running through my veins at all times.
I was not in a good emotional place back then, and that feeling of inadequacy had come to rule my life more than I feel comfortable admitting. I’ll spare you the photos I took one night after a particularly epic breakdown in 2011, mascara streaks and all. I only keep them to serve as a reminder of a heartbreakingly dark place that I never want to go again. Back then, in order to feel like I was making progress in escaping the psychological pit that life had kicked me into, I felt the need to run away from it. So I did.
I stopped going to the gym and all the group X classes that I’d once loved. I literally RAN. A lot. Every day. If I wasn’t running 5 miles after work, I was walking those same 5 miles on the weekends to feel like I was making some sort of forward progress, even if all I could manage was movement in the most literal sense of the word.
NEWS FLASH: You can’t pour gasoline into a fire and expect the flame to fizzle on its own.
From 2011 into 2012, this feeling fed me up to the point of making a resolution not to scroll through my facebook timeline for a FULL YEAR. So that’s exactly what I did. The futile comparison of myself to others’ fake internet lives ate me up inside. I felt like I was behind in all arenas of life. My personal life, my professional life… reality was not matching up with the happy cookie cutter future young Katy had envisioned for herself up to that point.
Now 6 years in the past, I can’t even recall what the exact post was that pushed me over the edge, but thankfully something hit me like a ton of bricks. It was the realization that nobody was out there handpicking the happiest moments in their own lives to share with me in mind, making a marked effort to ensure I was miserable. They just weren’t. I’m not that important to anyone.
Yet, any time anyone’s curated facebook life showed them and their S.O. on yet another tropical getaway (complete with umbrella drinks), I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for myself that nobody wanted to spend their hard-earned cash and down time in my company.
Come on, 25-year-old self. You’re better than that. Just because you don’t have a boyfriend whisking you off on a tropical getaway doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to escape life’s mundanity any less than the next girl.
My hyperactive mind had turned me into my own worst enemy, and I finally recognized that it needed to stop. Inside of a year, I had gotten a new job (which I’d been working my tail off for 4 years to get) and joined CrossFit, which resulted in a ton of new friends. The influx of new friendships was the encouragement I needed to feel like it was okay to be social again in the internet sense of the word.
For years, I allowed myself to live in a constant state of self pity over the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere fun on weekend getaways or big vacations for the simple reason that “I don’t have anyone who will come with me”. Sitting in a hotel room in Hoover, AL on a sticky hot summer afternoon last year, I’d reached the end of my proverbial rope.
Having read plenty of articles praising how wonderful and empowering the experience could be, a solo vacation had increasingly become an ambition of mine over the past few years. Yet, I still hadn’t brought myself to go through with it. In 2014, I’d booked myself a weekend away in Florida with full intentions of going it alone. However, one of my coworkers hopped on the gravy train last minute, and so I ended up having company after all.
I go it alone on business trips all the time. Making friends at the airport bar, finding my way around a new city, rolling up to a restaurant in search of a table for 1. These are far from new concepts to me. I do it all the time and don’t think twice about it. I don’t mind business travel. I actually like it. I wish I did it more. So, why in the world was I letting a silly reason like “I’m alone” prevent me from hitting the road when it came to using my vacation time?
Common sense finally won out over timidity.
I could no longer convince myself that not having a companion was a valid reason for putting the things I wanted to do in life on the back burner without sounding like the insecure person that I no longer wanted to be.
I’d spent years wishing I could be in the StubHub Center’s crowd instead of watching the CrossFit Games on TV. I had the money. I had the time. Yet, I was letting the absence of another dictate how, where and when I spent my time.
The absence of another = emptiness = nothing. There was absolutely NOTHING stopping me from getting out there and having fun on my own terms.
So, what did I do? Nervous about ending up lonely and out a ton of money to sit in silence all weekend (seeing that I can do that for free at home), I up and booked a flight out of my comfort zone and into LAX, and bought a weekend’s worth of wristbands to the 2015 CrossFit Games on 9 days’ notice. While I wasn’t on Jessie Spano’s level, I was incredibly excited (see above), and a bit scared.
While many people I know would call me outgoing, truth be told, I don’t live without some degree of social anxiety any time I’m expected to engage with people. Every group of friends has that one friend who’s the Mayor. I am not that friend. Small talk scares me, I’m as awkward as Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights.
Welp, guess what. If you were following this blog last year, you know that I had an amazing time. I leveraged social media the way it was intended to be used. I used it to connect with others, as opposed to the isolation I’d let the same social media sites push me into years ago. The world is small, and you’re not as alone as you think.
So… what’s the moral of the story? Why did I even write this?
As a psychology nerd and someone who went through an emotionally rough patch of her own, I KNOW that I’m not the only one who’s felt that ugly feeling before. However, emotions these days come with a stigma. ‘Feelings’ is the new F word. People talk about “catching the feelings” as if they were a fatal disease, instead of a part of the human experience. Therefore, everyone likes to share how happy they are while experiencing the negative feelings in silence.
“If nobody else shows that they too have rough patches, then clearly they must not have them. I’m the only one who feels bad, everyone else’s life is cake. People will think I’m weird unless I put my happy face on all the time. Right?”
Here’s my point. While it was equal parts difficult, intimidating, terrifying, even… I realized it was time to stop waiting for the world to come to me. If a timid little peanut like me take that small step forward, so can you. Perhaps the majority of you who end up reading this far have never experienced any feelings like this. But, I’m writing this for the people who know exactly that pit in your stomach that I’m talking about.
I know. All this ‘putting yourself out there’ stuff is easier said than done. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. While you can’t control the hand you’re dealt in life, you have the power of choice in how you’re going to play those cards. Do you take the gamble on happiness, or do you just assume defeat and fold without even trying?
All of this is why I now book plane tickets without asking anyone else first.
It’s my way of acknowledging how much progress I’ve made as I work toward becoming the best version of me I can be. I am determined not to let my thirties slip away in the way I did my mid-twenties. I’ll never get those years back, therefore I can only look ahead and create my own opportunities.
More books, less internet.
Buy less lululemon, use that money see more national parks.
*gasp* LESS LULU? You read that right. No, I’m not going to stop blogging. Don’t worry.
So, what’s next up for me? I’ve been making reference to plane tickets lately, because I’m soon headed off to explore Arches & Canyonlands National Parks. Inside the next month, I’ll touch down in SLC, grab a car and hit the open road in pursuit of epic scenery and wonder. Miles the Monster will be in the passenger’s seat. Because he’s awesome.
While exploring this breathtaking region of the country, I’ll have the comfort in knowing that I’m out on my own doing something for me, without letting the absence of everyone else dictate how I live my life… and that’s all I need.