A year ago I moved to San Luis Obispo with no job prospects, temporary housing, and not the slightest clue why all my belongings were in a U-Haul headed towards a small town where the only people I knew were my roommate and her longterm loverboy. I had just finished the four supposedly best years of my life, and while I was tentatively optimistic for what adulthood had in store, I spent most of my time stuck in emotional limbo—pining for the glory days of beachside Gaucho Ball while dreaming of starting my “career” as a fledgling artist; refusing to live in the moment because it was full of decisions I wasn’t ready to make, and trying to find the packed box of kitchenware was already hard enough, damn it. I was in love with a boy back in Santa Barbara, but insisted there was no way he felt the same about me, and subsequently threw myself into rapid-fire dating as a form of distracting validation.
In essence, I was dealing with a bunch of stressful situations (AKA simultaneous job/apartment/man hunting), all which forced me to prove who I was and what I wanted, at a time when I hadn’t an inkling of self worth or clarity about what would make me happy. And instead of finding the unknown to be exciting, I found it debilitating. Exhausting. Mentally and physically leave me curled up in my tiny ass twin bed to cry kind of draining.
Many of my peers experienced a similar awakening post-grad, and I knew I was nowhere near alone in my plight. My friends were all learning how to juggle alcoholism and a penchant for 3 AM nacho excursions with the responsibilities of a 9-5 lifestyle. I could go online and find thousands of articles telling me how to live life as a twenty-something (a term I’ve grown to despise due to its ability to make me feel both ignorantly empowered and like an incompetent twit). It was not a struggle unique to me, this “trying to figure out your next move without hurling” thing, and yet I often felt incredibly overwhelmed. Sure, I started working as an assistant photographer and was earning money using my degree. I was slack lining, beach picnicking, and bar hopping my way to “true love” with all kinds of suitors. I was going through the motions and convincing myself the dissatisfaction was normal. When my job turned into Costco runs to pick up toilet paper for my boss’s home office, and whirlwind dating left me with phone numbers of men I would forget a week later, I didn’t question whether that position or those dates were the right fit for me. Instead I started to beat myself up for not trying harder, doing better, making it work like everybody else seemed to. I got it into my head I wasn’t _______ enough,
enough to deserve happiness.
It’s very sad to look back and see a girl I can barely recognize now, a girl consumed with worries I wish I could tell her wouldn’t hurt so much in a mere matter of months, but at the time these insecurities were everything. It didn’t matter if my best friends or family showered me in compliments. What difference did it make to be called beautiful by anyone other than the boy I fell asleep thinking about? How could I consider myself a photographer when all my prints hung only on the walls of my childhood home? If I thought I had lost sight of who I was before, I was practically blind at this point, and there was no reasoning with me. I continued doing the things I was “supposed” to do, yet found myself tearing up in the bathroom while on the clock, sobbing on my way home from the bar after swapping spit with a stranger. I kept my composure 80% of the time and indulged in dramatic, end-of-the-world breakdowns the remaining 20, a balance which sustained me for quite some time before it became a noticeable problem.
If I’m being entirely honest, a lot of these insecurities stemmed from my romantic relationships, a confession it irks me to make as an independent lady. I had been in a non-exclusive, open-ended, gray area can’t even begin to cover it relationship with a guy I cared for very much, and it was difficult for me to grapple with the strength of my feelings and the weakness of our commitment. I’m sure if he’s reading this he’ll start to blame himself again, and I swear to god, toe, if you do I will personally punt you in the very nuts I’ve grown so fond of. Back then I wasn’t a good communicator. I had no idea what I wanted, let alone how to ask for it. You know that saying, “if you never ask, the answer is always no”? Well, sometimes when you ask, the answer is still fucking no, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. I did not like rejection one bit—not during interviews, not while finding a place to live, and certainly not while professing my love for the very first time. I let the fears of not being “blank” enough in a romantic partnership creep their way into how I saw myself in every other facet of my life, and it was heartbreaking in the most cliché way possible.
I could tell I was frustrating those closest to me (solely out of love, to their credit), and part of me knew I was letting myself wallow deeper and longer than socially acceptable. I snapped in and out of depressive moods, self aware enough to know I was letting it get out of hand but not confident enough to make a change. It’s almost impossible to explain when or how I began to build up my esteem, but all I can say is fearing the unknown became exhausting in a completely different way. I grew tired of trying to please other people at the cost of not liking myself, exhausted by the negativity I berated my poor little head with daily. I stopped focusing on how other people felt about me and cared more about if I respected and admired the person I was becoming. I forced myself to find outlets for honest expression, going to weekly counseling sessions and writing in this very blog, and grew more comfortable sharing what I wanted out of life and those around me. I became selfish in the best way possible, not to hurt those I loved, but as a reminder that anything worth having would work itself out regardless of whether or not I called myself fat or stupid or a crybaby that day. After waiting so long for someone else to convince me I was worth caring for, I chose to suck it up and prove it myself.
It was not an overnight decision to suddenly be a happier, more secure person. I’m still not consistently satisfied with my looks or my attitude or my accomplishments. I still hate when things are beyond my control, when the answers to the questions I’m finally starting to ask aren’t what I expected. But I’m putting in the time and making a conscious effort to treat myself kindly no matter what happens. It’s been a year since I moved to the so-called “happiest town on Earth,” and I’m in much the same predicament as I was before—no housing lined up, love life a cosmic joke for your amusement (though I do have a new job, aww yeah)—and yet I’m without a doubt in a much better place mentally to deal with it all. I can’t describe how amazing that feels. I can’t even begin to explain how realizing I’m “only human” is so much more than enough.