I find myself wanting to reflect on this last year already. To look at where I was across various moments of 2021.
But the truth is, I can’t really tell this year from the last, time-wise. The way this society measures time evades me now more than ever. I suppose a simpler yet more significant reflection might be to look at what feel like some pretty big accomplishments. No, it wasn’t starting graduate school—though I am academically excelling for the first time in my collegiate career. It wasn’t even pulling in some pretty major, six-figure grants & sponsorships at work.
I can say with incredible certainty my greatest achievement this year came from [finally] learning to set boundaries. I hate saying ‘no’ probably more than anything. In fact, I think I’m literally incapable of uttering the two-letter word. So boundaries, for me, felt like actual, intense, physical exercise. Even just one iteration of a boundary would leave me completely exhausted, wondering what I’d done to deplete all my energy that day. It was much easier for me to tread on overwhelmed and figuring things out under pressure than it was for me to assert myself.
This was fascinating for a number of reasons, the big one being I spend so much time in my career as an advocate . Yet there I sat in so many instances unable to advocate for myself. “I’m socially conscious, emotionally intelligent and fairly logical,” I thought, “shouldn’t boundaries come more easily?” Which also translates to: why can’t I just think my way through this? A question I would all too often badger myself with when faced with any great challenge.
So, little by little, I began working out. Not in the gym with weights (though I did have my fist gym workout since 2017) but with my self-advocacy, with my assertiveness, with my confidence.
I started exercising my imagination in a new way. Instead of thinking critically and trying to solve every problem, I entertained what it might be like to just step away, to do less. For someone who’s attached a decent chunk of her identity to being productive and contributing to her community, it felt like the hardest thing in the world, like I might die (not to be dramatic) or lose a part of myself in doing so. But I stuck with the vision, wrote down my thoughts (sent them to others when necessary/appropriate) and started making new plans. Plans that centered me and my health and my wellbeing and my relationships. And slowly & steadily, there it was. There I was. Without all the doing, without all the expectation. There everything was—everything that had been hiding beneath the thinking, doing, contributing version of me. It was… it is… the being me.
I am so grateful for my thinking brain, for my feeling heart, for my moving body. I’m even more grateful for this being human, who in her own time and in her own way has reminded me of my soul’s purpose on this planet. This being who needed excavating from under layers of analysis, who can only be seen through a lens of experience, who can only be felt when the world is lifted from their shoulders. The being who is one in mind, body & soul not because of what they do but because of who they are, not because of what they are seen as but because of who they are seen for.
If you zoom in on this candidly captured image, that’s what you’ll find. A human, simply being.