People From Behind and Forging Meaning Ahead

Internal dialogue can be damaging, or at least in my case it can. I told myself not to give up, to keep pushing through, be more positive, try harder. You can do it! The pointless motivational words were like throwing glitter on a dumpster, it might brighten the situation for a moment, but underneath the shit still stinks.

In a moment of clarity (made possible by many agonized conversations with my poor friends and family), I finally took a step back and asked myself, “why?” Why am I forcing myself through a bad situation? Do I even want to try and make it better? How is this experience helping me? In the long-run, is the misery I’m feeling worth it? For me, the answer was a bold-faced no.

But that bold-face only came after many moments of almost quitting, almost throwing in the towel, moments that offer a little comfort to me that I’m not a “quitter.” I don’t know about you, but for me, being a quitter is the absolute worst. I hate the idea that I failed at something. That I wasn’t doing all that I could, and the scariest thought of all, that I can be easily replaced. That, in the end, I added little to know value. It’s hard accepting that maybe something just wasn’t for me. That I don’t have to start the self-hatred, but that maybe it’s a combination of factors, and I’m not a failure.

Moving on and letting go, some of the hardest things to do. And even though I know my situation is positively minuscule on the scale of human struggle, I remind myself that it’s all relative. Having a larger perspective keeps you grateful, but I also find that it’s dangerous to minimize your own feelings and emotions. Dealing with them head on, and as my wise friend Rae says, honoring all you feel, is the only way I know how to move ahead.

As I move ahead, I thought it might be helpful to reflect on some more People from Behind images from my recent trip to Belgium and Luxembourg (and one from my current home of Pittsburgh too!). To wonder about others, take the focus off the I and into a land where our similarities connect us, but our differences are what keep things interesting. And remembering that even if these differences cause conflict and result in unfortunate experiences, that maybe that was the tension you needed to be propelled into something good that’s just waiting to fill the void.

And for one extra tidbit and reflection point…I listened to a powerful Ted Talk last night that couldn’t have come at a better time, Andrew Solomon spoke about how we all forge meaning and build identity. He gives us powerful words that helped free my mind:

When we’re ashamed, we can’t tell our stories, and stories are the foundation of identity. Forge meaning, build identity, forge meaning and build identity. That became my mantra. Forging meaning is about changing yourself. Building identity is about changing the world. All of us with stigmatized identities face this question daily: how much to accommodate society by constraining ourselves, and how much to break the limits of what constitutes a valid life? Forging meaning and building identity does not make what was wrong right. It only makes what was wrong precious.

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Check out more People from Behind posts.

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