One year ago, just a few weeks before my 22nd birthday, I joined the Peaceful Dumpling team. I remember writing my first article, and the many articles that ensued, with a certain melancholic listlessness–I was newly single, heartbroken, and feeling generally unfulfilled in my life. This existential longing, coupled with a serious eating disorder, was gnawing at my insides and taking residence in the darkest corners of my mind. But, I was determined to change (ironically, if there’s anything predictable about me, it’s that I’m always striving for change). With a new writing project, a few supports, and a move across the Charles River, I erroneously expected my perspective to shift in concert with the changing leaves.
As summer became autumn and autumn became winter, it became increasingly clear that my 23rd year would not be a panacea in itself. We’re so often told to “be gentle” with ourselves and others, to live with intention and eschew the unnecessary static that so often crowds our minds and hearts. I tried that, and I failed. Perhaps it was too abstract for me (I have a penchant for details). Perhaps I didn’t yet have the headspace to fully comprehend the concept of self-compassion. In any case, in winter I found myself staring out at a fresh bank of snow, its bright reflection not beautiful, but garish and blinding.
In February, my cousin came to visit me in Boston. As we exchanged stories and insights, I expressed how deeply unsettled I felt: I was lonely, bored, uninspired. She replied with such a simple statement that I wondered why it had not occurred to me before: “You deserve the best.” In four words, she forced me to delve inward and ask myself whether I was viewing my life as something with inherent value. In all of my attempts at gentleness and self-care, I failed to consider that perhaps I could not independently give myself “the best.”
In my 23rd year, I decided to ask others for help. I enlisted the help of a committed, knowledgeable therapist and nutritionist. I began to look at my friends and family not as sources of dependency, but as allies working to buttress my personal goals.
Like so many independent women, I feared that acquiescing to others’ assistance was indicative of failure–not simply in the ways that my efforts at wellness fell short, but in my own personhood. I didn’t want to be a victim, a statistic, another hapless twenty-something avoiding the work and looking for an easy way out. What I failed to consider, of course, was that it takes a tremendous amount of courage to admit that one needs others’ help. In doing so, we honor ourselves and commit to “the best,” whatever that might mean for our particular situation.
My 23rd year was less a glorified performance of “finding myself” and more a sequence of fits and starts, of failures and successes, of love and loss and passion. Over time, we hear that growing older and wiser is not a straight trajectory. This is true, of course, but I like to think that these experiences aren’t imprinted on a linear spectrum that documents our accomplishments and setbacks. Maybe what we are is better understood as a constellation of stars–none good nor bad–all coalescing to form our ever-evolving selves.
And so it is today. Today marks my 23th birthday, but it also serves as a reflection of the year that led up to this moment. A year like any other, a star bundled with emotion, transition, and change…but maybe a bit less trepidatious of what I can offer this world, if only I ask for help.
Also by Molly: How to Confront Your Fears an Self-Discover
Photos: Molly Lansdowne; Oleh Slobodeniuk via Flickr