the vital center

Okay yes, that title is directly borrowed from my history class. Thank you, Arthur Schlesinger, for coining the term.

He was talking about politics, however, and I’m talking about a person. About finding a personal center.

In some ways, I’ve been lucky. A lot of 20-somethings struggle with finding their identity. I have always had an acute awareness of who I am, what I value, and have never been afraid of that.

Despite this powerful knowledge, the past 10 months have been a struggle. Not to find myself, but to assimilate my identity into an idea of what I should be and how I should act that was being imposed by influential people in my life, all while trying to maintain my own personal values and enjoy life.

There were about two weeks last February when I felt amazing and thought, “yes I’ve finally done it! I have conquered celiac and all this other crap and figured out what works!”

It was all downhill from there, and I couldn’t tell you the last time since February that I really felt like myself.

There have been an awful lot of people in my life telling me how to live, what to eat, what my goals should be, and how to be successful. Mostly regarding health, but in a few other areas as well. I stopped baking, stopped swimming, started running, and tried to follow all these different types of advice on how to be healthy.

Honestly trying to do everything the ‘right’ way took all the fun out of everything.

Don’t do cardio, do tons of sprints, lift weights, do crossfit, don’t do crossfit, don’t eat fruit, but eat fruit because hey you need carbs. There are so many pieces of advice out there that contradict one another; it’s impossible to feel like you’re doing anything right if you try to do your do diligence and read everything.

You know what? I LIKE cardio. I hate sprints. I hate crossfit. I like lifting. Fruit is yummy, but I’m really not a huge fan of flax seeds or hemp protein powder. I love water polo. I like being social and staying out late sometimes, even if it will upset my circadian rhythms a tiny bit. You’re only in college once, eh?

The moment I started trying to really listen to all of this contradictory advice, I started feeling like shit.

The worst part is that the people in my life who were in a position to offer real help didn’t. They just continued to offer an overwhelming amount of raw information without actually analyzing it themselves.

It’s been incredibly frustrating. Asking for help is hard enough, and having to deal with no real response is even more difficult. Surprisingly, reaching out to a few strangers has been the most helpful.

Help from outside of your comfort zone can be incredibly valuable and powerful.

Who knows why, but today is the first day in a long time that I’ve woken up feeling completely like myself.

I don’t give a damn what all of these well-meaning people have said. Yes, I have an particularly complex and interesting health situation, but I am an independent, competent person and can decide for myself what needs to happen. I am the only person that has to put up with myself.

So (and here’s the fun part), this is what I did:

1. I had a meltdown.

2. I was surprised to learn how supportive and loving people can be, and how amazing my friends are.

3. I found new friends, reconnected with old ones, and made time to be with them.

4. I quit the swim team.

5. I joined the crew team, which I’ve always wanted to do, and found some incredibly fierce and wonderful teammates.

6. I got over my musical ineptness and started shamelessly listening to One Direction and screamer rock again.

7. I started baking again.

8. I started writing again.

9. I found that spontaneity is a wonderful thing.

Since this post is spontaneous, there’s no recipe attached. There are, however, a few pictures.

Enjoy.

It’s getting windy and feeling like fall again, which I missed so much last fall when I was abroad.

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