I think the major thing I’ve learned from this is that there is no “conclusion”. It is all one continuous learning exercise. I’ve completed Stage One. Stage Two is to re-enter the dating world and apply all that I think I’ve learned through this year.
Some things that I’ve discovered through this year (and the extensive therapy I underwent during it):
- I am AMAZING on my own. In fact, once I was over the panic of not being desirable and the slump of mourning my dating life, I realized that I may actually prefer to be on my own. I’ve spent so much of my adult life pursuing the wrong relationships that I never stopped to ask myself “why”. When I finally did, the only answer I could find was “so I won’t be alone” – but the horrible realization was that no matter who I had been with, I still always felt alone. Unless the person you are with is giving as much as you are to the relationship, you will always be alone. Find the people who make you feel like you are not alone when you are at your worst and give all your time and energy towards them (that is, after you use all you can on yourself).
- I deserve to be an equal partner in a relationship. This may sound like a “duh” statement, but as an abused kid it is a hard realization. When you are kicked your whole life, it becomes really easy to sacrifice everything about yourself for even the slightest bit of affection. I’ve come to realize that there is no relationship where that sacrifice is justifiable. Which takes me back to my first point, I would rather be alone than give up the things I have in the past. I’m great on my own.
- I actually really like who I am and others should as well. It has truly been one of the most amazing things about this year. The more I began to appreciate and like myself, the more the rest of the world opened itself to me. I’ve heard people say that the things we dislike in people are the things we dislike about ourselves. Well, I’m going to say the opposite is true as well. When you like something about yourself, you begin to see that in others and like it about them as well. People are generally responsive when you like things about them. They like the way they are reflected through you and therefore like having you around. It feels good. (Though, I’m still learning how to deal with genuine acceptance by others – still makes me vomit [literally].)
- People who make me feel less than I am are not worth my time or energy. This has been a hard thing to accept. I have always been one of those people who supports others and will not leave in times of need, but sometimes it becomes a cycle that is more damaging to me personally than it is supportive to the other person. This has caused a huge shift in my personal relationships and has been extremely hard. I have come to realize that some people who were the closest in my life were not supporting me in ways that I need and so I’ve distanced myself. This took a lot because, of course, the panic of abandonment sets in and I feel lost and alone, but as with all things, that too shall pass. Everything comes in ebbs and flows and I have made room for more supportive people to take up greater acreage in my heart.
- You find what you look for. As I ease back into the dating world, I am finding that the people I’m meeting are really great (at least the ones I choose to invest my time in). And for the first time in my life, men that I’m actually into are beginning to pursue me. It’s a shock and revelation. I’m thinking it may have something to do with the fact that I no longer reek of the stench of desperation. I used to view myself as a huntress looking for the next prey – planning and plotting. Now, I could not care less (and apparently, men find that really attractive… who knew?!). Also, it helps weed out the guys who aren’t interested. I’m hoping I’ve broken the habit of chasing the emotionally unavailable man!
- Slow down, be present. Life is not a race, it’s a game and the only person you are competing against is yourself. It’s not about how fast you get somewhere, it is about getting there and as long as you keep moving forward you are on your way. The path is never straight, so just because you can’t see around the bend, doesn’t mean you aren’t traveling the right way. I have been in such a rush for my whole life to “achieve” something that I haven’t been able to take in all that I have achieved – I keep rushing to the next thing. This appreciation of where you are is the fuel you need to keep you going. I know so many people who “aren’t where they want to be/thought they would be” at this point in their lives, that they can’t take in what/where they actually are (myself included for the longest time). I climbed a mini-mountain this year and the worst part was looking at how much farther it was until the top. It was slow going and brutal. It didn’t look that far away from the bottom, but no matter how much I hiked, it never seemed to get closer until I was basically at the top and by then I was so exhausted, I could barely walk. Okay, I was also out of shape, but that’s beside the point. It’s sometimes hard to judge the distance you still have left to travel, so you may as well make the most of the journey as you go. The trick is, if you are happy, you are right where you need to be. Life NEVER happens the way you expect, but if you slow down to look, it is magical.
- Mostly, I learned that I have no control over the thoughts and opinions of others. I only have control over my thoughts and opinions, so I’m going to live a life that puts good thoughts and opinions of myself in my head and the rest of the world can think what it likes. I’ve only got one chance at this life, so I’m going to live it in a way that would make the six year old dreamer I was feel proud. Who cares what other people think anyway? Who says they have things figured out? This is their first time living as well! How do they know the best way to do it?
There is an image on me at the end of university that has stuck out in my mind for years because it perfectly sums up the way I felt constantly. I always felt like I was pleading for approval in every situation.
The next image was taken this past weekend. I rented a car, drove out to the Columbia Icefields in Alberta, Canada (I’m working in Edmonton for a month) and went walking on a glacier – something I have dreamed of doing for as long as I can remember. It was a 5.5 hour drive each way and I had a little over 24 hours in which to do it. I didn’t care. I went by myself. People were surprised. Everyone asked, but who are you going with? And I replied, myself. People were welcome to join, but I was just as happy to go on my own. This was something for me. I am learning to take what I want from life – no apologies. I like this picture better…
Please continue to follow my journey through this new chapter! Updates will be listed under "Conclusion" on The Data page. Thanks so much for reading! AJ :)