When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe.
-Taylor Swift, “Clean”
I studied psychology when I was an undergraduate. Although I chose to pursue social work for my master’s degree, there was one concept that always stuck with me from Psychology that was mentioned in just about every course I took: tabula rasa.
From Latin to English, tabula rasa translates to a “clean slate.” In the moment we enter this world, we are all tabula rasa. We have not yet been jaded. We have not seen things we cannot forget. We have not yet heard words that keep us up at night. We have not been betrayed. We have not been hurt. We only know safety. We only know the warmth of a womb.
The other day an image from my MSW graduation day in May 2016 popped up in my memories on my social media. Although in the pictures I was smiling, on the inside I was anything but happy. I was incredibly fearful of what was ahead. In the two months prior to my graduation everything that I thought I knew was solid changed and became rocky ground. My living situation, my relationship status, my career plans… all of them, changed.
If I could go back and tell myself what the next three years would bring, it would sound a little bit like this: life will be challenging, complicated, and incredibly bittersweet, but you will be provided with so many learning opportunities about yourself…make sure you learn from them.
The past three years have changed me and my life forever in ways I never could have predicted in my wildest dreams. Here is a very quick summary:
- I moved “home” to the Silicon Valley, somewhere I never wanted to land. Dare I say I have actually learned to tolerate it, and even like it? I have made many friends here, old and new. Some of the most amazing people I have met have come from church, and others have been an amazing twist of fate.
- I developed an addiction that I never in a million years would have seen coming. This taught me more than almost anything else about myself, others, society, and the system. It has been a heartbreaking, harrowing, and incredibly difficult journey. More than that though it has ended up doing more good for me than almost anything I have ever experienced.
- I learned that if work feels like work, it’s not where I am supposed to be. I was hired at 4 places since I graduated, was fired from 1, quit from 2, and out of all of those I fell in love with ONE, the one I am at now. We spend so much of our time at work that it is necessary and I would argue that it is even essential to like what you do. I used to think it was normal to go into work dragging my feet and dreading it. I used to leave early and come in late. I was willing to settle for a well-paying job that I didn’t feel connected to. I’m so glad I didn’t stop there. Since I have been working in the field that aligns with ME and my values, I have seen the greatest shift in my work ethic. I show up early. I take on additional shifts because I like what I do. I find it rewarding.
- I learned it is OK to not be OK, and that help is there IF YOU REACH OUT. In February, I was 5150’d for the first time in 8 years. I had so much anger directed inward at myself from that for a while because I kept thinking, “I never wanted to be here again” and “I have spoken about this! I shouldn’t be having this issue” — but I have realized it is completely OK and necessary to seek help when you are struggling. It’s why help is there! BUT… and that is a big but, you have to be willing to ask.
- People will come, people will stay, people will go, and you will survive regardless of what they choose. I am still working on this one, and it is an ongoing battle for me. I will acknowledge that I have spent so much time on people that were only ever meant to be temporary. I have had to let go of people I didn’t want to, and as much as it hurt, I am grateful for the time I had with them and what they taught me, and for the new beginning in the ending.
- Don’t chase attention or love, you will be chasing forever. This is one I am still learning as well. When someone lets go of you, when a door closes, when someone walks out of it… know it was not the door nor the person for you. Don’t chase a person, you won’t catch them, and even if you do, why would you want someone in your life who ran away from you? Believe that you are enough, that what you have to offer someone is enough… you could be the most brillant shade of gold, yet there is always going to be someone who prefers silver. Choose the people who are going to run with you and who will just be with you when you need to be still. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever. Some show you reasons, some are here for seasons, and some will teach you something you never could have learned if they didn’t leave. You have to have faith that what is meant to be, will be, and that although it hurts, that is a sign of how you love people and your affections for them.
In many ways, when I moved home from Sacramento, my whole life was a blank slate. A tabula rasa. I started over. The relationship that I poured into for 4 years ended. I moved. I started a new job. I had new debt. I traveled. I met new friends. I met new love interests, and none of them were meant for me. I That’s OK. I learned about myself. I learned about others. I learned about addiction. I learned about recovery. I learned that life is neither always bitter, nor always sweet. It is bittersweet. It is hard, and it is simple, and it is beautiful… it is all of the above, and above all it is worth sticking around for.
I am starting a new season. A new tabula rasa. Things and people are falling away from me, and for the first time, I am putting all my efforts into not fighting it and even embracing it. I am learning to let the waves come and go, washing away everything and everyone who are not necessary for me to grow. Sometimes it hurts more to hang on than it does to let go. The past few years have been incredibly rough, the last year and a half has been ridiculously hard, and the past 6 months have been completely brutal. Yet here I am. And here I will be.
I am looking forward to sharing more about my journey with you all, and sharing the journey ahead.