I remember being overwhelmed on multiple fronts in the first few months of my college experience. The beginning of Freshman year was akin to a disorienting fever dream- adapting to college life, meeting new people, trying to avoid getting hit by a car every time I’d cross the street. Luckily, I adapted and by my Sophomore year I was able to feel like a genuine New Yorker, or at least a genuine NYC College student. Getting there was a battle, though, and it required no small amount of bravery. In order to feel comfortable in the city, in class, and as a person I had to overcome fear based decision making.
It happened (and still happens) often, the all too familiar feeling of anxiously second guessing my thoughts whenever I raise my hand. The twitch of my finger that won’t let me press send on that important email- at least not until I’ve reread my draft 47 times. I feel this same anxiousness every time I walk into an audition room. It’s a normal, even healthy aspect of life. However, the butterflies become a monstrous beast when they begin dictating your decisions. When the thoughts of I’m very nervous for this audition, I better prepare a bit more… turn into I’m very nervous for this audition. Maybe I’ll skip this one, there is always another… you’ve encountered a serious problem. Simple butterflies can morph into fear based decision makers in every aspect of our lives if left unchecked. Maybe I shouldn’t bother asking them to hang out, they might just say no anyways. Or even worse, I know I’ve been wanting to start this project for awhile, but it looks overwhelming. Maybe it’d be better to quit before I’m in too deep. When we find ourselves rationalizing in order to justify running away- we know that the butterflies have become a beast. So what can we do to keep our nerves in check? There are a few helpful truths that I’ve come to realize, which have become my weapons in the ongoing war against fear: fear shrinks the moment you look it in the eye, you have to treat fear like a cigarette, courageous and fearless are not synonymous.
Firm Eye Contact
Fear relies on your inability to look it in the eye. In the shadows, it can grow into something far larger and more threatening than it actually is. We see this fundamental trope portrayed in cartoons often. The door creaks open and through it emerges a giant, menacing shadow. The protagonists comically reel back in horror, until a moment later, a bunny hops into frame- it’s shadow over-exaggerating the presence of what was really lurking behind that door. The example is cute and funny but it explains a fundamental reality about fear, the unknown is the worst part. What if I send that email and my message is misconstrued? What if I make a fool of myself? Those statements contain a lot of ‘what ifs’, a lot of conjectures about what might go wrong, a lot of shadows. If I’m feeling anxious about a decision I’m about to make, I take a pause and look fear directly in the eye by asking myself two questions. Why am I doing this in the first place? Clearly, if I’m about to do something, it holds value to me. There has to be a benefit to doing it. Usually, that should outweigh the possible negativity. It is important to focus on what is possible as opposed to what might go wrong. If you choose to forgo something out of fear, then there is zero chance of success. What is the worst that could realistically happen? ‘Realistically’ is important here because if we don’t ground ourselves in the reality of the situation, that shadow is free to grow as large as it wants. If I send this email and it gets misconstrued, then I can always clarify my meaning afterward. It’s unlikely that the email is going to result in some sort of ‘gmail world war’. So in practice, the thought process may look something like this: I’m afraid of this audition I have. I could succumb to that anxious shadow I see peering through the door but if I do I’ll lose any possibility of getting cast whatsoever. Why am I doing this? It’s what I love to do and I believe that getting cast would be a positive development in regards to my goals. What’s the worst that could happen? I don’t get cast, which is the same result I’d get from giving into fear in the first place. We make the decision to obey fear, thinking that on some level, it’ll save us from failing. In actuality, it just expedites the process. Not auditioning is the same as auditioning and not getting cast- only I’ll have to look back and question, ‘what if?’ for the foreseeable future. Fear doesn’t save us from anything, it just ensures perpetual failure. Recognizing that, looking it in the eye, is a huge step in the war against fear.
Fear is a Cigarette
I like to compare fear based decision making to a cigarette addiction. I think they hold some stark similarities. Each cigarette a person smokes rewires them to become more dependent on nicotine. Every time they take a drag, it may feel like they’re quelling that anxious craving but in actuality they’re feeding it. The cigarette they used to numb the craving only furthered their dependency on nicotine and as a consequence, they’ll be jonesing for a smoke even harder next time. We can substitute fear based decisions in for cigarettes and the story still adds up. Each time a decision is made that gives into fear or runs from discomfort, it increases the likelihood that you’ll fall into a pattern of running instead of progressing. Choosing the option to run may feel like what’s necessary from a self preservation standpoint- just like the urge to smoke feels necessary to quell a craving- but in actuality it’s just furthering the problem. In extreme cases, this can manifest in the form of agoraphobia. There is good news, though. While it is important to recognize that giving into fear increases the likelihood that you’ll succumb to it in the future, it should be noted that each time you face fear and discomfort, even a little bit, you grow exponentially stronger. Every time you make the active choice to face discomfort, you rewire a bit to maintain that pattern. Exposing yourself to things that you’re uncomfortable with, or even afraid of, is at the heart of making yourself a stronger combatant in the fight against fear. Maybe you’ll even take a risk and things will pay off well. You DID raise your hand in class and it prompted a fantastic discussion. Good thing you spoke up. That email you sent was well received and now you’ve landed an in-person meeting. Good thing you clicked send. Simply facing fear instead of running increases your chances of beating fear in the future but when that positive choice pays off as well- let’s just say you’re on your way to becoming a regular Rocky Balboa in the ring.
Courageous is NOT Synonymous With Fearless
Courageous is not synonymous with fearless. In fact, I’d argue that you cannot have courage without fear. Being courageous is the simple act of picking yourself up and facing fear head on- and as the tumble weeds roll by and that audition, interview, or email stares you in the face, it’s okay to be nervous. You’re never going to be able to escape the those butterflies entirely and that’s okay. That’s normal. Those butterflies are a helpful and natural asset. They keep you alert and on your toes whenever you’re doing something important. Those butterflies helped you catch that typo in your email. Those butterflies gave you just enough jitters to keep alive during that song you auditioned with. So no, you can’t kill the nerves entirely and you shouldn’t want to. They’ll likely be with you your entire life, aiding you in all of your endeavors. Just make sure to keep an eye on them. Butterflies and Beasts. One is welcome, the other must be slain- it’s a fine line. As long as those nerves aren’t dictating your decisions or keeping you from achieve your goals- you’re in the clear. Try this next time you feel healthy nerves- say “I’m excited”, every time you feel like saying “I’m nervous.” A professor I had Freshman year told me that, it’s done wonders for me.
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In my earlier posts on this blog, prior to shifting toward an arts focus, many of my posts revolved around empowerment, lifestyle, and individual responsibility. Empowerment- that is the main focus of reasonstolivefor.com and as such I was excited for the opportunity to do a collaboration piece with them.
You can find their blog at:
Without further ado- the collab piece:
We know it can feel like no one is listening.
Like nobody cares.
It can be easy to feel that way in a world that moves at such an exponentially fast rate. As the world progresses and 2020 harbors a bleak looking reality, it is important to remember that those feelings of overwhelming isolation may not be as true as we think. In this day and age, many people are likely feeling similarly to you.
The world seems like it is on its head- a pandemic, financial instability, and social tensions rising. It is a time of distress for many. Social media masks the struggles each person goes through and quarantine most definitely amplifies our use of social media, as it is one of our only connections to the outside world.
The key to bridging the gap between reality and fiction can be found through positively impacting the world around you. But what can you do? The feeling of powerlessness can be exacerbated by a lonely quarantine. These feelings are valid- but remember this: you as an individual have more influence than you think you do.
What do we mean?
The world is a network of people. Each person has the ability to shape the world around them by influencing their own individual space. Use this time to better yourself, to reflect on your accomplishments.
Pick up a hobby, get in shape, clean your room, do something kind for someone else. This has a profound impact on the world around you.
When you lift yourself up, even in little ways, and end the day a better person than when it started, that radiates outward. That influence and example spreads. All it takes is one person to get it started.
Make it your mission to lift others up. Let’s say you make the day of five people. Then in turn they each do the same for five others. Before you know it, your actions have transitively impacted hundreds. You’re not powerless. In fact, you have a lot of power.
In times like these, it is easy to feel powerless. That is a trap that can and should be avoided. Recognize that you have the power to lift yourself up and the others around you.
Disregarding that truth, resigning to nihilism, does you no good. The ‘I am powerless’ mentality is a self fulfilling prophecy, so act otherwise. Act as though every action you take matters, because it does.
YOU can surprise yourself.
YOU can better yourself.
YOU will fight your demons.
YOU can love yourself.
Nobody said it will be easy, in fact, facing the world and enacting good on the daily can be a difficult, albeit noble task. Take it one day at a time. Celebrate little victories. Try and be slightly better today than you were yesterday.
Before you know it, you’ll be positively impacting the world around you in ways you don’t fully see. Reflect. Go for a run. Read. Write. Achieve and chase something- the only person stopping you is yourself. Recognize you are a powerful and integral node in the 7.8 billion person network that is humanity.
The world throws things at us. It can knock us off of our feet. However, humanity is resilient. You are resilient. We face the suffering of the world everyday and we are stronger for it- and if we try, we are able to reduce that suffering.
Not just for ourselves, but the others around us. That is your power. That is your love. Fix up your own life- you’ll be changing the lives of others.
Time changes, no two days are the same. Your time will come, you just have to recognize your potential and follow through. It can be scary, but you have the opportunity. Face the dragon. Be resilient. That is what being human is all about. It is what you were born to do.
Conclusion on I Am Powerful Affirmations
When you feel like there is nothing you can do about your current situation, even you know that is not true. However, true change requires real effort. Let’s acknowledge the fact that most of us are average humans but let’s also start believing that an average human has the capability to do extraordinary things. And this is not some generic motivation write-up, I am talking from first hand experience. So rise and reach your true potential. YOU CAN DO THIS!
You’re not the person that you were, nor are you the person that you will be. People change. Everyone. Change is as certain as death or taxes and it has the capacity to be just as painful. That doesn’t mean we should be adverse to changing, as spooky as the prospect may be. Change can bring exciting new opportunities, wider world views, and helps add another layer to the vibrant tapestry of who you are. However, not all change is good change. Change is something that has to be navigated with no small degree of honesty and self awareness. Are you changing into a fuller version of yourself or are you changing out of fear? Are you growing or are you conforming?
When I first went off to college, I felt a lot of pressure to change in order to blend in. I also felt a lot of internal pressure to defend and cling to parts of my identity at the time, sometimes to the point of counter-productivity. Defending my taste in music or shoving obscure facts about my hometown into every conversation was an emotional defense mechanism that I employed often. So was keeping silent about things that I disagreed with deep down. With a little more time under my belt (and having hopefully grown a bit), I did some reflecting on why that was and I think I’ve come to a few conclusions that might help other people navigate the social pressures of being in a new environment. In order to grow, you have to monitor a fine balance of thoughtfulness, honesty (with yourself and others), and courage.
Fight or Flight
The chips are down. Everyone around you is trashing a movie that they absolutely hated, you loved it. You’re not comfortable with these people, in fact you barely know them and it is important that you make a good impression. You’ve got two options, and depending on the kind of person you are, you’re more likely to pick one or the other. Fight or flight. If you tend to lean toward the latter, you may pretend to hate the movie in order to blend in. The exchange? You lied and your soul died just a little bit. No big deal, really, until the conversation isn’t about a movie. It’s about a mutual friend, your politics, or your religious beliefs. If you’re a fighter, things are just as bad. You’ll let impassioned words spew out of your voice-box in defense of the film, completely deaf to any genuinely valid points as to why the movie may not have been all that great. In the process of over-zealously defending the film, you killed the conversation and subsequently the possibility to grow (odds are you didn’t make any friends either). The problem with fight or flight is that they’re both reactionary. They’re gut responses to what your subconscious reads as a dangerous situation and as a result they’re thoughtless. The answer lies in Jiminy Cricket, sitting on your shoulder.
Jiminy Cricket on Your Shoulder
Jiminy Cricket is such a resonate character to so many people because our little, green friend represents something universal: that voice in our head. It’s that voice that often tells us what we should be doing and we can be quick to try and squash it under-toe when it says something that dis-aligns with our gut impulses. There are definitely times where silencing that voice is the right thing to do… but generally speaking it is a helpful compass that helps us navigate the complex world of social interaction that we inhabit. So why bring him up? Well, for starters, he’ll be the first one to tell you as to whether you’re conforming or growing. If you’re conforming, you’re probably saying and doing things that dis-align with your actual beliefs and opinions. That sets off the alarm bells and Jiminy starts shouting. We’ve all had the experience before and if you do it enough, our little green friend gets discouraged and starts shouting quieter and quieter until he’s inaudible. That’s a dangerous place to live in. You might ask, ‘Well, if I can’t hear him then I’m not torn. So what’s the big deal?’ The big deal is that you’ve sold your spirit over to whoever happens to be the biggest personality in the room and you no longer have any claim to yourself as an independent person. That’s no way to live. Jiminy is still there, though, always shouting. If you stop and take the time to listen, you’ll hear him and he’ll get louder again over time. Listening to the voice in your head from time to time is an act of thoughtfulness and honesty. Others will appreciate knowing a genuine form of YOU. You’re much more interesting than a ‘yes man’. There will be plenty of times where you’ll encounter something different or contrary to what you think at any given moment and the voice in your head may say, ‘Alright this doesn’t feel so bad.’ That’s growth, because it’s honest. You have to listen for that message as much as you listen for the alarm bells. If you don’t, you run the risk of getting too entrenched in your current mindset and that kills the opportunity to grow. It’s about walking the line.
Walking The Line
Listening to those internal alarm bells helps keep people from conforming. It is a form of being honest with ourselves. Of course, being too resistant to change or opposition of thought is a danger as well. It keeps you from growing, which is the goal. It’s possible to run the risk of so staunchly defending something that it becomes a larger part of your identity than you intended. It is about walking the thin line between the two. I tended to feel like I had to justify things. I brought up my love of country music often, for example. When I moved to NYC, country music was far from popular with my peers. When music was being discussed, I felt a need to rise up and champion the genre. Eventually, I became so wrapped up in representing my underrepresented taste in music that I slowly stopped listening to other genres. I boxed myself in and reduced my ability to grow. It took me a minute before I could tame that primal part of myself that was signalling some sort of false danger because I stuck out. It was only then that I was able to branch out and fully embrace the fantastic things that the new city around me had to offer. If you’re a natural fighter like I am, you have to slow down an actively listen. If you’re not listening, then there is no chance that you can grow. Before you can listen you have to relax a bit and remember that not everything is a battle to be won. Once I brushed that chip off my shoulder, the world was a brighter place.
It’s About Courage
When it comes down to it, it’s about staying true to you. When you encounter something new let it in and react genuinely. That takes courage. When one of your interests feels underrepresented, trust that they have value and don’t need you to be their champion. That takes courage. People appreciate those who say what they actually think. They also appreciate moments when they can share their interests with you and more often than not, they’ll want to know what you’re interested in as well. That’s how we grow and it takes courage and honesty. It takes a degree of thoughtfulness, not guttural fight or flight responses.
If you agree or have also experienced some of what I’ve talked about today, feel free to drop a comment. If you enjoyed the post, please like the post or share it around. Thanks for stopping by!
You proclaimed, “I’m going on an adventure!” in true Bilbo Baggins fashion. You’ve moved away from home. Maybe it was for work. Maybe it was for college. Maybe you just wanted to experience a new way of life. Things are exciting and new until, suddenly, there is a pit in your stomach and your eyes begin to water as you catch a whiff of a meal your mother used to make. Homesickness is a dragon. How do you go about not getting eaten?
Tame the Dragon, Don’t Slay It
Homesickness can be a difficult thing to overcome and it can be easy to try and forget about where you’ve come from to help get over those feelings. When I first moved to NYC, I felt a melancholy longing for home nearly everyday. I loved where I came from and while I was pumped to see what the city had to offer, I missed my friends and my favorite foods. I missed my family and the way my yard would smell after a fresh rain. It’s okay, even healthy, to embrace that. While it may be tempting to try and forget about the things you loved home, you shouldn’t. They’re part of you. The friends I had in Memphis, the community, the formative experiences I had there shaped me into the person I am today. It was the place I first learned to live and for that I owe Memphis. Don’t erase your origins. Instead, wear your origins with pride while you focus on creating roots in a new place.
Build Your Army
Often times when we first leave home, we feel homesickness because we aren’t established. Back home you had a community, familiarity, and a purpose that all stood the test of time. You might feel uprooted. That’s normal. Now that you’re in a new place, you need to look to the exciting opportunities that lie around you. Regrow roots by getting involved in activities, meeting people, and building up new social circles. It can be difficult at first, putting your foot in the door. However, the rewards will be exponential. Try checking out a club that interests you. If you’re in college, make use of University events that are designed to help you make connections. Talk with your RA, it is very literally their job to help you find community in your new home. If you’re not in college, explore the city. Find a bar or a restaurant you might like. Attend a class on something that turns your head. Building a new army of friends and getting involved in activities doesn’t negate the old ones you had at home. It just makes you a stronger person with a wider support net. It gives you stories to tell and you’ll emerge a master of two worlds.
Remember Your Quest
I am a firm believer that leaving home is one of the most important things that anyone can do. Regardless of your reason for moving, it widens your world view and helps you to exercise skills that you otherwise wouldn’t have had to use. Whenever you’re feeling homesick, try and remember what you’re gaining and how important that move is to your goals. Be proud of yourself, you’ve taken a step out of the door.
Sometimes You Need A Quick Fix
Some days can be harder than others and you just need something to pick you up. I have a ‘homesick’ playlist on my phone that usually lifts my mood. When making a playlist like that, fill it with songs that have meaning to you and reflect the time that you spent at home. It can be easy to fall into the trap of making a playlist of music about home. I’m from Memphis, so it’d make sense to throw a ton of Elvis on a ‘homesick’ playlist, but I didn’t listen to a lot of Elvis growing up. Instead, I filled it with songs that resonated with me, that I did listen to growing up. Doing the latter with make your playlist much more effective in helping out your mood.
To anyone who is battling the dragon of homesickness, I wish you luck! Remember why you moved and understand that it is completely okay to feel homesick sometimes. If you have any good stories about leaving home or additional tips, feel free to comment them. If you know someone who might find this post helpful, feel free to share it. If you enjoyed the post or got something out of it, consider following the blog and joining the journey!
We all know the classic narrative: a disenfranchised young person encounters something in their formative years that puts a fire in their belly. For some people, it was the first time they tossed that perfect, tight spiraled pass. For others, it was an engaging and inspiring high school Algebra teacher. For many of my close friends, it was the first time that they experienced the transcendent, human connection that theaters keep tucked away behind the red curtain.
But that narrative is told by those who are firm in their passion, often looking back at their virgin flirtations with it through rose-tinted glasses. What about the vast number of people who don’t know what they’re passionate about? What about the people who think that they might’ve found their passion but are unsure because they never had that singular ‘eye opening’ moment where everything just clicked? In my experience, there are few key things about passions that are overlooked: Finding it can be a battle, your story likely won’t sound like the MSNBC Sunday Morning Interview your grandmother sent you (and that’s okay), it doesn’t have to be the backbone of your financial plan, you can find a passion regardless of how old you are, there is a passion for everyone.
What is a Passion?
Finding your passion can be a perilous journey, the path fraught with doubt. In order to find that special thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, we should probably have a clear definition of what it is. Your passion doesn’t have to be lucrative or even widely coveted. For some people, it comes in the form of hobbies (fishing, model boats, starting a blog). For other people, it can be building a family. It is entirely subjective. Of course there are passions out there that compliment a specific career path (acting, mathematics, teaching), but your passion and your career don’t have to walk hand in hand. All that matters is that YOU find meaning in it.
How Do I Find Mine?
I firmly believe that there is a passion out there for everyone. There are a myriad of things to try your hand at and one of them is bound to be exciting. However, the only way to find it is to take a step or two outside of your comfort zone. You’ll never find buried treasure if you don’t dig a little bit. Often, it won’t just fall into your lap. Go searching! Join a club that sounds interesting. Browse topics that turn your head on YouTube. Talk with someone else about the things that they love. If something peaks your interest but doesn’t ‘blow you away’ when you first try it, don’t write it off. My passion is storytelling. When I first encountered it in the form of a community theater my mother encouraged me to audition at, I enjoyed it, but on opening night no trumpets blared, the heavens didn’t open up. It wasn’t until I explored storytelling further that I realized it’s indispensable value. Get out and try things. Be open to what is new.
I’ve Found an Interest, How Do I Chase It?
Often times, students in high school feel pressured to know what they love when senior year rolls around. College applications are looming. Everybody and their grandmother is drilling you on what it is that you’d like to study. Remember (and I cannot stress this enough), it’s okay to go to college undecided. It’s okay to take a gap year. Also, as I touched on earlier, it’s okay if your career and your passion don’t line up. There can be a good deal of self doubt and second guessing that occurs in chasing a passion, especially if it is something you’d like to pursue as a career. When I was applying for college, I knew that I wanted to tell stories. I had already encountered storytelling in theater but I also found a similar love in writing for my school’s newspaper. I went back and forth for what felt like an eternity when faced with the question: should I major in Journalism or Acting? I chose acting because I felt a stronger connection to that storytelling medium. There can be a great deal of second guessing because, believe it or not, chasing a passion is scary. Sometimes the choice to follow a passion has major implications on the rest of our lives. Other times, it brings up questions like “What if I fail and I’m back at square one?” If you’ve felt like this, I think that means you’re on the right track. Anything worth doing is daunting at first. It requires work and some degree of sacrifice. If you encounter uncomfortable feelings about getting started, let that hearten you.
So what are you passionate about? Go out and find it. Make it yours! Do you have a story about the first time you found something that you loved to do? Comment it below. If you think this post could help someone else on their journey, feel free to share it with them. If you enjoyed the post or got something out of it, consider following the blog to keep up to date on new content. Thanks for stopping by!