For those who struggle with anxiety.
For those who struggle getting out into the light.
For he who is afraid to wear his heart upon his sleeve.
This one is for you.
“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing” -Helen Keller
I had been searching. Not for something, or someone, and not for some higher truth. For the longest time I could not put my fingers on it, and yet I knew it was there, growing and being nourished.
From childhood to high school to college, I lived by what I saw was a standard life, with its standard pleasures, stresses, and expectations, and all the while focusing on the next big gratification.
In highschool I was an exceptional student, partly because I was moved to work hard by my environment, and partly because my brain was able grasp just enough to pass with an A. Yet I did so perfunctorily for many things. I loved English, and saw math as a dull annoyance.
When the grades came out I always took pride in my English mark. Not being able to invest my time in my writing bothered me, but I put it out of mind.
Then came university, and my small world was enlarged. Suddenly there were people smarter, more outspoken, and more well-written than me all over the place. I felt nervous in ways I couldn’t even describe. At first I felt compelled to excel, and to compare myself against others. As result, I was devastated as many times as I was exhilarated based on trivial things as grades and academic reputation. Again, stress was always there, whether or not I wanted it to be.
And then I stumbled. Or putting it put it more frankly, I fell.
During my first summer after a year in college, I developed problems with my eyes. Suddenly I found black strings floating in my vision following me everywhere I went. In retrospect, these were abnormally large “floaters”. Benign, but I had no idea at the time.
In all my years, this was a hard challenge, not because it directly jeopardized my well-being, but because it was so novel and permanent that my mind fell to a tailspin. I’ve always been a fit guy who prided himself on being healthy, even though I started wearing glasses at an early age. I was always keen to be in shape. To get stronger. But this was out of my control, and for the longest time I was afraid I’d lose my vision.
But was more than my eyes that brought me down. It was the inner dialogue that threatened to make me more anxious by the hour. In my seclusion, I looked up eye problems one by one and considered whether or not I was a candidate. Not once did I look in the mirror and try to relax myself. I was always focused on the next big thought, instead of concentrating on the messages my body was trying to send me.
With a mind in turmoil, I hid myself in a dark room, afraid to face the world.
I was stuck in analysis paralysis, and I was grasping at straws trying to explain my situation. This habit, I have since discovered, had applied to many things in my life.
I lived in my head for a good while.
And then, when I couldn’t take the anxiety anymore, I broke down.
It came during a research trip that I had volunteered for: A week on the lakes of eastern Quebec, something I thought would ease my mind off the stress. During the third day, after a long haul on the canoes and having no respite of mind, I came back to the cabin near tears. I couldn’t describe it, but for a moment I thought that the world was going to end.
No feeling in the world comes close to that of infinite hopelessness- Not even close.
I knew I was sad, that there was something desperately trying to get out. I also thought it would be pathetic and weird if I started crying- To make a scene without having previously explained my situation, and gained the understanding and sympathy of those around me.
All the conditioned contemplation and analyses came back. They churned on the edge of my consciousness.
But something inside snapped this time.
I couldn’t help it anymore, and the tears began streaming down my face. My nose and throat burned as if they were on fire. And then I cried, as hard as I never did since birth. My hands pummeled themselves against the dirt, and dug by their own volition deep into the soil as if desperately trying to unearth something- Something that’s been hidden from the world for so many years. I dug and dug and dug until my fingers ached. Suddenly I wasn’t digging anymore. It hit me like a cool gust of wind. That thing I was looking for, that feeling from within that I never accepted before…It was my heart, and for the first time in a very long time, it had my ear. Like a warm afternoon’s embrace, it enveloped me.
Cry. You’re sad, so cry. No more anger. Forget your thoughts. Cry.
I listened, and I did.
So there I was, hunched over the gravel amidst nothing but the wind and trees, truly crying my heart out. I felt alleviated, as if bricks had just been taken off my back. I was elevated, relieved, and all the while sobbed like a little boy who had just scraped his knees for the first time.
I got up. And then I knew. I knew that my heart was all I could hope to give to the world and to myself.
From that moment on, I devoted my life to expressing myself in most genuine way possible, all the while following the cues arising from my body. I gradually shifted my gaze to other aspects of college life. I tried to be more social, and tried to connect with more people. It was- And still is- scary. But at the same time it is deeply fulfilling. I grew as result, and more importantly found the strength to grow– To take risks, and to own up and embrace all the emotions that come with dealing with the unknown.
All the writings in this blog, and indeed all my actions in life, have flowed naturally from that knowing.
Stress, ego, pretension, accomplishment…All these things can just fall away in the face of peacefulness.
That peacefulness is gained through listening to my heart.
I sit here typing. I am unafraid to love. I am a man who loves himself.
I don’t know you, friend. I don’t know how you feel. But I do know that we are all connected in a strange way. Your life is wonderful and full of potential.
Don’t waste it living in your head.
It took me an entire passage- No, an entire life– to come to this point.
You need not seek spontaneity.
You need not seek a script written for the ages.
You need not ask for an adventure-filled destiny.
You will obtain all of that. And More.
Just trust your heart. And Hope.
That much is simple. And I am a simple man.
Until next time!