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Braving the Wilderness – Part 1

Braving the Wilderness – Part 1

I’ve been reading Braving the Wilderness by (my favorite) Brené Brown.  Since I have so many thoughts, comments, and stories of my own, I thought it would be fun to do a virtual book club, so to speak.  Follow along as I navigate my way through the wilderness.


At the beginning of the book, Brown reflects on an experience, “…that became the day I no longer belonged to my family – the most primal and important of all our social groups.”  I’ve experienced this as well, but it wasn’t so much an instance when that moment clicked as it was a realization, over time, that the relationships I have with members in my family have evolved and were no longer what they once were.  It was when I realized that I have reached adulthood.

They say that you are only as young as you feel, and at 34 years old I still feel uncomfortable being referred to or described as a woman rather than a girl. I don’t feel womanly.  Often I still feel the same as the insecure little girl trying to find her way to a new classroom on a new campus, except that classroom is life and that campus is the world.

Although I can still cry into my mother’s arms when I am hurt, it doesn’t bring me the same level of comfort that it did when I was a child.  I am an adult.  My mom can be a sounding board and offer advice, but she can no longer make decisions for me.  Adulthood is braving the wilderness.

It’s Beyond Guns.

It’s Beyond Guns.

I’ve been trying to avoid news sites and social media ever since the school shooting in Florida.  I’m all for the communication that the web brings.  However, part of me wants to criticize the people who strongly voice their opinions and beliefs using media as a platform, but that would make me a hypocrite, as that is exactly what I am doing here.  I would like to think that there is a difference in my approach versus theirs, but realistically we’re all just trying to make a difference in our world.  We each believe that our way is the “right” way.  A lot of blame gets thrown around in these situations.  We get blinded by our beliefs and act on our emotions of fear and anger.  As much as I love media, technology, social media, and communication, I still value meeting people in person, time of solitude, and think that people should listen more than they speak.  Instead of turning straight to social media to express our anger, we should take a step back and reflect on the situation and educate ourselves.  We typically don’t think rationally when we are passionate about something.  Fire fuels fire.  Placing blame on someone or something in a fit of rage is only going to bring rage to the opposing side of your argument.

I’m not immune to it either though.  My intent for this post was to vent about the comments I’ve seen and clarify wrongful perceptions.  I feel passionately against gun control.  I can’t help but take offense over the accusations that gun control is the answer.  But the fact is that a gun was in the hands of a person who had malicious intent and succeeded in his mission to cause harm.

We need to set aside placing blame on the gun or the person.  People died and the lives of so many survivors, friends, families, coworkers, and even strangers will never be the same.  We need to take a deeper look at the situation.  This person hated so deeply that he took the lives of innocent people to make a statement.  And here we are, after the fact, adding to the hate by attacking each others beliefs, values, and morals.

I saw a story floating around with a man wearing a Trump t-shirt holding up a picture of his deceased daughter.  People were saying he got what he deserved for voting for Trump.  Because those commentors hate our president so much, they’re taking their hate out on a man who is grieving.  How is that any different from the student who took his hate out on his classmates?  One used a gun and one used words.  Words kill people too.  Confirmed by the increased suicides from victims of bullying.

The issue goes beyond guns.  Stop pointing fingers at who is to blame.  We are all part of the problem.

Courage.

Courage.

Last year, I spent a lot of time learning and reflecting on vulnerability and human connection.  I admitted that I have a fear of being vulnerable.

For the last couple of years, I hid behind the excuse of school.  My responsibilities were overwhelming and my stress level often through the roof.  Minor things set me off.  I felt like much of my life was on hold, because I couldn’t handle more.  It was my choice to prioritize life this way, and I accepted it as it was.

I no longer have this excuse protecting me from my fears, and it’s only coincidental that this new phase of life aligns with the New Year.  As last year’s focus was on vulnerability, I want to focus this year on courage.

Muhammad Ali said,

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life

Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you.  And if I’m being honest, there’s a lot that frightens me.

You can’t have reward without risk, and it’s overcoming obstacles that give our life meaning.  For me, it takes courage to overcome all sorts of things: showing up to an event alone where I don’t know anyone, sharing my work with others, introducing myself to someone new, and being vulnerable enough to welcome new relationships and new opportunities.

During one of my leadership programs this past year, we met each month and set aside a portion of the meeting to discuss our successes.  As humans, we tend to focus on the negative and our small accomplishments often go unnoticed.  It’s become very important to me to recognize the small victories in day to day life.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reflecting on those victories in the occasions that I exhibited courage.  I realized that I exhibit courage far more than I ever thought, especially in minor situations.

Hopefully by recognizing my small courageous successes, it will help me feel more confident in taking bigger risks.  When you take the time to reflect on the progress you have made, it makes the goal a little less intimidating.

In Review.

In Review.

As another year comes to a close, sometimes, it is difficult not to get caught up in the emotional lows that the holidays bring.  If I see one more “I’m engaged” or “we’re expecting” photo, I might just throw myself out the window.  But putting my insecurities and emotional weaknesses aside, 2016 really has been a great year.

I got a new job.  With that came a raise, new friends, new challenges, new accomplishments, and new goals.  I started going to the gym – turns out I love weights more than cardio.  I completed 7 more classes, with A’s, getting me that much closer to completing my degree, with honors.  Dad and I had another successful father/daughter hunting trip.  Memories were made; laughs were shared; tears were shed.  2016 was another year of growth and self-discovery.  And that I am thankful for.

I don’t believe in making New Year’s Resolutions.  I always forget them or fail.  Last year I had hoped to travel a bit, but finding the time, money, and company were not in my cards.  But there’s one thing 2017 will for sure bring, and that is graduation.

I’ve been going to school off and on, slowly working my way towards a Bachelor’s degree since I graduated high school, 14 years ago.  In 2013, I decided to buckle down and focus on this goal.  I have only 4 more classes after Spring semester.  I intended to slowly ease out of my college career, taking one class in summer school, two classes Fall Term A, and one class Fall Term B, with graduation in December.  But I may power through summer and aim for ending my college career in August. An ending I already feel is bittersweet.

Other than that, I don’t know what else 2017 will bring.  But like 2016 and the years before, I’m sure it will bring new friends, new goals, new challenges and new accomplishments.  I hope for good health, success, adventure and love.

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.  -Benjamin Franklin

Cheers!

Vulnerability.

Vulnerability.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about vulnerability in this post.  At the time, the subject, the TEDtalk, the word “vulnerability”, I don’t know what it was but something hit a chord with me.  I always considered myself a pretty emotional person.  I don’t hide my feelings well, and for the most part, that still rings true.  When I’m mad, you see it on my face.  When I’m irritated or frustrated, you can hear it in my voice.  When I’m shy or uncomfortable, you can see it in my body language.  But I realized something in the past few days…

As a 32 year old, college-educated, well-together, single woman, I’m often confronted with those unavoidable questions: “How are you still single?  Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” blah, blah, *eye roll*.  I always play it off, because how else do you handle those questions you don’t know the answers to yourself?  I will still continue to play it off, because now that I think I know the answer, it’s too personal to share in a casual conversation.

I’ve realized that vulnerability is not one of my strong suits.  In a conversation with my sister about dating, I said, “I don’t want to appear needy or desperate.”  In my efforts to appear confident and independent, I do not show any signs of interest in the men I meet either.  I’m not a flirty person.  I am shy and far less confident than I want to lead on, and I’m far more expressive and honest about my emotions in writing.  You can call it “putting on a front”, but I don’t see it that way.  I don’t need a man.  I’ve come a long way in creating the life I have on my own.

I was a different person in my last relationship.  I was young, depressed, and still figuring out who I was and what I wanted.  I was hiding things from myself and my family.  I was scared of admitting I was no longer, if I was ever in love, and afraid of getting my heart broken – but it happened anyway.  And it was for the best.

I’m happy with where I am at in my life.  I’ve earned that happiness in more ways than I can explain and by overcoming difficult obstacles not worthy of an Internet confession.  But as Brené Brown concluded, vulnerability is the birthplace of love.  We have to be vulnerable, to allow ourselves to be seen to engage in human connection.  And human connection is what gives our lives purpose.  Human connection is love.

Self discovery is so enlightening.  We may like what we find and we may not, but either way it’s what you make of it.  I’m happy I discovered I need to work on being a little more vulnerable, although I’m not so enthused that I actually have to be vulnerable.

But last night, I exposed myself to the unknown.  I took a risk.  I allowed myself to be vulnerable.  The short-term outcome was what I expected, so I’m not disappointed.  I’m actually a little relieved.  But the long-term outcome remains unknown, and that’s okay.  Vulnerability is simply letting your guard down a little.  It’s  asking for help, getting a new job, making new friends, trying something new.  The first step is always the hardest.