I consider myself to be blessed when it comes to my friends. I have so many amazing people in my life. Friends who are there for me when I need them, make me laugh all the time, and encourage me to be my best self.
But I recently had an experience with a friend that reminded of a bad date. Nothing I said seemed to be right, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t avoid a dig or an argument. I felt like I spent the whole time defending my choices and my life. A friend whom I love and adore was actually kind of mean to me.
Deep down I know that she didn’t do it on purpose, and I understand that most things that people say are actually about themselves. But I couldn’t seem to let it go as easily this time. Luckily, I had another friend to call and I asked her the question: Why can’t she just be happy for me?
Friends don’t have to make the same choices in life in order to support each others’ dreams.
But my friend explained something I hadn’t considered before. She said that when people are truly unhappy themselves, they can’t be happy for others. It just isn’t something they can do.
I probably already knew that on some level, but I hadn’t really understood it. Because I believe that happiness is a choice. If I am not happy, I change something. And maybe that’s part of why my friend was so mean.
It must be hard to see people go after what they want and not just take whatever comes along. Especially if you are faced with a similar decision and you turn away. So I started thinking of all the topics I could talk about with my friend that might keep me safe from the mean.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that isn’t something I am willing to do.
I don’t go around throwing my happiness in people’s faces, but if you ask me how I’m doing I’m not going to lie. If someone asks how my writing is going, I’m going to tell them how much I love it and how amazing my mentor is this term.
I can be sad seeing a friend hurting and encourage them to find what makes them happy, but I refuse to apologize for my life.
I’m not sorry that I left a job that was making me drained and angry, and went back to school to pursue my dream. I’m not sorry that I love working out and eating healthy, and I make it a priority almost every day. I’m not sorry that I didn’t stay in an unhealthy relationship or rush to get married just because that’s what I was expected to do. I am not sorry that my family is defined by love and not biology. And I am most definitely not sorry that I don’t feel trapped by life, and that I decide what I want to do with each day I have.
Just because people we love are stuck, doesn’t mean we owe them an apology or an excuse. We don’t have to complain or pretend we are miserable in order to fit in. I know that misery loves company, but I’m not willing to be miserable and I don’t want to help the negativity grow.
We all have the right to choose our own happiness, including them. And maybe if we keep going about our happy ways, the positive feelings will spread.
If it’s true that we lead by example, then being happy is the best thing we can do for the world.
Now that the winter weather is over, I’ve been searching for the perfect outdoor furniture. I wanted a chaise lounge so I can relax and read outside on the balcony. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a summer afternoon. A friend recommended Big Lots because of the prices, so I went to check it out.
And I scored. I found a padded chaise lounge with an attached head rest, and I got a small side table to sit next to it. A book and ice coffee is the perfect combo, after all.
I couldn’t find a cart, so I did my best to get them to the counter in one trip. There was only one blue chair and I didn’t want to risk losing it. I figured I CrossFit, I can carry a chair and a tiny table. It was awkward and I had to half lope, half drag it behind me.
As I was checking out, an older man got in line behind me. He reached a hand out and helped me turn the chair around so the cashier could get the price wand close enough to ring it up. Without asking.
My first reaction was anger. I kept it internal, but I was thinking, “I don’t need help!”
I took it to mean that he thought I was weak, incapable, in need of rescue. I took a deep breath and got ready to tell him I was fine on my own.
But when I turned, I saw him. And that’s when I realized that it wasn’t about me.
Just like when people give us compliments, when they offer help it is as much about them as it is about us. People feel good about themselves and the world when they say and do nice things. I know how good it feels to help someone else, even if they don’t need it.
The man didn’t look at me and see someone weak, he looked at me and saw an opportunity to be kind. And to be of use. Who knows, he may be at the point in his life where people no longer ask for his help, but offer theirs up instead.
So when he picked up the chair and offered to help me out to my car, I just smiled and thanked him. I knew that my personal safety was not an issue, and I had nothing to lose or prove.
Yes, I could’ve done it on my own. The week before I’d helped my parents move a giant bookcase out of my grandparents’ garage and into the basement. The chair and table were nothing in comparison.
But I didn’t need to do it myself.
Just like helping my grandparents made me feel good, I could see that helping me made a difference to that man. He walked away smiling.
Sometimes it can be hard to remember that kindness and compliments aren’t only about us. It is about the other person, too.
When someone tells us they like our shirt or our hair, or they offer to carry one of our bags, it is much more kind to accept and thank them then it is to argue or say we are fine. It’s only two little words, but it makes such a big difference.
Do you accept compliments and allow people to help you? Or are they difficult for you to accept? How do you feel when you give compliments and help to others?
When we decline help or deny a compliment, we are taking away the opportunity for someone else to feel good.
Some moments in life are difficult, like pretty much all of middle school. We don’t really know who we are or what we want, so we end up following other people and giving in to peer pressure. We struggle with friendships and issues of self esteem. Middle school is mostly about the social side of our lives, with a little bit of school mixed in.
Luckily, we get through that and become adults. We figure out who we are and discover what we want. We become strong and confident, and create the lives we want for ourselves.
It seems like by now we should have it all figured out, especially when it comes to the social.
But I’m realizing that it is still so difficult to stand up for myself.
I consider myself a strong person, especially when it comes to emotional and mental strength. I’ve worked hard not to care so much what other people think and to do what makes me happy. For the most part I am successful.
Unlike in middle school, I don’t really care if I fit in with people who seem “cool,” and I certainly don’t try and get people to like me by being anyone other than myself.
But when someone attacks me, my first reaction is still to freeze. Especially when it comes from someone I consider a friend.
Sometimes friends get used to certain roles. I have been the weaker one who needed help and guidance. As I get stronger and more confident in myself, that can make people uncomfortable. Insecure in their role. They might even start to see me as competition, despite the fact that I don’t compete. When people are uncomfortable they can lash out and say mean things, even to friends.
One of my friends started that with me. It began with little digs. Things that don’t really bother me, like about me being late or not ”good” at math. I brushed those off easily.
The problem was the more I ignored the digs, the bigger they became.
In a class we were taking she called out across the room what I was doing wrong. Then she pointed and laughed. I wanted to tell her to stop, to leave me alone. But my voice was frozen inside my throat. In that moment I couldn’t think of what to say or do. I just wanted her to stop.
Emotionally, I was back on that middle school playground. And the bully was winning.
I tried to focus on ignoring. Part of being strong means not caring what others think of us, after all.
So she moved over next to me and continued to point out all the things I needed to work on.
I should’ve told her to go away. I could’ve said, “You’re being really mean.” Maybe she would have heard me. But I was scared to stick up for myself.
The funny thing is if someone had been doing that to her, it would have been easy to say something. Sticking up for my friends comes naturally, even when they are the ones putting themselves down. So why can’t I do the same for me?
Later, at home, I realized that part of the problem is the unexpected attack. If she wasn’t my friend, I could say something to defend myself without worrying about her. But for me to be mean to my friend to stop her from being mean to me is hypocritical. It’s not something I can do. It wouldn’t be true to me.
Luckily, I have many good friends in my life. I called one and she helped me talk through what to say. Now I have a phrase ready to go that shows people I am not ok with being bullied, but without attacking them in return. “Picking on me doesn’t help either of us.”
It is true, and if I say it without emotion, hopefully it will point out something she doesn’t realize she is doing. If she is trying to help me, she’ll see that it doesn’t. And if it was meant as a joke, she’ll see that I felt picked on. Either way, it will tell her that the behavior is not something I will accept.
I get to stick up for me.
Maybe sticking up for ourselves is like any other skill. We just need to practice.
Do you have a hard time sticking up for yourself with friends? Does it seem easier to defend other people? How do you deal with friends who may say hurtful things or try to compete with you? Does being prepared help? I’d love to hear what works!
I went out for a Girls’ Night Out last weekend. Ten of us went to dinner, to listen to a band, and then out dancing. We sat at a long table so it was hard to have one conversation. For most of the evening there were two or three smaller discussions going on. I was in the middle of the table, so I could switch back and forth when I wanted.
But then someone brought up the subject of weddings, and the conversation melded into one. Two of the girls are newly engaged and two are already married. So they talked about dates, pictures, videos, and rings. The rest of us asked questions and got to put in a few ideas.
Then one of my fellow single friends leaned over and said, “Everyone’s getting married, I guess we better step up our game.”
We laughed about it for a minute, but then as we talked we both realized that looking for a relationship is not what we want to do.
I did say that once I quit my job, I’d have more time to date and that is true. But I also want to spend my time doing things I love, things that make me grow as a writer and a person. I want to write, read, travel, workout, and spend time with friends. Going places to meet a guy or spending my time online looking at a dating site are not for me. I’d rather meet a guy while I’m living life to the fullest, not as a part of my to-do list.
As my friend said, I’m doing me.
But it feels like there is a lot of pressure from the world to be dating someone. It’s one of the first things people ask when I haven’t seen them in a while, and it ranks high on the list when getting to know new people.
Are you married?
Do you have a boyfriend?
Are you dating anyone?
They go through the list, not satisfied with the first answer. And when they find out you’re single, they start offering advice. They met their husband online. Their boyfriend was a friend of a friend. Maybe they know someone who can set you up.
And when you tell people that you are happy being single, they don’t actually believe you.
My life is full, busy, and pretty fabulous. I get to write and read and workout everyday. I make my own schedule and I focus on what I love doing. Some days I am so happy with my life that I’m actually giddy. I smile all the time and catch my self giggling sometimes. For no other reason than I am happy with life.
Would it be fun to date a great guy? Yes, and I would make time. But I’m not going to spend my time focused on that because I’m too busy enjoying my life.
There are a lot of people out there using dating sites and match up apps, and that is fine if that’s what they want to do. But, from what I’ve seen, it isn’t making them happy and they are always on the hunt. They are focused on what they don’t have and determined to find someone to date.
It’s a lot like how I was when I was trying to move to Miami. I was determined. I was going to end up there, I just had to make it happen. I was forever online, searching for jobs. I sent emails and resumes, made phone calls to HR. I even talked to one principal and got thisclose, but then it fell through. When I let go of trying to force it, things in Raleigh fell into place. Jobs landed at my feet, I made new friends quickly, and the idea of going to an MFA program started to form in my mind. None of that could have happened if I had stayed focused on making Miami work.
I realized then that things happen in their own time, and that is always the right time. Trying to force things doesn’t work. Really, I have two choices: I can spend my time worried and focused on the things I don’t have, or I can relax and trust. Either way, it’ll happen when the time is right.
Have you ever felt pressure to be in a relationship? Do you believe your single friends when they tell you they’re happy? If you are single, are you looking for a relationship or letting one find you?
I had some down time a few weeks ago when I got sick, so I opened up Netflix and searched for some movies. One I’d never heard of kept coming up in my list of recommended titles. It was called, “Chalet Girl” and the picture was a guy and a girl with a snowboard standing in front of a snowy background.
It didn’t sound like something I’d want to watch. I’m not into cold weather sports, and honestly, it looked a little cheesy. A teen romance sort of movie, like Twilight on a mountain.
But I couldn’t find anything I wanted to watch and the fever was making me woozy, so I clicked play.
It turned out to be nothing like I thought. It was about a pro skateboarder who was on her way to a national competition when a car accident killed her mother. Out of grief and fear, she stopped skating. When her father needed financial help to keep them afloat, she took a job working as a “chalet girl” in a fancy vacation home in the Alps. She found an old snowboard in the storage shed and taught herself how to use it. She made some good friends, had some romance, and learned a lot about herself along the way.
It was a great movie. Inspiring and really funny. But I never would have known that from the name.
This got me thinking about names and what they mean. Does what we call ourselves and the people in our lives make a difference?
I write about my step-mom here sometimes. I call her my step-mom because it seems easy to explain and understand, and will prevent people from asking questions. Obviously, she’s married to my dad.
But when I talk about her in person, or think about the relationship she and I have, I call her my mom. Yes, I have a biological mother who I know and is on the fringes of my life. I share a last name and DNA with her. But when I think of the term mom, it is Lynette who comes to mind.
She is the one who taught me how to cook, how to drive, how to be strong and confident in myself. She is the one I call when I’m upset or I have something good to share. She is the one who knows me better than I know myself and who taught me what it is to be a woman.
She is my mom.
Like the movie title, the term step-mom doesn’t do her or our relationship justice. It doesn’t say who and what we really are to each other. So I’m not using it anymore.
She is my mom. So that is what I am going to call her.
Then I started thinking about my own name.
Growing up, I didn’t like the name Emma. Over time I got used to it, and now I actually like it. It is who I am.
But I started to wonder about my last name. I don’t have any ties to Burcart. It comes from a man I may have met once as a baby, but don’t remember. I don’t share it with anyone in my family, and even after all the years of being called “Ms. Burcart” I still don’t feel like it fits. I feel like Emma.
I started thinking of changing my last name. I mean, why not? There is nothing holding me to Burcart and I could come up with something that felt like me. I thought of dropping my last name altogether and going with my middle name. Emma Shannon sounds more “writerly”, anyhow.
Every time I came close to coming up with a last name I liked, something held me back. Some little, nagging voice told me it wasn’t right.
That’s when I realized that what’s in my name is me.
I have had this name my whole life and it is who I am. Even if it doesn’t have any family ties or meaning, even if no one can ever spell it right, even if it is easy to make into silly words like booty and fart, and even if it doesn’t sound cool.
Emma Burcart is my name, so it is defined by me. It’s who I am and changing it won’t change me.
We get to decide who we are and what people call us. We get to define ourselves. But what I see now is that our names and labels don’t make us, we make them. Being who we are makes our name just perfect, because it is ours.
Have you ever found a name or title misleading? What about your own name? Have you always been happy with it? Or have you ever thought about changing your name? I’d love to hear about it, especially if I’m not the only one who has gone round and round about it.
Last week I took my first ever trip to New York City. It was pretty amazing, and for more than just the city itself.
I needed to go for research. Part of the book I’m working on now takes place in NYC and I knew I couldn’t do it justice, even as a backdrop, without seeing it first hand. I mean, I never would have known about the overwhelming smell of urine if I hadn’t experienced it for myself.
But New York alone didn’t seem like a lot of fun, or a particularly good idea. I’m not exactly know for my navigation skills or sense of direction. So, I asked my best friend to go with me. She loves to travel as much as I do and we both had the same week off. It seemed like it was meant to be.
I sold her on the idea of us having a girls trip in the big city. I didn’t even mention research until after she’d agreed.
I was worried she wouldn’t want to go if it was a research trip. If it was about me and what I needed, why would anyone want to go along?
Looking back I can see that I didn’t even give her a chance to support me. I assumed she wouldn’t and kept my needs to myself.
With friendship, or any relationship, that is a bad idea. We can’t get support if we don’t tell people what we need.
The fun started as soon as we landed. We dropped our bags at the hotel and went to explore the city. We started with Central Park, which we got to know pretty well because we spent so much time wandering around in circles. It was beautiful, so we didn’t care.
We had gelato in the park, walked around a bit more, and then had brunch at the Boathouse restaurant. It was like living an episode of Sex and the City.
But then my friend pulled out a scrap of paper from her purse and said, “Let’s make a list of all the things we want to do while we’re here.”
We put all the regular touristy things down: The Statue of Liberty, Highline Park, a drink at The Palace Hotel. We each had one must do: me, a carriage ride in central park; her, MOMA.
Before she put the list back in her purse I said, “And I need to walk around Hell’s Kitchen, do some research.”
I was prepared to do that alone, while she did something fun from the list. It was the real reason for my trip, and something I was actually looking forward to. I just didn’t think anyone else would feel the same.
But my bestie was up for it. “Let’s go there next.” She said. So we did.
We walked all around Hell’s Kitchen, taking pictures and acting like silly tourists. She didn’t stand there with her arms crossed, waiting for me to hurry up. She got into it. And she started asking me questions about the story.
When we found a bar that would fit perfectly into a scene in the book, she started chatting up the waitress. She was outgoing and excited, the perfect research assistant. And I told her so, and hoped the title wouldn’t offend her.
It turns out, she loved it. We even went back the next day to take more pictures in the daylight.
After all the fun, touristy stuff we did, when we got in the taxi to head back to the airport she told me that the research was her favorite part. She said she would be my research assistant any time, and started thinking of places back home that we might want to check out.
Maybe I should have known that she would be so supportive. She is my best friend for a reason. But I am so glad I took that sliver of an opportunity and told her what I wanted, what I needed. Because it showed me how amazing people can be when we give them the chance to support us.
The thing is, we have to give them the opportunity or we’ll never get the support. Even the people closest to us can’t actually read our minds. And when we tell them what we want, we might be surprised to see how much they care.
Are you good at telling the people in your life what you want and need? Do you expect people to support you? Or are you used to doing it all yourself?
I’m not sure where most people fall on the continuum of crap-taking, but I used to be very far down on the end of taking it all.
Really, I was kind of a door mat.
Need to borrow money? Want someone to talk to about your crappy relationship, again? Looking for a scape goat? I was your girl.
Even if it had nothing to do with me or clearly wasn’t my fault, I would take the blame. I was used to being punsihed for things I hadn’t done.
But somewhere along the way I got tired of it. I started asking myself why I let people treat me so badly. And, I had some great friends who pointed it out and asked me about it, too. They told me I didn’t deserve it. Luckily, I listened.
I realized that a lot of my behaviors and decisions were just patterns I had learned as a kid.
Before my dad and step-mom came into my life, there weren’t really any rules that made sense. I could get in trouble for not doing something I wasn’t told to do, or for doing something I was told to do. There was no rhyme or reason for punishments, and they definitely didn’t fit the crime.
I got used to taking what was given, no matter how bad.
But I’m not a kid anymore. And I decided not to allow myself to be punished like one.
So I started setting boundaries for myself. I turn my phone off at night, I don’t offer money to everyone I meet, and I tell people when they hurt my feelings or upset me in some way.
For the most part it has been a nice transition, and the people in my life understand.
But last week, I kind of lost it.
Looking back now, it seems simple enough. I was at the gym and when my coach asked me for my time (how long it took me to finish the workout) I blanked. I had looked at the clock, but when I tried to remember my time it was just a flashing red light in my brain. Empty.
The coach did what he always does when someone doesn’t know their time. He told everyone to do 10 burpees. Not such a big deal, right?
I didn’t want to be punished for something I couldn’t help. It wasn’t like I hadn’t paid attention to my time. I just blanked. I do that with numbers sometimes. I decided that as an adult, I get to decide what I will and won’t do.
And I wasn’t doing those burpees.
But it didn’t stop there. I got so upset I had to fight back tears. And I wasn’t totally successful.
Then I decided I wasn’t going to stay. I got my stuff and stomped toward the door, determined never to go back.
Lucky for me, the coach was at the front of the gym sitting behind the desk. He didn’t let me storm out. He made me stop and talk. And he listened to what I said.
I didn’t go in to details, I just told him that I don’t like to be punished unreasonably.
He said he wasn’t trying to punish me, and didn’t mean to hurt or upset me. He felt bad that I was so upset and didn’t want me to leave.
My heart rate and breathing calmed down, and so did I.
The next day I was feeling embarrassed and worried. Why had I acted like such a crazy person? I talked it through with my step-mom and a couple of close friends who helped me realize that the freak out was all a part of the process.
We can’t expect ourselves to go from no boundaries to perfect boundaries without any difficult adjustments.
It’s like driving in bad weather. Sometimes we have to over-correct in order to get back on the right path.
After years of just taking crap, I am going through a take-no-crap phase so I can find my way to the middle. So I can set healthy boundaries and keep them.
Both extremes are too much. I shouldn’t be punished for everything, but I can’t expect life to be without any consequences. Neither way is healthy.
Hopefully, now that I see what is happening the transition can be a little smoother. I have my hands on the steering wheel and I can see the turn ahead.
When I went back to the gym the next day I was worried about how people would react to me. Would they all stay away from the crazy girl who might flip out over nothing?
My coach told me he was really glad that I had decided not to leave. Then he winked and said he was pretty sure I’d remember my time that day. My friends shrugged and said everybody has some issue to deal with and we all freak out from time to time.
So I learned a nice bonus lesson on this one: when you are in your right place, people accept you as you are, temper tantrums and all.
How are you at setting boundaries? Do you have any hot button issues that you are working through? Have you noticed a pattern of no boundaries to overly strict boundaries? Does over-correcting lead you back to the comfort of middle ground?
When I first moved to Raleigh, I was surprised at how quickly things fell together. It was like an instant community was created just for me.
At the job interview, I found a group of people I knew I could fit in with. At the gym, I made good friends almost right away.
It’s not that I don’t have friends in Portland, because I do. But it took effort. I made a conscious decision to make new friends. I had to be unnaturally outgoing and ask a lot of people to coffee.
I used to complain that it was so much easier to meet guys to date than girls to become friends with.
People said it was the weather. And Portland is kind of an insular place. People know who they know and hang out in the same circles. So when you make a new friend, they don’t automatically fit in with your other peeps.
I assumed things were different in my new home because it is Southern. People are just friendly. Honestly, you can go to the grocery store and feel like the cashier could be your new best friend.
Then I went to L.A. to start the MFA program of my dreams.
L.A. is definitely not the South.
My body noticed that right away. Sure it is warm, but the air is dry. I felt a little like I was lost in the desert every time I walked out of my hotel. The drivers are fast and aggressive, and people don’t smile or say “Hi” when they pass you on the street.
But once I made it to campus and starting talking to my cohort, the connection was instant. I had found my people.
We spent the next ten days not just learning together, but hanging out like we had all known each other for years. We had nicknames, inside jokes, and knew all about each others’ families.
On my last night in L.A. a small group of us went to dinner. We laughed so hard the waitress gave us a funny look. I looked around the table and saw that from afar we seemed like an unusual group. We ranged in ages from early 20′s to late 40′s. From small town Ohio, to New Mexico, to big city Los Angeles. On the surface, not much in common.
Yes, we were all writers, but it was more than that.
We had all found our place at Antioch. The right program and the right school. And that led us to the right group of people.
It wasn’t hard. We didn’t have to work at it. There was no conscious decision to try and make a new friend. It just happened.
I realized that it is about finding our place in the world. The right place, where we fit. Whether that place is the city where we live, the place we work, an online blogging class, or the school we attend, when we find our place we know. Because we find our people.
How has finding your place expanded your community? Can you tell when a place is right for you? Have you ever had a hard time making friends as an adult? How did you find your place?
This week I had a good friend say something mean. I don’t remember it word for word, but it was basically, “At least I’m married, so somebody loves me.”
She tried to make it into a joke, but it was designed to hurt my feelings. To make me feel bad about being single so she could feel better about herself. It wasn’t her words that stung, but the purpose behind them. She wanted me to feel bad.
Luckily for me, I could see through her. And I love myself, and her, enough to know it wasn’t really about me. So, I went on my way and let it go.
But then I watched one of my favorite TV shows and the same message came at me again.
Zoe Hart, the main character, was traveling to a wedding and feeling sorry for her single self. Like most women, she had some troubles in the romance department. She was talking to the woman next to her about her most recent break-up and another guy who she might have feelings for.
The woman was shocked to hear that Zoe was single. She listed off all her own silly faults, things like smelly feet and an addiction to clipping coupons, and said that she was married. Then she asked Zoe the question that made me angry: “So what’s wrong with you?”
As if the fact that she wasn’t married meant there was something wrong with her. Something less, something broken.
It brought back my friend’s words and made me want to scream at the TV.
It makes me so sad to think that we, as women, are expected to define ourselves by a relationship with a man. And, it makes me worried that we continue to pass this along to the young women looking to us as models.
It’s true that most of us, me included, want love in our lives. It would be great to have a man who is my partner, and I look forward to that happening some day. But it does not make me broken, or unworthy, or any less accomplished because I am not married.
If it was just about having a man and getting married, we could all do that.
Sure, I could have married any number of guys who I knew weren’t right for me. But I chose to stay true to myself and wait for the guy who is the right one.
I don’t see marriage as a goal, like losing 20 pounds or getting a promotion. It isn’t something to check off our list and add to our resume.
In my eyes, that would defeat the whole purpose of marriage.
Isn’t it about finding the one person you want to be with, above all others?
That takes some of us a little longer. It doesn’t mean we are any less normal or lovable. It just means we stick to what we believe and are willing to wait for what we really want.
I don’t see how there could be anything wrong with that.
Have you ever felt pressure to be in a relationship? If you are married, do you ever pressure your single friends to hurry up and get married? What lessons about love and relationships do you want to pass on to the next generation of women?
We all have faults, things we are not so good at, and impressions that we give off unintentionally.
I am shy around new people and that can be easily misinterpreted. I come off as stuck-up when really the opposite is true. I’m so worried about whether or not people will like me that I have a hard time letting them in.
Usually, after people get to know me they tell me about their first impression. I’ve been told many times that I have a wall up.
As hard as it is to admit, I know it’s true.
I finally decided it’s time to change that.
Changing who you are can be a lot harder than it sounds. Sure, I could say I’m going to just stop putting up a wall and start letting people in. But that is not realistic. And, honestly, I don’t know how to do that.
The wall took a long time to build. I’ve been reinforcing it and making it stronger my entire life. I can’t just knock it down with one swing of a sledge hammer, no matter how much I may want it.
So, I decided to focus on removing one brick at a time.
It would start with a yes. I promised myself that when someone new invited me to do something, instead of finding an excuse I would just say yes. And go. No backing out at the last minute.
It turns out the universe was listening. And has a pretty healthy sense of humor. Soon after my decision I was invited to go to a fight.
I’d never been interested in seeing anyone fight. If one breaks out at a concert or bar, my natural reaction is to run as far away as possible. I don’t even like to watch reality TV because of all the arguing.
But I was invited, so I said yes. And, it wasn’t just an ordinary fight. We were going to support our friend, Travis, who would be fighting.
When we first arrived, it felt kind of like going to the movies. There were rows of chairs, and in place of a screen was a giant cage right in the middle. I was worried about the usual things when trying something new. Had I dressed appropriately? Were we supposed to yell and cheer? Would I get too nervous to watch?
But when the lights went down and the music came on, all those worries slipped away. Travis came out onto the stage and we all stood up and cheered. It was fun to support him, and fun to see a friend in the spotlight.
Yes, I was a little nervous the first second he was in that ring. I didn’t want to see my friend get hurt, after all. But it didn’t last long. Actually, neither did the fight.
Travis won in 55 seconds.
I feel like I won something, too. I stepped out of my comfort zone, went to see a sport that I assumed I wouldn’t like, hung out with new friends, and had a great time.
It turns out that opening yourself up is not only a good thing, but it can be fun in the process. Supporting a friend in doing something they love can be just as much fun as doing the things we love. And it leaves us with one less brick in the wall.
Do you have an easy time with new people and new situations? Or do you have a bit of a wall like me? What makes it easier for you to put yourself out there? How do you open up?