Perhaps one of the most exciting and terrifying things about being a human is that we’re always changing. From little preferences, like the foods we like or the music we’re obsessed with, to the internal shifts that feel as large as two tectonic plates scrapping past one another, we’re constantly in flux.
Like any good Gemini who often sits on two sides of the same issue, I both love personal growth and am deeply frustrated by it. Why am I not yet the all-knowing, totally-in-tune-with-my-soul, best version of myself yet? Why do I still have days when I feel unmotivated and directionless despite having 1000 to do lists scatters around my apartment? And why do I still criticize myself for being a normal human who sometimes just needs to watch The Great British Bakeoff after work on a Tuesday?
Gone are the days where gold stars and charts can accurately measure one’s growth, and instead, adulthood has proven to be more of “a time of all the changes that no one can see so did they really happen?” phase of life. Through my early 20s, my life was in a state of constant external change. From moving in and out of many jobs and many cities, I was growing most in my ability to quickly adapt. But now that I’ve been settled in New York City for four and a half years, at the same job and relatively in the same apartment, I’m realizing that my markers for growth have changed from external to internal. Getting my stress under control, learning how to control the impulse to scrutinize myself like a roast chicken inside a pressure cooker, setting up personal boundaries around how and who I spend my time with — the last few years have felt like the growing pains one experiences before taking off into their full potential. And this month, for first time in a while, I feel like all of the work I’ve been doing on myself is beginning to take root and finally, I can see the growth that’s been happening all along.
On Saturday night, I first attempted to write this blog post at 10pm and feel asleep during the first paragraph, waking up an hour later on my couch with all the lights on. My knee jerk reaction was to get frustrated with myself. In the past, I would have seen my tiredness as a skewed sign that I wasn’t actually dedicated enough to my writing and didn’t have what it takes to be a “real writer.” It sounds crazy, right? And while it’s taken years and a lot of patience to begin to undo, I’ve slowly overtime begun breaking down these types of reactions and building new habits that serve my body and mind. I am enough, I’ll think to myself, I am passionate, I am powerful, I don’t need to do everything at once, I deserve to enjoy the entire process.
To others this might seem small, but to me, it’s been a real labour of love. Don’t get me wrong, this clarity of perspective doesn’t stick around all the time. Some days the old habits come out of hibernation to do a keg stand and then start a mosh pit in my brain, and in those moments, it takes a lot of work to not get overcome with frustration. Or to start comparing myself to everyone around me — which is a slippery slope once that ball gets rolling. Why is everyone else able to do everything so effortlessly and successfully? They all know their life purpose and I can barely remember to get paper towels on the way home from work. While we all know rationally that comparing ourselves serves no one (least of all ourselves), it’s a hard habit to reign in and not one we’ll probably 100 percent master in our lifetime (unless you have in which, please send tips).
For a long time I believed that if I just put in the work, I would achieve the best version of myself and never have to revisit these subjects or habits again. You’re probably shaking your head right now and looking into your tea thinking, “Oh Carly, you sweet beautiful idiot.” And I’m here to reaffirm your reaction is 100 percent correct.
Before this year, the idea of finding joy in the process was something that baffled me. The END result is what we’re all striving for … right? Now, perhaps the thing I’m most proud of is that for the first time I have begun to embrace the journey. It’s been surprisingly hard at times but also surprisingly freeing. I don’t need to have all of the answers right now to live a fulfilling life. Hell, I may never have all the answers and I may never achieve all of my goals, but there is something that currently excites me about learning to find pleasure in the striving and the growing and the changes.
These last couple months I’ve been taking a lot of time to think about what I want to bring into the next decade of my life. As you may have also experienced or could probably guess, this has brought on a lot of self-induced pressure to have it all figured out and a re-examining of what it means for me to have an “impactful life.”
I will never be able to write all the ideas I’ve had over the years. I may never be published in the New York Times or see all the countries I desire in the world or be able to do a yoga handstand or get married. Hell, I may never finish all the books in my apartment. But I’m learning that the joy doesn’t have to only be in the finish line.
When I look back it’s clear now that my personal growth was never meant to be linear and that’s something I’m trying to remember moving forward. There is not timeline and no cemented roadmap, just me showing up everyday to do a little better if possible. I don’t need to have it all figured out. Sometimes I might take steps back before I take steps forward. Some changes will not look big and might not always be visible, but they are still worth acknowledging with gratitude because they’re moving me — perhaps painstakingly slow or on a path that resembles more of an obstacle course than a straight line — exactly where I need to be. Now I just kind of wonder, where is that exactly?
(Whew, all this talk about personal growth, I am definitely NOT going to go write in my planner now or add any more post it note onto the editorial to do list occupying my closet door.)