When I was a kid I told myself and my parents that I would be rich by the age of 25 – just for the fun of it. With no reason or motive, other than to prove it to myself. Little did I know that with that promise, I had set the next decade of my life with a full set of anxiety, stress and self pressure.
Ready, set, grow
I think I was around my early teenage years when I said that I was going to be rich. I believed I could have it all figured out before my 30s. In my head it was all clear: I had to go to college, graduate, and work. Money would come, I would be able to buy a big house and retire my parents. The end.
Growing up I had always been good at drawing, which meant in my head that I should cherish that gift and therefore use it to define who I am (partially because it felt as a big relief to already know I was “good” at something. As the time came for me to choose a career path, I discovered graphic design in a college brochure. And that was it — I was going to be a graphic designer.
Somewhere around my second year of college, I begun to ask myself how would my future career as a graphic designer influence the world. I wanted to make a real impact, a ”big change”. I had always been the kind of person that would think big – that I would go on to do something amazing (kind of had to, you know, if I were to be so rich).
Having that kind of mentality started to take a toll on me. What begun as an exciting journey, slowly transformed into self pressure.
Throughout my college years, defining myself as a graphic designer grew on me. I landed the big internship that I wanted and felt very confident, fuelling my ambition. Honestly, it was kind of comforting to have already decided my path and to know that I was good at it.
With time, my ambition developed into a big obsession over having the biggest dreams than anybody else that I knew. Now that I look back, it felt like I was addicted to the feeling of accomplishment. I wanted to be the best and prove myself that I could constantly accomplish more, with no mistakes or failures.
After college, I went on to live abroad because of a long distance relationship, one that I was head-first invested for 2 years. I remember feeling accomplished and proud of myself — I was on my early 20s, had graduated and was living abroad with the love of my life.
Less than a year after, it all ended.
For the first time, I had failed myself. I remember feeling numb in the beginning. Going back to live with my parents felt humiliating.
Having to start my life from scratch, I started to rethink this ambitious perspective I had of myself. Why had I set this high level of expectations on myself? Still, I did not want people to pity me.
Even though I was still hurting, I internalized all of it. I made sure people saw me as a strong person. This led to high levels of anxiety and stress, which I learned to numb with a lot of partying.
Back then I did not know that it was a coping mechanism: I was shutting all my negative feelings down, which consequently shuts down also the ability to experience pleasure and positive feelings. I used emotional numbing as my coping tool in order to block my capacity of confrontation.
Growing stronger and discovering humility
With time I realized that I romanticized my life way too much, to the point that when one tiny thing did not go the way I wanted, drama would consume me. But as everything else, time healed most of my wounds, and the pain I was avoiding transformed into life experiences from which I grew. I understood it was important to still have goals and dreams but that it was more important to realize that falling and getting back up meant that I was moving forward — making mistakes meant I was constantly growing.
I understood how important it is to be humble – most importantly, I realized that I would not become rich by the age of 25 (surprise, surprise). Yes, that was STILL in the back of my head. How funny that this silly promise I made to myself when I was a kid would stick for so long. I finally let go of that idea (honestly I had no other choice as I was turning 25 soon back then). From that point on, a big weight lifted from my shoulders.
My life was no longer on autopilot – I did not want to define myself as a graphic designer anymore, I no longer saw my career as something exciting and it did not bring me so much joy, and that flipped a switch in my mind.
If I was not a graphic designer, who was I?
I begun to feel uncomfortable for the first time.
The never ending roller-coaster — Enjoy your ride, as you only have this one.
Feeling uncomfortable was the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me realize that growth does not happen from a place of comfort.
I spent the past couple of years trying to figure out who I want to be. The beginning of this journey was of course filled with frustration, but with time I realized that I am not alone: my 20s have been, as for anyone else, quite a mess.
I think that everyone starts to realize at some point in their mid 20s that they don’t have it as figured out as they thought they had on their early 20s. By the time you’re on your late 20s, it really hits you – wow, you really know nothing! That for me was a moment of breaking free and realizing that mostly no one has it figured out – whatever that means. And that’s how it’s supposed to be, anyway!
Not knowing became the beauty of living for me. Creating a journey of discovery and lessons, living from a place of faith in myself and doing the best you can in the present.
Nowadays, I am slowly learning that I am the only one that can determine how I feel and who I am. How freeing is that? Not letting your emotions or external factors guide how your attitude towards life events control you. Understanding that you do not have to comply to promises you made to yourself when you were 14. Realizing that the perspective you have of the truth, is only in your own head. It took me a while, but I finally got there.
In conclusion, you begin to be ok with the thought that you have almost no control over what happens around you. Mainly, the only thing you should focus and care about “controlling”, is the value that your reaction will add to your health and growth and the ones around you. Little by little, this is how we can positively influence the world.
The rest falls into place. It always does.
I will be sharing here the journey of my daring adventure in life. I pondered for years over starting a blog, but as Brené Brown famously said in her book:
“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses”.
I hope you enjoyed my first blog post! See you on the next one.