Hello everyone!!! I would like to start this post by thanking each and every one of you who have taken the time to read the things I have to say and for your incredibly kind words of support and encouragement. I was moved to tears many times last week (the good kind of tears!) while reading people’s comments and emails. I am figuring out that I went through the things that I did so that I could learn and grow and arrive at a place where I could help others do the same. If there is one thing that I know for sure, that has been proven to me time and time again since the beginning of this blog on January 2nd, it’s that you are not alone.
It is so easy to feel alone in today’s world. We live in an unprecedented time where people are more connected to one another than ever before, but somehow it is the most isolating thing ever. Instead of catching up with old friends over coffee, we can just shoot them a quick text. I don’t need to ask friends about their vacations because I can just follow along with what they’re up to on Snapchat. Sometimes when people want to have a real conversation with me, I’m too wrapped up in my own mind to really pay attention. Social media magnifies the areas in which we think we lack – supermodels flaunt their bodies, celebrities flaunt their wealth, and people generally only put out the perfect parts of their lives, ultimately making us feel kinda shitty. So as we ruminate on all of the things we feel are missing, we either get angry at the people who “have it all” or don’t care to listen to friends seeking advice on their problems because we’re too focused on our own.
Something in my life that has been lacking is faith. No, this isn’t going to be a long post about religion. If you must know the basics, I was born and raised in the Catholic church, but now that I am old enough to think for myself, I’m trying to explore my faith. The Catholic church pushed me away from religion…I definitely am one of the people who only will go to church on Easter and Christmas, and even then, I go reluctantly. I know for a lot of people, it’s the grace of God that saves them when they go through a dark time. My recovery (which is still in process) had nothing to do with church or God. It was all about finding the strength within myself to take the steps to heal. Now, I’m trying to figure out where all of that strength came from. Surely, there had to be some higher power at work behind the scenes equipping me with the strength and the tools I needed to pick myself back up.
That was pretty much a really long-winded explanation on how I found this book. It’s called College by a girl named Jordan Lee Dooley, and it is a book of weekly devotionals geared towards the college girl. I found out about it from one of my best friends who uses it to lead a bible study, and in the spirit of saying “yes” to things that make me uncomfy, I ordered it on Amazon and literally picked it up this morning. So far, I’ve only read the intro, but something she said sparked the inspiration behind what I want to talk about today (I was totally suffering from writer’s block). She said…
“Listening is one of the simplest ways to love because it requires time and attention – something people really get very little of in today’s world, especially in college.”
Last year, what I wanted more than anything was to be heard. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone. That’s pretty hard to do when you’re 1,236 away from your family (yes, I Google mapped how far my room at home was from my room at school), your best friends are away at their respective schools, you’re in a dorm with a bunch of people who don’t socialize, and you’ve made no legitimate connections or friendships on campus. I mean, talk about isolating.
I can talk to my mom about anything, but sometimes it was hard for her to relate to the things I was going through because she had one of the most ideal college experiences ever. I can talk to my sisters, but they aren’t in college and don’t really understand what I’m talking about. One of the hardest things was when I would try to talk to my friends from home about what I was going through at SMU. This isn’t their fault, and it’s something I do too. But if I would try and talk to them about problems I was having with my roommate or with rush or with anything in general, I would get responses like…
“Everyone goes through shit with their roommate.”
Or, “Rush is hard for everyone.”
Or, “I’m sorry Mags, that sucks.”
And I understand that. It wasn’t fair for me to dump my problems on them knowing full well that they were all dealing with their own. Also, most of the time I was complaining rather than genuinely seeking advice which is really annoying. I’m not really one to hold my emotions in. I don’t need my feelings to be validated, I just need them to be heard. All I wanted during that time was to know I wasn’t alone and not feel like a burden. The shorter the responses I would get, the worse I felt. My head was so messed up at the time that if one of my friends would give me an answer I didn’t want to hear, I would think, “Shit, now they hate me too,” instead of remembering that they were busy with their own lives and probably shot off a quick text while walking from class to class.
I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to talk about your problems. The worst possible thing you can do is bottle up your emotions because eventually they will boil over and you will just end up worse off. But don’t expect bitching and moaning about your struggles to get you the responses and answers you want. Texting your group message saying, “Ugh guys my roommate is being so sucky right now,” or, “The guy I like is being such an ass,” is not going to be as helpful as texting someone you trust and saying something like, “Hey, do you have 15 minutes to talk on the phone later, I really need to talk to someone.” I’m really thankful for some of the late night phone calls I had with friends and family during those months. They were so much more helpful than petty text exchanges.
Also, THERAPY. I am an extremely firm believer that everyone, no matter how great things in your life are going, can benefit from a little therapy. It’s an hour of productive, safe, non-judgmental time with someone who is trained to listen and understand where you can work through your problems. My hours spent on my doctor’s couch provided me with so much clarity. Some of my favorite days this summer were the ones where I went from therapy to yoga to a juice place. I really felt like I was taking care of myself and being proactive about my healing. Talking about my feelings, moving my body and sweating out the stress, and then rewarding my body with a delicious juice…I felt so free. Those nights, I would go to bed with a smile and a little bit more peace of mind.
So here are my takeaways, and practices that I’ve been putting to use in my own life…
- Be an active listener. This one is really hard for me. My mind wanders a lot (if you can’t tell..this post is kind of all over the place) and engaging in conversation is really challenging. If I’m in a texting conversation, I’m often flipping back and forth between several conversations. If I’m on the phone with someone, more often than not I have them on speakerphone so I can just say “Yeah, uh huh,” while I scroll through Instagram. If I’m in person talking to someone, either my phone is in my hand, or I’m looking around the room, or just really not listening. Biggest takeaway… PUT YOUR FORKING PHONE DOWN.
- Do not judge other people’s problems based on where you’re at in your own life. Everyone is walking a different path, and no two people’s experiences are going to be the exact same. If a friend or family member comes to me seeking advice on something that seems really stupid or minuscule, I’ve been trying not to react by thinking, “This is dumb, I’ve gone through much worse things.” Because what I’ve realized was that when I tried to explain some of the things I went through last year, such as rush, I probably sounded really stupid or petty, but I didn’t feel stupid. To me, the things I was talking about were the biggest, most profound and soul-crushing experiences of my life. I’ve been really trying to listen to people if they come to me for advice, because (a.) I’m honored that they trust me with their problems and (b.) That’s what I needed so desperately during those months. Sometimes I roll my eyes when Emma comes to me talking about the latest middle school drama, but then I try to remember how brutal those years were for me. She’s only 13 years old, and what kind of big sister am I if I brush off her problems like they aren’t as important as mine? Everyone’s struggles are relative.
- Choose your words wisely. I have been making an extremely conscious effort to change some of the things that I say. One thing I used to say all the time that I haven’t said since that night in March was, “Ugh, [insert something shitty, like homework] makes me want to kill myself.” I refuse to say it. I will not. No one knew what I was struggling with, and every time someone around me said something made them want to kill themselves, it stung. It’s such a common thing to say, and I don’t know why. I literally hear people say it all of the time. Suicide isn’t a joke. There is nothing funny about it. You don’t know if the kid sitting next to you in class is having those dark thoughts, and if they overhear you and your friends making suicide jokes, it will just make them feel even worse. I know it made me feel worse. It’s really important to be aware of the effects of your words. But it doesn’t have to be something that extreme. I decided this week to stop saying the word “hate”. That’s a really hard one. I say it a million times a day. Ugh, I hate when it’s cold out. I have so much homework, I hate my life. Blah, I hate cardio. Truth is, I don’t really hate anything (except suicide jokes), so why do I say that I do? I have the power to choose my words, so why don’t I choose positive ones? So, if you’re with me and hear me say that I hate something, feel free to be like “shut up, no you don’t.” It’s a really bad habit that I know I can break.
Basically, live with love. You love your friends and family. Sure, they can get annoying, but if someone trusts you enough to seek advice from you, that means that they love you. The least you can do is reciprocate that love back by listening. Try it this week! It feels good to listen, and it feels good to be heard. Creating positive, healing dialogue is a really beautiful thing.
To wrap this post up, I just want to say thank you again. I’m still shell-shocked by the outpouring of love I’ve received this month. I don’t know if thank you will ever be enough to convey how I feel. Just know, that you are so loved and you are not alone.
(Also, if you are a subscriber, let me know if the email notifications are working! Last week, only half of my subscribers got an email notification and I’m trying to figure out why!)
In grace and gratitude, in love and light…I love you!