People have told me that writing down your emotions is the best form of therapy. I am not sure why I resisted it for so long. Maybe it is because I felt that every single sentence I wrote had to be pure, thought-provoking perfection. However, I have recently been typing out my thoughts, feelings, and epiphanies. I can attest that it has been cathartic. The piece below is an honest, unfiltered, and raw journal entry.
In this pandemic-filled present, I have been trying to find joy in the little things. In order to overcome a melancholy sadness, my daily walks at exactly 5 p.m. have been keeping me sane. I leave my apartment and all my work-load behind to walk for an hour and listen to a podcast episode. I breathe in the North Carolina fresh air, take the occasional picture of a pink sky and sometimes stop at Target to pick up groceries. I pass by houses and can see families prepping for dinner through the window. My evening stroll is often accompanied by couples walking their dog or runners trying to get their daily exercise. I watch the blue sky turn into a golden hour and then the eventual sunset. Sounds like moments of bliss and calm, right? Now, let me really tell you what goes on inside my head during a one-hour walk.
It starts at 4:50 p.m. Should I or should I not go for my walk? Will I waste an hour of my life when I should be studying for my midterm tomorrow? Should I carry my pepper spray? What if someone decides to attack me today? Do I even know how to use my pepper spray? What if I spray it on myself accidentally? Am I going to get sick because my chest and ears are not well covered? Is it okay if I take off my mask for a minute since there are not many people around me? But I just read about a new strain this morning that travels faster. Do I want to risk it?
When it is time to choose what podcast to listen to, it is a constant dilemma. Should I listen to “Deliciously Ella’s” self-help ones, The New York Time’s “Sway” to understand marketing issues, or Vox’s “Wordly” to get the political rundown? Do I want to be reminded that immense hard work goes into being successful, or that the political landscape of the world is going to shit? Why am I overthinking something that is meant to be a learning opportunity? I start envying the runners, how they can so tirelessly move their bodies like that. I look at couples and feel lonely. I hear the laughs of children in their homes and feel homesick. I am surrounded by nature, by this beautiful planet, yet while I do recognize my privilege of being in it, it’s difficult. Let’s just cut the bullshit: it is hard to always look at the bright side. The irony of listening to podcasts on how to control your anxiety while overthinking everything becomes comical.
We hear constantly about the impacts of anxiety, and I am thankful that we talk about these issues so openly these days. However, even though we know all about this, we do not always listen to what we know. We are living in a time that encourages us to neglect what is important in life. Overthinking the smaller things has become second nature, even though we know it is not good for us. It sometimes gets hard to even enjoy the smallest of moments, the magnificent present, when you get so wrapped up in your head about the future. As much as I may read articles about the correlation between stress and health or how our generation is consumed with anxious thoughts, I don’t really understand how to come out of the other side. When life seems like a race, and each second survives of productivity, how do we attain that goal?
I am constantly trying to reach a state of calm, but sometimes, because of this competitive environment, it is impossible to get there. Yes, I get it — a situation is what you make of it. The utter reality is that this world is competitive, and there are certain expectations to reach success. This can be sugar-coated as much as people want it to be, but we are expected to reach certain goals in this tough world. I think this is where the constant battle comes into play. I so do believe we should follow our hearts, find our passions and make every moment a special one. I am drawn to art that celebrates the joys of life and our reasons to enjoy every day. But, in what universe would my overthinking mind allow me to take a minute to be calm? My logical brain and emotional heart are always at war. How am I supposed to know what is good for me? What does ‘good for me’ even mean?
Why do we even put all these expectations onto ourselves? For me, at least, I have figured out that I don’t do it for others, just me. I am constantly trying to prove my own self-worth to myself. My successes are barely celebrated, but my failures are lingered upon for days. Yes, we learn from our failures, but there are way too many other factors that make me feel bad about them. Most of us are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Just as we have our basic physiological needs, more importantly, the more we secure the basics, we require psychological needs. Most of us crave that sense of belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. As much as we will not admit it, we crave validation and acknowledgment. We can do things for ourselves as much as we want, but there does come a point where that work needs to be recognized. I have been thinking about how insecure people think they are better than others. There is a fine line between self-doubt and a superiority complex. To what extent does that correlate with the validation we receive from others?
There is great shame and guilt that comes with discussing or even feeling your emotions. With everything that’s going on in the world, I often think to myself that I am not allowed to feel the way I am feeling. I have too much to feel sorry for myself, and I am way too privileged to even think that what I am feeling is important. “I know I’m being selfish by feeling anxious and sad” is a phrase I have often used with people around me and to myself. I feel immensely selfish for feeling the way I do because I am in a better situation than so many other people worldwide. Sometimes I wish I was ignorant about the world, didn’t know as much as I do and that my heart didn’t break every time someone else’s does.
However, something I have realized over the years is that you have to have compassion for yourself as you do for others. You can not disregard what you feel, and you have to validate your emotions. I realized that sometimes it is easier to feel for others than feel for yourself. It is easier to understand someone else’s pain before you acknowledge your own. While I am still working on it, I think anyone who can feel openly and express both great happiness and immense sadness is so brave. Realizing what you are feeling and then sharing it with someone or seeking the help you need is, in my opinion, the bravest thing someone can do.
As I mentioned earlier, it is hard to find those moments of calm when all your brain does is try to come up with anxiety-driven excuses. But, at least I have taken the time to acknowledge these thoughts and feelings. Isn’t recognizing the first step to improvement? I will continue my walk every day. I will try as hard as I can to tackle my overthinking mind. But most importantly, I’m going to stop beating myself up for having anxious thoughts in the first place.