Recently, I have experienced extraordinary growth in a short amount of time. Yes, it feels incredible and empowering, but it doesn’t always feel pleasant. There have been moments that have been overwhelming, scary, and confusing.
Let me preface this by saying that I had never experienced anything quite like this in my entire life up until a few months ago. The first time it happened, I had been working on my first assignment as a graduate student. I sat at my desk annoyed and frustrated because I didn’t even know if I was doing what my professor was asking for. I became impatient, and I decided that I needed to just stop and take a breather. I laid down face-up on the floor of the living room in my apartment. Suddenly, I felt what seemed like the weight of the universe, and I began crying uncontrollably. What was scariest was not knowing what was causing such a massive amount of emotion. I started questioning my choice to quit my job, move 4 hours away from my family, and live in a city where I literally knew no one to lead a life dedicated solely to graduate school. I started to regret these decisions, thinking that it was all too much and too difficult. I felt overwhelmed because I left what was comfortable and familiar in exchange for an outcome that was uncertain. Forty minutes later, the feelings subsided, and I went on to complete my assignment. I didn’t think much more of it until it happened again a few weeks later.
About a week or two ago, I spiraled into an episode of depression.
I found myself questioning anything and everything. Wondering what led me to where I was and questioning whether I made the right choices up to this point in my life. I questioned my purpose in life and what I was shaping my life into. I felt completely lost and without direction. I felt like I couldn’t settle myself. The best way I can explain this is to imagine those really cool snow globes. The ones you can shake really fast and flakes go all over the place to eventually start to fall and make it appear as though it’s snowing over a little town. The flakes eventually sink and settle on little roofs of houses and on the ground, and then you get to do it all over again if you want to keep seeing it snow. That’s pleasant, right? It brings a sense of peace for me just to imagine it. Well, for me, at the time it felt like my metaphorical flakes weren’t settling. I felt desperate and uneasy for days on end. It was extremely uncomfortable and scary, and what made it worse was that I couldn’t understand what was happening within me. I came across this quote a couple of years ago, and I thought I understood it then, but I was wrong. I have a much deeper understanding of it now.
“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening […] Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.” -Alice Walker
After speaking to a friend about the flood of emotions I had been experiencing, I was finally able to settle and center myself. He suggested that I simply ask myself what it is that I want out of life. I began asking myself two basic questions, and I repeated them to myself over and over until I could come up with the answers.
Those questions forced me to really search within myself and figure out what it is that I’m doing with my life. What’s going to make me happy? What are my hopes and dreams? Why am I making choices that don’t align with making my hopes and dreams a reality? What can I do now to redirect myself and move towards making myself happy? These are just a few questions that sparked a journey into sorting through all my emotions and beginning to figure myself out.
Growth happens when you’re not in your comfort zone. It happens when you’re in situations (voluntarily or not) that you’ve never been in before, and you begin to learn things about yourself. You’ll uncover qualities or traits that you didn’t even realize you had within you. They were always there, but they were hiding; just waiting for an opportunity to come to light and shine for you.
Too often people get trapped in lives that don’t offer the opportunity for growth.
Whether they know it or not, they’ve chosen to accept this and continue on with a life of routine. They don’t even question it anymore. To be fair, I believe that a lot of it has to do with their desire to have a sense of stability and security. Consequently, people go on to lead lives where there is no longer any real inner growth. People lose a sense of curiosity because they’ve stifled themselves into what’s comforting or familiar. There’s something very peculiar and also a bit disturbing about people and their fear of the unknown. I suppose it’s something innate and may have some relation to survival. However, I don’t hope to live a life that I am merely surviving. I want more than that. I want to push my own boundaries and excel in personal growth.
In order to do that, we have to get curious, and we have to be courageous about where that curiosity will take us. Ask yourself the hard questions about what isn’t making you happy or helping you grow and what changes you should make to get there. You’ll have to be genuine and honest with yourself, and this is going to require you to be courageous. Courageous enough to sit at the table across from yourself and figure out where you go from here. Do you stay where you are or do you take a new path and discover yourself? You’re going to have to be courageous in realizing that you possibly need to start over and rebuild what you’ve become familiar with.
I recognize that this can be difficult, so I also recognize that a lot of people may not be prepared to take on this feat. I don’t blame you, and I most certainly don’t judge you. It’s not comfortable and it’s definitely not pretty. It will likely come with pain, frustration, and moments of confusion, but that’s how you will know you’re making progress. That’s when you should lean further into that discomfort and push through. You endure the storm to get the reward of seeing the sun again. The journey through the hard part leads to the growth. You learn so much about yourself and what you’re capable of when you get to the other side.