What's Inside?

 Art by Dallas Clayton

Art by Dallas Clayton

We made it back home, California! Safe and sound and ready to settle into my pajamas for December's entirety. This year I spent 4 months traveling through Asia and though I am happy to have ventured out of my comfort zone, I am running low on reserves and looking forward to finding my groove back in the Bay Area.

With the holiday season in full bloom, I am preparing myself for heightened emotions, high energy and gathering’s galore. Filling our hearts to the brim with cheer, as long as we remember what we are celebrating and why it is the most wonderful time of the year. I find that the season of giving can sometimes feel like the season of asking and instead of filling us up, we're often left feeling depleted. I have been there before and made a promise to myself to welcome receiving. To rest and to give myself a break. We can be so hard on ourselves, especially throughout these chaotic-family-filled-high-expectation extravaganzas.

A question many of us will hear is, "What have you been up to lately? How's work going?" Seeking a conversation around accolades and accomplishments. Many of us feel shame around this topic because we don't have the answer that we feel is up to par. So, we skew our response to please the ears of our listeners, denying the realities of our vulnerabilities and self discoveries taking place.

After graduating college, I didn't land my dream job, whatever that illusive occupation was, and I didn't want to jump into just anything. The hunt had begun. To prove to myself, my degree and society that I was worth it and doing it right. I kept bartending and serving tables in the meantime. I didn't feel like this decision to take my time was one my family and friends would be proud of, so I twisted the truth. I came up with a variety of stories depending on the audience. I was browsing grad school options, in the process of interviewing or holding out for that one position that I assured them, would make me a lot of money. Not completely lying, not completely telling the truth.

Coming close to 25 and much has changed for me. I no longer hide behind the image of what everyone else wants to hear. Realizing that most of us are terrified to share what’s really inside. Hoping for a sense of belonging, no matter the deception. Both to ourselves and those we love. We manicure the story to perfection, leaving no room for doubt or flaw. But not being us, who we really are, sharing what we’re really going through, does us the largest disservice.

When we aren’t authentic, we line ourselves up to an idea that means nothing to us and instead, appeals to what we're sold to believe matters. Creating distance rather than closeness. Eluding ourselves to think that we are the only ones who feel the way we do increases isolation. We separate ourselves, conjuring up an imaginary bubble filled with disconnection. Shame takes over, thriving in silence. We all want to feel good enough, worthy of love and belonging, and will go many lengths to find it.

When I share my stories with family and friends about this year’s journey, I will remember what I want from others. That I want to feel like I can be who I am and can talk about what I’m experiencing, openly and honestly. Without judgment, without expectation. I will remember that what really matters isn’t what you’re building outside of you, but what is growing inside of you. That’s what I will share this holiday season and I hope you will, too.