Personal Growth, Fairweather Loyalty, and Freedom
Several days ago, I reunited with my parents in the sunny, swelteringly-humid-yet-gorgeous island of Rhodes, Greece.
It was nearly a year since seeing them last. On the first night at an outdoor café (whilst munching on feta cheese and cured delicious green-and-black olives), I described my frustration at the slow paperwork and overall European application processes I was currently undergoing.
My mother smiled a bit, and remarked: “Enjoy the [job-hunting] process.”
I looked at her like she’d sprouted three heads. Why in the world would I enjoy the job-hunting process? All I wanted was to start working, pay off student loans, and lead a happy life. I envied everyone who had jobs—all my friends were engaged and had traineeships or internships—and I wanted to move on with my life as quickly as humanly possible.
In other words, I craved freedom.
I desired a charming, bohemian brick apartment of my own, a small herb garden, and to be paid for a fulfilling career, so much so that it literally hurt. I wanted a large wooden bookshelf to stock my Malcolm Gladwell books and worldwide travel stories, instead of being a constant student nomad with only two battered suitcases to my ignominious name.
The time spent working would yield dividends and open more paths, but the journey there was just as much, if not more, important.
Her words meant one should ‘live in the moment’ so to speak.
Once you start working, you don’t have time like today to walk around at noon, or do yoga at two in the afternoon, or contemplate which country you could depart for, in your next life adventure. The lack of time continues for the next thirty years or so, not to mention all of life’s other developments (marriage, kids, paying for kids’ educations).
This had me thinking.
Maybe, in the chaos of form-filling, we forget to reflect on how much we’ve grown, how much we’ve learned, and how to relax.
Prior to this, I’d been taking online DuoLingo German classes, reading a Czech language book, and jetting off to Austria and Slovakia to use my time as wisely as possible. Maybe I was doing too much, and needed to take a break and meditate, for once.
These past weeks, I’d found myself waking up at 6 am every morning, and not completing paperwork until past 1 am. It was so much—too much. It was frightfully exhausting, and I desperately needed to recharge my batteries.
I also learned that I need to be more attuned to my needs.
I should figure out why I am taking a particular life path, to work at my own pace, and nobody else’s. I need to prioritise my own happiness—something that, until now, seemed like a foreign concept to me.
Maybe the job process requires 3000 applications before a few ‘home runs.’ Maybe it requires an unprecedented level of faith and indomitable will like you’ve never had before.
At least one person will abandon you.
Maybe you’ll lose the trust of the ones you care about—who will doubt your success. There will be people who abandon you when you need them most. There will be people who will hurt you in ways you never thought possible, at your most vulnerable moments. Maybe they don’t intend to hurt you, but they undoubtedly do. They’re terrified, they’re quite risk-averse, and when ‘fight or flight’ situations arise, maybe they chose ‘flight’ instead.
Maybe they decided you weren’t worth the risk and the emotional investment. Maybe, in their heart of hearts, they knew they weren’t strong enough.
It’s understandable, but it doesn’t make the pain go away any less. The inner kindergartener in your stoic self is curled up in the fetal position, rocking back and forth, attempting to shield herself from the metaphorical broken and flying glass that is utter chaos, brought on by humanity—and you forgot, in the midst of all of the pressure, how to cry, how to breathe, and how to be free.
With that said…
You will learn who your true friends are.
These people will root for you—whether they are 40,000 miles away, or living in the next township. Move on from the ones that hurt you, who never had faith you’d succeed, who chose to run away when the going got tough. Let them in your life again provisionally, and with caution. They didn’t trust you in your darkest moments—can you emotionally handle such a ‘fairweather friend?’ They will need to prove themselves, to regain your trust.
Make way for the important people in your life—the ones that will stick by you, and defend you, and protect you. It’s hard to distinguish the two when you’re happy and successful, but when you are at an uncertain, nebulous part of your life, you will quickly tell the difference. You’ll learn the hard way, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Maybe you’ll forgive the person who abandons you. But you never forget how it made you feel.
“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” –Sigmund Freud