instead, i want to go out on a limb here. i’m going to attempt to articulate that being in our mid-twenties is one of the most over-stimulating, yet lonely times of our lives to date. and however miserable and confusing it may seem, there are awesome things that we can do about it. that may seem rather contradictory, but i bet, to a degree, you are nodding your head and going, “eh, this chick might have a point, here.”
we are constantly inundated with lights, sounds, people, smells, moving objects, and notifications no matter where we go. our phones are always an arm’s length from us, we have 10 tabs open, 3 gchats, and 5 emails drafted at all times. we’re snapchatting, we’re facetimeing, we’re instagramming every crumb we’ve consumed this year, we’re tindering strangers, tweeting about things we’re too scared to say out loud, showcasing every move we make, hoping to get a nod from our distant, e-colleagues so that we feel good about our lives and experiences. there is absolutely no stopping this crazy train of over-sharing, and like it or not, whether you live in manhattan or rural kansas, this is the world we live in. intro or extrovert, there are days where even the savviest of life-braggers just want to collapse and hide from everyone.
but… do we really, though? because aren’t we also internally battling this restless, steadily intensifying desire to be surrounded by someone at all times that keeps us safe, warm, and protected from the bad guys? don’t we think, “my mom thinks i’m special, how come no one else thinks i am?” or, “how do i develop my voice? no one in this universe is hearing me.” we can’t seem to fight our innate desire to be understood and fulfilled by someone as spiritually enlightened and intellectually profound as we think we are. don’t we want that too? of course we do, sweetheart, we are millennials.
as a diabetic, both of these qualms are certainly true for me on a daily basis. last night, all i wanted to do was sleep and be snuggly, and yet, right when i was about to pass out, my Derek (pump) went – “zzz…zzz…zzz.” under my pillow. my reaction? “you LITTLE shithead, why now?” his battery was dead. my body’s battery was also dead and the last thing i wanted to do was prescribe to the stupid little device’s needy shenanigans. the fact that i got up and immediately resuscitated the damn thing was shockingly responsible of me. as a diabetic, on the one hand, something that i want seems so simple: empathy. i want others to know what i’m experiencing both physically and emotionally. how exhausted i am, how shitty i feel sometimes….but i also want something else: freedom. it’s a constant battle to stay in a safe place between: “i’m going to break things if i have to prick my finger one more time. get this garbage away from me.” whilst dramatically flushing my test kit down the toilet and ripping my infusion set out of my back, and, “everyone come feel sorry for me, coddle me, scrinkle my arm and make me feel less alone.”
lately, i’ve tried a couple of things to maintain a healthy balance. mostly, i’m trying to find a way to feel empowered when i’m by myself. i’m working to not need validation from folks in the cyber world that i’m not totally botching this whole “being cool” thing. how come every time i walk out the door, kate in california needs to “like” it? how come i can’t just be confident in making that decision for myself and executing it without doubt?
frankly, i think this is an exercise, diabetic or not, we all need to focus on at this stage of our lives. it’s a hard thing to grasp, when inherently, we all have fears of being freaky cat ladies well before our ovaries have dried up. but we have to try to trust ourselves.
here’s what i’ve been practicing:
number one: take mental timestamps.
two weekends ago, i was in new york. my friends were working and i took a personal day to stroll and explore. i did something i rarely do; i went to lunch alone. now, in a city of 8.337 million people, i felt a little less awkward doing this because, i mean, odds are, there’s at least 1 other other lone wolf out there doing the exact same thing, right?
eating alone can be a very uncomfortable thing. our culture has made meal time a very family and social-oriented tradition. frankly, i suck at eating in public by myself. so i forced myself to do it. to gastromarket in chelsea i bopped, hungry as a hippo. i was nervous to sit down, but once i realized not a soul in there gave a shit that i even existed, i relaxed, and struck up a convo with the lovely spanish bartender. he let me sample his secret sangria recipe, and, while he assisted in my independent day drinking, we made small talk and laughed. as simple as it was, this meal was one of the highlights of my weekend. i spoke much more honestly and candidly when i was by myself. i realized my words were more organic sans amigo influence or judgement. i took a mental note of this moment, and tucked it in my back pocket. when i have experiences like this by myself now, i always go: “kappow! this moment has now been saved to my permanent memory drive.” sometimes, i even smack my forehead to make the gesture more official.
number two: do it with your eyes closed.
being alone can be unsettling for a lot of reasons. i think a lot of us might be afraid we’ll end up dusting off some unpleasant feelings. to avoid that, and just focus on inner, if still only temporary peace, is quite literally shutting everything out. i close my eyes. i have raging (and i mean R-A-G-I-N-G) ADD. i can see dust particles floating in the air outside in broad-ass daylight, i’m so overstimulated. so, for me, turning the world off has to be a very calculated act. if i need to focus on myself, say, in yoga, spin, or at work, i need to lock out the world with my little black lined eyelids. for me, shutting the door on the external and looking inward takes the energy of what’s around me and turns the volume down a few decibels so that i can hear myself think and breathe. when i first started intentionally closing my eyes in public spaces, i felt hungover and disoriented. but with a little practice, i began to visualize things without actually seeing them. now a days, i go through about 60% of my yoga practice with my eyes slammed shut because, otherwise, i’ll just look at “susie string-bean” next to me, and worry about her chaturanga instead of just feeling mine out. i think this can go for a lot of other things in life. when my eyes are closed, i teach myself to trust the connection between my mind and body, not worry about what everyone else is trying to do. remember, comparison is the thief of joy. it’s powerful stuff. so, lids down, people. lids…down.
number three: put it away.
my boyfriend will be the first to tell you that i have a little bit of a phone addiction situation. he has a point, and i appreciate that he’d rather look at my goofy freckled face, than my rad iPhone case. temptation can be such a little butthead sometimes. we are so wired to turn straight to our phones in an idle or down moment, when in reality what that means is that we are choosing to remove ourselves from the present. we’re actually perpetuating the lonely cycle by teaching ourselves to check out of moments we’re actively living in.
how are people supposed to truly know and understand us if we don’t give them our undivided attention, and let them in in retrun? i know i can be an asshole about my phone, and i have developed some really disrespectful habits. one goal i re-set for myself on a monthly (fine, daily) basis is to just put the stupid thing away. out of sight out of mind. i have to actively remove myself from the one-upping universe that is my social media network. in order to truly be okay in a time and place, we must be all there mentally and psysically (thank you, rumi!).
the acceptance and development of a positive relationship with ourselves takes years. it’s not an easy challenge to accept. we have to try our hardest to quiet our minds from racing in every direction. to tuck our phone in a deep, dark place for a few hours of its own alone time. we have to learn to listen to our instincts and feel ourselves breathe. we are not alone. we do not need 43 likes on instagram to measure our self-worth. observe yourself and others, and with time, we’ll start to feel like our own two-feet just might be all we need to stand tall.