Decade Challenge

Decade Challenge

As 2019 came to a close and 2020 was eagerly ushered in, social media was influx with challenges, resolutions, and plans for the next decade. Images were posted of new intentions, then vs. now photos and greatest accomplishments. Let me be the first to say, that looking back to reflect is vital. Comparison is necessary – comparison of who you were, who you are, and who you are striving to be. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t feeling it this year.

At the start of this decade, I was a senior in high school. Filled to the brim with all the plans, potential and sparkle in the world. At 17 years old, I would hope that’s what you felt also. Yet somehow, at 27, I feel much differently. I feel tired. Exhausted, actually. Because I have spent the last decade striving. Achieving. Working my ass off. I’ve gone through a lot of changes. A lot of growing. To come back to a place that feels like myself again.

I’ve evolved from high school teenager, collegiate athlete and student, college graduate, ex-collegiate athlete, first year teacher, working adult, dog mom, single, girlfriend, fiancé, wedding planner, wife, graduate student, master’s graduate, back to graduate student again. I’ve lived in one house, two dorm rooms, three apartments, three cities. Worked in four different school districts. Taught elementary special education co-teach, middle school special education inclusion, high school self-contained special education and as a special education in-home/parent trainer. My name has even changed over the course of this decade.

And while that may sound like a lot of changing, why doesn’t it feel like it’s been enough? See if you’re like me, you have this picture in your head of what you expect your life to be like when you’re 17. But my picture has always been blurry. I can make out vague outlines and fuzzy shapes, but the whole picture hasn’t ever come quite into focus.

What this past decade has truly taught me is that all the planning in the world doesn’t equal a clear trajectory. Is my life anything like I pictured it would be when I was 17? Not really. And that’s okay. I think our lives are a continual progression, not some end point. I can’t even begin to calculate all the time I’ve spent planning, dreaming, writing down goals and imagining the future. So much wasted time and energy focused on what’s next, rather than embracing what’s now.

Plans and goals are great, but life doesn’t abide by our time tables.

You want to know how I welcomed in the new decade? On my couch, with my dogs watching mindless television. Because I am so exhausted from all the striving and grinding and spinning my wheels to make one inch of progress. Let me use an example, because when you know better, you do better. College Sarah would stay up late at night typing up papers, working on projects and end up working twice as hard because not only was I battling against time, I was also now waging war against my own exhaustion. My end result took twice as long and wasn’t half as good of quality as it could have been.

Wise 27-year-old Sarah (I’m being facetious here) learned, that by resting first, getting up early and working in small, manageable chunks produces a much better result in a lot less time. I’ve decided to apply this principal to this next decade. Prioritizing rest. Less focus on all the hustle and check boxes we’ve created for ourselves. Slowing down, being present and focusing on here rather than where I’m working towards tomorrow.

While I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions, I make my decisions in the spirit of the moment, not slipped around some pillar of time, I will set a few.

In the next decade, I resolve to give myself a break. I’m not perfect. I never will be. I never have to be. Someone else already has that covered!

I resolve to enjoy every season and stop praying for the next one. I want to enjoy the valleys and the mountains because there is beauty in both.

I resolve to focus on one step rather than envision all the others I might be taking. To focus on the present, for no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

I resolve to love more. Deeper, harder, with more ferocity. To give it freely and without abandon. Because we all could use more of it.

Maybe this is just my interpretation, but we are so often fed the lies that we aren’t good enough, thin enough, healthy enough, attractive enough, worth enough, that we’re forced into concocting these “resolutions” to convince other people of our worth. Because here’s the truth underneath all the fabricated lies we’re smacked over the head with on a daily basis: you are enough.

Losing those 20 pounds will not make you see yourself differently in the mirror if you don’t love what you see now. Making that next level of salary won’t equal more money in your savings, if you can’t manage the small amount you make now. Finding that person to spend your life with won’t make you happy if you can’t find happiness on your own. Buying more things to fill your house, closet and time with won’t fill that gaping hole in your heart. And setting resolutions to “fix” or “improve” material and superficial things won’t be effective in changing or improving your life.

The internal work that needs to take place to accompany those “resolutions” needs to happen first, every day for the rest of your life. No new year or new decade can solve that. There is no quick fix, special work out, fancy diet or surgery that can alter the hard, mundane work. But all of this is null and void if you don’t operate from the space that you are enough, you already have what it takes to do the work and there is no final destination. Life is a process and it’s all in the details. So as this new phase of life is inevitably upon us, I wish you success, happiness and peace. In whatever way it manifests itself to you.

xxx

Sarah

No. 49 – Skin

No. 49 – Skin

Sitting at the nail salon on a Friday evening is usually the LAST thing I want to be doing. After a crazy week at school, I prefer to decompress at home with my dogs. Not in public, while I wear my week’s exhaustion. But, when you need to get your nails done, you suck it up and pay a visit to the nail salon.

I was greeted upon entrance and seated in the only empty manicure chair. I noticed the woman already seated in the chair to my left, but was too fixated on my color selection to pay anyone much mind. I mean that’s the most overwhelming part: too many options and usually none that quite match your Pinterest inspiration pic.

After selecting a color, I relaxed and naturally scanned the salon. I was mesmerized by the woman I was seated next to. Beautiful dark olive skin and deep black hair. She was stunning. Glancing back at my pale, sun forsaken skin I thought “I wish I was darker.” My entire life I’ve battled insecurity over being so white complected. Tanning under lights, over-exposing myself to the sun, and buying beauty products intended to aid in the process of self tanning. With nothing really working as a long term solution.

I glanced back at the bronzed beauty seated next to me and wished I had her skin.

Another female patron two seats down from me commented to the woman on my right what a pretty color she’d selected for her nails. I glanced at her nails that I hadn’t noticed before and chimed in as well. “That really is a beautiful color.”

To which she responded, “thanks, I can only wear soft colors like this with my skin tone. Other colors make me look even darker,” she said with a taint of self deprecation. And then her next comment completely caught me off guard. “I hate my dark skin.”

I surveyed her further to see what she could dislike. How she could hate her own skin? When just moments ago I was wishing to look more like her.

I didn’t miss anything her skin was still just as glorious as before.

I made light of the conversation by remarking that I faced the opposite problem. Only selecting colors that made my skin appear darker. We both laughed and made small talk about the television program playing on the giant screen in front of us.

After our brief yet impactful interaction, I glanced back at my own fair skin and breathed deeply. It seems that we all long for what we are not. Rather than embrace, honor and care for our genes, we grade ourselves against others. Playing the ever-losing comparison game. While it was comfortable to know that I wasn’t the only one who wished her skin looked differently, it was disheartening at the same time. One brief interaction had shed light on a dilemma much larger than myself. The sinking feeling that I was just a tiny string in a larger, darker tapestry overwhelmed me.

Here I was in a white shell wishing to be darker. Not for an instant did did it cross my mind what wearing a darker skin complexion might mean for this woman. How it might have made her life more difficult than mine. How maybe people treated her differently, less than, inferior. So caught up in the aesthetics of her pigment that I hadn’t even considered the context of her hatred of her own skin.

Our interaction sat heavy on me the entirety of the weekend. Weighing on my heart and my head. So I’d like to share my few takeaways from this brief interaction. An interaction that was minor and insignificant when juxtaposed in relation to the larger picture. But as with all change, it originates by opening the channels for reflection and open communication.

 Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Which also means it’s EVERYWHERE. Open to interpretation and popping up when you least expect it.

 Everyone has insecurities. Pieces of themselves they want to change and may even actively do so. Be understanding. Kinder. To others, and to yourself.

 You never know what someone else is struggling with. We all have a story. Things we battle that are so ingrained into our core.

 Stop comparing yourself to others. Physically, financially, with social statuses, likes, followers, relationships. Just stop. Stop trying to be someone else and be the person you were created to be. Step into your own body, own beauty, own circumstances and be grateful for where you are.

 Appreciate the beauty around you, but understand that it may come with a cost. Extend grace and understanding to others. And show that same compassion and empathy to yourself.

 Lastly, it’s often in times of inconvenience that we receive the most important messages. Be aware. Be open. Be present.

I hope in sharing my simple reflection on a personally impactful interaction is able to prompt a conversation and an awareness that while we may have differences, we all share similar struggles, pain and insecurities. Darkness that can only be combatted by pulling back our own curtains and allowing the light to illuminate our deep seeded feelings of shame.

xxx

Sig

No. 43 – Skin Deep

No. 43 – Skin Deep

Ever heard the saying, beauty is only skin deep? I vehemently disagree with that statement. I believe beauty is rooted in our core. Aesthetics may be only surface level, but true beauty has nothing to do with appearance.

Like most girls, I grew up with a warped perspective of my value, my body and its appearance and my role in my personal health. My parents raised me in a conservative household where makeup was not permitted until I was 14. I did not have the typical adolescence makeup experience – you know, bad eye liner, neon eye shadows and blush so deeply red you rival a clown.

After I turned 14, my mother took me to a Bare Minerals beauty counter, and the consultant helped me select a few items that would be appropriate for a 14 year old just beginning to dabble in the dark arts of makeup. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to transform the plain, boring version of myself that I viewed in the mirror into the knock-out I always imagined lay underneath an intense makeup application. One that would camouflage everything I thought I wasn’t.

As soon as the car pulled in the driveway, I bolted up the stairs to my room, ripping open the packaging on the way – eager to apply my transformation. First, foundation powder all over my face. Then some naturally colored blush on my cheeks. Swiping several different colors across my eyelids, hoping that would make them pop. And for the final touch, some mascara. As I applied the final coat of black mascara, I sat back to gaze at my final product, ready to drink my newly beautiful self in.

I blinked…in shock. I looked exactly the same, just with a little shimmer around my eyes. My face still looked too round, no definitive cheek bones, small eyes and thin lips. I rotated my head, observing it from all angles. Nope. I still looked the same. Well this was a complete flop! I went into the bathroom, wiped the gunk off my face and chalked up the makeup idea as a farce. I believed that I wasn’t enough, but that I was beyond help. The first time I remember feeling dissatisfied, truly with my appearance.

Fast forward several years to a 17 year old. A committed tennis player, training 4-5 hours a day. Sweat, allergens, dirt, weather elements as well as genetics, all contributed to the start of a severe battle with acne. One that plagued me until I was 22. I evolved from a girl who hardly ever wore makeup to a person who would not leave the house without it. Slathering it on, in hopes that it would conceal the painful bumps blanketing my face. But even with full-coverage foundation, in my eyes, my skin felt and looked like a topographical map of my face. Splotchy, bumpy, uneven and embarrassing. I had tried virtually every available acne-cleansing system on the market but nothing helped. On the tennis court, I felt invincible. But off the court, I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror. But with each makeup application, I learned to cringe a bit less.

When I say, make-up was a necessity, I mean it. In college, my routine would go as follows. Wake up, usually after 5 unheard alarms and my roommate shaking me. Makeup application. Class. Lunch. Makeup reapplication/touchups. Tennis. Dinner. Shower. Makeup application. Study. Wash face. Bed. I wouldn’t go to class without. Couldn’t go to tennis practice without reapplying an additional coat. I wouldn’t go to study with my friends unless I had reapplied a third coat. It was a problem, but I believed the lie that without less flawed skin I was ugly and had no value.

Until one day, I was about to hang out with a particularly handsome man after tennis practice. I jumped in the shower, got all cleaned up and was just about to apply another coat of makeup. But my sweet, roommate Kayla, stopped me. She said, “Why are you putting make up on? You guys are just hanging out.”

I began to list my rolodex full of reasons why I needed another dose of makeup, especially because I really, really liked this guy.

“He’s going to have to see you without your makeup eventually. You’re beautiful with and without makeup on.”

My lips wanted to protest, but my heart softened. No one had ever told me that before. I glanced into the mirror perched on top of my desk. My eyes swept over my face, scrutinizing every discolored, red fleshy bump. My years of negative self-talk kicked into overdrive as I ripped myself to shreds.

No one thinks this bare face is beautiful without makeup.  

If he sees you like this, he will be so grossed out that he’ll never want to hang out with me again. 

But Kayla’s words echoed through my hardened exterior. The welcome sunshine after a hard winter of snow. Meeting up with Kendrae that evening without makeup petrified me to no end. And while I didn’t quite believe that I was beautiful without makeup or with it on some days, I wanted to. So I took the plunge. And was shocked when Kendrae didn’t seem to bat an eye.

I realized how wearing makeup had crippled me. So much so that I had extreme anxiety if I wasn’t wearing it. So the next morning, I got up a little later than I planned and made a sleepy-eyed decision not to wear makeup to my 8:00 am class. I was extremely nervous and anticipated some stares, but I could handle it.

I sat down at the long table and began to page through my notebook. Out of the corner of my eye, I felt a stare from a classmate a few seats down. I steeled myself, and raised my gaze to meet her. As I shot her a smile, she questioned: “Are you sick? You don’t look like you’re feeling well.”

My smile quickly faded and my face grew flush. I shook my head no, as I lied and told her I was just tired. Absolutely mortified that my initial suspicions were true, I vowed with tears in my eyes never to be caught without makeup on again. The rest of the class was a blur, and I jogged back to my room as soon as it ended, praying no one else would see me.

About a year after that, I finished up 9 months of Acutane treatment. A radical prescription used in the treatment of acne. It warrants intense side effects and came with a large price tag, one that mostly I absorbed. But I didn’t care how awful I felt while taking it, how difficult it made playing tennis and how inconvenient the monthly pregnancy tests and blood work were. If this drug could eradicate my acne, I would gladly pay any cost – financially, mentally, physically and emotionally.

And when I completed my final month of treatment, with a long-awaited clear face, I was relieved. I could finally live the life my acne had held me back from for so long. But after the newness of no longer popping pills and the range of side effects they brought with them, I still was not happy with what I saw in the mirror. My face no longer had bumps, but I continued to feed the need to consume makeup. I’m just covering up my redness and acne scars, I’d reassure myself. If I couldn’t bear to look at it, surely no one else could either. And the vicious cycle perpetuated. The acne was merely a magnifying glass enlarging the problem that was pre-existent. One that could not be remedied with a prescription.

Again, let’s skip ahead in the story to yesterday. I woke up not feeling well. And since it’s been so dry and cold lately, I felt like giving my skin a break. So I moisturized twice and went to work sans makeup. No foundation, no eye brow filler, no highlighter, blush, eyeshadow or mascara. My face was completely bare. And after about 30 minutes in my classroom another adult made a remark.

“You look sick. I didn’t want to say nothing, but your eyes look all glassy and your face looks puffy.”

I nodded, half-smiled and rolled my eyes on the inside. A comment similar to someone remarking that you’re sunburnt when you’re obviously acutely aware that you’re the color of a ripe tomato and physically hot to your own touch. Unnecessary, obnoxious and rude. And so I continued about my day. But it was during my lunch break that I unpacked the encounter from earlier.

While the comment about my lack of makeup was rude and uncalled for, I wasn’t negatively impacted by it. I didn’t run off to the bathroom and look in the mirror to see if she was right. It didn’t change how I felt about myself inwardly or outwardly. In fact, it didn’t affect my day at all. But it did allow for some reflection. When had I become more comfortable with my natural skin? There was no moment of revelation. In fact, it has been a long process over the past five years. A process of limiting my negative self-talk, reframing critiques from others and myself, intentionally speaking kindness and nourishing the skin I’m in.

True change takes time and effort. But most importantly consistency. If I had not chased after true change in myself years ago, I would have been devastated by that individual’s remark today.

Skin Deep 2

*I did not wake up like this. I didn’t even apply this myself, a professional did.*

There are some days I choose to wear makeup. But now it’s because I want to. I view it as a form of self-expression which allows me to be more playful and artsy. There are some days where I don’t wear any makeup at all. And I even leave the house looking that way. I have learned that what is or isn’t on my face has no true impact on the way I carry myself, my abilities or my heart. Beauty has nothing to do with appearance. Beauty radiates from the inside out.

Words–from yourself and others–only have power over you if you allow them to.

Author’s Note: Someone dear to me shared a personal experience the other day on social media. She discussed this inner war that teetered back and forth with her appearance. The things we say in our head about our own bodies that we would never speak to another human being. And in her moment of frailty, a stranger spoke words of love to her, shaking her to her core. Reminding her that what we think and say to ourselves matters. And this reflection touched me, and stirred a burning question in my mind. Why is it so easy to speak love over others, yet so hard to nurture ourselves in that same manner? 

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I wanted to touch on a subject that was near and dear to my heart. I too have suffered many barbed and poisonous verbal attacks, some of the deepest wounds coming from my own tongue. Comments laced to damage and destroy, yet ones that I would never utter aloud. Especially not aimed at another person. But time and time again I would lower the boom on myself and let loose.

Something has to change. The comparison game has to end. This idea of perfection is a mirage. A dreamt-up concoction that will leave you stranded in the middle of a desert.  

I’ve seen it happen in others and I’ve slowly started to witness the change in myself too. Words are insanely powerful. And over time, their power can increase. If you continuously berate yourself, you will not only believe those lies, you will become them. If instead, you nourish yourself with kindness and truth and love they will transform you, but also radiate through you in such a way that others will feel their warmth.

xxx

Sig

No. 37 – Poetry

No. 37 – Poetry

Growth. 

We’re all seeking what we cannot see,

Our future self- who we’re supposed to be. 

But with each step forward, 

My past keeps dragging me back. 

 

Split between two people:

The me I could be, 

And the version who couldn’t 

Let go. 

 

Shame. Disbelief. Fear. 

Overwhelming me. 

I watched myself on auto-pilot.

Less than a whole person 

Aimless and incomplete. 

 

And yet…

 

In the very same reflection: 

Embracing. Accepting. Kind. 

Love illuminated like I’d never known. 

I felt myself blossom and flourish. 

Realizing I am already whole. 

 

Torn down the middle.

Clutching onto my past, the familiar. 

While reaching forward, towards the unknown. 

In order to fully embrace one

I must let go of the other. 

 

If I know my past is hurting me,

Why is it still so difficult to let go?

 

Author’s Note: I decided to change things up this week. A lot. Rather than writing my traditional 1500-word post, I wanted to challenge myself to write less. Instead of aiming for 1500 words, I aimed for 150. Could I convey the same message with 150 words that I could in 1500? It was a challenge. I must have written and rewritten this same entry 15 times. Scratching and starting over. Tweaking and revamping. Then starting from scratch again. 

Why poetry? Besides the fact that I enjoy it, poetry is raw. It strips away all the noise and cuts to the real emotions. I want my message to be more than a word count. I don’t only want to tell my story through a rigid perspective. Part of the beauty in having my own blog, is that I’m able to dictate what I say and how I narrate. So I challenged myself creatively. A process I thoroughly enjoyed.  

I decided to write a poem expressing my emotions during the in between. In between the drama, the big moments, the “blog worthy” topics. This poem is about the development and challenges I had just living day to day during this phase in my life. It highlights the juxtaposition I think we all face when striving towards growth. Acknowledging our past and appreciating it in a way that doesn’t stagnate our potential. While also not apologizing for our internal struggle. 

Hope you enjoy it! 

xoxo

Sarah 

No. 35 – Self Worth

No. 35 – Self Worth

Half a year had come and gone and it hadn’t felt as if I had time to blink. My days were filled with scrambling, and I wasn’t getting much rest. When I wasn’t teaching, I was working in the mall at a little clothing boutique called Francesca’s. Kendrae and I felt like ships passing by but never meeting. My work schedule was a muddled mess, and his hours consisted of early mornings and late nights. We would squeeze in time together as much as possible, but it didn’t feel like much. A robot on auto-pilot, I was set on survival mode. 

I was constantly on edge. Fearful of what might be lurking just around the corner. Always glancing behind me, slowly turning corners, eerie of any sound I heard while in my apartment. I had been there nearly six months and the place still didn’t feel like home. Perhaps because I had no means to make it feel that way. It felt like a echoic warehouse building. I had finally managed to scrape up enough money to buy a thrice hand-me-down couch, but it was so lived in before I got it, that the springs were out of place, and inflicted actual physical pain to any who dared to sit on it. I never got a table, or any chairs for that matter. The only place I could really sit down was the floor or the bed, Jessica had so graciously loaned me. 

Truth be told, I was so busy, I didn’t have much time to want for anything. Besides more time with Kendrae. If I would’ve invested in a couch, I wouldn’t have any free time to sit on it. Better to just keep the apartment empty so that it was easier to come and go so often. 

Over time the place felt familiar, but not like home. Maybe it wasn’t even the lack of furniture that had any influence over my current nomadic feeling; it was deeper than that. I never felt safe. My irrational fear that my parents would come banging on the door, demanding to take me back home was a reoccurring nightmare, waking and sleeping. Every time I pulled into the parking lot, I expected to see one of their ten cars waiting on me. No matter how many times I tried to rationally talk my fear down, it was no good. In fact, the longer it had been, the surer I was that they were going to pop up. Kendrae shared my fear and didn’t feel comfortable visiting my apartment. Another reason it was hard to see each other.

The only time I had felt safe in the last six months was when he was around. And when he wasn’t, which was most of the time, I battled a constant state of unease. Looking over my shoulder. Inspecting every shadow. Sitting in silence so I could hear even the slightest breeze. Never truly resting. Mind constantly reeling. 

But when Kendrae was around, the fears dissipated. My two extremities wreaked havoc with my emotions. I found myself clinging to him more tightly, and coming to tears when we would part. A complete and total wreck, sobbing uncontrollably without constraint or insight as to why. Even when Kendrae was near, he couldn’t be more than six inches away from me or I felt susceptible to danger. I knew my behavior and emotions were erratic, but it was as if I had no physical or emotional filter. 

And one January night, it all came crashing down on me. I had the night off from the boutique, and Kendrae was getting off of work around 6. Naturally I was excited, because this meant we could spend some actual time together. I would make us both dinner, and we could watch something on Netflix and just relax. Until I got a text message that knocked the wind straight out of me.

“Just getting off work. I’m tired, so I’m just going to go home.” It was a basic message, but sent me into a frenzied panic. A dozen questions flew through my head so intensely that I felt dizzy. And before I could even think of a response, I found myself calling him. 

“Hello.” 

“Hey, I just got your text. You’re not going to come over?” I said as my voice cracked. 

“Yeah, I’m tired and need some time to myself.”

“…Um…okay…” I said choking back tears. He’s tired of you. He doesn’t want to spend what little free time he has with you. You’re losing him, Sarah.

Trying not to sound as panicked as I felt, “I was going to cook something for us and then I thought we could watch a movie or something.” 

“Maybe another time. I just need some time. That’s all.” 

“Oh…okay,” was all I could muster. 

“Well I’m almost home now, so I’ll text you later okay?” 

“…alright. Bye.” 

Cue the waterworks. I crumbled onto my bed and felt my world collapsing. 

How could he not want to spend time together? 

We lived 20 minutes apart, and he didn’t want to see me? 

What was wrong with me? 

What did I do? 

What wasn’t I doing? 

My thoughts whizzed around me in a vicious circle and after completely eviscerating myself, I was left crushed and wounded. 

I attempted to type a message to Kendrae about 20 different times, but the words avoided me. Despair evolved into latent hostility. Fine. If he didn’t want to spend his precious spare time with me, then I didn’t need to spend my effort on him either. 

My faux feelings of anger quickly relented back to despair as my self-loathing ritual began again. After about two hours of wondering how I could possibly pick up the pieces of my shattered life, I received a text message from Kendrae. My heart jumped into the air and did a front flip. He loved me, he really loved me and was apologizing and was on his way over here. 

Quickly grabbing my phone, I typed in my password to view my digital love note. Or not…It was a picture of a yogurt parfait Kendrae had made with the caption: dinner. 

What? So he was just going to pretend that this massive wedge between us wasn’t there? That he hadn’t just dropped a massive bomb shell on my heart? My whole world hadn’t just been shattered? 

I played it cool. “Looks good.” I responded, trying to keep it brief as I tossed my phone across the bed. Letting out a mudled huff of frustration, I reclined back onto the mattress and rested my head on the edge, legs dangling off the opposite side. Gaze fixated on the static ceiling fan. Gravity tugged at my hair which slowly cascaded down the edge of the mattress towards the carpeted floor. I let out another deep breath as I felt my body sinking. And as my eyes focused, so intently on the fan blades, my mind explored. 

Where had I gone so wrong? What could I have done better, to make him want to stick around? Was I too vocal about my feelings for him? Too needy? Could I convince him to want to be with me? Or was his mind already made up? What would I do without him?

What would I do without him? 

The connotation of that question reverberated through my mind. What would I do without him? Really…Sarah? Had my life so completely revolved around one person that I was questioning how I could get by without him? Chills ran down my spine as realization set in. Somewhere between wondering if I would ever get out from underneath my parents and now, I had become co-dependent on Kendrae. So much so, that the thought of spending an evening apart sent me spiraling down the unworthiness worm hole. I felt sick to my stomach.

My eyes widened, so laser-like focused on the fan blades that they became blurry in comparison to my thoughts. And as I took a step back to see my own reflection, the picture became very clear. Losing my relationship with my family created a large void in my life. In my frenzy and vulnerability, I had cast Kendrae as the leading role of my life. Not only that, but signed him up for just about every supporting role too. He was now acting as my family, my closest companion, my security, confidant and sounding board. And that wasn’t fair. Nor right. How could one person live up to all those responsibilities and expectations? I know I wouldn’t want to occupy the end all, be all in his life. In fact, that was quite terrifying. 

And in the process of filling my life up with Kendrae, I was missing a part of Sarah. I had lost myself in our relationship because I so desperately wanted to be loved and accepted. Identifying myself as his partner, rather than a whole person. When was the last time I had just spent an evening with myself? Not because I had to, or because other plans fell through, but because I wanted to. My mind was blank. The last time I truly felt like Sarah had to be before everything blew up over the summer. But really before that I was so consumed with soaking in every minute with my friends, teammates, and new boyfriend before graduation that I wasn’t much of a factor then either. Actually, there had always been an excuse for why I was always my own last priority. I spent my entire life consumed with others, allowing everyone and everything to rank higher on my priority list. 

Serve others. Value others first. Think of yourself less. Put your wants and needs last. All notions that had been fed to me since I could remember. Notions, that in isolation serve a fine purpose, but together can also encourage and perpetuate the undervaluing of oneself. I had been trained that the only capacity in which I mattered was in my role to someone else. An ideology I had never given much thought, just robotically followed. 

Spending time solely exploring my thoughts, dreams and emotions seemed dirty and vainglorious. 

Was it possible to foster and value a relationship with yourself? If I gave myself the time, love and energy that I so desperately craved, would I lose Kendrae in the process? Or worse, had I lost him already? 

Author’s Note: We find ourselves at the start of a fresh, new year. A pausing point, inciting self-reflection. An act that I once undervalued and flat out misunderstood. What I once mistook for self-centeredness, I now recognize as a necessity. Constantly bombarded with blatant and subliminal messages, it is easy to lose yourself in the clutter. We intake so much, that if you don’t spend time sifting through it, you may not realize all the garbage that stacks up. Spending time alone was an occurrence I ardently avoided. Turning on music to drone out my thoughts, fearful of what I might hear. Watching mindless television to spare myself a rendezvous with my own mind. Believing that silence lead to self-absorption. A straight path leading only to loneliness and emptiness. 

And now, I crave the stillness. Yearning for even just a few brief moments of absolute tranquility. No distractions, no sound, just Sarah. A space where I’m encouraged to pray, dream, cry, think, explore and reflect. Where holistic clarity joins me. It is this steadfast priority to always believe in my value as an individual and to continuously explore and refine that propels me to be my best self. 

I want to be the best version of Sarah for me. Which also happens to spill out into my relationships. My work. My writing. My interactions with strangers. All of which were being stifled until I learned that I am important. My time is valuable. I can choose and not choose how I’d like to spend it. And if I’d like to spend quality time with myself, it is not vanity. It’s sanity. 

Often times, it is much easier to pour ourselves into others than it is to seek out what fills our own cups. But the danger in this lies with running on fumes. Starving ourselves and giving everyone less than our best. To paraphrase a fictional radio psychiatrist, “Like this camembert, I am at my most delicious when I’m not spread too thin.”