Allowed Feelings

I’ve been thinking a lot about “allowed feelings.” Meaning, what am I allowed to feel? This may sound ridiculous, but let me give you a personal example. I’m turning 21 in 1 week, and I’m having a bit of a crisis over it. I’ve had a crisis about my birthday since my 18th birthday, and I doubt I’ll stop soon, but this one is particularly bad.

I will be able to do nearly everything at 21. There are no more restrictions for me. And that’s scary. It’s scary also because it’s the last birthday I’ll celebrate while still in college, since I graduate in December. Who knows what I’ll be doing a year from now? What job I’ll be working? Where I’ll be living? Definitely not in this apartment, since I move out permanently in 1 month. Probably not Boston. Maybe not even Massachusetts.

But to tie all this back, I don’t feel like I’m “allowed” to feel crisisy about my age yet. I know I’m young. I know my life is just beginning, I have no agency to be sad about being so-called old. But I do.

There’s a social tendency recently to quantify emotions like this. It’s sort of like when your mom used to make you finish dinner because there’s “starving kids in Africa,” even though finishing dinner did absolutely nothing for starving kids anywhere. It’s good, of course, to put things in perspective. But just because someone may have it worse does not mean that your experiences don’t matter.

So, I suppose just because someone is older than me doesn’t mean I can’t be mindful of getting older. The whole idea of “mindfulness” is taking note of one’s feelings and not judging oneself because of them. It’s hard not to judge yourself. It’s hard not to call yourself names. I’ve called myself stupid probably 1000x more than anyone else has ever called me stupid. We are so cruel to ourselves.

This is a lot to dump on this blog all at once, but I don’t write so much anymore so I guess that’s okay. I’ve been feeling down lately and this blog is helpful when I’m feeling down. Maybe that’s partly why my birthday is a bit scary, too. I’m turning 21! I should be happy!

“Should” be happy. “Allowed” to feel. I wish I didn’t feel the need to fulfill expectations so much.

How are you guys today? Does anyone else freak out over birthdays? Sometimes it feels good to forget about perspective and just wallow in your own experiences. Maybe it’s not the most healthy thing to do, but I believe some days of unhealthiness are vital  to a healthy life. It’s like a diet cheat day, but for your mental well being. Is that an insane idea? Probably. I allowed myself to have a “bad day” like I used to have when I was deep in my depression. I skipped work and just spent the afternoon in my bed. Ever since I’ve een feeling gloomy. Maybe this whole paragraph is a bad idea. Whatever, I know for a fact it’s good to write down feelings now and then, and this is how I feel, so whatever.

A year ago, I felt so much worse than I do now. I have that to be thankful for. My 21st year will be happier than my 20th, and that is an undeniably good thing.

Candles

It’s often hard for me to stop thinking. I go in circles. I worry. About everything.

I have to make sure I have enough time to buy chips for the party, because if I don’t buy chips there won’t be any salty snacks, but what if there are too many people for just one bag of chips? What if I don’t have time to buy chips? I have to make sure I have enough time to buy chips, so there’s some salty snacks.

And so on, except it’s usually about more important things than chips. Like, my career. My future. My family.

I get the thoughts to stop the same way you get a song out of your head. If you have a song in your head, you listen to the song and it goes away. If I have a worry in my head, I go through the worrisome situation and it goes away. Saying “Stop!” to myself helps for a moment, but then the thoughts come back like a stubborn case of hiccups.

The less-effective way to make it stop is by telling myself “Who cares?”

There won’t be any salty snacks for the party. Who cares?

And et cetera.

I am glad that I have things that keep me occupied and don’t make me worry. Like blogging. And drawing. Creative writing. And lighting candles.

I love lighting candles. Nothing makes me feel calmer. I love watching the flame dance, I love the smell of the room when they’re lit. I love the color of the wax. I love candles. I can see why they’re used with meditating.

The candles make me feel like everything’s alright, even if there’s no salty snacks. Even if no one cares.

Loop-de-loop

Screaming louder than is ever necessary, stretching voices past their limits. Eyes open, hands tight, feet clamped around purses and the bags of popcorn, all threatening to fall out. After the fall, after the g-forces at the bottom of the dip make the air feel heavy with relief and they take the first inhale in about ten seconds and the car erupts with laughs and quick shouts, giggling girls and boys pretending to almost fall out. The thrill of the climb, the fear of the fall.

The high point, literally and figuratively, happens and is over in less than a minute. The rest is spent in either building excitement, before, or in recovery, after.

The thrill of the climb, the fear of the fall. The higher you go, the scarier it gets.

I thought of this analogy at an amusement park once, where the coaster dropped down and then seemed to try to wind its way back up to the top: It made me think of someone who may have “peaked in high school.” One good thing early on, and then nothing of note afterward

I hate that phrase, by the way. “Peaked in high school.” As if you only have one peak, and must use it wisely. Please.

The shape of your life’s roller coaster may vary. You may have a few peaks. You may have a huge rise—and a hard fall. You may have a few loop-de-loops, though I’m not sure how those fit in the metaphor.

The roller coaster doesn’t give up. We only think it peaks once because we stop watching after we ride it, but it never stops. It peaks over and over again, day in and day out. It keeps going, and going, until it literally breaks down. That’s not good either…you need to know when to break.

So if we shouldn’t view life as one ride of a roller coaster, and shouldn’t view day to day life as an endless cycle of hard effort until we break down…what am I getting at here?

The thing with a roller coaster is that you give up control. You let the cart go where it was designed to, where it was “meant” to go.” You follow the track.

My suggestion is that we should view life like riding a roller coaster that we design as we ride. If we put in the effort, we can make as many peaks as we like. If we need time to relax, we can have a bit of down time.  The tip is to listen to yourself, as the rider, and then respond, as the designer. Listen to yourself—are you ready for a break? Are you ready for a loop? Are you ready for a peak, or are you too afraid of falling?

Listen to yourself, you know? Introverts, we often only have ourselves. We know ourselves best, don’t we? Sometimes only we know what we need—especially when we try to hide those needs.

Don’t let someone else design your coasters. Only you know what you need.