Living Abroad

What is courage? The benefits of breaking yourself open

Feeling sad, feeling scared, feeling small, feeling broken, these aren’t just necessary feelings, they’re forward-moving ones. They’re the ones that change us.

I’ve met a lot of incredibly inspiring people over the past several years. From barefoot backpackers to headstrong hitchhikers and bad-ass businesswomen to carefree creators, I’ve basked in the glory of many humans I consider to be the bravest of the brave.

For a long time, I believed these people were courageous because they carved out their own paths and dove headfirst into their passions without hesitation. But I’m starting to understand their courage in a different light.

It’s not their dedication to their passions that’s brave, nor their drive to do things differently. I now see that their courage lies in their ability to transform—their never-ending desire to break themselves open and metamorphize into someone completely different over and over again. Their ability to leave behind pieces of their previous life (people, places, and things) and accept themselves as transient beings who were born to be in a constant state of change. 

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”

—Henry Bergson

The people in my life who I deem to be living in true abundance—with balanced minds and hearts—have all accepted that life’s challenges, the ones that break and shake us, should never be fought against. Feeling sad, feeling scared, feeling small, feeling broken, these aren’t just necessary feelings, they’re forward-moving ones. They’re the ones that change us. They’re the ones that bring us to a state of happiness and peace within ourselves.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve tried to be free. To live freely. To drink all I want, eat what I want, live how I want, escape whenever things get overwhelming, hop to a new city when I feel restless, go out on benders to fill myself up, focus on fun and not on what I needed to thrive. For years and years I’ve lived with an emptiness, a loneliness, an ache in my bones to be loved. I felt it physically deep in my stomach. I heard someone use the term “hungry, empty ghost” recently and I’ve never felt more understood. I wasn’t a person. I was slices of the different people I kept in my life to make me feel full. 

It wasn’t until I decided to break myself, to change how I was living completely, that I realized just how sick I was. It’s been a process. 5 years of starting to chip away at problems that have existed since childhood and then being too scared to follow through with truly destroying my life and reworking it. To be honest, my total unravelling didn’t start until about 10 months ago when, during a depressive episode, I put my foot down and realized I had to find a way to feel whole or I was going to die.

Since then I’ve changed everything. I’ve focused on me. I’ve focused on feeling. Really feeling my feelings. I cry all the time now—28 years of tears I’ve bottled are finally being released. I’m fucking proud of myself for coming this far. I’m not a shell anymore. I’m not a Pacman ghost, eating and drinking and drugging away the hurt. I’m full. And I’m not afraid of letting go of things that no longer serve the me I am today.

The highs I used to get from partying, they’re nothing in comparison to the highs I get from lifting weights, or writing a beautiful poem, or publishing an article that makes other people feel fuller. The highs I used to get from dating toxic people, they’re nothing compared to the highs I get from nailing a barre chord, or hiking next to rapids, or a deep sober conversation with my friends, or knowing I’m on a path to a career and life I’m in love with.

It took a lot of breaking to get here, but I’m so happy to have broken myself. And the chick I am now? She’s worlds different than the girl I was before. I actually lost a couple parts of myself I loved in the process, but the ones that grew in their place are pretty damned special, and better suited to where I am in life now. 

To become one of the backpackers or hitchhikers or businesswomen or artists I admire so much, I’m having to accept that life is in a constant state of flux. Every second I’m changing, but really, that’s the most beautiful part of being alive. The most courageous people are the ones willing to feel every second of their lives, good and bad. I’m not there totally, but I’m getting there, one chip at a time.

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