By Ericka Vaughn Byrne
You look tired. I know I know. I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to say something encouraging and uplifting, but the truth is, you look tired. Maybe it’s the smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes, the heaviness of your shoulders, or maybe it’s because I recognize the same thing in myself. January can be rough. We’re coming down from the Holiday trifecta which is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years – it’s like the crash after a sugar high – it felt so good, how could it now feel so bad (shakes her fist towards the sky). How many parties did you go to exactly? How many times did you say no (to yourself) and yes (to everything else)? How much did you go over budget on gifts and food and whatnots because who can really live life without whatnots and thingamados, right? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. And now it is February. How? Already??
I’m not here to judge because let me be clear, I’ve been tired for a while. I’m slowly weaning myself off of the sugar high that is busyness. I noticed I was hurrying home from my workday and I was continuing that hurry into the other parts of my day. I was hurrying to get groceries, I was hurrying to unpack, I was hurrying to go out with friends. Hurrying to spend time with my hubs. I was continuing the hustle and bustle of my job into the rest of my life as if there were no other options. As if that was the way it had to be. When in fact, I am much more in charge of the pace of my life then I realize, or I allow myself to be. I COULD in fact stop. And the world would not fall apart. A relief and a devastation all in the same breath. Relief that I could rest and not lose the life I’d created. Devastating to realize that the role you play in “the world” is often smaller than you’d like to acknowledge. The world does keep moving, and people keep living. You are not the person holding everything up. A relief and a devastation.
I get it. I really do. I am a self-proclaimed Chronic Hustler. Chronic Hustlers raise your hands (I’m here!) Y’all. I hustled to follow my dreams. I had 3 to 4 jobs, leaving well before seven and not arriving back home to sometimes after midnight (hello artist life). I was involved in 10 things at once, and I thought I was creating the life that I wanted, a world in which I desired to live. I have very high, often unrealistic, expectations of myself. There is an internal code of conduct I live by. One that stems from my family of origin, key experiences I’ve had in formative years of my life and growing up as a “millennial” driven by social media and the perfectionistic appearance of all things. Really I was just creating a world in which I could not survive. I hit a wall, and I crashed. Hard.
I was slapped out of my perfectionism because I couldn’t keep those standards. I failed. And I hated it. I always hate being forced to reckon with my frail humanity. Sad on multiple fronts. I’ve done a lot of soul searching (counseling-more on that later), and I’ve come to realize that I only failed at something that was unwinnable. I failed at being perfect because no one is perfect. But I did succeed in being human. My body succeeded in getting to me a message it had been trying to tell me for a long time. “Ericka, you care more for others than you care for us. We’re tired and need rest. We’re weary of this fast-moving train. Sick to our stomachs. Stop this madness. Please.”
And in that dark place, I call it sitting in the mud, Tribian @brenebrown calls it being on the floor of the arena, I wrestled. I wrestled with myself, with my addiction to please and protect others instead of protecting myself. I wrestled with my lack of boundaries, how I’d given others permission to run into me and over me. Again and again. I realized the part I’d had to play. I realized I was drawn to fast pace, high expectation environments. I was addicted to the hustle and bustle.
I understand what it means to hustle to prove yourself and to fight for your place at the “table.” But I feel like there’s something not quite right with that. It dawned on me that maybe I’ve been misdirecting my energy trying to be at the wrong table. The table I belong at has elbow room. Breathing room. Space. It’s fun and light-hearted. It’s freedom. When you choose yourself over everything else you find freedom.
I guess I want to share with you hope. The hope of knowing yourself and owning who you are, fully and truly. The hope of change, of realizing you have the power to change and alter the course of your life. May you find the strength to slow down and be WITH yourself and FOR yourself and TRUE to yourself.
(adapted chapter from Trans-Tagonist follow the link to read more)
All Photos by Erin Channell