IS IT OKAY TO BE OKAY?
A few weeks ago, I was asked to go to London. I felt a jolt of childlike excitement when being asked out on a trip.
As soon as I said yes, things happened fast. I felt once again childlike as I read over a message from him saying,
"The flight tickets are booked. Now Airbnb or hotel?"
Was I really ready tho? Even capable of this? It seems like no matter how old I get, I still feel like a little girl inside. Always wondering if I’m doing things right. Always waiting to be told I’m not.
This moment felt important for the girl I used to be, who always begged her parents for trips growing up. More spesifically, asking them for coming with her on the many places she wanted to explore across the world. The girl who promised herself she always would someday.
Past forward a couple of days, I´m sitting on board on the flight, looking out the window with a breathtaking sight. The sun has went all down and welcomed the moon so all you can see is lights from buildings, streets and cars together making it look like a whole new world from up above. A core memory for the both of us.
The next day, as I looked out the window, I was in the centre of London and this reminded me of another past self. The girl I was exactly a year ago, eager to travel, dreaming of new adventures.
This meant the most to her.
December 31st 2021 was one of the worst days of my entire life. After a particularly hard two last months, it felt like a cruel joke. Ending it the way it did.
I was hopeful, despite a rough couple of months. I had just landed emotionally from coming home from Barcelona, and I was just days away from leaving to Costa Rica. I was rounding the corner, I could see the finish line. I was so close I could taste it. This was supposed to be the most exciting week.
But on December 31st, 2021, I woke up completely hopeless. My depression was winning the fight and I crumbled under the weight. A free fall back to rock bottom after just clawing my way out.
This one felt different though. Like it was the final straw. I could feel it. I was tired. Tired of treading water for so long.
It was either swim or drown.
I couldn’t spend another year down there.
I sat in the bathtub that day, with a headache only the most viscous of breakdowns could produce.
All I could think through the pounding was,
“Not again. Not again. Not again.”
I had felt this way before. Hopeless. Heartbroken. So far removed from the girl I thought I was supposed to be.
But the darkness of this rock bottom scared me into giving it one more try. I knew if I didn’t give it my all, I wouldn’t come back from this.
So I gathered the remainder of fight I had left,
And I chose to swim.
I chose to surrender to this winter of my life.
The pain I endured at the beginning of last year was indescribable. Few words offered comfort. I could only hold onto the belief that this pain wouldn’t last forever. That’s about all I knew. That this heavy heart was temporary.
I only know this by remembering past seasons of heartache and realizing that every year, the memories hurt less.
I had to trust the whisperings inside of me, telling me that I would come out of this okay.
“Someday, you’ll be on the other side of this pain.”
At some point during the harshest winters, we’re faced with the realization that the only way out of the storm is through it.
I had no other choice but to feel the hurt. Sit in my pain. Let it completely consume me.
But there was satisfaction in succumbing to it all. I felt truly human for the first time. The initial process of moving through this pain taught me more about humanity than I ever learned from school or from a religion. My solitude became my sanctuary. A sacred place for me to face my fears.
I learned how to use my body and movement to process stuck emotions. I saw yoga in a brand new light. Dancing in a brand new light. Walking in a brand new light. No longer was I practicing for flexibility or strength, I was using it to feel my emotions entirely.
For weeks, people close to me would find me sobbing in pigeon pose, dancing in our basement or with headphones on and a big fat warm coat.
I moved through what felt like 22 years of stored pain. Pain that wasn’t even mine to begin with.
I bravely walked directly into the storm, and I let the rain soak me to my bones.
But making it through this specific storm required a lot more than crying. I took this journey seriously.
I spent months in therapy, finally admitting how bad things had gotten.
Even more surprising, I really learned how to ask for help. And I learned to receive it.
I needed something to look forward to during this season of life, so reading books became my ritual. I went to bed each night, dreaming of the new book I´d read the next day.
Those books taught me how to love my own company. I crave that hour to myself now. I let my mind wander. I take everything in.
I did all the things. I journaled. Meditated. Ditched my phone for books. I continued therapy. I finally got the help I needed.
After awhile, my schedule didn’t overwhelm me like it used to. I started intentionally picking out my outfits again. Washing my face.
I loved being alone. I loved being in my mind. I developed grace and empathy for myself. I got out of my own way.
I found myself feeling excited with starting my day. To go to therapy.
I hadn’t felt excited in so long.
Slowly, but surely, I was coming back to life. I wasn’t moving through the storm, I was dancing through it.
“It’s okay to not be okay” is a theme I’ve spent years trying to understand for myself.
After being depressed for so long, I think I finally accepted it too.
I think it’s a message society has been trying to send as well. In the era of mental health awareness, it’s something you hear more often.
“It’s okay to not be okay.”
2022 was really the year that I finally understood that to be human is to feel the entire spectrum of emotions. Not just the good ones.
As a highly sensitive person, it was a big deal for me to come to terms with this. That the goal isn’t to always be happy.
So I shook hands with my demons, and fully embraced my role as someone who was hardly ever okay.
And truthfully, I was okay with that.
But then one day, you’re looking out the window and you´re in London. And you´re reminded of the girl you were a year ago, crying in her bathtub, longing for the moment you’re currently living.
One day, without being aware of it, you realize you finally made it to the other side. You look up and the storm has cleared.
You see that your work paid off.
And you realize that for the first winter in 3 years ... you feel okay.
Is that okay?
Is it okay to be okay?
Is it okay to sit in the sun for awhile and enjoy the warmth on our skin?
Even if another storm is inevitable?
For some reason this feeling was even harder to reconcile with.
The feeling of being okay.
When we’re not okay, we have little to lose. It’s comfortable there. It’s familiar. It’s predictable.
But to state that I’m at peace, that I feel content ... that’s terrifying.
It’s vulnerable. It’s completely unpredictable. Knowing the other shoe could drop at any moment.
Watching the theater fill in, people anxiously waiting to see your downfall.
Walking out of the storm often requires as much bravery as walking in.
All I know is, one year ago, I was at my lowest of lows. I was a shell of myself.
But today, I’m okay.
So for that hopeless girl I was at the beginning of 2022, I have to bask in the okay-ness.
She deserves her moment of sun.
We get so lost in the pursuit of greatness that we miss out on the beauty of just being okay.
It seems like it has to be one of the other. We have to be thriving or surviving.
What about just being where your feet are?
What if we took time to appreciate all the things we once dreamed of having?
I think the London trip hit me the way it did because there are two past versions of me who would do anything to see that.
To know that day finally came.
That girl on 31st December dreamed of me. I saw her light at the end of the tunnel.
A vision of myself on stable ground. A version of myself who knew peace.
Well, I’m her now. Why am I already planning my next move? Why am I already assessing what I don’t have?
Is it okay if I just stay here for awhile with my London trip before launching myself into “what’s next?”
Is it really okay to be okay?
Lately, we are infuriated with the opposite message. That being “okay” is the same as being complacent.
That we should always be aiming for the maximum level of success. That anything less, is settling.
We’re being fed by social media, by thought leaders and Instagram graphics that this is not the time to settle. This is the time to work, to monetize, to make something of yourself.
But haven’t we been doing that? Aren’t our years on earth enough proof?
Since we got here, we’ve been making something of ourselves. At what point do we get to stand back and take a look at what we have made?
I don’t want to wait until I’m 60 and retired to see what I became. I believe my 22 year old self deserves the same level of introspection and reverence that we save for the end of our lives. I deserve to see who I’m becoming.
It’s all just a short trip. Life. And my biggest fear is getting to the end of it and realizing I missed it all, always searching for more. Always wanting what was next.
A few weeks ago, I asked my friend what she was thankful for and she responded,
“That right now, my problems are small problems.”
That really stuck with me. What a beautiful thing to appreciate. When your problems are small and not crushing.
Being okay doesn’t mean you don’t have problems or you won’t. It means for a minute, the downpour let’s up.
You can wipe your eyes. You can see clearly. And that clarity makes your problems seem less towering.
After so long in the dark, everything means so much more.
Being okay is finding joy in the mundane. The routine of my morning coffee. Brushing my hair softly, being present in the act of self care. It’s going to McDonald’s at 11pm by myself because I can. It’s having the energy to make meals for my family, and try new recipes again. The feeling of being inspired after months of a creative rut.
Being okay is having hope for the future again.
This was the year I finally let myself be okay. Even when misery felt more familiar. I reminded myself that it’s okay to be okay.
It’s okay to relax. It’s okay to breathe. It’s okay to stand on solid ground.
I gained perspective. I faced some big fears. I took care of myself.
And now, I just want to sit in that sun for a little while longer.
What I’m most proud of this year, is how I rediscovered my lust for life.
In January last year, I was scanning my brain for a way out of it. All of it. I was done. I was drowning.
Now, I’m scared I won’t live long enough to read all the books I want to read, discover my favorite songs, or travel to all the places I want to see with my own two eyes.
I want to learn. I want to fall in love over and over and over again. With people. With art. With my body. With smell and flavors. With trees and rocks! More of the little things.
Being okay slowly reminds you the joys of the human experience. It helps you fall back in love with life again.
And coincidentally, that’s where without realizing it...
you go from okay to thriving.
Swim or drown.
I’m floating now.