I am totally and completely aware of “fads” that occur within the culture of our youth. Whether it be viral Tik-Tok videos, popular YouTube streamers, flipping bottles so they land right side up, you name it. The perk of working with a lot of youngsters is that they happily introduce me to all sorts of fads, so I can sound “not like a millennial”, whatever that means.
A recent point of popularity that’s captured my attention is the proclivity to describe oneself as “annoying”. As apart of my therapeutic treatment plan, I assess and encourage exploration of one’s internal narrative, exploring the person they experience themselves to be. It is also easily the most uncomfortable dialogue for a kiddo to sit with. The most common deflection of this exploration is “oh, I’m annoying”.
Since when did it become conventional for our youth to paint themselves in such a defeating light? To identify most closely with “annoying”, is like asking yourself to run a marathon without shoes. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and all too awkward. I find myself looking around for the culprit of this popular point of identification.
Is it within the parent’s culture to communicate the message “you’re annoying, stop behaving like a child”? To be fair, it’s quite the fad for parents to post pictures of their children rocking fashionable clothes, obtaining certain achievements, and overall, not embracing the silliness children are meant to embody all over Facebook and Instagram. Rarely do we see posts about quirky interactions between youngsters, emotionally unregulated outbursts, or the “oopsies” that notoriously plague the art of growing up. The obnoxious part about this fad is that it could rob kiddos from the privilege of being, well, youngsters.
Or perhaps the culprit is the culture of our education system. The ever-increasing plight to stuff our youth into a metaphorical box of complacency and average test scores. If you have never heard about the Common Core Standards, consider yourself lucky, or perhaps naïve to the strict nature of our education culture. It’s chalk full of “shoulds” and ineffective curricula that has cost America billions. Teachers have been placed under insurmountable pressure to embrace this ineffective model of teaching, which has left them utterly exhausted and burnt out. This is when I begin to hear sounds of impatience with our kiddos in the classroom, which fuels an internal dialogue of “I’m annoying if I have unmet needs or am confused”. Questions are not encouraged in our classrooms anymore. Only stringent cooperation.
So, let’s see here. We’ve got trend-seeking parents, conformity-fueled education systems, and youth hyper-focused on their social media portrayal. Where in the World is there room for childhood? For the messiness that is meant to inspire growth-oriented humans? For the generation of uniqueness and the encouragement to embrace all that comes with growing into well-adjusted and functioning adults? I certainly don’t see much wiggle room.
It’s a therapeutic point I strive to foster as a clinician that I generate a space dedicated for room to explore what it means to be the client. The child. The human. I am passionate on cultivating a safe and inviting space for the messiness of self-exploration and identification. It is extremely vital to a kiddo’s development to be given grace for the oopsies, validation for the hardships of being a little person existing in an expansive World, and room to figure out how they want to be known, not only to others but themselves. We must meet our children where they are at first and foremost. Set the trendsetting drive aside for the time being and recognize childhood is hard. Realistic expectations have evolved into idealistic expectations, and it’s no wonder mental health deterioration is currently plaguing our youth.
Friendly reminder that “annoying” is an adjective attached to behavior, not the essence of a person.
Sure, humans have a capacity to illustrate annoying behaviors from time to time. However, leaning on and adopting the trait of annoyance is like waving the white flag of defeat. Dig deep, my beautifully imperfect humans, as you are far more worthy than “annoying” allows you to take credit for. Challenge the blanket terms our World’s culture pressures us into accepting as our truth. We are meant to recognize and embrace our complexity, not the all-or-nothing “fads” tied throughout idealistic expectations.
What did that little yellow thing represent though?
It represented the freedom that accompanies innocence. I think that’s the bulk of it. Innocence supports a feeling of safety, a veil of solitude away from the big bad wolves out there. I long for the consistency and security that those whom I admired fervently gave. All of the sudden, my “big girl” goals are achieved, and I’m left looking around, craving for my next moves to be rolled out gracefully before me. I did the education thing, and my equestrian show partner dedicated eleven years to the competition limelight. I married the love of my life, and we’re dedicated to nurturing our financial blueprints so we can grow and blossom in the ways we crave.
There’s a sense of loneliness when we witness the closing of chapters for ourselves and others. Whether it be tearfully sending our children off to boot camp as they embark on their own dreams, or kissing grandparents farewell, with a pinky promise to see them on the other side. Promising your aging show horse a comfortable retirement, longing for one more ride, one more dance in the show pen, just one more…
How much heavy can a heart withstand? How do we carry on and “fight the good fight” when our souls are bored of the burdens and exhausted from the heartache? You see, I identify as a therapist, yet I securely know that some answers are not mine to hold. I sit with clients, normalizing the bravery that is admitting “I don’t know” at times of immense vulnerability. When we don’t know the next steps or the next “to-do” to accomplish a sense of peace or fulfillment, it’s a challenge not to panic from the sense of loneliness. Boredom that accompanies the sensation of wandering aimlessly through our routines can creep in and fester.
Here’s what I rely on and am leaning quite heavily on as I carry out my responsibilities with a heavy heart and a tired soul. I know there are three things guaranteed in this reality: the beginning of life, the ending of life, and change that happens in between. I’m thankful this heaviness holds the promise to be temporary. I’m reminding myself to focus on my foot being place in front of the other. Pushing myself, knowing the only way through this heartache is forward. I am fixating my gaze on the glimmers surrounding me: my loving rock of a husband, my tenacious family, my compassionate work crew, my quirky kitty and her fascination with the movement of water.
Drip Drip Drip
Life carries on to her own tempo. Invest in her promise of reaching new terrains, new opportunities, and novel chances to embrace what makes you feel alive and whole.
I love my cat for a number of reasons. Her quirks never seem to disappoint squeaking a smirk from my lips, even on the dullest of days. One of her idiosyncrasies includes sitting in the soaked shower, just under the showerhead promptly after I finish my nightly cleanse. The leftover droplets cascade below, scattering delicately around her. Each time one lands, she gazes quizzically at the place the droplet expanded into a uniformed puddle surrounding her toes. Her gaze does not lose its complexity, no matter how many beads of water fall below.
Drip Drip Drip
Life is one of the most impressive marathon runners. She sets her pace and sticks to it. Seconds tick methodically, routinely, and do not skip a beat. She carries this pace without tiring, without pausing. Carries on into the abyss, unconcerned with PRs or possible stumbles along the way.
I envy her ability to keep the pace.
I’ve noticed I’ve been watching life run her marathon, feeling as if I’m cemented to the sideline. Perplexed by the notion she continues on at this pace while I feel mesmerized by her fluidity. Perhaps this is how my cat feels as the droplets scatter about.
Maybe I’m bored with the burdens I’m carrying. As life has run her race, I feel as if I’ve been running alongside, carrying around the same yellow backpack and that shit gets heavy. This bright yellow backpack was so shiny and appealing in the beginning. The neon reflectors kept me safe as I ran in the dark. Its snug straps supported my body and propelled me forward. As the race carried on, as did time, this shiny yellow backpack began to weather from the seasons. It began to rip from the wear and tear. At first, the tears were manageable and small. A piece of duct tape could quickly do the trick. But now, oh now there’s not enough duct tape in the world to piece it back together. The yellow sheen has faded, and the reflectors have fallen off. The marathon continues on, life moves forward at her methodical pace, yet I feel burdened. Tired of the worries I’ve been toting for what seems like something past its expiration date.
Rationally, I’ve learned about the consequence of time. To live means to age, and to age means to cease one day to exist. I know this, yet I’m finding my heart grappling with the idea of forever. Desperate to do a deal with the Devil if that meant renewing the bright yellow backpack to its formal glory days.
Drip Drip Drip
How does one invest in their own narrative while bearing witness to the conclusion of others they cherish so deeply? Yes yes, I am very familiar with the phrase “it’s OK to not be OK”. It is a favorite hashtag of mine on social media. A thought of reassurance for others yet does little to console a soul who is mourning for what once was.
I miss that yellow backpack.
What did that little yellow thing represent though?
*I was recently asked to respond to the prompt “What nature taught you”. I thought I would share my tid-bit in response*
Nature has taught me the necessity of reboots. Recharges. Restarts.
Life has a funny way of locking our perspectives into a tunnel-vision mindset. Hyper-focused on the next day, the next stressor, the next thing to worry about. Along the way, we can get stuck in the quicksand of this mentality.
Step into nature, and it is the most consistently nurturing teacher. She’s always there, compassionately cultivating the changing of seasons. The waxing and waning of the weather, the flowers, the leaves dancing in the trees.
Reboots are vital to our well-being, just as the changing of seasons is necessary for the health of the natural world.
Recharging encourages rest.
Restarts encourage moments to pause and take a step back.
So, step into nature often, friends. She’s there to remind us of our humanness and the vitality that accompanies reboots and recharging.
A lot of running happens in therapy.
Running in circles, from the past, away from emotional turmoil. Deflecting away from the hard stuff, the pain, the grief that we all encounter at some point in our journeys. Somewhere along the way, some emotions began to embody the big, bad monster that lurked under our beds as children. Something we more subconsciously than not pull the metaphorical sheets over our heads in feeble attempts to cower from.
Perhaps we are so fond of running because we hate the ending of most everything that is “good”. The conclusion of a relationship, the closing of a life chapter, the death of a loved one. Unless the ending is on our terms based on our clocks, we want nothing to do with it. Even the ending of a TV series or the conclusion of a good book can send pings of longing and hints of sadness dancing delicately down our spines. A witty commercial once termed this experience falling into a “show-hole” and I still giggle at the accuracy.
I wish I could convince others (and myself) that running from “the end” is only going to leave us exhausted, lost, and with no sense of satisfaction.
Grief is apart of the human condition. I feel like someone left this out of the “How to be Human” handbook. It’s the balance that is necessary for a full life. Just as joy and the full extent of enjoyable emotion is inherently ours to experience, grief is just as required. We forget to acknowledge the beauty of grief and the purpose of this heartbreaking sensation. Perhaps this is due to the breath being knock from our lungs and the punch in the gut that follows.
Can anyone guess why grief is a side effect of humanness?
Grief exists because love ensues.
Personally, I think the most courageous act a person can do is to love deeply following the experience of grief. We begin our lives with innocence enveloping love. Innocence serving as a protective barrier away from the existence of conclusions. Love only means connection, security, snuggles, and togetherness. As we grow, the harshness of reality chips away at this barrier, some quicker than others. However, there is typically enough innocence left over for our “first loves”. I believe we can all envision a memory of either experiencing or witnessing a “first break-up”. The dramatics of it may make you cringe, so sorry if it did.
I’d like to fill in the blank in your “How to be Human” handbook.
Grief will come, and the wave of its entirety will knock you senseless. For a moment, or perhaps a block of time, you may not know what is up or down. The sensation of emptiness and longing will leave you gasping for air. You may clutch at your sides in a futile attempt to hold your broken heart together.
Grief will come because love ensues. This the beauty in the chaos. This is the rainbow after the storm. What a privilege it is to love deeply and to be apart of a story that exceeds our wildest dreams. I wish we could have a say over the conclusions that we care most about, but these conclusions are simply not meant for us. The extent of our power as humans only reaches so far.
Let yourself feel it. Let yourself cry. Allow yourself to crumble amongst those whom you cherish. Validate your gamut of emotions that will wax and wane, for these are yours and they are meaningful.
“For what is grief but love persevering.”