The past three weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions. My paternal grandfather, who lived a beautiful and full 100 years, passed away. I also attended my 20-year High School Reunion. Two completely different scenarios, each bringing an array of emotions, and leaving me reevaluating my past, present, and future.
I thought about the long life of my grandfather, the legacy he’d left behind. Grief is debilitating at times, but creates moments that push you to look at your life and contemplate how to make it more meaningful. Trite things, like the new shoes you want or your bad hair day no longer hold relevance.
My 20 year High School Reunion; fun! Before I attended, I went through my yearbook. Gazing at all the pictures and comments people wrote was comical, but got me reminiscing of my past; more specifically, the type of person I was. I wondered, if I could travel back in time and talk to 18 year old Nayantara, what would I tell her?
Toeing the line of adulthood, I was full of myself. I didn’t care what people thought of me, I had a smart-ass mouth, was egotistical, goofy, sincere, loyal, trustworthy, and compassionate about the things that mattered. Like a lot of teenagers and young adults, I was “finding myself.” Along the way of “finding myself,” I made a TON of “mistakes.” I hurt people and got hurt in the process. Events in my life rattled my core, yet I tried to brush them off like as though they didn’t put a dent in me. I became jaded, selfish, and lost. My life went this way for some time. It wasn’t until I walked into my advisor’s office that everything changed.
Dr. Arthur Wint, one of the most influential people in my life. I went to him to talk about my career path and left sobbing my heart out. He said these words to me five minutes into our conversation, “I see pain in your eyes.” My stomach dropped, I knew he saw right through my facade. On the outside, I was put together; on the inside, I was a hot mess. He encouraged me to seek counseling, along with pursuing my Higher Education in Marriage and Family Therapy. I wanted to be an FBI Profiler, and he saw right through that, too; stating I was "too nice” and that he envisioned me touching others with my “empathy and intuition.” This man is and was right about everything he stated; I trusted him, and I am so grateful that I did. His words led me to counseling. Through counseling, I finally “found myself.”
So, what would I tell 18-year-old me?
1. Have Awareness of Who You Are- sounds cliché, but think about it. Do you really know who you are? We stress every day about what we ate or when we’re going to find time to work out, but how often do you ask when you will learn more about yourself emotionally/spiritually? We tend to focus on our physical sensations, but ignore our emotional, spiritual, and mental health.
2. My students say I am a “mind reader,” and I say, “I wish.” I do know that there are patterns we lead, influenced by our pasts. One, which is very common, is settling for the love we BELIEVE we deserve. Yet, most people will say, at their core, that they don’t believe they deserve happiness; I was one of them, and I didn’t even know it. Lucky for me, I was 24 when I realized this, instead of 38. Yet, if I'd known this at 18, what a difference it would have made. Know yourself, truly know yourself. Seeking counseling is a wonderful way to start. Let go of the stigma you hold on to, look at it as a means of understanding yourself.
3. Forgive Yourself and Forgive Others- We are often our own worst critics. We tell others to forgive themselves because they “didn’t know any better,” and then beat ourselves up for making choices that are often subconscious decisions based on Ego. If you knew better, you wouldn't have made the decision in the first place. The fact that you are ashamed means that your soul feels it is wrong. It can take years to recognize your soul, to find that self-awareness. Others that have hurt you probably didn’t do it on purpose. They too were operating from their Egos; the subconscious survival mechanisms they’ve used all of their lives. Holding on to their misfortunes only ties you to their toxic behavior. Let go of the hurt and pain, embrace empathy and compassion for yourself and for them.
4. Be Vulnerable- We often negatively relate vulnerability to weakness. Vulnerability means showing your true self, flaws and all. We live our lives hoping people will see us one way, that they don’t notice our insecurities, our wounds, our hearts. I tell my students to ask their patients, “What’s on your heart today?” I then follow it up with, “I know it’s cheesy, but trust me, it works.” You may be scared to speak from your heart. You may not feel internally that you deserve others to listen to what is in your heart. I want you to know, the ones who truly love you want to, those that will always be there will listen. You are worth their time, and when you speak with your heart, you are expressing your soul’s desire. How amazing and powerful is that!
5. No Regrets, No Shame- Remember that movie The Butterfly Effect (small causes can have larger effects)? Every bad decision, painful circumstance, and toxic relationship made me who I am today. I am proud of the woman I've become. I know I am far from perfect, and I know how to look at that. I will no longer shame myself, beat myself up, or ruminate about something I cannot change. I am human, shame and doubt inevitably creep in. I am okay with that. My self-awareness has taught me to continually foster introspection and re evaluate myself.
LIVE LONG AND PROSPER.