Living On Record

Wednesday, July 20, 2022 / 11:59 PM

We're almost eight months into 2022, and I never set a "new year's goal" for myself. Not a "resolution," per se – but every year, for the past few years, I've picked a word to live by for the year as a sort of philosophy for how I wanted to approach life. Last year was "encourage" with the goal of maximizing the ways I show up to support others. 

As this year began, I thought a lot about what word I wanted to "live by," and I came up with ... well, nothing. "I'll think about it later," I told a friend who also did something similar. 

Later came and went, and I still didn't come up with anything. It's now July, almost August, and I still have ... nothing. And "nothing" is not a good word to live by: it's a feeling, an emotion, a state that I've been finding myself in lately. I can't figure out if I haven't been able to come up with anything because I'm burnt out or tired, or if there's something greater at play here: my own mental health.

A few years ago during a leadership program, we took these tests to determine the types of birds we are in the workplace. The goal was to understand our own strengths and weaknesses, and also understand the strengths and weaknesses of our colleagues (while also recognizing that the strongest ecosystem is made up of a diversity of birds). We took these long tests, and were presented with results that reflected both the type of bird we were in the workplace, as well as the type of bird we were in our non-work lives. I was identified as an eagle and a dove, which I was told at the time was an odd combination. It made sense though, when I really thought about it: I'm decisive at work (by nature of the work I've done, I didn't have a choice), and could also carry a bit of a temper when my expectations wasn't met. But outside of work, I tended to be a dove: introverted, a team player, a peacemaker – the perfect reflection of a Type 2

The challenge was to find a way to melt the positive attributes of both sides into all parts of my life, and while I think I've been successful in being more dove-like at work, I am pretty sure I have no idea now to be an eagle outside of the office.

I have this weird sort of insecurity of never having fit into cliques growing up. My alopecia, as a child, made me withdraw from the world quite a bit, and by the time I hit high school and was actually making friends, I was always worried that people wouldn't stick around ... so I focused on quantity over quality. When I look back at the friends I made in high school and who I'm still friends with today from those days, it's clear to me that I should've invested more in maintaining those relationships at the time. (I'm grateful we've all come so far!)

But because of all of this, I can see where my dove-like tendencies stand out. I try to be a peacemaker because I don't want to upset people, but sometimes that comes off as being apathetic – which also can upset people who assume I just don't care. When I sense I've upset people, I am pulled back to those times as a child where my dad would yell and we'd be encouraged to apologize rather than stand up for ourselves. It was always easier, I was told, to just say sorry and accept I was the problem. 

All of those things have re-enforced bad habits in me as an adult. I find myself, especially lately, shrinking to the point of disappearing – all while wondering how I should ask for someone to be a witness to my life (or whatever is left of it). And then I think: maybe that's it. Maybe "witness" is the word to live by – how do I move through the world in a way that would make it impossible to disappear? At the end of the day, isn't that something we all sort of wonder? Who will be there to witness my life? 

I don't have an answer right now.

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