the importance of community in personal trials

I was really set on doing a post about my September favorites – but I think this is a lot more important than products I’m encouraging you to buy. This is better encouragement! You know, for the gritty, hard times of life. I’m going to start by telling you a little about myself.

I fear change. I used to say that I hated it, but that’s not really the case – I fear change, and it’s a crippling fear. There is so much comfort in having the people in your life, your goals, and your desires categorized and filed and in place. It is so nice to be able to know where your home is, who your people are, and what your “plan” is. But then, luck (or as us religious folk would say, God) comes and shakes things up. We are routine creatures. And life, in its most poetic form, is anything but that.

I haven’t written here since the beginning of the month, because I didn’t know what I thought or felt about so many things in my life. So many changes were happening all at once – on the personal, academic, and social fronts. I felt like a different Niara. Who was this girl? The one numb and pessimistic and broken? I’m a Dean’s list student! I thought. I’m a catch! I told myself – so why was everything simultaneously up in the air and falling apart? And why did I try to to file away and store my emotions instead of looking my problems in the eye, and dealing with the feelings I had about them?

The conclusion I’ve thus drawn, is this: we hold ourselves to a standard we don’t force others to reach. I am so quick to commend someone else for letting themselves feel, and acknowledging their need – their right – to break down. I was afraid to be honest with myself about how confused I felt about things that had always been so constant – and that kept me from sleeping, from writing, from being my whole self and living life the way I knew I wanted to.

Humans, at their core, are not only routine, but social creatures. I’d lost my routine, and in my sadness I allowed myself to be anti-social. But I quickly learned that wasn’t the way to pull myself back together. Here’s something else about me: I’m fiercely independent. If I think I can do it by myself, I usually will. But luck/God has humbled me greatly in this mentality. Because if you want to know what solo-Niara looks like, I can show you my face after some really rough nights. But community and communion-centered Niara looks a lot like a woman who is honest with herself, who allows herself to feel, and recognizes the bravery in perhaps not having it all together.

You, Dear Reader, don’t have to have it all together. Don’t feel bad for needing your friends, your family, your peers. Self-soothing and self-love are invaluable, but so is the knowledge that you weren’t meant to do all the hard parts of life by yourself. We so glorify those who don’t need anyone else – but ask any successful (and truthful) person how they got to where they are now, and thankfulness for other people will flow from their lips effortlessly. It’s scary – I know – trusting people with knowing and hearing about your insecurities is scary. But the ability to be vulnerable is sheer bravery. The ability to be straight up with yourself and say, “I need comfort, I need love,” is nothing to be ashamed of. Because while you may be able to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders in pain and baggage, encouragement and support from your loved ones makes that burden so much lighter. And it’s more fun with them, too.

I’m learning that bravery comes in the form of communicating vulnerability. Strength lies in the ability to say, “I can’t do this all by myself.” Even getting those words out, stating the fact that we are not all-capable and all-powerful in our trials of life, is arduous. Remember what I was saying earlier, about comfort and routine? While they help us lay the foundations of our character – they also allow us to stagnate. Growth often leads to growing pains. Let me explain it like this: teething as infants is some of the worst pain we ever experienced. And we don’t even remember it! But guess what – now we can chew. I feel like that was a silly metaphor – but do you see how something so beneficial (like chewing, or maybe letting things go) is caused by pain (like baby teeth, or maybe moving to a new place or grieving over a relationship), and it’s a pain that in the long run, won’t be remembered – or at least, won’t still hurt. What will be remembered, though, are the gains we made in relationships with the people that selflessly loved us through those growing pains. We’ll remember, too, the advice they gave, or even the physical reassurance they provided without words.

One of the best ways to get to that? Simply asking. I’m flawed, and so are you, and the other 7 billion people on this globe. The people that care for you won’t always know that you’re hurting unless you say: “Hey, I’m hurting. I really need you right now.” I wholly understand the desire to seclude yourself, to not ask for help, to go through it alone. But you don’t have to. You don’t have to fear change, or loss, or whatever it is you fear, alone. Do it with someone by your side. It won’t be easy, but so often people will shine joy into you through your despair and tough seasons of life. And if you don’t have those people, or that person, I would love to be! It’s okay to be strong and brave and kick-ass (I pride myself on those qualities) – but it’s also okay to be the complete opposite of that, too.

-till next time! Niara

PS: my anon box and email are always open for encouragement, friendship, and love! get that info here

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