What really matters to me.

Ambition has always been important to me, but now that I’m taking the time to process my trauma I’m also trying to figure out what has been driving this value. I’ve been working towards a double bachelor in economics and sustainable enterprise for two of four years now. The first year was naturally filled with excitement and potential, the second year was notably difficult, and a few weeks into my third year I’m asking myself what I’m doing this all for anyway. I feel the need to look further into my motivations behind applying for these studies, and my dreams for the future as a whole.

I’ve been going through a very turbulent time recently. I say recently, although the reality is that my whole life has been turbulent. But I don’t want to go too much into that right now. My recent emotional disturbance has been triggered by the end of lease for an apartment I was renting over the past year. I mentioned in a previous post that soon after signing this lease I discovered my abusive father lived just down the road. I put a lot of energy into pretending this didn’t bother me as much as it really did, and I was ashamed of the fact that I felt deeply afraid- So afraid that I stopped my daily walks around the scenic suburb, or going to dinners at the restaurants nearby.

I spent my time inside the well secured apartment, or avoided being there altogether. This was really disappointing. I chose to live in that apartment and suburb specifically because I believed it was a safe place and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the streets and restaurants. This avoidance was not a conscious decision. It wasn’t until the last couple of months that I have acknowledged how terrified I was. Rather than acknowledging my emotions I went to the extremes of blocking them out by distracting myself with work, study, and other people in my life. It took me to a dark place where I began to lose my sense of emotions and the natural world.

With the lease being completed as of yesterday I feel a sense of relief, and it’s nice to have closure. I’m proud of myself for not breaking my lease and maintaining responsibility for that. Although I’m also experiencing a great discomfort about my identity. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint why this experience has unraveled my bundle of ambitions, beliefs, and motivations. But I think I’m finding some understanding by embracing the storm inside my heart. I feel more lost than I ever really have. How have I found myself in this position after such a long time of believing I was heading in the right direction? A lack of gratitude.

It’s a strange connection when I think about what truly motivates me.

I have been motivated by my lonely and abusive childhood, and my experience with the youth shelter I lived in on my final year of high school. After leaving my family behind to start fresh and gain control of my future I was shocked to find that youth housing wasn’t a very supportive environment at all. It was oppressive and isolating. We were treated as criminals even though we were all just trying to create a brighter future. I decided that my goal in life was to eventually create a safe space for disadvantaged youth to come to for support.

I knew that I wasn’t ready for a career, so I decided to live a little before taking any serious steps. I knew I wanted to expose myself to new people so figured I would work in retail. That didn’t satisfy my desire for meaningful work, and an opportunity to become a nanny came up so I took that. It was really nice, and reminded me of how much I enjoy caring for people. From there I went on to study a certificate in nursing. I absolutely loved working in aged care nursing, but found it very uncomfortable to work with people who were often cruel and insensitive towards the patients. It seemed that the healthcare industry had become obsessed with business operations and had forgotten the meaning of caring for people who were at their most vulnerable. Looking back, I really believe my heart was broken by this experience.

From that I decided to avoid feeling too deeply about my career objectives. I maintained my dreams of one day providing a safe space for disadvantaged youth, but I put that into a box of ‘one day, maybe’ and went to study marketing. I really don’t know why I thought marketing was right for me, I think it was purely because I have a natural interest and understanding of consumer psychology. While I was working towards the marketing degree I took a job in market research… Which lead me to transfer to my current studies. So how does economics and sustainable enterprise fit in with my original dreams to offer support to disadvantaged youth? In short, it doesn’t.

I had assumed it was going to be a meaningful stepping stone towards finding connections in helping said dreams come true. The reality I have found is that my degree is almost entirely focused on measuring the financial value of consumer products. And if I am to find a career in this field it will be working in government policy or large corporations. It’s place in industry is practically a more difficult and less meaningful version of marketing, which was another version of retail. Which was something I already knew wasn’t for me. This is an unavoidable example of my cognitive dissonance. On one hand I was driven by my desire to find meaning and depth in my career, and on the other hand I was looking in all of the wrong places.

Career wise, I have no idea where to go from here. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that from the immense struggles I experienced, my biggest problems now seem so small. For the first time in a decade I have taken a pause to feel and think at the same time and I’m lost. I’m still working towards my degree, mostly because I’m not sure what else to do for now. But the only thing driving me now is to find meaning out of this past decade. Yesterday, as I was settling in to my home with my partner I felt overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I had. I didn’t appreciate it at all, and I no longer needed most of it. In a strange way this appeared to me as a metaphor for the emotional baggage I’ve been carrying.

It hit me that my approach towards life had lost it’s meaning. I thought of the morally righteous and driven sixteen year old I was when I left the youth shelter. I thought about my feelings  for how lost I was at the mark of my ten year plan to ‘sort myself out’. And I felt sad for the girl who so badly wanted to play a part in positively changing the way society treats disadvantaged youth. Unpacking my collection of material things I thought of how much they would have meant to me when I was moving in to my first apartment from the youth shelter. I once cherished everything I had so much, and here I was with an excess of ‘high quality’ material products that meant nothing to me.

My partner and I were living together for a couple of years before I moved into the apartment last year, and I’ve finally moved back into our home. We were both going through a very difficult time and I decided to move out so that we could work on ourselves before moving further in our relationship. Apparently the universe took full advantage of that decision, and tested every belief I was holding on to. To say it has been humbling is an understatement. We’re now happier and more engaged with our relationship than either of us have been. I’ve found an appreciation for love and support that I never knew existed.

So yesterday, as I was unpacking, I felt a strong desire to give back to the universe for testing the limits of my heart. I went to the youth shelter I lived in all those years ago, where I created my dreams for a brighter future, and I passed on many of the things I’ve acquired over the years to the youth who are now dreaming of creating brighter futures. I didn’t get to meet the young people living there but the youth workers expressed an energetic gratitude to receive ‘my burden of material things’ and I feel just as grateful to give it to these strong young people who are struggling for support.

In letting go, I have no nostalgia for the things I gave away, and in truth I noticed that I felt a deep shame for losing touch with how important it is to be appreciative. I have become the person I needed when I was there. I was a child who suffered abuse, who lived in an oppressive youth shelter, and all I felt I needed in that place was for someone to show me that it was possible to become a kind, open-minded, and loving adult after so much suffering.

I thought of the young people living in the shelter, what they are going through, where they have come from, and where life will take them. My heart hurt for them. It’s scares me to think of the struggles that lie ahead in this world that seeks to oppress people like us. But the fact that I am still moving forward means that my dreams for a brighter future are still alive, and still blossoming. And it means that this can be true for all of us. I’m deeply sorry to my inner child for disregarding my struggles and successes, but most importantly I feel profound gratitude for the simple fact that I’m still moving forward. I don’t know how to turn my experience and suffering into a meaningful career, but I’m embracing the reality that none of it will mean anything until I believe in myself.

Warm regards, xxx

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