Be Truthful, Gentle, and Fearless

The title of this post is a quote from Gandhi. It’s a quote I saw on Pinterest at some point not too long ago, and it instantly inspired me. As most quotes do, this left me feeling introspective about what exactly these words meant to me. My interpretation and meaning may not be the same as yours, but that’s fine. That’s how these things work.

Truthfulness, to me, has a lot to do with vulnerability. I’m not always good at that. Acting and theatre were a huge part of my childhood and growing up. It’s no coincidence that I am comfortable with using acting as a safety net. Throughout my life, I’ve made it through social situations and meeting new people and surviving group projects by being a person that I knew would do well in the situation at hand. This has always left me feeling disconnected and distant from a lot of people I’ve met in my life. I still pick up on times that I’m doing it. It’s just this past year that I’ve really been feeling progress towards being myself regardless of what situations I find myself in. It’s made a big difference, and I’m really proud of myself for learning how to be truthful to myself. This may not have made much sense, but that’s okay.

Gentleness is often construed as an unhelpful quality, and we are told that we have to be tough to “make it” or that we need to pretend like nothing gets under our skin. Not caring has become regarded as being so  “cool” and nonchalant. Not caring has been praised, preached, and pretended. While there is certainly  something to be said about being resilient, I think there is an aversion or maybe even a stigma to caring too much about anything these days. In reality, what I really admire is people caring a whole darn lot. It’s brave. It’s inspiring. It’s passionate.

And, fearlessness? Where can that even fall into my normal life – I’m not a soldier or a missionary or a cutthroat journalist or a revolutionary.

I’m not used to thinking that fearlessness has ever really been a concept that I can play into my own life, especially not day-to-day. Sure, there may be plenty of things I’m scared of (disappointing people I love, intimidating professors, and the classic show-up-to-class-and-there’s-an-exam-I-knew-nothing-about nightmare), but what am I really fearful of? I think, at least at this point in my life, the things I really feel fearful about seem to be more abstract and unknown and undefined (maybe the abstract and unknown is scary itself).

My life is on the edge of, well, a lot. 2014 is one big, challenging, and momentous year for me. This year, I will be (somehow) making it through a semester with four 4-credit, writing-intensive courses; I will be graduating; I will be getting married (and planning the whole thing); I will be moving out of my parents’ place; I will be getting a new job (or two?); I will be apartment hunting in the fall for a second place for me to move to this year. The list can go on as long as I let it. There’s a lot that’s coming at me, whether I feel ready for it or not.

This past year, I’ve tried to become more open to being uncomfortable and being outside of my comfort zone. Looking at what I’ve been through in college, and the year ahead of me, I’m starting to think that life is just one big challenge of our comfort zones and limitations. In 2015, I’m sure there will be a whole slew of new decisions for me to make and things for me to adjust to. And the same in 2016. It’ll probably never end. Knowing this, accepting it, and standing up tall to face the challenge (even if I don’t “feel ready”) is what fearlessness means to me.

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Stress and Resilience

(First of all, I may or may not be writing this post as a break from cramming information into my head for a final that is in one hour because if I don’t I just might explode.)

I can’t even believe this semester has passed so quickly. I feel like I’ve worked ridiculously hard to get through it and also feel like I didn’t really even do anything. It’s hard to believe that my first and last year in my university’s Chorale is halfway through, and even harder to believe that I have ONE SEMESTER LEFT of my undergraduate education ever. 

This is awesome and scary. I have lots of things coming up and I can’t even imagine what 2014 is really going to be like for me. I now have to get started on actually fleshing out my “career plan,” including applying to graduate programs and myomassaology institutes and dealing with whatever becomes of my personal life. It’s all exciting, and it’s all daunting. 

But isn’t that at least a little bit of what keeps us going, as humans? Being excited and scared at the same time – what else would motivate us to do anything? This is a condition I need to become better at embracing. I want to. Technically, this “good stress” is termed “eustress.” Did you know that people who perceive stress as a good thing/positive motivator actually had no physiologically harmful reaction to stress? All that adrenaline stuff, the cortisol and narrowing of veins and rising of blood pressure and increase of heart rate and all sorts of hormonal reactions and autonomic nervous system stuff either doesn’t happen or doesn’t negatively affect you if you embrace what stress can do for your life.

More easily said than done, I know, but it’s a great concept. It’s possible to make stress healthy for you. My favorite resource of this information is this TEDtalk by Kelly McGonigal. In it, there is a quote that I just absolutely adore and want plastered all over everything I own:

“When you choose to see stress as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And, when you choose to connect with others through that stress, you create resilience.”

 

Just something about the idea of “the biology of courage” is terribly poetic. Resilience is a fundamental concept in my studies as a Wellness Promotion and Personal Development major. It is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty; it is toughness; it is elasticity. I strive to be resilient. So many times in my life I have claimed myself a victim of the consequences of stress and fear and depression and anxiety – if I can crack the whip and make my physiology work for me, and not allow myself to claim helplessness in the face of stress, then I don’t know what can stand in my way. 

 

One of my final projects for an 8-credit monster class. Appendices A-T (should have even more – I left out a couple things). Finally complete!