It’s pretty amazing what diving head first into the unknown can do for your psyche. To say it’s all been magic over here would be a lie, but I can tell you that leaving behind everything we know has brought me back to myself in a way I haven’t felt in a long long time. I don’t believe I was some shitty person before we started this journey, and I’m not naive enough to believe that my growth as a person is done after a single month of traveling, but I genuinely feel different and better already.
Everything really began to click yesterday for me, and while I was planning on reflecting in this space after we had hit a full month of traveling, I had no idea what that would mean. I guess I thought I’d be able to share with you how it’s really been with all of my belongings fitting into one small carry on suitcase, what it’s like to be in a country where you don’t speak the language or how mine Zack’s marriage has benefited from more time together. I could absolutely share thoughts and feelings on all of those topics and more, but the shift I’m feeling is more powerful than all of that combined.
I’ve realized for some time that I’m a pretty intense person to be around, to be friends with and I’m sure to be married to, but I never really understood why. I felt as though I was always going above and beyond for people, making myself available at anytime for a friend in need and yet my turn over rate for friends has been comparable to the workforce of a fast food restaurant in a college town. Friends who I genuinely care about have come and gone over the years in my adult life and I’ve always been puzzled as to why.
Maybe it’s being in a new country, feeling lonely or maybe it’s just having more time to sit and reflect now that Zack is home with us and around to help with Owen more, but shortly into being here I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in fact the problem. I am the common denominator in all of my friendships and there had to be something I was/am doing wrong. To be honest, the whole thing hit me like a ton of bricks. Zack has had a lot of heartfelt conversations with me over the past few weeks, he’s been great at reassuring me that I’m not a horrible person but has also been really honest with me about my expectations for friendships.
The thing I said about going above and beyond for my friends is true, but what I didn’t realize until now was that it was always at a cost to them. I’ve always been keeping score and tallying up what I had done for them and making note of what they should do for me. It’s embarrassing to say, but it’s true and it’s not what true friendship is. Of course I believe that any relationship is a two way street and that if you’re consistently putting in more than you’re taking out of it something needs to shift. The shift is what I’m working on. My immediate reaction after confronting someone and not getting the response I had hoped for has honestly been to shut off (hence the turn over on friendships). It’s not healthy and it’s not productive.
It has taken some deep soul searching to realize that my expectations are what need to shift. It’s not about cutting people out of your life because they might not be able to give as much to a relationship as you in that particular moment. It’s about the ebb and flow. Taking people as they are, giving without incentive and knowing when to pull back and give them space too. It’s one thing to get rid of physical baggage, but it’s another to let go of emotional baggage. These “failed” friendships are something I’ve been carrying around for a long time and defining myself by. I’ve felt angry, hurt and confused for so long, and it feels really incredible to accept those instances for what they were, reach out if it feels right, forgive myself and move forward. It’s freeing.
My point in sharing all of this isn’t in hopes that an old friend reads this and reaches out. I want to lead by example for Owen. I want him to have meaningful relationships that thrive. I want him to have enough strength to stick through the hard times rather than jumping ship because that feels easier. I want him to give without expecting anything in return. I want him to be able to look back, in most cases, and feel confident about his actions when it comes to friendships. And I want him to be able to forgive himself when he messes up (because he most certainly will).