Yesterday I turned 38, so I’ve got age and growth on the brain. Since I quit drinking almost a year ago, it’s almost like I can feel myself growing in light speed. In a lot of ways, I think drinking stunts us. By it’s very nature, it allows us to periodically ignore whatever we’re feeling – anxiety, discomfort, rejection, boredom – instead of working through those human conditions and growing and learning from those moments. In a lot of ways, I really believe that my growth stopped when I was 18 and went away to college. There was so much happening at that time that I wanted to ignore by way booze – living in a dorm with a bunch of girls with wildly different backgrounds than my own, frat parties with two means of admittance 1) being on the “list,” meaning you were accepted into the sorority co-hosting, or 2) the guys out front thought you were hot enough to sneak in (omg, CRINGE), losing my high school boyfriend who I thought (and actually is) the love of my life, the freshman 15, my own “me too” moment – I could go on and on about the things that brought me “discomfort” that year. All of that happened but instead of working through the feelings associated with those experiences, I numbed out at any chance I could. As a freshman girl at an enormous state school, opportunities were abundant.
That kind of repeated avoidance over the course of the next twenty years meant that in many respects I was still that insecure 18 year old girl when I decided to face my life with all its discomforts almost a year ago. The slate wasn’t quite as clean as it would have been at 18 though. While I was numbing out, life did happen and all that fun baggage was waiting for me when I was willing to look at it. Facing this stuff without an escape hatch is, well, uncomfortable. But I’m getting stronger. I’m learning to distinguish between activities (and people) that I do indeed like but need to learn to experience without booze and those that I actually don’t and had only used booze as a way to tolerate. I’m learning that social anxiety happens all of the time to pretty much everyone, so I’m learning to have grace with others and with myself for all the dumb things said during those awkward first ten minutes of almost every party or luncheon. I’m learning how to be alone, that it can actually be really nice, and that I’m way more introverted than I ever thought or allowed myself to be. I’m learning to accept my imperfections instead of vainly running like a rat on a wheel to eradicate them or to drink to forget them. I’m learning to trust my heart and intentions and to show them off a little more. I’m learning to allow for sadness, hurt, and even periods of depression. These feelings happen but will pass and I may learn something from them if I allow myself to feel it. I’m learning that I’m not for everyone and everyone is not for me and (gasp!) that is actually truly ok. Finally, I’m finding the people that truly are for me and that is Fucking. Awesome.
All of these lessons are ongoing. While I’ve “known” many of these things forever, being able to apply them in my life is an perpetual challenge but one that I’m at least making progress on again for the first time in a long time. We aren’t meant to be stagnant. In general, life, love, and faith aren’t things that we get figured out and then just stop. Beginning to age again feels good. So, happy somewhere in the vicinity of 19th and 38th birthday to me!