Thinking Out Loud 2/19/15: Can You Live With Yourself Anywhere?

Good morning! Today, I’m linking up with Amanda to share some thoughts on listening to our intuition, even if it means changing our minds or doing things we never expected that we would do. If you’re wondering what I’m rambling about, don’t worry. All will (hopefully) be revealed in this post.

Recently, I have been reminded of the serendipity of the universe. I believe that things happen for a reason, and sometimes fall into place exactly how they are meant to fall. I believe that people are placed in our lives to help us when we don’t quite know how to help ourselves. I believe that if we open ourselves up to the possibilities around us, the right choice can reveal itself with ease. Time and time again, things have happened in my life to make me believe these things, and I have been reminded once again of this reality over the course of the last week. Allow me to further explain by starting at the beginning.

Since I started working at my job, there has been a coworker of mine who has intrigued me. For the purpose of this post, we’ll call him Ryan, although that is not his real name. Ryan is in his mid-thirties, and he one of those people who just seems to have a story. My impression of him has been that he is genuine, interesting, and well-intentioned, but our conversation had never gone beyond basic pleasantries until recently. After a couple of parties where Ryan and I were both present, he suggested that we get together for coffee sometime. He was quick to say that he saw me as a little sister figure, and that he wanted to learn more about me. Given that I was intrigued to learn more about him, as well, I thought that a cup of coffee sounded nice. So, a month or so back, I went over to his house, he made coffee, and we ended up talking for hours. He told me about his life, and I shared equally about mine, but I was fully aware that I had a wall up while we talked. I gave him generic answers about my childhood, my hopes and dreams, and my move back to Montana last fall, with no mention of my weight struggles, history of anxiety, or disordered eating. Those topics don’t seem to lend themselves to coffee chat all that well, after all.

As we talked, however, it became clear to me that Ryan is one of the most perceptive, insightful people that I have met. If I gave him an answer that he could see was not authentic, he instantly called me on it. Despite his acute perception, I was careful to keep my guard up and only give answers that I felt would not reveal too much about myself. Despite having my wall up while we spoke, I was left with my own set of questions and a good bit to think about in the days following our conversation. I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I had just talked with somebody who I could genuinely trust, who might actually accept me with all of my baggage.

Last week, Ryan suggested that we get together again. He said that he could tell that there was more to my story, and he wanted to hear it. I was certainly open to conversing more and learning more of Ryan’s story, but I planned on retaining my reserved nature. So, last Friday, we got together for a drink after work. Ryan asked me about my move to Chicago. He asked me if I would be happy living there and I gave him all of the generic answers about graduate school, proximity to my college town, blah, blah blah. He rephrased his question, asking instead, “Do you think that you can live and be happy with yourself anywhere? A city can’t make you happy if you’re not happy with yourself.”

Whoa. That question rocked my world a little bit, to say the least. I felt like Ryan had seen my blind spot, the part of my reality that I had refused to acknowledge, which was that I have spent a good portion of my life relying on circumstances and objects to make me happy when I did not have love or acceptance for myself. And, for some reason, I opened up to Ryan like I have not opened up to a single person other than my therapist. I told him everything. I told him about my rocky childhood and adolescence, about my weight gain, about my college experience, and about anorexia. It felt like a weight had been lifted, a weight heavier than the 120 pounds that I lost over the course of my disorder, and Ryan responded with incredible compassion and understanding. He didn’t congratulate my weight loss as so many people have, nor did he commend me for my willpower. He saw what others have not, which is that dieting did not significantly improve my life, but nearly destroyed it.

When I got home from drinks with Ryan, I sat down and asked myself some serious questions. Why was I moving to Chicago? Was I counting on Chicago to save me and make me feel loved when I just couldn’t manage to love myself? I had an inkling that I was doing exactly that, and it scared me. I then wrote out a list of all of the things that I know that I want in my life, and I felt a great deal of clarity after I finished my list. I realized that my move to Chicago was another attempt at doing something I felt I should do. I love Chicago, but I realized that I was counting on Chicago making me happy, when true happiness needs to come from within me. It is not so dissimilar from my decision to lose weight, when I believed that I could be happy with myself if only I were different, and I found out through drastic measures that that was not the case.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I knew one thing for certain: I was moving to Chicago for the wrong reasons. Once I admitted that to myself, I felt a jolt of energy that I have not felt in far too long. I felt motivated. Eating disordered behaviors had largely lost their appeal and it was not so hard for me to just eat when I was hungry. And, for one of the first times in recent memory, I thought about what I truly wanted with an open mind, free from shoulds and should nots.

After a good deal of personal reflection, meditation, a dinner with Ryan, and many conversations with friends, family, and coworkers, I arrived at my decision: I am moving not to Chicago, but to Portland, Oregon. This decision is somewhat laughable, really, because Portland was my planned relocation spot before Chicago entered my mind. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at myself when I reached the decision to move to Portland instead. But what I realized was that, when I decided to move to Chicago last fall, it felt right simply because it allowed me to delay my move. I knew that I was not ready to move away from home yet, but I felt that I needed a good reason to stall. I was so insecure about living at home, and I felt like a failure for doing so. I thought I could only justify it if I had some sort of elaborate plan that I was preparing for. Truthfully speaking, I was simply not far enough along in recovery to cope with such a move, so any decision that allowed me to stay home longer felt like the right one. I also chose to move to Chicago at a time when I was feeling the need to distance myself from my family. In the time since then, however, I have developed much healthier relationships with family members and I now have a work community that I absolutely adore. The thought of being 2,000 miles away from all of them had begun to sink in, and I realized that I could find a new community, have my space, and stay close with the life I have built here. I do not need to choose, because it is my future.

Once I decided on the move, things just felt right. When I thought about moving to Chicago, I was excited about a theoretical future where I found a community that would accept me. Thinking about Portland, I thought about how I could find a community that I could accept. For once, I felt that I deserved to be around people who I liked living around, not just people who tolerated me. I felt like I did not have to settle, like I deserved to be in a place where I could not only live, but be genuinely satisfied with myself.

Announcing my change in plans made me feel like a flake, and I absolutely hate feeling like a flake. Yet, I knew in my heart that I was making the right choice. When the voice in my head told me that people were going to think that I was ridiculous for changing my moving plans again, I shook it off. This is my life. This is my future. I am the only one who has lived in this body, and I am the only one who has to live with my decisions.

I believe that my move home was the right choice at the right time. I believe that my job fell into my lap exactly when I needed it. I believe that I met Ryan at work and connected with him on such a deep level for a reason. He has helped me see my inherent value and helped me believe that I not only deserve to be happy, but that it is possible for me to take responsibility for my happiness.

It is hard to backtrack when we feel we have made a decision, but I encourage you to think about whether the choices you are making in your life are fulfilling to you. Others may have ideas about what you should do, but only you have to live with your choices. We all find happiness differently, but each and every one of us deserves that happiness that comes from within equally, something I am finally beginning to see.

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6 thoughts on “Thinking Out Loud 2/19/15: Can You Live With Yourself Anywhere?

  1. Cue light bulb turning on! What a beautifully written post, oh my goodness. Everything resonated so well for me, and I am SO happy that you feel confident moving to Portland. It is amazing that you were able to connect with “Ryan” at this moment, because he seemed to have really helped guide you. Honestly, reading this post totally put me in the best frame of mind- thank you!

  2. This is absolutely beautiful. I am so glad that you found someone you can confide in. Listening to my intuition is something that I am working on in my life right now, and this gives me hope. You are absolutely right when you say “I am the only one who has lived in this body, and I am the only one who has to live with my decisions.” I am just learning to stand up for myself–I have lived according to others expectations for most of my life, and I’m done! I’m excited to finally start living for God and myself. And I don’t think that’s selfish. I think it’s necessary. Funny you mention a move to Chicago, too—I moved there last Summer. It was the first decision I made against what everyone else said. I needed to get away from the environment I was in and go somewhere new. I ended up having to return, but the time I spent there gave me the jump start I needed to build a new foundation. When I returned to Kentucky, I was a new person. Environment has a huge impact, but lasting change comes from within. Thank you for your story. Stay strong, stay beautiful!

    xoxo, Annie

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