A few weeks ago, as 2021 was coming to a close, I got to look back on a year of burn out. It was a year in which in some ways so very little happened and also so much happened. It was the year where I consumed hours and hours of YouTube videos, as they were often the only thing that would soothe my busy busy brain. It was the year Pim and I got married. It was the year I had planned to really grow my business, it was the year I didn't work.
But surely, at the end of the year, I could look back on the year and see the story of me climbing out of the pit of despair and stepping into honey coloured meadows, like so many of the year in review blogposts I was reading? Surely I had also learnt so very much and had grown so very much that I was now this beautiful and wild person, who deeply knows themselves, and no longer takes any shit and is radiating like the freaking sun itself?
Unfortunately, not so much.
I was experiencing the same thoughts I had at the start of the year and the same fears and the same insecurities and the same pains and aches in my body that show me I have too much stress and tension going on and I concluded: 'I am in the same place again. There was no growth, I haven't learnt anything, it has all been for nothing. I am in the same place again'. That thought, that belief, that after all these months, all the therapy, all the work on shifting my inner dialogue, all the journaling, and all the too-much-to-even-name-right-now, I was right back where I had begun was perhaps the most defeating thought I had had all year.
But then I took a moment away from the thoughts and actually looked at myself and actually looked at what my life looks like right now. And I realised that actually, no, I am not in the same place again. I am the same person. I am still me. My fears and my insecurities are still my own, they are still there, I did not heal or grow them away. I might one day, some of them at least, and that would be delightful, but I also might not. But that is not the point right now.
The point is that I am the same person, but I am not in the same place anymore. A year ago I was thinking these thoughts and having these fears and insecurities and having this amount of stress in my body (and actually if I am honest I had a lot a lot a lot more stress in my body a year ago) while I was lying under a blanket on the couch, clutching one of my stuffed animals to my chest, the entire day, every day. I wasn't seeing anyone, I wasn't doing anything, I often had to tell Pim I wanted to stop talking after a few minutes of conversation because I was too tired to keep speaking or even listening. If I wanted something to drink I had to shuffle the few metres from the couch to the kitchen and sometimes I didn't know how on earth I was going to make it back to the couch. I cried all the time. Now I still lie on the couch under my favourite blanket a lot, but nowhere near full days on end anymore. I sit at the table, I write, I draw, I paint. I see my friends and we talk and I can laugh again, not because before I was too sad to laugh all the time, but my body wasn't strong enough to laugh. I do my silly dances and sing my silly songs. I cook dinner most nights. I can watch films again and holy shit I am actually working a bit again.
I am not dancing through honey coloured meadows. I have not released myself from all feelings of lacking and insecurities of not being enough. I have not stopped giving all the fucks. But I am also far from back at the same place. I am the same person with the same fear and insecurities, working through them in an entirely new place. And in this place it will get easier and I will find some self-trust again and some confidence and then I will move to a different place and do it all over again. And that, I now believe, is growth. Not leaving your fears and insecurities behind or letting them go, but bringing them with you to each new place and learning to exist with them in that space.
You too are not in the same place you were a year ago and you will not be in the same place next year. It is true what they say: growth is not linear. It goes up and down and more importantly it moves like a spiral. We move past the same themes, past the same obstacles, but every time we do it from a slightly different place. It might not make for a beautifully cohesive story, like a movie synopsis, but that was never what your life was meant to be anyway.