People are often surprised that I identify as an introvert, but I do not thrive in social situations and need lots of time by myself to recharge; Time that is not scheduled, where even small interactions are up to me. It is one of the reasons I love music. It really is the best company. I don’t like going into draining situations full of small talk and, while I can do it, I prefer not to. My down time is for friends and myself. But, when I decided to start a blog this past January, I was in real need of connection. Especially connections around mutual interests. I figured I may meet a couple of friends who were like minded and imagined they would be akin to pen pals.
I never expected to find so many soul mates and true friends as part of an online community. People with whom I have shared heartbreak, loss, fear, laughter, and some of the most intimate details of our lives. People who have filled my life in ways I did not know I needed and were not scared to be honest about their boundaries or desires.
The value of having people who check in on each other, who say good morning and goodnight with no expectations, is immeasurable. I never would have thought so many would be people that I would also able to throw my arms around and hug.
I started this year with a broken heart and a resolution to not let being alone hold me back from experiencing more, traveling more, and to see more music, but what I found was people all over the world (and some at home) to keep me company in airports, hotel rooms, concerts, and record stores. Last April, I took my first solo trip to a new place and lamented the loneliness I felt alone wandering around Austin. I also reflected on finding balance as I explored New York City twice (once with friends and once alone). As the year ends, I can now gush about the camaraderie I felt in Chicago and being able to have a community and good friends both there and in Portland.
I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone this year with the help of people who reminded me that life is about adventure, not escape. I mean what kind of introvert travels thousands of miles to stay with and visit people she has never met?! Someone who has learned to trust her gut. Someone who is able to trust their intuition after they thought they never could again.
Someone who realizes that it wasn’t my intuition that was off, just my timing.
This year, I let myself be broken. I still am in many ways, but I have accepted that the broken places can be beautiful and that the right people see that and accept it for what it is. This year took me all over the country, from coast to coast and many places in between. I saw three of my favorite bridges, walked across two, and found the ability to be with myself in a whole new way.
And the music. So much music. I have to say, this year has categorically sucked in lots of ways, there have been a plethora of personal challenges at home and work, but having a community of friends and strangers who remind you that the music you love is important, universal, and can hold you through the darkest times has been so unexpected. As I travel and meet people who are just as honest and amazing as I thought they were, I am so deeply appreciative.
This year will always have a big “what if” hanging over it. I will always associate it with putting myself out there for someone who crushed me, with pushing past hurt, and being reminded that the right people don’t push you away. But I am slowly coming back. I am remembering that there are all kinds of ways to have deep connections and that looking for those rare “big loves” is not the only way to find meaningful relationships. As I start a new year I am pondering what I will be able to carry with me. Is this level of self exploration sustainable? My list of places to visit now includes faces that I want to see, the space to explore without tether, and people who share my not just my interests, but a sense of humor, a passion, and building an ever expanding community.
I know still need to find better balance, but I also know that throwing myself out into the world, spending time with the people who bring me joy, taking chances that both frighten and excite me, feels right. Remembering who I am and seeing myself through fresh eyes has changed me. Honestly, I think this has been one of my biggest years for personal growth.
I still long for what could have been. Still find myself crying a few times a week (sometimes for the loss of a friend, sometimes as I process my own insecurities). However, I have faced this year with little anger and a huge capacity for compassion for even the people who caused me the most pain.
Missing people who leave, by choice or death, has helped me to remember that life is short. That we should hold on while we can. That we need to say how we feel as we feel it. That the way to be kind to others, and to ourselves, is with trust and respect. I have no regrets about the choices I made this year. As hard as things have been, I know that I was honest. That I have said what I needed to say, left doors open where I could and set boundaries out of respect for myself, not malice or fear. I let myself be open and vulnerable and hurt, and that has helped me appreciate the laughter and pleasure more. It reminded me that pain teaches us things about ourselves we could never learn otherwise. That when we reach for someone who wants to be there, they will hold our hand in times of both joy and fragility.
What will 2020 hold? Well, I hope it will be a year of transformation. That honesty and love will lead us all down a path to better understanding. That we walk through the dark and come out surrounded by others who care deeply for each other and a shared passion for what sets our souls on fire. Mostly, I hope it continues to be filled with all the love I have found this year, from the most unexpected of places, as well as the people I am lucky to call family. I hope it continues to be a beautiful mess.