31 and No Longer Falling
by David Lacy
“God damn my wasted time,
ringing all the bells… I’ve got half a mind to lie to you,
half a mind to tell you, everything I have to tell, to tell, to tell.” – Chris Pureka, “31 and Falling”
It all clicked in an instant as I was driving home around midnight at the end of what had been a surprisingly remarkable week.
It was a seven-day stretch in which the past and present collided in indescribable yet extraordinary ways. It began with a frenzied night out with some of my closest hometown friends, continued with an epic Nerf battle with my Godson (I’m pretty sure he and his buddy repeatedly violated the Nerf Geneva convention in that battle), proceeded with a memorable iPinion gathering, hit an apex with a humbling recognition from my employer of the work I do, and concluded with an eight-hour chat with a friend who inadvertently joined me in dunking onion rings in a small tub of mayonnaise at a local pub.
(How could a week that begins with best friends and ends with an accidental mayonnaise overdose NOT qualify as remarkable?)
I’ll be 31 in a little over two weeks from today. This means I can finally say a welcome farewell to a year in which I – to put it lightly – didn’t have a single fragment of my own life figured out. (At least not consciously; subconsciously things had begun clicking long ago. But those will remain private stories.)
At 30, however, I was at the ultimate crossroads: I wasn’t certain about my education, my occupation, my capacity for love (to love and to be loved), iPinion, my friends, my writing, my connections with my own family — hell, even what part of the state I really wanted to reside in! Uncertainty and anxiety wound their way into every crevice of my life, pushed neurons in my brain around like little Tetris pieces unwilling to snap and lock into the right places.
I cried, I screamed, I disparaged, I self-pitied. I was, admittedly, a rather pathetic version of the ‘self’ I could be.
Very, very slowly however, something began to happen. I reached out. I asked for help. First from one friend, then another. And another. I even sought (and still seek) therapy. I have begun to learn the tools of something psychologists call “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” that is, the deliberate re-training of particularly instinctive negative thoughts into positive ones. Learning how to “re-think” actually restructures the PHYSICAL components of the brain – now how fucking cool is that?
At the end of this week in late March that I describe above I had a short Facebook interchange with friend and fellow columnist Christy Sillman.
Christy, making a cameo in my column: “My best advice for healing slowly and carefully is to focus on YOU. The problem with both you and (and me frankly) is that we’re people pleasers (I get this impression of you, but maybe I’m wrong). We tend to focus on others – what others might think/feel/judge. This can be good- we are good people because of this, but bad because we’re neglecting ourselves. We come into this world alone, we leave alone, so shouldn’t we make ourselves #1?”
She continued …
**(I really hope she’s not expecting royalty checks for these appearances.)**
Christy: “I took my own “getting to know myself journey” for a year and a half. I didn’t date anyone, and I made decisions carefully with the focus on myself. It ultimately taught me how to communicate with myself (sounds strange I know) and to clear the other ‘junk’ out, be introspective, and focus on my needs. It ultimately led me to Steve and prepared me to better approach my relationship with him in a self preserving yet selfless way.”
Steve is her hubby if you didn’t figure that one out.
At 31, I’m going to be selfish in the hopes of one day being selfless. But I’m going to be selfish in a much healthier way than I was probably already accidentally being when I was attempting to please everyone else (ahhh irony!)
The trial and error in which we learn how to interact with life is really beginning to fascinate me. Learning how to love, how to forgive, how to re-train the worst parts of our selves into more positive, productive energy. These are only beginnings — first, toddler-sized steps if you will — yet even recognizing the mere possibilities of self-change creates a flare of hope I’ve NEVER felt before.