I was able to review the last decade of my life via email. Yes, I’m an email hoarder and prior to today, I was ashamed.
As I scrolled through my “Sent” basket it was as if I was a voyeur into someone else’s life. Except it was my own. I was able to see who I kept in contact with regularly. I found that I participated in far too many, “Forward this to 50 people, including me” chain emails. Email was my primary news source for celebrity news, concert information, etc. I was also able to see that email or text is my preferred communication method.
As I casually perused my old electronic footsteps, to my surprise I found traces of communications between myself and an ex. I thought I had erased all evidence of that experience ages ago and yet there were some stragglers left behind. Likely as a lesson worth reliving today. What was clear to me all these years later is that he liked and was interested in me. He just wasn’t ready or capable of a serious relationship. I could see now that it didn’t matter who I was or even how well I treated him. His inability to commit was about him and fortunately it didn’t take long for me to realize that my time was valuable. And, that eventually I would meet someone who would be willing to commit; to lay his life down for me and protect me if necessary. That’s the kind of love that I deserve. However, to receive this love, I had to be willing to let go of someone who only had the capacity to “like” me. Which shouldn’t have been difficult, considering that I was doing a lot of the heavy lifting and he was mirroring back to me what I had given him. This practice is commonly referred to as “mirroring.” For example, I place my chin in my hand and you place your chin in yours. I send you a GM text and you send me one back. Minimal initiation; basically, it’s a courteous exchange versus a real connection based on authenticity and individual desire. It should have been a “no-brainer” to let go of crumbs in exchange for an entire bakery. I learned the fundamental differences between compromise and settling while dating. This experience taught me to trust my internal Northstar.
I rediscovered connections with people that I no longer have. One day these acquaintances were in my inbox and the next they were gone. I observed the woman that I was striving to become through different alliances, workshops, courses, activities…there has been absolutely no slacking over here! I was actively publishing and getting paid for writing feature stories. I was on a NYC-level grind and I was killing it! I’m reaping the benefits of these efforts today.
The most glaring observation however, was that I regularly served as an adviser to friends and family. During much of this period, I worked in Human Resources and it seems as though it was a 24/7 role for me. Over the years I’ve allowed people, especially those whom I care about, unfettered access to my time and counseling. So much so that I’ve not only helped them, my “services” were even outsourced to some of their friends and family. There was a clear pattern of my having undefined boundaries. Or, not being able to understand why I was feeling “tired” most of the time. I was mentally drained because I never used my “off” switch. Someone simply asked for a favor and I often chose to say “yes.” Sometimes without thinking, or honoring the times when my honest answer was “no”, or, “unfortunately, I’m not able to do that.”
I draw parallels to my career in HR because one of the most important traits that an HR person needs is empathy. The ability to understand an individual’s needs or concerns, and determine how the corporate guidelines address the matter at hand. So it’s about listening as well as coming up with recommendations/solutions (as applicable. Some people just need to vent.) There have been times when I took on other people’s issues as though it were my responsibility to fix them. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I’m practiced in playing the role of helper, whether I want this responsibility or not. Which is why this behavior seemed normal to me.
No, I didn’t need vintage emails to point out this character trait in me. The emails gave me an opportunity to face it, address the facts, and change my behavior. I mean how could I continue to avoid it with the evidence posted up like, “see Exhibit A, Stephanie!”?
Looking back, I have minimal regrets. The email archives were enlightening as they were inspiring. They reminded me of where I’ve been. That I’ve done and continue to do hard things. I am blessed to have maintained more friendships than I’ve lost over the last decade. I’m proud of myself as well as the progress that I’ve worked hard to make. I’m proud of the woman I’m becoming. I’ve been enjoying my life with so many amazing people. Many of whom have served as counselors to me; those who were and continue to be my “Person.”
I needed this reinforcement right now because I find myself feeling as though I’m standing still again. As of late, I feel as though I’ve encountered more questions than answers. There are areas in my life that feel stagnant and undetermined. It feels uncomfortable as impatience visits more often than I need or want. Those old emails reminded me that I’ve been “here” before. I now have concrete proof that just like before, I will get through this phase too.
Sometimes our purpose supersedes our plans. Sometimes destiny overrides our desires. The wait is almost always worth it.
It has always been worth it for me.