“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon
My quarter-life crisis kicked into high gear about six months ago.
Take this as evidence: I quit my job. I quit my apartment and moved back home. I quit booze and boys. I quit gluten and sugar. I quit friendships I’d imagined would last a lifetime.
I’m not asking for an A+ or gold stars for my “self” work. I wasn’t hit by a spark of spiritual lightening and magically committed to this transformation. In a lot of ways, the Universe didn’t give me much of a choice.
There were cysts, and scans, and rashes, and allergic reactions, which ignited a powerful underlying anxiety about the fact that I hadn’t been “healthy” since I could remember.
This anxiety festered and danced into relationships with my roommates, ex-boyfriends, siblings, co-workers, and, most importantly, myself.
It was the perfect mix of elements, a storm front hitting just the right pocket of pressure. And boom—a hurricane showed up.
I stood in the middle, watching as the winds of change tore through my life, uplifting anything that wasn’t serving my purpose, my passion, my inner peace or my health.
This ripping and tearing of people, places, and things that I’d brought into my life—assuming they might help me grow into a happier, stronger version of myself—was at first paralyzing, upsetting, and infuriating.
I was tempted time and time again to numb out, to play the familiar role of the victim. After all, I had more than my fair share of material to work with, courtesy of the endless doctor’s appointments, unrelenting stomach aches, and my never-ending anxiety.
Instead, I decided to bow my head, nod, and accept that the Universe had sent a storm to help me clean up my act and fall in love with my best self. I surrendered and allowed those gusts to take with them all the other versions of Kate I’d built for everyone else.
I started to hang out with myself—to accept being alone as my assignment. I shut my cell phone off. I allowed myself to RSVP to parties with polite nos.
My new rule became: “If it doesn’t feel good for you, don’t do it.”
I spent a lot of time asking and re-asking myself the question, “What’s one thing you would really like to do today?” I learned my immediate responses often reflected where friends and family members wanted me to be, not necessarily where I felt revved up, plugged in, and powerful.
I realized old habits didn’t feel very authentic.
I stopped spending my weekends shopping for “things” to fill me up, buzzed on vodka at clubs, or gossiping with my girlfriends. I was pulled in different directions—like the yoga mat, meditation class, and organic farm stands.
There are days when I find it awkward and uncomfortable to be re-learning myself. There are days when I slip back into being a victim, but now, I always pull myself out.
Because looking back, I know that without all the cysts, hives, hospital stays, Epi-pens, anxiety, and heartache, I might never have come to this place. I might never have taken the time to get to know myself better.
The word challenge leaves a very different taste in my mouth nowadays. It feels like a dare, more playful and less painful. An excuse to meet a part of me I haven’t yet had the chance to bump into.
Here are three tools I use on a daily basis to keep getting to know myself amidst (and sometimes because of) my challenges:
1. Do one small thing to make today better than yesterday.
Allow yourself to settle into the idea of small little shifts that add up to a more peaceful, centered you. Say a prayer for someone you know who is hurting. Put yourself to bed early. Pack yourself a healthy lunch.
I am always amazed at how one little thing can have such a drastic impact on my mood. You reclaim a piece of your day, even if it’s just a small one.
2. Begin to embrace your own brand of happy. Don’t ask it to look exactly like “everyone else’s.”
Be open to the hobbies, places, and people who make you jazzed about your future, regardless of what others may think about them. You were given specific skills in order to shine. Cultivate them in small and big ways.
If your current friends aren’t interested in your new passions, ask the Universe to guide you to others who might be.
3. You’re holding the remote; go ahead and press the pause button when needed.
Make an effort to turn inward and reset your frequency if you feel like things are getting funky. Whether you take a two-minute walk outside, meditate before you go to bed at night, or simply pause in the doorway before you zoom into “go, go, go” mode, you create a split-second opportunity to be present and show up for a day full of possibility and miracles.
Photo by exoscull