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Coming of Age & Understanding Shifts in Relationships

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

Growing up is a challenge. There is nothing gray about that sentiment, and it's why throughout all of our childhood's we were told by our elders to enjoy our youth while we could. I remember too many times I would be complaining about something going on in my teenage years and my parents or grandparents would tell me, "just wait, you'll miss these times". While I can't say I'd ever elect to return to being 15 years old, I will concede to the notion that a particular kind of melancholic nostalgia flows when I reflect on those times now.


The world we live in is one of disbalance, and despite popular belief, I have to believe that's okay (to an extent, of course). Radical acceptance has helped greatly in coping with things I couldn't previously. However, to children who seek rationality and understanding- how can we expect to explain the state of the world that exists around us otherwise, when it really does become a matter of accepting the 'is' and 'isn't's of our society?


In motioning through certain events, I often found that the most difficult part of being able to move on from things is the lack of understanding.


Why did this happen? Why did this person do x? What could I have done better? Could I have done better? Is there a greater lesson here?


To the final question listed, the answer is almost always "of course".


Forever grateful for my hardships, I tell people all the time that while my life has been colorful and full of lessons learned from hard times- there isn't a thing I would change about it. I can only hope to grow by utilizing the lessons I've learned, and vow to do my best to apply them now as I move forward.


Had I the opportunity to, though, there is an abundance of information and emotional reasoning I gained through various experiences that I would have loved to have shared with myself much sooner, such as with the following pivotal realizations pertaining to relationships.


Beginning with the imperative-


You are responsible for, as well as dependent on yourself, for your own happiness and well-being.

Get used to seeing this phrase. This is a point of view, at one point a realization, that I discovered in 2016. Ironically enough, as transformative as it was to me at the time, it really is such a simple, black and white point.


You have to take care of yourself, most people seem to get that part. But, perhaps what's a notch more urgent, and that very honestly did not click in my brain like a seatbelt buckling my trip into conceptual responsibility until I was 20 years old- is that you need you to take care of you.


Despite remaining as arguably the most formative acknowledgment at the beginning of the era that was to precede my teenage years, it is by far the most difficult to maintain. Especially with the pace of today's day-to-day, as well everything happening around us in society- it is very tough to take care of yourself; to make yourself your own priority. Just as well- most people, including myself, hate to admit that.


The important thing is always going to be that we try.


People are not designed to carry so much weight. Whether it's work, school, family, relationships, activism, politics, news... As a societal unit, we are over-stressed as a whole. There are so many things you can do to be there for yourself, and so many ways you can help yourself recenter and allow yourself to be able to better cope with stressful encounters.


If your excuse is that you're way too busy (as mine often is), try incorporating things that won't require upheaving your schedule or lifestyle, such as:


  • Practice gratitude. This is essential to maintaining a positive outlook and, in any guru's opinion, manifesting the life you desire.

  • Try batching, or check ways to boost your multi-tasking skills to open up some more time.

  • Keep a pitcher and a glass of water by your bedside. Never let it go empty, but always make sure to allow yourself the need to refill it.

  • Light incense while you're home. You won't even need to remember to blow it out.

  • Opt for music instead of TV as background noise more often. YouTube is full of specialized frequency music and sound-healing choices.

  • Make healthier food choices, even if it's on the go.

  • Put your phone down for a few hours, or even a whole day, if you can. You might be surprised at how your productivity shifts without it.

  • Breathe before you respond. Sometimes reacting in the moment is not how you would have reacted had you taken a moment to sit with your emotions.

Mindfulness for and of yourself is key, and it's important to think for and of ourselves before we act. This is relevant to your health, your headspace, and your personal conduct. This also moves us onto our next point.


Your relationships are as good as your accountability for yourself.

Self-awareness is an eternal struggle. This pertains to all of us. Even for peers who I consider being far surpassing in my abilities to hold myself accountable. Even for teachers, doctors, officers, parents- everybody struggles with this. Too many people can resonate with the "I need an adult" feeling, only to eclipse next into "wait... I am the adult".


The objective is to strive to be who we need, and understanding that sometimes this will mean coming to terms with, and sacrificing, the desire of being (& being around) who & what we want. Differentiating wants and needs can be a balancing act of its own, but learning to prioritize needs over wants is a skillset. Remain open-minded to constructive criticism, even when it can be tough to hear. Without self-enforced accountability, we decline ourselves of the opportunity of objective understanding and absorption of life-lessons provided by challenging experiences.


As someone who struggles with BPD, it has previously been difficult for me to accept the duality in tough situations with the ones I hold close to me. For example, over the summer I was blessed by the presence of several new faces. One of those people in particular ultimately came to force me to face several negative aspects of myself and take on lessons that I needed to learn, but that I was unwilling to confront at the time.


On a transformational journey of their own, when it came to be that this person went on to impose boundaries in my direction- due to circumstantial short-sightedness, I found myself lost and wrapped up in trying to make sense of what was going on. I cherished this person in my life. I considered this person to be very important to me, and while my intentions were pure in the sense that I had hopes of a growth-oriented friendship, and I wanted to be able to provide for them what I felt they had provided for me, I fell short of my own desires when I was unable to recognize why they were pushing back on their friendship with me, even after promises of a return.


While I struggled with feelings of selfishness as I attempted to make amends, I spent far too much time scoping through multiple outlets and grappled with a lot of thoughts that all were somewhere along the lines of,


"If this person says I'm important to them & that they care, then why are they stepping away? Why is the daily routine of hours we spent together now being replaced with silence?"


I focused so much on what that person was doing and why they were doing it, I failed to discern my participation behind the reasoning. Truthfully, it wasn't until I was faced with the same experience with one of my long-time peers that this understanding was brought to me as a mirrored exposure of my own conduct at that time.


In summary, I began to find myself frustrated with consistent exposure to negativity. I felt like I had become an outlet that only served to relieve tension off of the other person, while my own shoulders were already carrying weights of their own. Picking up the phone to frenzied conversations induced with expletives and anxiety; I had so much going on that I needed to prioritize to progress, that it became increasingly difficult to maintain the relationship at the capacity it was at. It was never the case that I didn't love this person, nor that I didn't want to be friends with them. But I was soon conflicted where I didn't feel like they were able to hear me when I expressed that certain circumstances were beginning to become stressful, and when I tried to approach them about how they were acting or reacting to things, they would shut down or become defensive.


My need for peace soon came to outweigh my want for their presence.


The irony between the two was, with the latter, my ability to understand both my friends' position as well as my own ultimately led me to have a major "ohh" moment in regards to the prior. I was disappointed in myself when I finally connected the dots to understanding "this is why it happened". After months of coping with an array of insecurities and sifting through certain emotions that my fear of abandonment pressed upon me; it all finally clicked. My negative feelings towards the situation from the summertime dissolved and, finally accepting that I never would receive the closure I wanted, I was able to take heed of the lesson I needed to hear.


Your good qualities will not always be outstanding next to the not-so-good ones. Your love and care for a person are not all that it takes in this world. Your knowledge of certain things is not always enough, nor is it always right. Know that you can be wrong, and accept that you can be toxic. Always carry and maintain a sense of imperfection with you, but hold your ambition to be better next to it.


Moving on, we all lead different lives, and in efforts to protect ourselves, sometimes it means protecting ourselves from others, even the ones we love, too. Sometimes it's not about you, and sometimes, it is. More frequently than not, though, it's a combination of the two. In accepting and imposing those boundaries, a specific truth surfaces that many of us grapple with.


Silence is the strongest response- but also the hardest to handle.

In regards to boundaries, we must learn to accept them- receiving and bestowing. We are not all meant to hold hands for the entire duration of our livelihoods. People change, break-ups happen. Grieving and mourning are natural experiences outside of death- but often the two have one distinguishable common factor:


Silence.


Anyone in the millennial era is familiar with the term "ghosting". While it is a practice that I try to avoid for personal and ethical reasons, I can't say I don't understand the necessity of it. After all, and admittedly, I have been on both sides of this fence.


Being that I have also had to experience an abnormally high number of deaths in my life than the average soon-to-be 25-year-old, I must admit something very contrasting to society's normal standard of thinking. That is, I've come to find that death, in a way, is easier to accept than being ghosted by the living. This is primarily because when someone passes away, the lack of contact is enforced naturally. There is a different level of knowing and understanding that you can no longer see or hear from that person. When you've done it so many times, while the loss is still tragic, you learn to move on at a faster pace to peace with the fact that they will no longer be a part of your routine.


When it's a known choice, and when you have to suddenly accept that your messages are ignored, unanswered, or in some cases, blocked off completely- it becomes a different type of internal battle. While in some cases, or with some people, the impact may not hit as hard- ghosting often leaves individuals with a lot of questions, as well as insecurities.


As I've gotten older, I've come to acknowledge that my approach tends to vary depending on a few things. Consistently, however, I have found that when it comes to being on the receiving end, oftentimes this is when it becomes best to take some time and sit with your feelings. Decline the instinct to be reactive, as this can often lead to varying levels of discomfiture and self-consciousness much less than it is likely to make any amends of the surrounding circumstances. Learn to process your emotions, reflect on the experience, relinquish the need for control, and wish them well on the rest of their journey. Forget harboring negativity, and let it be.


Whatever is meant to be will be, and equally, whatever is meant for you, will not miss you. Aforementioned, we are not all made for each other to be permanent, and that is okay. The ones who are made to experience you in larger shares of your life will hopefully be those who are willing to reciprocate what you have to offer- and if not, open your own doors for more growth-focused relationships at varying degrees. That being said,


A mutual understanding and acknowledgment of duality are imperative to growth-oriented and progressive relationships.

2020 was the year of processing duality, as well as non-dualism. I came to find so many on my path who struggled with this as a concept, and it was oftentimes reflected through interpersonal experiences. To begin, highlighting the differences between duality and non-dualism is important here.


Duality is understanding the polarized roles that exist in almost everything. Most simply, almost everything in life is split somehow. Anatomically, we have two hands, two arms, two eyes, two legs, etc., yet the function of us as a whole is dependant on the mutual use of all- which brings about non-dualism. Non-dualism addresses the understanding of oneness and connectivity throughout our reality.


Where this pertains to interpersonal relationships most essentially breaks down on addressing and handling conflict. In my observations, I often found that those who lacked a basic understanding of duality and non-dualism struggled to maintain empathy and understanding through interpersonal conflicts. The example I most often use is that, in many cases, when two people disagree, regardless of the length or depth of the relationship- it tends to become difficult for the two parties to see beyond the conflict. All of a sudden, the friendship and all its positive qualities go out the window, and the reality shifts amongst parties to become all about the negative.


Let's say you lent someone $10, and they promised to pay you back that day. Reasons aside, they didn't. You went on to contact that person and express that their lack to follow through on their word bothered you, and now your friend is upset and defensive. They might say you don't trust them or value them as a friend or may feel offended that you were even remotely bothered by the inability to return "just" $10, forgetting that it may be about the principle. From where you stand, you did something based on their word, and their word came up short.


For the sake of discussion, let's say that both sides are truly genuine. Frequently, in situations like these, instead of either party acknowledging each other, the relationship from here dismantles and dissolves because each person is consumed with their own thought-process. Both people could care very much about one another, but because both people are now offended, the thorns in the feet outweigh the rose of the relationship.


Ideally, where the conceptual understanding of duality here could have changed course and allowed room for such growth, would have been both parties conceding to the reality and validity of each other, instead of focusing only on one side per person. Through proper communication, your friend now understands why you were bothered they did not follow through, and you now understand why your friend may feel offended that you momentarily lacked the faith that the money would come back to you. Omitting an argument or falling out, both are now able to recognize one another and take the opportunity to learn from the experience in how they may conduct themselves moving on.


A simplified example, though society sees situations play out to the prior hand far too. Especially in interpersonal and romantic relationships, such as marriage, a lack of mutual understanding tends to be behind almost all "unresolvable" conflict. Per a 2020 insight to divorce statistics, some of the most common reasons for divorce included Lack of Commitment (73%), Infidelity (55%), Unrealistic Expectations (45%), Lack of Equality (44%).


While balance is the key to many things in life, it tends to be unrealistic to expect perfection while seeking attainment. Rather, in relationships, both with ourselves and others, maintaining compassion, an open mind, and empathy for one another becomes of vital importance. As the population grows, as will diversity, and as will dissension. Progression of this kind is natural but, as individuals, we are always allowed the choice to be kinder and more considerate in our day-to-day lives. Overall, the lessons we learn in life will compensate for our losses.


Make peace with your past, be grateful for the wisdom, and carry on.

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