(For Robyn. For me. And for You.)
All the self-help tomes and personal journey movies would have you think that growth is a thing that happens when you go to a beautiful place and watch a gorgeous sunset, the vastness of the earth’s marvels humbling you, making you feel small, putting your problems in perspective. Or when you hit some milestone birthday. Or when you fall for someone that makes the very edges of your soul dance. There’s a couple tears, sure, but they’re silent, glamorous tears cried on lush sheets or in a circle of sister friends.
But here’s the real talk of it: growth hurts. It hurts you down to your bones. It makes you weary, and unlike much of the other things in the world that make you weary, it follows you home to your refuge to invade your solitude. It rearranges everything it touches. You’re on that beach looking at that sunset because you’re scattering the ashes of someone you love. You found someone who makes your soul dance because you once felt the excruciating loss of someone who sang a song your heart will never sing again. And the crying isn’t elegant, restrained crying among your friends; no, your friends are busy trying to keep their own lives strung together with old bubble gum and tape and your tears are big, ugly sobs that reduce you to a trembling mess on a dirty floor in your apartment that becomes another thing to berate yourself about failing at even as you cry yourself dehydrated.
Growth is good. More importantly, it’s inevitable if you’re doing this life thing right. But growth is not Eat, Pray, Love. It’s not exotic getaways and existential questions and yoga. Growth is unwinding the tangled weaves of the tapestry of your childhood. Sometimes growth is therapy and the right dosage of meds that ease your depression or anxiety. Growth is every minute you swallow like a dry pill, willing yourself not to call someone you’re trying to let go of. Growth is pain. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a bright, blinding light on the darkest places of yourself that you may very well have to stand in alone. Growth is losing people, places and things that once brought you comfort, love, security. It’s stepping forward 99 times and nothing being beneath you and still stepping forward a 100th time despite all evidence pointing towards the fact that you’re a dumbass for doing so.
I don’t believe in dream selling, so I’ll tell you what I know; growing is fucking painful. And not in a this-is-uncomfortable-for-me kinda way. It’s a long lasting, backbreaking, soul crushing, rolling-around-in-bed-in-the-middle-of-the-night-asking-God-why-He’d-have-you-endure-such-a-thing feeling. It feels unbearable for long stretches of time.
Except you will bear it. Because your pain, while real and valid and intense, is not unique. Because other people are bearing it along with you. Because other people have bared it before you. That’s what we should be telling each other.
Here’s the other thing no one tells you; one day you will lay on the bleached sands of a beach and marvel at a sun seemingly sinking into clear water that will cast so many colors across the sky you won’t know the names for them all. And it won’t mean anything. Not because it’s not beautiful, but because you won’t need it to. You’ll be free to just appreciate a sunset, a birthday, a love for just what it is; not a deeper message from the cosmos for you to decipher. It’s just a sign that growth is happening anyway, all around you, with or without your permission. Just as it always has.
Someone who once bared this all shared this with me. I hope you have someone to do the same. And if you don’t, now you have me.