When you’re so used to gaining through loss you find it harder to notice all that you gain through living.
Most of the defining moments of my teen years came at the hand of learning to live with my losses. I navigated adult situations that I had to make myself look taller and feel older for — financial aid, college applications, caretaking. Each of those moments came with a lesson that felt like it was gifted at the end of emptiness. I took every “I don’t have a mom” and filled it with my own presence, the sentences were finished with “....but I have me.”
My twenties have been different. I was no longer the exception, I was the reason. I have me and so I had a career that spoke to the woman I was inside. It’s purpose driven, grounded, and full of love. When I fell in love, it was fast moving because of him and grounded because of me. As we grew up, we learned how to switch places and when to throw our hands up in defeat. I gained from loving him what I had never considered I needed to learn — how to love myself.
We navigate so many stages expecting lessons from our tears, but rarely expecting the same from our laughs. I’m at the halfway mark of my 25th year and the person I am is not the result of loss, she’s the result of all she has gained and enjoyed. I’m less process of elimination and more anchored presence in the people and experiences that make me feel good in real time. I invest in trips to my people because over the years their hearts are places I can escape to, time and miles have never created distance where real friendship sits. I learned in love that butterflies can be reborn time and time again, but that trust isn’t as easy to come by.
I packed more lunches and spent less money eating out, not because I had less to spend but because I have more (different) I want to invest in.
I started using the term best friend less, started realizing my friends were all my best for different moments and different times. I didn’t suddenly have less friends, I just had a deeper awareness of who I aligned with more at this time in my life.
I condensed my closet, not because I liked clothes less, but because I learned what I love more and decided on giving those pieces a permanent home.
We get chances to sit in our own happiness and teach ourselves the most effective ways to hold onto it even when the days are long and hard. Growing up is less a thing that age imposes and more a reality that we choose to embrace. I like that my goals in life are not the same ones I had at 23. It means I’ve grown up without resistance to personal growth. I’m fulfilled by different experiences and different people. I define love differently now than the first time I saw it in someone’s eyes.
I learned more about myself through the moments I decided to show up than I did through the moments when I ran and emptiness was all I left behind. Courage and strength, I learned, weren’t choices, they were actions and ones that the the brave of heart didn’t have a choice in being. You are courageous and strength, and me, I like to think I am also love.
The identity crisis I had a few months before I turned 25 is nothing but a memory now. I know who I am. I am not, nor have I ever really been, just my losses. It was just easier to fit me into a box if you could call me by my baggage. I call myself Viv. No last name because that has never been mine.
I am not missing anything though because my claim to fame will never be at the hands of someone else’s name. I rise when I challenge myself to gain more life than I stand to lose.
I gain because the only person whose life I’m comparing myself to is the woman I see in the mirror. And that woman is living the kind of life where she wakes up every morning with purpose, goes to bed every night with a smile on her face, and has herself to thank for the genuine love that is in her life.