2017: LESSONS ABOUT PERSONAL IDENTITY

I’ve been sitting with several ¬†“2017: A Year in Review” blog posts in my drafts for a week now, unsure on what take I wanted to spin on 2017 when I finally addressed my entire year in one quick post. I could make another list of highlights that provide great satisfaction to me but probably offer little to my readers. But I don’t want to talk about every fun activity I’ve had the pleasure of doing this year. It’s been an amazing year, and its had its low points as well, as with any year. So instead, I want to talk about personal identity… something that I went into 2017 with very little of, and came out of the year finally feeling full of again.

For anyone who has followed me since I started this blog, it’s been just over a year since I created my first post, a quick run through of my road-trip around California. Social media is a rather paradoxical experience. It is so easy to sit behind a computer screen and write a blog post, talking only to yourself and the keyboard in front of you. But once you hit send, reality strikes: it’s out there for everyone to see, and suddenly you aren’t talking to yourself anymore.

I remember how nervous I was to post my first blog. I come from a family of writers and it was imperative when I was younger that I’d chase a career in journalism, follow in my brother’s footsteps and write for a living. Of course, life gets in the way and I was sidetracked by doubts of a “dying industry” and put that passion on hold for a while. Choosing instead to study Business at university, I no longer had an outlet for my creative impulses that A-level English Literature had complemented so greatly. Suddenly I was writing essays about investment funds and Amazon Go, and my finger tips were itching so desperately to write about something I actually cared about. Removed from the fear that school always created of entering the doors in the morning and people talking about what you had written on social media the night before, I bit the bullet and created my own blog.¬†Since then, blogging quickly became one of my favourite past-times, and whilst i’m by no stretch of the imagination a frequent blogger (or a hugely successful one at that) it has granted me a huge insight into my myself, someone who I had admittedly become rather out of touch with. Starting to write again was like chatting to an old friend and remembering everything that you loved about them.

I like to think I have a thick skin and don’t care what other people think of me. But, when you work hard and put a lot of time and effort into something, something that is entirely you, it’s natural to get protective of it. The feeling of spending time perfecting a blog post, the inner quarrel on whether it’s worth posting, the nerves of hitting send and then it being followed up with a Facebook status mocking your attempt at being a “blogger”, well, naturally it’s a bit disheartening. I felt this recently and it made me realise how much the simple act of blogging has inspired changes within myself, as criticism filled my mind and I began to question why I was even doing it in the first place.

I feel like having a period of not knowing who you are is a right of passage into adulthood. The quarter-life crisis, if you will. But for me personally, this period engulfed my life and my personality more than I could have imagined. I have struggled with anxiety for a few years now, and whilst i’m happy to say that my episodes have significantly reduced, they’re not nonexistent. Being independent was something that the younger me would have prided myself on, and anxiety took that away from me almost instantaneously. Suddenly I became a person who was hugely dependant on someone else to the point, looking back, I realise I became more of a half of a two person package. My boyfriend is my best friend, and this is absolutely no criticism of our relationship. He has been the best support through my bouts of anxiety. But I began to lose parts of myself through avoiding myself. The thing about anxiety, when it consumes your mind and pricks on your skin for a living, it makes it nearly impossible to be alone. Being alone with my own mind was a disaster waiting to happen. I could pre-empt the episode that would strike as soon as I was by myself, and so I would choose not to be.

Coming out the other end of 2017, the change I can feel within myself is invigorating. It sounds incredibly cliche and I can already feel the eye-rolls (remember that pre-blog post nervousness I mentioned before?), but even though blogging began as nothing but a hobby, I’ve began to fully understand what it has done for me this year. Having something to focus on that was entirely my own project allowed me to interact with my own brain again, to discover things about myself that I’d forgotten, and to put myself out there in a way that would previously have induced severe anxiety within me. Suddenly I liked being alone again, brainstorming ideas in my bedroom, reading other bloggers and working towards a personal goal. I’m coming out of 2017 with a much healthier relationship, my own dreams and I’m learning so much about myself again, no longer terrified of my own conscience.

The reason I’m delving into this very simple but personally significant reality is because I want to encourage anyone who is hiding away a passion or a hobby because of fear of judgement, to just go for it. Putting yourself out there is terrifying and the world is full of small minds. Rupi Kar said it in her highly coveted “Milk and Honey”:

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The point i’m trying to make here isn’t that blogging is a life-changing, revolutionary experience that everyone must partake in to find themselves. This is about personal identity, and how important it is to have something to engage in that allows you to engage with yourself, no matter how trivial it may appear to others. For me, it just so happened to be blogging. For you, it could be through writing too. It could be through finding a new hobby. It could be going out for a walk on your own every once in a while. It could even be something much bigger like starting the business you’ve always talked about! It’s so important to do things for yourself sometimes, to put yourself at the forefront of your concern and the fear of judgement at the back. In relationships especially, whether with your peers or your partner, it can be easy to lose yourself in someone else. Having your own sense of self and who you are is so vital, and that’s the most important lesson I learned in 2017. “Love yourself before you ever love anybody else”- your relationships will thank you for it!

My new year’s resolution is to keep myself surrounded with people who inspire something within me, who celebrate one another, motivate one another and have their own ambitions. But even more so than that, my new year’s resolution is to maintain a healthy relationship with myself.

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