Unapologetically You

© Noelle Kraft Photography

© Noelle Kraft Photography

Everyone at some point (or points) in their life goes through a period of re-evaluation. This time is characterized by bouts of self-reflection and critical examination of your deepest thoughts and desires. I, so far, have had exactly three such occurrences.

The first is a rather mundane story. It occurred toward the end of my senior year of high school in the view of an impending graduation. I struggled with the same questions everyone does: Who am I? What am I supposed to be? Did I choose the right university? Is it okay that I want to take a year off before I further my degree? I did take a year off, and to this day I don’t regret it. I heard a lot of the mildly irritating comment, “You know most people who take a year off don’t usually go back to school, right?” However, despite these words ringing in my ears, I never doubted my decision. After all, I know myself best.

The second period of revelation came about during the winter break of my sophomore year of college. It had been about five months since my mother passed away and I was, as anyone would be, feeling lost, confused, and sad. Up until that point I had struggled through college. I tried several different majors to no avail and the added burden of knowing I was running out of general electives was weighing on my mind. I spent the month and a half or so that I was home from school between semesters in deep thought. What am I supposed to do? What would make me happy? I discovered things about myself that I had never known before and still stick with me, all because I took the time to think. I ended up returning for spring semester with a smile on my face and conviction in my heart. The first moment I got I declared psychology as my major and loved it. Is it what I’m doing now? No, but I wouldn’t take it back.

The past few months I have been working through my third stretch of self-discovery. Many people get a little blue during the winter months, but piling on additional stressors this year made it particularly unforgiving for me. Those of you plagued with anxiety will know how dangerous it is to be left alone with your own thoughts, especially during times of mental and emotional strain. It’s something that is difficult to understand if you do not suffer from anxiety, but if one bad little thought enters your mind and you don’t have something to distract you it will begin to fester. The more you think about it the more your mind will begin to blow it out of proportion. Eventually you will know that what you are thinking is crazy and unrealistic, but you can’t make the thoughts go away. The more you try to handle it yourself, the worse it gets. At one point my encumbered mind was so overwhelmed it drove me to cry myself to sleep every night for a week. Of course, I couldn’t tell anyone this. I have the bad habit of pushing people away when I need them the most. I knew that friends would help me feel better, but when I’m upset I’m less likely to talk to people. I don’t even give them the chance to make me smile or laugh, though I know everyone in my life would be more than happy to do so.

But then one day it was gone. All the anxiety and stress and depression I had been fighting left me in one liberating exhale that I still can’t explain. It was like a movie when the rain suddenly stops and the clouds clear away to reveal the bright sunlight. A few days later it tried to creep back in, but with all of the strength I could muster I refused to allow it to consume my mind again. I don’t know what suddenly caused the storms to dispel and I may never will. But if I had to guess, I would say a person. The right person walking into your life at the right time and saying all of the things you never knew you needed to hear can have a stronger impact than either of you realize. The person may never know what they did for me: their words reached me when no one else’s could. They didn’t know I was suffering emotionally and weren’t intentionally trying to brighten my spirits, they were just being themselves and for whatever reason it was exactly what I needed. I could never see them again and still I will never forget them.

Today was the best I’ve felt since December. I hiked with a friend and enjoyed the warmer weather, something so simple but for some reason today was soulful. Today I felt so unapologetically me. Are things perfect? No. But I can handle it. I’ve proven to myself many times that I’m strong and can conquer life’s curve balls. I’m not sure why I ever doubted that.

So here is my advice for the oncoming spring: Be completely, whole-heartedly, and unapologetically you. Help others, live and breathe your passions, smile, and find what makes waking up in the morning worth it.

To my ever after, with love

As young girls we develop the fantasy in our minds that we are one day going to meet our Prince Charming and in a split second everything will change. It will be that moment when the cosmos shifts and all of the stars align, forming a bright and shining arrow that points to our future. Maybe it will be at a party, maybe in class, maybe in a coffee shop. No matter where the place our eyes will meet from across the room and suddenly the haze that enveloped us our entire lives will be lifted. We will know, right there in that coffee shop, that we have found the one. You will get up out of your chair, walk over with a dashing smile, and say something so witty and charming that I will have no choice but to love you. We will have a first date, a second, a third. We will become engaged and married and have a family. It will be our happily ever after. You, my Knight in shining armor. Me, your Damsel. Most of us have had this fantasy in some capacity, yes?

How silly to think love worked that way.

Do I believe in love at first sight? Yes, to a point. Do I believe in soul mates? Yes, in some way. Do I believe that love is really that easy? No, not in the slightest. It’s actually a shame when you really think about it, that our childhood imagination can be so easily demolished by learning the reality of things. The day I realized that love wouldn’t be so easy it nearly ruined me. It is so hard to stay positive when there is an emptiness in your heart that tells you every day that you are ready to love and care for someone, and to be loved and cared for in return. Now here I am, several years later and still inexperienced in its ways. One thing that has changed, though, is that where originally it felt hopeless it no longer does. No, it won’t be easy. I may not fall in love for a year, or two, or ten, but I can anxiously await the day you walk into my life. That one day, that one moment, when our lives will change forever before we’ve even noticed. However, I’m not going to lie, some days that emptiness in my heart burns a little more than usual. Some days I miss you so much and I don’t even know you yet.

The day I find you, my ever after, will be the happiest day of my life. I may not know it for a year, or two, or ten, but the first moment that I see you will be forever imprinted on my heart. And that moment when we finally look at each other with smiles full of love is what keeps me going. I can’t wait to meet you, my ever after. I can’t wait to hear your voice, touch your hair, and feel your arms around me. I can’t wait to wake up early to surprise you with breakfast, cuddle with you on the couch when you’ve had a bad day, and find new and wonderful places for us by going on drives to nowhere. I can’t wait for you to tease me, push my buttons, and drive me crazy. Most of all, I can’t wait to love you.

Until that day comes, I am trying so hard to become the woman you deserve. Through my pursuit of love I have already learned so much, but I know that there is always room to learn more. I’m not going to be perfect, not like you. I might be angry sometimes over things that aren’t your fault. I might silently cry and let my stubbornness prevent me from telling you what is wrong. I might become jealous when I shouldn’t be or expect more from you than is fair when life is weighing me down. I just pray that through all of this you will still have a place in your heart for me, and know that if you have a place in mine then you will have it forever. I promise, my love for you will burn more passionately than you can imagine. I won’t love you to the moon and back. No, I will love you to every star in the universe, until the end of days when the last one fades to dust. And when I fade, when my life is extinguished, I will lay my hands over my heart so you know that even though I am gone my love for you will live forever. I promise that if you are good to me, I will be just as good to you. I will love you when you are angry at me for things that aren’t my fault. I will love you when your stubbornness prevents you from telling me what is wrong. I will love you when you have no reason to be jealous, and I will love you when life is weighing you down and you expect more from me than I can give. I know our love will be hard. Some days we might want to quit. Some days I may push you to the edge or you may push me. Knowing this, most of all I promise that I will never give up on you. If I give you my love, it is yours until the end of time.

My ever after. I await the day I can finally know you. Or maybe I already do…