When I hit 18 years old, things started to become a little more difficult for me. Friendships began to seem harder to establish, romantic relationships kicked my butt, and my general understanding of who I was and what I was doing seemed to be ever lost and swirling around in the space of confusion. As these difficulties began to emerge, I began to share these feelings and thoughts with my closest friends, and to my surprise, they did not understand. For the first time in my life, I was experiencing things that the people in my life could not relate to, and who seemed to judge and question me for. I was shattered, and because the people who I had relied on for full acceptance and emotional support were all of a sudden not in the same boat I was in, my mind instantaneously went to the idea that there was something wrong with me. Why am I so messed up? Why am I the only one who struggles with this? Why am I the emotionally unstable oddball? It never used to be like this. Now, a solid 10 years later, I’m sitting pretty at 28 years old (fine wrinkles and all might I add), and I am just now beginning to realize one vital thing: I am NOT alone.
Mind blown… earth shattered… what I’m not crazy? …. No. It took me ten years to begin to realize one vital thing, I am not alone, and neither are you. How did I figure this out? Let me tell you, because it’s kind of a funny story. But first, I need you to get your imagination stations ready (sorry… I taught pre-school for a while). Here we go.
Imagine 27-year-old Jackie, thinking for several years now that there was inevitably something wrong with her, causing herself all kinds of extra stress and anxiety because her relationships were changing, and life was happening and nobody else seemed to understand. Got that? Ok next.
Twenty-seven-year-old Jackie is in her second year of graduate school and she finds herself needing to enroll for an undergraduate level Adolescent Development course because she needs an elective and that was all that was open. She now finds herself sitting in a large lecture hall in a sea of 18-year-olds, fresh off the high school press. Now here’s the fun part. The teacher begins describing a phase of adolescent development known as the “personal fable.” In this frame of mind, the individual thinks that he/she is alone in their thoughts and feelings. She then goes on to say that this is a simply passing stage in adolescence. Now imagine 27-year-old Jackie sitting there with one eyebrow slowly raising and her face becoming more and more squinched (don’t worry that’s definitely a word…) as she thinks to herself “Oh shit… I still feel that way.” Talk… about… a mood kill. Here I am, 27-year-old Jackie (that is the official name on my birth certificate by the way) and I am realizing that I had been thinking in the same way that apparently is only supposed to be a stage in high school. But the brain and body only know what it has learned right? Up until the age of 18, the people in my life had understood, they had been able to relate, and so naturally that’s how I thought it was supposed to be. As soon as that changed, my brain assumed that I was the different one. I was the one with problems. This one moment in my adolescent development class, provided just the kind of stab to the heart that I needed to challenge that perspective.
What I am beginning to realize (because overcoming this feeling is still work in progress) is that while I may not be alone in this world, I may be alone in my current relationships. Is that ok? Yes. But does that mean that you have to expand your network? Yes. My current relationships are valuable and important, but no longer are they suiting all of my needs. And THAT’s ok. It does not mean that I love them any less or they love me any less, it just means that I need to find more people that I can connect with in different ways. Likely, if you are out there feeling the same way, that’s what you need to do too.
You are not the oddball. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. There are other people in this world feeling and thinking the exact same thing you are. You just have to find them. So, if you are stuck in a rut thinking that you are the different one and no one will possibly understand, please remember that you are not alone in the world. You are simply alone right now. So, keep searching, keep exploring and find those people in the world that will relate. Don’t give up, and in the process love yourself. Because you are important, and you are human, and you are not alone.