Some Frank Words about Anxiety

People tell me I am a very open person.

Presumably this means I am more willing to be vulnerable—though I think this isn’t quite right because true vulnerability—by definition—is always uncomfortable.

I actually don’t think I’m open enough. And I’m nearly always uncomfortable, but not over writing introspective confessionals. I want to unpack these thoughts because by sharing ourselves, we can be better understood.

It’s true I wear a lot of my emotions on my sleeve. Whether that’s a sign of strength or a lack of restraint is for debate. I am direct. I try to resolve conflicts by communicating my own feelings.

I am obsessed with fully knowing myself to be the best person I can be. (I don’t know if it’s narcissistic to think publishing my insights could help others, but I’ve heard encouragement on this before.)

Perhaps one of the reasons people are hesitant to reveal an insecurity or potentially “ugly” part of themselves is that those confessions can be misunderstood. This happened to me last year when I shared something with my film class too early.

It was an insecurity I had claimed as part of my life, but not defining for my life. I don’t know if I had mentally articulated this distinction yet, though, so I put too much prominence on it. From then on I felt in conflict between the class’s perception of me, and my own intuitive understanding of my identity.

This is a conflict I’ve experienced many times, so I’ve thought a lot about those two concepts (Self-definition, and Public Perception). I’ve concluded that “identity” is only really as useful as the self or others make it out to be—so both yourself and others can be wrong about it.

But not all our weaknesses or insecurities need to be feared. By naming them for ourselves we can cement them and turn them into workable metrics for our growth.

For me, talking about my weaknesses helps me accept that they are part of my life. It helps me better accept myself and that I’m still imperfect. And so those areas stop being vulnerable for me.

—-

I turned 24 this year, and the truth is there are very few days when I honestly feel I am okay.

As I said before, that doesn’t mean I’m not okay in reality.

I don’t know if I have the psychiatric condition of “anxiety.” But I deal with a lot of anxieties in my life that someone in conversation might not immediately realize.

One is an anxiety about the gap between who I want to be and who I currently am. I am a perfectionist who despite knowing perception is uncontrollable, desperately wants the “Garrett” you encounter to be the one I know I could be.

For this reason I have difficulty in accepting failure. In a job interview someone asked, “How do you handle failure?” And I talked for six minutes about everything but the question. I am my own harshest critic, but that doesn’t make it easier.

I have an anxiety over time, particularly how I am spending my time.

Netflix breaks me. The idea that I have instant access to shows from the 70s alongside the whole last season of This is Us, or a rewatch of Breaking Bad, and no matter how much time I spend, I will never see it all—is terrifying. Same thing goes for classic literature alongside modern hits in libraries and bookstores.

It often seems imperative for me to always spend my time in pursuit of self-advancement, and ironically, this has led to a lot of wasted time trying to make a decision. I have actually gone to bed early rather than decide how to spend my night—on multiple occasions.

One part of accepting the world as it is is acknowledging that most parts of it are fundamentally uncontrollable. If you are religious, you might say that as humans we are meant to give control to God. If you are not, you might say this is because the world is chaos.

But I sometimes see the random pieces of life as working in opposition to my achieving my lofty goals. Life is messy, but I wish my circumstances were different and better. I have difficulty distinguishing what I can actually do to better myself and what I should relax about.

Though it is ridiculous to have a midlife crisis at 24, I have seen life as a ticking clock since 9th grade.

I see most positive things that happen to me as undeserved. I do not always see the qualities that my friends love about me as I already am. I worry that even if they could understand me they would not care, or that I am fundamentally different from every other person. (This last one I’ve heard is a common anxiety.)

People say I overthink things. I would propose instead that I consider more or different details than what is average. The fullest version of myself and the gift I wish to bring the world is being someone who does consider those details and knows which are relevant.

For all these reasons, I find myself talking at times I wish I were quiet, or quiet at times I wish I would speak up. I do not act like myself.

These anxieties have put a huge toll on my ability to claim personal happiness, and claiming happiness is the only way for anyone to have it.

—-

This last year might have been the worst time in my life. Upon finishing 4 1/2 years of college with a great record, wonderful friendships, and clearly defined life goals, I traveled across the country to educate myself on the television industry in Hollywood and learn how to be a single independent adult. I knew my first year would be challenging, but I resolved to keep my mission simple: find a job in LA and survive for Year 2.

What I didn’t realize was that back home, I was probably exploiting my friends as a crutch for personal therapy or real personal growth, and being so far away with no collegiate/institutional structure would force me to face the dark parts I saw in myself.

The human body is designed to avoid pain at any cost. I learned this because of the spiderweb of destructive behaviors I’ve used to avoid actually confronting my issues. And I’ve realized my anxieties are in reality coping mechanisms.

These are traits about myself I’m not proud of. They don’t constitute my identity, and I’m not obligated to leave room for them—either through self-pity or making excuses. But they have been part of who I am for a long time.

There is no real conclusion to this essay. Just know that if you’re a person who has similar anxieties that have prevented me from seeing you—I see you now. I hope by examining my anxieties I can eventually redeem them, and by defining them myself, I will not be ruled by them.

Lazy

I want to speak out on something. I’ve decided I no longer believe in lazy people. There are only people who are meeting their goals, and people who haven’t started yet. I woke up this morning and said “I’m a lazy writer. I’m depressed. I’m sick. I’m addicted to Facebook.” I am tired of wonderful people being sabotaged by themselves, when you should be your own biggest champion.

No. Everyone is valuable. I am no longer accepting the lie that for some reason you are not entitled to your personal happiness–and thus, I might not be as well. Quit telling me you’re out of the game.

Life is like a gym, and you’re the kid that can’t lift the 5 lb. bar. The first day you go in, everyone’s going to laugh at you. But if you go in every day, you’ll move up to the 10, the 15, and the 20, and you’ll still be working the gym when everyone else stopped showing up.

Everyone has different challenges. And yeah, it’s going to be hard. But it’s going to be a lot harder if you define yourself by those challenges, and that’s not how Jesus sees you either. Every day and every second can be a new beginning. I am no longer accepting negativity in my life.

One Year after Pulse

One year ago on this day 49 people were killed at the Orlando gay nightclub “Pulse” on its weekly Latin Night. More than 50 more were injured and about 200 more escaped as survivors. It was the deadliest mass shooting in US history, and I would urge you to do some research on the stories of the victims.

When I heard about the news I was on vacation at the beach, and at first I brushed it off as “just another shooting.” (A pretty lame response, I’m sorry to admit.) But when I looked closer, what I found shocked and angered me. Though we can only move forward if we forgive, I find myself thinking about this event so often. 49 people killed by an American citizen.

I struggle to find words to make sense of it. How can we fight terrorism overseas when we are so busy fighting it on our own soil?

Before he was killed, the shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS. But it was a gay nightclub, and it was Latin Night. It is hard to stay complacent when entire communities are targeted in this way, and unchecked bigotry threatens everyone’s security. I pray for a world where we all show a better side of humanity. We WILL get there. But we have not arrived there yet, and I remain upset.

Rest in Peace.

My Easter

For the last 3 1/2 months, I have been living as if there were no redemption.

This entire weekend, the only thoughts I’ve had about Easter were how “ill-prepared” I was spiritually to face it.
Despite the entire religious observance being about grace, I have felt guilt at not spending enough time meditating and being “Christian enough” to fully appreciate it. I have had only a dull apathy.

This morning, I overslept and my inaction caused me to miss the celebration at my home church.

I have been praying that on Easter, God would show up, and wreck my life, and I think it is in that space of inability to pave the way for my own salvation that God works most.

When we judge ourselves, or when we are in a time in life where we only seem to encounter judgment, punishment, and no mercy–in other words, when we are in the Wilderness, it is easy to forget that the reason we continue living through it at all is the hope of our reward in heaven.

We are a fallen people, and though our world is being redeemed, it is full of self-inflicted darkness.
But the promise of Easter is that we have the power to overcome sin through the penalty having been transacted on the cross.

Because of that truth, nothing else in our lives matters but the love we show to each other, and our overflowing worship to God. The one is fueled by the other. Our enemies on earth are the very same people that Jesus died for, and they are the ones we must love the most relentlessly.

I hope wherever you are, you have had a blessed Easter.