Milestones are pretty arbitrary. Turning 30 doesn’t, in the grand scheme of things, change much of anything. My mom told me at one point that it was in her thirties that the pace of her life started to slow down. I’ve been looking forward to that for the last few years, and I’m not sure if it’s truly on the horizon. In the next six months or so I plan to move to a bigger city and, in the next year, start grad school. (You know, nbd.)
Still, I feel that the last few years have given me the chance to figure out more of what this adulting thing is all about. A huge part of that has been learning how to navigate relationships in a more honest, intentional, and accountable way. After having a few major relationships in my life shift dramatically or come to a cessation, I’ve learned about my own behavior and what behaviors of others I can and can’t tolerate. Barbara Carrellas recently posted on facebook about the importance of distinguishing between “making healthy judgments (which keep humans alive) and being judgmental.” This is something I’m only learning to trust myself to do. If I feel even a little bit of judgment creep in, I feel very guilty. I’m trying to unlearn this, and instead embrace that it’s okay to listen to my instincts.
If something feels fucked up, it probably is. If something happens to me that’s fucked up, it’s okay to say so. If I need something from someone or from a situation, it’s okay to ask for that.
Non-violent communication has been a huge help in teaching me how to effectively communicate with others, but after reading the link Barbara posted, (and others like it,) I find so much of myself reflected in the pieces about marginalized people and abuse survivors. Growing up around a lot of anger and dismissal, I still find it hard to enter into conversations where tensions might run high and conflict might get out of hand. This has been cemented by the abuse I’ve been through in various relationships, and it’s only through sharing my experiences and talking with others who have been through similar things that I have felt validated in expressing my own frustrations and needs.
However, this has been difficult for me when it comes to navigating situations where I’ve been hurt by people who are also people of marginalized identities, or who have also been through abuse or significant trauma. I feel as though they are so fragile that any harm I might do to them will only further traumatize them. In this situations, my own sense of empathy gets in the way. But it’s also okay for me to express when I need space from someone. It’s okay to not apologize and try to fix things when I know I’m not at fault. I can own up to my percentage of the bullshit in a given situation, but it’s also okay not to take on more than my fair share in the interest of being “the bigger person.”
For the coming year, I resolve to engage only in relationships that feel healthy. I want to extend this beyond friendships and family, but in job and housing situations as well. I’m setting a timeline for myself of six months. If a job still sucks, or a roommate situation, or a romantic or friendly relationship is more of a costly emotional strain than I can withstand, I won’t force myself to “stick it out.” I have had enough experience with interpersonal toxicity to know when something is beyond just “hard,” and has instead veered into toxic territory.
I’m resolving to put myself and my dreams first in a meaningful way.
I’m resolving to let myself set and defend healthy boundaries.
Happy birthday, you old so-and-so.
Photo credit: the author