Safety Valve

In times of trouble, there are those we seek out more than others.

Life can be a challenge to navigate. There are ups and downs, and if I may be frank, this has been a bit of a down year. Few things have gone the way I wanted them to, and they have me attempting to rewrite the narrative for age 32, even as I close in on age 33. It’s strange to write that out that number.

I guess the overall narrative of our lives aren’t all that important, but as a writer, I can’t help but feel like I want to leave this year on a positive note, if not for the year that was, then for the year that will be. I’d like to start 33 on a strong note, the kind of note that I never seem to be able to hit consistently in this insane year. Man, this year has been so different than any other year of my life. There’s no precedent for it. I’ve never had a year like this, and I doubt I’ll ever have a year like this again. I’m not sure I could handle it.

Life is anything but normal right now. The pandemic is impacting all of our lives in myriad ways, and yet, there are silver linings that were completely unexpected, and so I’m looking for more of them. I refuse to just call it quits for the next three months. I’m in search of a twist ending, and ending that will make this year into something good, or that will at least have it end in a way that’s more in keeping with my worldview and who I want to be. No, I don’t think that that’s too much to ask. I think that we should all be looking for the positives, the things that make our life unexpectedly good, most importantly because I believe that they do exist if you look hard enough for them. Still, this year has put me through my paces. It’s been a net negative.

Life can be difficult to navigate, and yet, it’s easier when we have friends surrounding us to take the edge off. Friends, maybe they’ve been through similar things we have, or at the very least they know us, and they know what makes us feel better. They know what to say to us to brighten our day. They know when to check in, and, maybe more importantly, they know when to leave use alone. Sometimes I do just need my own space, and I hope that no one ever takes offense to that, but I know it’s gotten me in trouble in relationships in the past. It’s not that I don’t want to be with you, it’s just that I need some time for me. I am very much an ambivert.

In my rougher moments this past year, I chose to seek out friends when therapy wasn’t an option. I’ve been working on telling the people around me what’s going on, rather than keeping it to myself and allowing it to weigh me down. I’ve always prided myself on the ability to be open, and yet, what got me into trouble this past year was keeping something to myself, something I thought I could grasp and that I could keep away from everyone else. I tried, but that’s not a good way to operate in life, and I found that I started keeping more things to myself, afraid of burdening others. I wasn’t trying to be deceptive, I was only trying to be conscientious of how much each person is already dealing with. It’s that guilt that I’ve written about before, the kind that makes you not want to reach out to others for fear that you’ll saddle them with more than they can handle.

And so I reached out to a friend, a friend I don’t talk to a lot, but a friend I trust nonetheless. In my darker moments, they responded quickly and with sage advice, and I felt better about everything. Yes, so much of my struggles, of all our struggles, are simply in our minds. That little piece of advice seemed to correct my trajectory, and from thereon out, I was much more at peace with the world, or so I thought.

Then, something occurred to me. I started scrolling through my recent conversations with said friend, and I realized the trend of our recent correspondence. They never seemed to mind, but it was always me reaching out with my problems and despair, with no added padding of other topics or small talk to balance things out. I felt like I was using them, when my intentions were anything but. I was becoming that person who always reaches out when they need something, who only reaches out when they are at the end of their rope. I’ve been that person before, on the other side of the conversation, but being on this side of it made me uncomfortable. It was a new look for me, and not one I much cared for.

I want to treat everyone like a true friend, and go to them when I need help only occasionally. There’s a balance to be struck that’s so difficult, and I’m guessing that for both me and the reader, there are only a handful of people in this life that you trust. That makes it easy to really hammer those select few, but I urge you to refrain from doing this. You never want to be the person that makes someone dread picking up the phone if you can avoid it. Rather, you want that strong level of connection, but you also want a balanced conversation, one that can cover a variety of bases, and that makes it seem like you need the person without needing them too much. People can only handle so much before they’re overwhelmed.

I never want to be that person that’s constantly seeking out someone for help, and yet, we all have those moments when we can’t help ourselves. We reach out because we don’t know what else to do. Hopefully, if someone is reaching out a lot, you can recognize that this is a delicate time in that other person’s life, and you realize that this won’t be forever, that it will pass, as everything does. It’s a difficult balance to strike, to not ask for too much when we all have needs. Do your best to keep it within reason, and try not to push too hard. Thanks for reading.

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