2022 is moving faster than I’m comfortable with.

As a Sagittarius, the previous sentence makes absolutely no sense and is completely at odds with my core ability to adapt to change at all costs.

Still…as we inch toward the final days of February…everything feels like a big blur, and I personally feel like I’m struggling to keep up.

Within the first seven weeks of the new year, I’ve already experienced the highest of highs that came in the form of a fun and family-filled weekend attending the best wedding ever, and the lowest of lows in the form of receiving an offer for what seemed like a great career opportunity…only to discover it was attached to an absolutely trash list of conditions that had more red flags than the Beijing Olympics. Somewhere in between, there’ve also been like three different seasons happening concurrently in New York. And there was a big football game that ran during a concert that made me feel exhilarated, nostalgic, conflicted (because half of the lineup have either assaulted women in the past or have songs about killing a spouse)…and old. The next day, people were professing their love for each other all over the internet, and I made chicken noodle soup and watched a mediocre 80s movie.

Wild times, I tell ya.

Needless to say, I welcomed the possibility of a chill long weekend catching up with some of my favorite people enthusiastically. A fun Friday night dinner chatting and laughing for several hours. A soul-filling Saturday brunch, followed by walks through Highline Park and the Whitney Museum. And then, a surprising Sunday phone conversation that had me doubled over in laughter one moment, then devastated the next as I made an almost heartbreaking realization that left me unexpectedly reeling long after the call ended.

Lemme preface by saying first that the person on the other end of that call had absolutely zero intentions of throwing me off-kilter, and has no idea that my world was rocked by a lighthearted joke that segued into a commentary on experiencing love without fear.

Now that I’ve added that disclaimer, lemme hit you with the context: In the midst of recapping my weekend, he made a joke about one of my friends having a name that also happens to be the name of a party drug. Strangely, in my forty-six years of life I’ve somehow managed to never have that experience, and found the joke hilarious. As one does, I asked if he’d done it, and while I wasn’t surprised by his answer, I wasn’t expecting what came next. He described the feeling in such a way that I was intrigued, but when he mentioned he’d done it with someone he was in love with at the time, and it made that feeling of being in love “better,” I felt a punch in my heart. I was jealous. I’d never in my life had that feeling — of being in love fearlessly and living freely in the moment with someone who loved me back. I didn’t know it at the time I was processing this new information. In fact, my first response was curiosity about how it made things better, which led to a whole conversation about honesty and expressing oneself in a relationship, because in my mind I felt the drug was just allowing him to be someone he couldn’t when he was sober. I was projecting, and I needed to understand why so I could identify the feeling. When I realized why, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

All of my romantic relationships have been saddled with shame. Full stop. ALL. OF. THEM.

When I wasn’t worried about being abandoned or sexually assaulted, I worried whether someone would consider me “spoiled” because I’d been both. I was ashamed of my past and feared it deemed me unworthy of anything real. I never considered myself pretty, or interesting or sufficiently “feminine” (whatever the fuck that meant to me at the time), like most of the girls I saw who had boyfriends who turned into husbands and life partners who adored them and gave them the world. I was ashamed of my financial situation and my lack of stylish clothes and lifestyle that would appeal to certain men.

So I accepted whatever shitty offer I got because I didn’t think I deserved better, went through the new shame of being in inauthentic, unsatisfying, loveless, unrequited and abusive situations and robbed myself of joy in the process. That pattern stayed with me throughout every aspect of my existence, including friendships and even my work life. In retrospect, I can safely ascertain that the first 40 years of my life were toxic AF. Then, I lost the love of my life (my father died), I dropped over 230 pounds (dumped my then-boyfriend), and drastically shifted gears (went to therapy). It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but it’s been exponentially better.

How do I know this for sure? Well…I think the fact that I walked away from a six-figure job because it required me signing away my rights and legal protection from a bunch of egregious demands is a start.

There was a time when I would be uncomfortable around people who had the confidence to ask for what they wanted, who were bold, knew their value and demanded to be treated and compensated fairly and according to what they felt they were worth and deserved. I felt there was an arrogance about them and I resented it. I didn’t understand how limiting that frame of thinking was.

Fast forward…the thoughts that kept me stuck now horrify me — as I see and hear them being used politically to deny people basic human rights and fair treatment and wages.

For so long, I’ve mistaken being shameless as something that only causes embarrassment and potential harm to others. That’s not to say that it can’t be those things. But now, I see that it’s also a freeing feeling; one where you can be unapologetically yourself, in all your imperfect and vulnerable glory, and aren’t tethered to thoughts and fears of whether or not you’re worthy of being loved, accepted and enough.

Because you already know you are…by YOU.

To me, that’s the greatest high of all.

Now…lemme get back to trying to get my shit together. I may be steadier than I’ve ever been, but I still gotta keep the wheels from flying off this bullet train of a year.

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