The Test of Fire

For some reason, I’ve been seeing a lot of side-by-side success stories from people who I have admired for their openness and vulnerability. People have been posting extreme highs and lows at a point in time on their journey – photos of them with swollen eyes and splotchy faces as they wrap up a mental breakdown caused by a mishap in their life, sitting next to a picture of them with a toothy grin and gleaming eyes as they have accomplished some great feat. I would always look at these photos with an understanding that no goal is reached with ease and even the people who seemed to have it all have felt the most humane feelings: loss and failure. So, when I sat in my bed last night after only two days’ worth of an exhausting week with an uncontrollable fit of tears, I couldn’t help but think whether or not this was only a part of my own success story.

For a second, though, before I go on, I’m going to explain something:

I am, in every aspect of the word, a dreamer. Sometimes I think it’s my greatest quality, other times I think it’s my most detrimental quality. Regardless, it’s the most prominent thing about me. My mind runs a mile per minute, but it’s not always wandering frantically, worrying about this or that. Often times, it’s off in its own world thinking about the exciting “what-ifs” in life. But when it comes to dreams that mean a lot to me, not only will I seriously dream about them, but I will seriously pursue them. Whether it’s the travel I’ve done, the school I’m attending, or the job I’m trying to get, I have dreamt hardcore about making these things happen and you can bet that I didn’t stop until I made them happen. But you can also bet that while the accomplishments of each of these things were great, sometimes that fallbacks felt greater.

I say this because as I was sitting in my room looking like the before photo of a before and after success story, I knew that this was a feeling I had recognized: it was the feeling of walking through fire. It was the heat of a flame instilling the fear of failure into my mind, a fear that I had no idea how to work through. But I also knew that if my dream was serious, if it’s meant to be, then it’s golden. And as the Chinese proverb goes, “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.”

I think in so many parts of our lives we experience the test of fire. For me, I experience it most in regard to my goals and plans. For some, it may be experienced most in relationships or other personal circumstances. But I knew that no matter how I felt last night or any other time where I’ve felt lost or hopeless, I had no choice but to push deeper into the flame. I am confident that who I am and what I want at its very core is golden. While I may feel the heat every step of the way, and some parts of my life that were disguised as gold may melt away, I will ultimately walk out unscathed because the test of the fire is nothing compared to the grit in my heart.

Do You Deserve the Love you Accept From Yourself?

Growing up I had always been afraid of heights. I remember having panick attacks on roller coasters and clinging to my best friend on a ferris wheel because the idea of being so high up and having so far to fall terrified me. There was no sense of “freedom” being up so high, it was just pure fear. At some point, though, I decided that I hated being afraid of something so trivial. So, I did what I could to tackle that fear. I rode more roller coasters. I climbed to higher heights. I tried to expose myself to the very thing that scared me so much so that I no longer felt afraid. Or rather, so that the fear didn’t mean nearly as much to me as the thrill.

I did the same thing with love.

Throughout this year, I began to analyze myself more deeply and learned a lot about my fear of love and where it came from. I learned that the amount of failed relationships that had surrounded my life had paralyzed me to the idea of love and caused me to (subconsciously) live in fear of relationships. So, just like with my fear of heights, I decided to dive headfirst into love.

I met a few people here and there and explored the posibility of love with each one, but it never felt right – none of them felt like the perfect match. Then, I unexpectedly fell in love with a man who wasn’t, by any means, perfect. His hobbies were more like obsessions; his temper was strong but shortlived; his opinions were nothing shy of (overly) passionate. But none of that mattered to me because I still saw perfection even in all of that. I saw his crinkly smile and felt the way it made my heart skip. I heard his laugh (which was more like a giggle) and couldn’t help but feel laughter bubble up within myself. I listened to the way he talked about things that mattered to him and I felt something that made cliche’s seem normal and love songs make sense. I knew I was in trouble, but with everything he did and said, I fell a little more.

I wish I could say there was a happy ending to the relationship and, because of him, I learned that there was nothing to be afraid of, but that’s not the case. Instead, I learned why I was afraid to love – I learned how much it could hurt if it didn’t last – and added that to my current knowledge of where the fear came from.

I’m not going to give any of the gory details on how the relationship ended because I don’t want blame to be pointed in any one direction. (I may write something that focuses on the relationship later on, but for now, this is a little more about me.) I believe wholeheartedly that the failure came from both ends – we each had things we needed to work on and that’s simply why we couldn’t be together right now. But when I look back on the relationship, I’m able to see how, in my opinion, we were doomed from the beginning; he never knew how to love me and I never know how to accept love from him – it doesn’t mean the love wasn’t there, it just means we were on a track that would eventually run short.

While I’ve never felt a pain worse than heartbreak and I think I definitely have quite a bit of healing to do, I’m glad I got the time that I did with a man who has such a great heart so I could learn what it’s like to love and allow myself to learn more of who I am. My last post was about my own mental health struggles, and being in love with someone else was exactly what I needed for me to realize how little love I had for myself. Each time I got upset about something he did or didn’t do or the appreciation I did or didn’t feel had little to do with him, but a lot to do with me. It was a realization that was hard to accept, but I’m glad I know it now.

Opening my heart up as much as I did when falling in love with him and then having it broken in the end was the only way for me to see inside of my heart and take a deeper look at what was in there. All of my insecurities, loneliness, and struggles were finally making themselves evident and it’s because of the appearance of those things that I couldn’t have a successful relationship with anyone even if I wanted to. I would always end up either pushing that person away or putting too much pressure on them, something that wouldn’t be healthy for either of us.

But maybe that’s what falling in love is all about. Maybe it’s about learning what’s in your own heart and then acting accordingly. It’s easy to hide from things until you start exposing yourself to someone else. Shallow relationships will never get you there, but deep relationships will force you to expose some of the most vulnerable parts of yourself, and that’s part of what makes them hard but so worth it.

I learned that I could give all the love I have to someone else, and I think I did that to the best of my ability, but that doesn’t mean anything if I don’t know how to love myself. After all, how can I truly accept love from others if I can’t even accept it from myself?

“We accept the love we think we deserve,” right? I would encourage you to truly ask yourself what kind of love you think you deserve…

Does it align with the love you’re showing others?

Does it align with the love you’re showing yourself?