I used to hate the question, “What are three adjectives you would use to describe yourself?” – I would ask: “Asian,” does that count? What about “short?” “Left-handed?” I talked to friends, phoned my mom, asked my teachers …everyone else could describe me in various ways, but I could never do it myself. Why? The simple explanation: I didn’t know who I was.
A couple years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you a single thing about myself. However, if you were to ask me the same question today, I would be able to tell you in an instant that I am:
I am still (obviously) Asian, short, and left-handed but over the years and across continents, I have grown into someone empowered, independent, and confident. I am extremely proud of who I am and the person I’ve become.
AND YET (yes, here is the whole meat of the story) …and YET, when it comes to situations where my decisions directly affect the lives of other people, I am constantly at a loss. I know what is right for myself, but I still struggle. I don’t like closing doors and can never bring myself to do so. I don’t know when to invest in relationships, or even, when things are not black-and-white terrible, when to leave.
Some of my struggles, I know, are born entirely out of fear. Fear of loss. Mind you, I used to be much worse. In all those years where I couldn’t have listed a better adjective for myself than “Asian,” I was also incredibly clingy and emotionally dependent. I was like a barnacle, stuck to the side of a ship that I had no control over.
I’m so much better now but even still, the fear of loss haunts me. We could psychoanalyze this, attributing it to my parents’ divorce and certain events that happened during key developmental phases of my childhood but knowing why doesn’t help. Knowing that it exists does.
In the past, I’ve found that walking away from relationships that don’t serve me anymore is one of the hardest things to do, whether it’s from ex-friends, ex-significant others, or even people I don’t really have any obligations to. Many equate a fear of loss to a fear of being alone – but alone, I am okay with. I love being alone (hello, Netflix and peanut butter by myself). In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that my fear of loss is borne out of not wanting to be wrong about someone. I pride myself on being able to read others well and I hate when life throws me for a loop when others don’t turn out the way I pegged them to.
I’ve progressed enormously from barnacle to ship captain, but maybe it’s time I progress even further. Maybe it’s time to turn into a pirate (please, just don’t tell my mom). Perhaps I just need to accept that I can and most likely, will be wrong about others and assess the situations in my life objectively. Make those who don’t give me the energy I deserve walk the plank. Stick those who don’t deserve me into the brig and close the door forever.
A great plan on paper, right? Now, to carry it out.