It’s been over a year since we last posted an Upward Together podcast. If I’m being honest, it’s been a result of lack of drive, complacency, and fear, at least from my end. I was going to say that life got busy, but that’s really just an excuse. Needless to say, a lot of things have changed over the last year, between the last podcast episode and this one.
Regarding this podcast, the first change is this: As Josh leaves for medical school this upcoming August, we’ve decided that Josh is going to step back from Upward Together and get acclimated to a new pace of life. Upward Together will continue, in a new format — we’re expanding our conversations to other people, bringing in other unique perspectives and stories, learning from each other along the way. While I will be taking point on this podcast, Josh will still return as a guest or guest host, having his own conversations to be held in this space (in fact, he has two we have yet to release)!
This has always been the point of Upward Together, to have intentional conversation and build meaningful community, lifting each other up and encouraging each other to be better, together. We have a wonderful set of conversations coming up, with people I am honored and humbled to know. I am excited to share them with you all.
The second change is what you’re reading right now! I’ve decided it would be a good exercise for myself to take the time to reflect on and write about the conversations I have. Conversations typically are unstructured and cover many different topics, at least the conversations that I have, so I want to be able to distill them into something more clear and concise, to be able to really understand what was said and glean further insight. It’s a bit of a challenge too — am I able to effectively order naturally disordered thoughts? It’s something I want to practice and get better at. I’m sharing it with you all because I want to! It holds me accountable.
Regarding everything else that has changed over the past year, well, that’s what Josh and I talk about in this episode, thinking back on what the last year has taught both of us.
First things first, I realized how little I reflected personally over the last year. Josh asked me, “What do you feel like are some of the biggest things that you’ve learned, either generally or about yourself?” and I struggled to come up with a cohesive answer. I had no idea what I had learned. But I just started talking and hoped I would word vomit out something that made sense. I considered editing this down in the podcast, but I chose not to, so you can see exactly what I’m referring to.
Just a few days prior to that conversation, I realized how deeply unhappy and unsatisfied I was with my life, which is in stark contrast to when we first started this podcast, a time I was the happiest I’ve ever been. I had just pushed through a difficult transition, and I was extremely content with the life I was living. Eventually, that contentedness became my new normal, and I became complacent. I think I just assumed I would always be that happy, and I let my guard down. And now, two years later, I realized that dissatisfaction and unhappiness crept up on me. I took for granted what I had, and didn’t think to continue assessing and reflecting on my life to maintain that happiness and satisfaction. Without me realizing, my normal changed.
I am now reorienting my life to change my normal again, making changes to find a life that has fulfillment and meaning to me. And, just like last time, this is a difficult transition. Facing and coming to terms with the discomfort of one’s unhappiness is hard, and moving in a direction to get out of that reality is even harder.
Josh asked, “What are some ways to cultivate that strength within yourself to push forward to remind yourself that things will be all right?”
I constantly have to remind myself to be patient, that change is slow, as well as be consistent in the things I consider to be self-care. Until now, I haven’t written something to share with the world in over a year. I want to get back to that. I’m starting to dance every day. I’m stretching every morning and every evening. I’m exercising again. I’m taking more photos. I’m re-learning how to listen to myself and my needs, as well as challenging myself to be vulnerable and share those needs with the ones I love.
Josh is one of those people, and I am always grateful to him for being so self-aware and encouraging me to be aware of myself. It probably didn’t help me that we had stopped talking over this past year as well. He reminded me by saying,
“Receiving honest feedback from people who are close to me is really important for me to reorient myself in terms of the kinds of stories I tell myself and my own narratives.”
And, over however long, I had been really going about this life solo. It’s not that I didn’t have friends around me, but more that I didn’t share with them what was most vulnerable to me. Our conversation was a reminder to me that vulnerability is not weakness, that allowing others in will only allow for more love between us. We rely on each other to hold each other accountable, to make each other better, and to support each other in times of need. It is other people who can sometimes see me better than I can see myself, and help guide me in the direction I need to go, but only if I let them in. Thank you, Josh, for reminding me of that.
At one point in my self-reflection, I started to feel a little stressed that life was slipping past me. I know, I’m 24 and I have so much life left to live, but I felt so much frustration at myself because I had wasted away so much of the last year. I beat myself up for not moving forward and instead living in fear and comfort. Josh said something that put that into perspective.
“I have agency and can change. I’m not immutable as a person. It’s so easy to forget this. We can change who we are as people and we don’t have to follow along self-defeating narratives, particularly when they don’t serve us.”
At any point in our life, we can always strive for change. Sure, as we get older, we become more resistant to change, and there’s that idea that our brain stops developing at the age of 25. But, despite that, we have the capacity to be someone different than who we were yesterday. We can always wake up tomorrow and do something differently, whether that’s something as small as starting a new habit, like stretching, or something as big as making a career change to pursue our dreams. We never have to be stuck in these stories we tell ourselves. And, yes. Some of us are in life situations where we can’t just jump ship and do something radically different. But we can always shift the way we think about it.
Josh mentioned he loves to stop and smell the flowers. I think I need to stop and smell the flowers more. I want to be more grateful. I want to appreciate the present moment, and the boundless gifts that come from it. There are parts of my life that I am discontent with, which also happen to be parts of my life that I cannot currently change. But there are so many other aspects of my life that are good, and the change I can make is what I choose to invest my mental and emotional energy in. And I choose gratitude. I choose patience, trusting that that which I cannot change becomes something that I can. And even if it doesn’t, I choose gratitude still.
As I noted earlier, Josh is going on to medical school, and so he’s going through his own transition. During his interview process, he was told something I want to highlight here: “Don’t lose who you are outside of medicine because you are a person who has interests and passions.” Josh goes on to say,
“I like the idea of living with complexity, embodying paradox, and pushing against binaries, that maybe more things are both/and rather than one or the other. I think it really expands the possibilities of who we can be and what we can do.”
My conversation with Josh has brought back into sharp focus that each of us are complex, confusing, and ever-changing. We Each of us are also called to exist with each other, so each of our complex natures coincide and clash. (That’s a lot of ‘C’ words) This is why life and relationship can be so messy. It’s also why life and relationship can be so beautiful. One more ‘C’ word, but I am reminded of the importance of compromise. Here I am, a complicated human being, with my own thoughts, beliefs, passions, and ideals. I am bound to meet many other complicated human beings, whose thoughts, beliefs, passions, and ideals do not line up perfectly with my own. Rather than fully morph myself to be exactly like them or ask them to change to be exactly like me (which is impossible), or otherwise completely separate myself from them, it’s usually the case that I am asked us to learn how to live with them despite our differences; in other words, life asks us to compromise. Life almost always asks us to give up some part of ourselves so that we can more intimately engage with others. More often it’s a both/and, rather than an either/or.
And perhaps it’s not learning to live with others despite our differences, but because of our differences. It’s when we let go of ourselves and embrace one another, that we become more than we ever could be, both as an individual and as a community. Some of the greatest things I have ever learned were from differences I had with other people. Some of the greatest ideas and solutions that I was a part of creating came from a combination of different perspectives from people with different backgrounds. Those differences challenged me, and pushed me to think beyond myself. And as a result, I grew. It’s not only a reminder that I am always evolving, always changing, but that I should embrace the change. Josh even said,
I think it's often by approaching those kinds of conversations with people that seem different from us that we can be surprised and grow in different ways.
I am grateful for the differences — they challenge me to expand how I think and who I am.
When Josh asked me what I had learned at the beginning of the conversation, I started speaking not knowing what my answer was going to be. It turns out, my answer was just as complex as I am. It took time to piece together my narrative and the truth I wanted to share. I am grateful to Josh for letting me speak and sort out my thoughts, as well as letting me listen. I was able to learn and be reminded of so many things, and I am a better person because of it.
Today, I choose change.
Today, I choose gratitude.
Josh, thank you for everything. I love having a front row seat to the life you will ultimately live. Thanks for going upward together with me. Peace.