Remember when I wrote that moving to Toronto would be my next big adventure? At the time, I thought I was being kinda cute or kinda funny or something: I was moving back home after a few years of living abroad. I knew that this chapter would bring its own challenges, but how hard could it be? I’d navigated Korean grocery stores and learned to ride a motorcycle in Thailand and held my own at a massive Ecuadorian family reunion speaking only rudimentary Spanish, for heaven’s sake. Forgive me if I kind of thought, “I got this.”
Are you guys laughing? Because I’m laughing. Because I’m naive and young and I always seem to think, “I got this”, until I get some serious knowledge dropped on my head and it turns into a question: “Do I got this?” (Hint: no.)
I can safely say that the last six months have been some of the best of my life. They have been so rich with life, with love, with this beautiful feeling of community that I’ve craved for so long. I’ve gone home (way) more times in the last 6 months than I did for the past 6 years, which is such a blessing. I’ve spent time with my sisters, and my parents, and my grandparents. I’ve made friends with fellow entrepreneurs, with my baristas, with my colleagues, with strangers. I’ve gotten to work with so many amazing people, doing things that I am really passionate about. I’ve gained the kind of confidence that I didn’t know I was capable of. I have friends who feel like family to me. I’ve gotten so many incredible opportunities handed to me on what feels like a silver platter. So much so that one day a couple weeks ago I went to the park in the middle of the afternoon on a beautifully sunny day and I actually cried: I am so lucky. I am so lucky. I am so lucky.
Here’s the thing though. The last few months have also pushed me, hard. Would you like some examples? There was the time my rent e-transfer got deposited into the wrong account and for two months I thought I’d lost a huge chunk of cash that I didn’t exactly have lying around. There was the time that my landlords sold the house I live in and I didn’t know whether I would have to move out. There were weeks of work days when I felt frantic and tired and over-caffeinated and hangry because I didn’t stop to eat properly. There were a lot of nights, especially in the winter, when I felt incredibly lonely because I realized that my friends in the city had their own busy lives and mine felt, by contrast, very empty. There were a handful of times that I got news that sent me reeling for hours or days. There was the frustration of trying – for nearly a year – to get some of my most precious items sent back to me from another country. There has been heartbreak. There have been a lot of tears. There has been a lot of growth.
My dear friend Sonja helped me reframe this once recently by saying:
“The pain and heartbreak you are feeling? these are growing pains.“
Growing pains! The pain we go through as we grow. What we experience when we shed what we don’t want, to make room for what we do: the best version of ourselves and the best version of our lives. What I love about this idea is that it reminds us that it can hurt to grow. It can hurt like hell. It can push all our buttons and emotionally punch us in the gut and make us need to rage-walk around the neighbourhood listening to rage-y music. (Not to be confused with rave-y music, although to each their own.) In fact, as I’ve come to learn, the best kind of growth hurts us exactly like this, because it’s the kind that actually changes us, shakes us up, and improves our lives for the better.
There’s a piece of writing advice that I love which says that to be a good writer, you have to “kill your darlings”. In the context of writing, this means that you often have to cut out the sentences or characters that are the literary equivalent of My Precious: you love them maybe a little too much, and they’re ultimately not serving the story as a whole. They’ve got to go.
I’m learning that in the context of life, killing your darlings means cutting out the people and the limiting beliefs about yourself or the world that are somehow Precious to your identity, in order to make room for the good stuff. Here’s the thing though: at the time you do so, killing your darlings REALLY does not feel like you’re making room for the good stuff. It feels – pardon my French – like shit. If you’re like me, you may have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the idea of killing said darlings, and you will not enjoy even one single minute of it.
This is what I think is so important to remember, and why I resonate so much with the idea that these are growing pains: big, important life lessons are often about both growth and pain. But if we forget this fact, we aren’t going to ever want to do the work. We won’t kill our darlings or break our patterns or do the thing that’s scary. We’ll think: this hurts, I don’t like it, make it stop, and go back to the way we’ve been doing things all along. Staying still is way easier than moving forward. Or, as I joked earlier tonight: “Oh, so this is what not settling feels like – it totally sucks. No wonder so many people avoid it by just..settling.”
The fact is that it hurts to stretch, it hurts to shed your skin, it hurts to get two inches taller overnight. We have to remember that it hurts for a reason, it hurts because better things are coming, it hurts because we are being remade.