Do It Yourself

Made by yours truly

I have a tendency to want to do things myself. Rather than relying on buying everything pre-made, I make my own feather hairclips and bread. Rather than hiring someone to decorate my (ever-changing) space, I scavenge what I can and set it up myself. Rather than listening to others, I usually take my own advice.

Lately, I found myself in a few extreme situations. I was backpacking through South America, after all. Cram the three of us into a mototaxi and zip across Ilave to the “bus station” (which was really just some randomly-designated corner on the dirt roads) with our backpacks held on by a string? Yes, please. Those adventures have given way to the unbelievable cleanliness and organization of Boulder. There are bookstores. There are several extremely modern hospitals. There is a lot of amazing food. Whole Foods has remodeled and somehow made itself even more paradise-like to me.

What I’m trying to say is that the traffic follows actual lanes paints on paved roads here.

In the last month I’ve been a bit of an emotional mess, probably due to the intensity of transitioning from TEFL in a poor public school in Chilean Patagonia to backpacking several thousand miles and then back to some semblance of a routine in Colorado. As a result, emotions leaked out. Typically through my tear ducts. A whole lot of smeared mascara removal to be had.

Everyone had to chime in with their ideas on what I should do and why.

Be more assertive with your opinions. Don’t ever step on anyone’s toes. Under no circumstance show frustration or fed-up-ed-ness (even after a 31-hour trek across northern Chile and Southern Peru). Be open and honest with friends. Be vulnerable and let people in. Don’t ever share anything that might be a downer. Don’t talk about things people don’t want to hear about. Don’t try to play off your disappointment with the experience in South America and all that went wrong with jokes because you’ll seem insincere. Don’t ever bring up your blog over beers. You’re too sensitive. Stop being emotional. You’re in the wrong. You’re always in the wrong. Grown women don’t cry.

And the inevitable frustration–Why can’t you just be like I want you to be?!

A few weeks of this, and I am a little unsure how to proceed. I recognize that maybe this is the way that advice works. Maybe I attract contradictory suggestions because I have so much going on Self wise, so much that I’m trying to figure out and put together. Maybe their views are truncated because they have only been in my life a few months and have no frame of reference for the rest. It sure sounds like trying to tone down everything about my personality that makes others uncomfortable. Because a docile Coleen is apparently a better Coleen even if it takes away huge tracts of what makes me, Me.

On the other hand, it’s pretty obvious to me that absolutely no one I know in their twenties has their shit totally together. We are all struggling. Jobs. School. Travel. Relationships. The ever-present “So, what are your plans?” which is a not-so-subtle “So, when are you going to get your life together?” from even passers-by on the street. I don’t have a clue where I will be in six months, and I haven’t had that kind of security at any point in the last five years. So many of us are pulled in opposite directions–yearning for stability and yet fending it off with a chair and whip when responsibility comes calling.

Someone told me this year that in order to grow up, one must suffer. A lot.

Well, I suffered quite a bit in the circumstances I volunteered (and paid) for in Chile. I gained perspective on myself and the past in ways I never could have if I’d stayed at home and found a job working in a bookstore (Which, incidentally is what I plan to do now…).

I grew. I stretched. I cracked.

And despite the outward appearance of confusion or internal self-conflict—I do actually know what’s best for me. All that advice trying to form me into someone other than myself might as well be well-intentioned static. I have to do this myself.

5 thoughts on “Do It Yourself

  1. I hate that experience of return. It can be so hard not to throttle people who seem to want some sanitized two-minute summary of your time away – as though you were discussing a movie or some inane gossip.

    It really can be impossible to fit back in that space you left sometimes. Once you spread your wings, no matter how much you try, you can never go back to who you were before.

    And as you so rightly defend – why should you have to?

    1. Also hard to be back because the inevitable “How do you afford to travel so much?” question starts to come up. Almost accusatory, as though I must have magic money trees all over my backyard.

      That’s the subject of a future post.

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