I usually try to post something really light and fluffy about the big accomplishments of this past year, what to look for in the new year, and include my favorite track of the year as a party anthem into the final countdown.
This year, it’s a bit different for me.
2017 was the year I decided to stop negotiating, people pleasing, and being chained to an immense amount of hurt and darkness.
Truthfully, this is a present I never thought I would see two years ago.
In 2015 and into early 2016, I found myself trapped in a dangerously abusive relationship. I still often hear the question of, “Why didn’t you leave?” With the advent of #MeToo, there are plenty of resources to identify an answer to this question – I’ll leave this TedTalk here that really resonated with my own experience (CW: abuse, guns, domestic violence). To distill it down to a statement, it was the idea of hope that kept me within the relationship.
It was that same hope that made me realize that I needed to leave and escape.
At first, I thought my life trajectory really was derailed forever – even though the physical, verbal, emotional, and psychological torment ceased. I had alienated my friends and family, and felt like there was this gigantic mark on my professional career. I had intense social anxiety. I previously thrived on extroversion, and meeting new and familiar faces: now I ran from it. I constantly asked myself, “Why”, with a hint of rage at myself for “letting this happen”. I couldn't see how this could possibly improve, and I rotted my mind with deliterious thoughts of negativity and self-punishment.
Hope wouldn’t let me continue with that dialogue though. Hope told me that things had to change – within myself and my life. Hope declared that without kindness toward myself and my experience I could not move forward wholly healed.
In that small space that I created with Hope, I began to find the parts of me I didn’t know I posessed or had forgotten about. I found tenacity, resourcefulness, and fun. I found creativity, focus, a thirst for travel and new experiences, and forgiveness.
The most important thing I found was vulnerability – to allow myself to be candid and real with myself and other people, and to not be afraid of my emotions but to engage them, feel them, question them politely, and be kind to them.
I began approaching my life with an almost childlike sense of wonder - everything was new again, and I felt like I really could engage and create something new and amazing filled with those things I found in my conversations with this idea of Hope. When I faltered, Hope remained to push me onward.
In 2015 until January 2016, I almost quit everything to move home – no more music, no more Boston.
In 2016-2017, I grew a voice studio from 4 to 30 students, performed in two operas (one as a principal character), started creative and career coaching, travelled to 5 countries, and met and got engaged to the love of my life (my biggest cheerleader and confidant).
I’ve learned a lot about myself in these past two years. While I feel more grounded and am certainly on the right track, I know that I am still growing and learning. I still have the ghost of my experience that visits me (though I am not bound to it). Rather than argue with it, malign it, and berate myself for it existing, I try to greet it with love and understanding, and to tell it that it’s ok, and that life has gotten better and will continue to do so for myself and for the people around me.
Hope continues to tell me that life will keep getting better if I live in the truth of myself, my values, and the love I have found within myself and for others. We cannot truly be whole and loving individuals in the service of our purpose if we do not love and tend to the gaps and hurt within ourselves.
If you’re still in the thick of your journey, I wish you the best on your trail in 2018, and know that you are not alone. The truth I found within Hope unveiled much of the wealth within my life, where I could continue to build and grow, and helped me discover the person I knew I wanted to be. Whatever truth you have found, whether it is Courage, Joy, Change, Grace – may you imbue it throughout your life, and sew it into the fabric of your present and future with this new year.
“If you ever lost every part of yourself, if you've left your heart on a lonely avenue: it will be only a matter of time before your life comes through for you.”
If you feel like you are stuck in an abusive relationship (whether it is mental, physical, sexual, verbal, emotional), and are not sure how to get out, always reach out to a friend or family member you can trust. If you are completely stuck, you can find educational resources online at the following links, and reach help at the following phone lines:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233
RAINN - 1-800-656-4673
Love Is Respect - 1-866.331-9474
OneLove - Resources on how to identify unhealthy relationships, and how to help a friend
My change could not have been possible without a tremendous web of support. I would like to thank:
- My therapist (who will remain nameless) for challenging me to actually speak to the negative voice inside of me.
- Colleen Star Koch, my coach, mentor, and friend who sparked a fire in me that has not stopped.
- My beautifully kind-hearted fiancé, Ilhan - you will never know how instrumental you were in my growth. Thank you for always listening no matter sunshine or storm, and for being my partner and teammate in life.
- My teacher, Dana Varga, who offered to house me in the basement of her home until I could find somewhere safe to live.
- My friend, Christiana - the first person I reached out to after escaping, and said, "I'm not sure what happened, or why I was the person you thought of - but, I want you to know if I was there, I would just give you the biggest hug."