I was 22 years old and jobless when I stepped out of a taxi cab in Brooklyn, New York after leaving my California life and relocating to a city I had never even been to.
My college friend had secured an apartment for us and I had three interviews lined up for the week. It was November, cold and rainy. The coat I bought at my favorite shop in Oakland was the only New York weather-appropriate item of clothing I owned. I didn't care. I was riding on a high and I had no plans for that high to go down. I was young without a single tie to anyone and now I was 3,000 miles away from everyone who knew me.
My life was finally beginning.
The next night, I cried so hard in my shower that I almost threw up.
This became my nightly routine.
All of it was so overwhelming. A brand new place, a brand new culture, and with only one friend in my east coast roster, suddenly it all felt like a terrible decision. I called my mom a week later and confessed that things weren't going as well as I thought they would and she immediately offered to send me a flight back home. I grappled with the idea of heading back, tail between my legs, my attempt at adulthood a short-lived failure. I couldn't do it. So, instead of packing my things and moving back home, I learned one of the most important lessons of my life:
Breaking down is a sign that you're about to build yourself back up.
As women, we're all very familiar with the feeling of breaking down. It may come in the form of depression or anti-social behavior or intense procrastination or just uncontrollable weeping. Usually when we're on the brink, we do our best to prevent it.
"I need to take a vacation because I'm on the edge of a breakdown," is something we've all said at some point. But, since breaking down is an inevitable part of life, maybe it's time we changed the way we approach it.
Instead of tapping out or avoiding it completely, try this instead: do your best to embrace the breakdown.
We walk around all day showing our best face to the world as we encounter things like intersectional oppression and constant criticism. Not to mention the addition of life's little gems, like break-ups, financial strain, friends letting us down, or injury and illness. When life feels really heavy and you think you're about to lose it, take a moment and allow yourself to lose it. Cry in the shower, cut off the world for a week, sleep for an entire day, scream into the night.
Because letting it out makes room for the glow up.
It's in there, hiding underneath the pressure and stress you've been holding onto. It's waiting for you to deal with all the emotions that are simmering just below your surface.
Once you admit to yourself that you can't handle what's in front of you, the next step is to forgive yourself. You're not superwoman, you can't do it all and you've been trying your best. Say it in the mirror, "I can't do it all, and that's okay."
Back when I was crying in the shower, the thing that pulled me through was not some magical solution that fell into my lap. I admitted I was overwhelmed, forgave myself for being weakened by a new situation, and decided to change my step. I started going out more, met new people, and began building a new circle of friends. I got a job that I liked and started having more fun. But those actions would have never been possible if all I did was sit under the feeling of being overwhelmed pretending everything was ok. How could I walk into a room and make an impression on new people if I'm awkwardly trying to smile through unresolved pain?
Freeing myself was key.
Now, when I feel a breakdown coming on, the narrative is different.
I cry or sleep or run away for a weekend but then I tell myself that it's time to make some life changes. I forgive myself for needing to shift my plan based on my emotional health and I'm reminded once again that I'm my closest ally. Life will inevitably get to be too much sometimes, especially for a woman of color.
Take the time and space to allow yourself to feel it, and know that another shining moment is waiting on the other side.
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Originally published on December 29, 2017.