This blog has quickly turned into a place where I pour out complicated details of my life, but I suppose that’s healthy and if people want to read it – cool.
My job gives me an opportunity to meet a lot of people under many different circumstances. They tell me intimate details about their lives, and some are heartbreaking and hard to hear. But as with any situation, I try to walk away having learned something new about life.. as well as myself.
In the news industry, you’ve really got to have a thick skin because you see, hear and experience a lot of traumatizing things. So one thing I’ve learned about myself is that if I can classify something as “all in a day’s work,” no matter how traumatically emotional it may be, I can shelve it and go on with my regular day-to-day as if it hasn’t affected me at all. For example, I’ve been to so many emergency scenes that I’ve lost count where people have been seriously injured or even died, but it doesn’t phase me. Mentally, I see experiences like this as simply the nature of my job, and it’s my duty to capture the experience in order to share it and teach others. But if something happens in my personal life, not even on par with some of the things I experience on the job, it has the power to cripple me for days at a time.
As most of you know, my husband and I have been working our butts off to finally get to live in the same city together. Visas and paperwork complicate the process quite a bit, but we take it day by day. Most recently, we had finally found an apartment in London that checked all of our boxes, and we quickly put down a deposit to make it ours. It’s been years in the making, and finding an apartment eliminated one of the final obstacles keeping us apart. We were thrilled! We started talking about how we’d decorate the place, what furniture we needed to buy, how we’d spruce up the back garden to make use of it during the warm months. We were having so much fun making plans because it finally felt like our future together – in the same place – was here. Well, in true “just our luck” fashion, this dream came to a grinding halt. The current tenant decided to stay last minute, so we lost our dream flat. All of our plans went up in smoke just like that. Back to square one. I wasn’t just devastated, I was angry. After everything we’ve been through, how dare the world do this to us?! The end was in sight! I allowed myself to get excited only to have the rug ripped right out from under me?! That’s not fair! That’s not right!
As soon as I heard the news, my entire demeanor changed. My entire outlook on my future became bleak. “I’ll never get to London,” I thought. “It’s just not meant to be.” Neither of us had even moved into the place yet, but it still felt like someone took something of ours away. I cried. I punched pillows. I threw a mini fit in the privacy of my room. I yelled at my husband even though he had nothing to do with the tenant deciding to stay put. I just couldn’t handle it.
And then I gave myself time to think. A few days ago, I had a conversation with a coworker about personal battles we all fight in our private lives, and how we must then put on a brave face in public and act like nothing is bothering us. And I thought how easy it is for us to completely ignore our feelings like that for the sake of saving face. Unless it’s your job to remain unbiased, you’re allowed to let things affect you. But then I ask: how do you decide what is allowed to affect you and what’s not? On the job, I’m completely numb to emotion. But off the clock, it doesn’t take much to get to tantrum town. So how do I find a healthy balance?
Talking to people helps. It’s a blessing to have level-headed people weigh in on your situation and give you perspective. On the job, sometimes I’m that person for victims’ families. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that their situations are much more dire than the ones I’m facing right now, which brings me back down to earth. If someone whose grandson was shot and killed at close range by a police officer still has faith in the power of positivity and future change, who am I to let something like a silly apartment damn my future?
So here’s what I’ve learned: It’s okay to be sad, mad, hurt. To quote my favorite movie, Elizabethtown, “you have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery. Enjoy it, embrace it, discard it …and proceed.” We are human. We have emotions and we shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed of them. We NEED to feel what we feel, but once we have, we cannot wallow in it. Life is too short to fixate on one problem, especially if it’s a problem we have no control over. In my case, I do have control. I can find a new apartment. The world isn’t ending and my future isn’t doomed. For a hot second, it sure felt like it. But now that I’ve dealt with the appropriate emotions, I can move on to finding a solution to the problem. I remain stoic at work because I have to, but I need to face the experiences I’ve had even if it means returning back to the moment mentally and in private. If we ignore how we feel, the smallest problems can seem like nightmares and we’ll burst. Empathy is healthy and helpful. And it’s okay to admit that life is hard sometimes for everyone, but we can’t stop living.
We are intrepid. We carry on.