2015 has been a year of change, some welcome and others, well, not so much. Was 2015 the year I thought it would be? No, frankly it wasn't. 2015 was hard. 2015 was joyous. 2015 was full of disappointment and full of love, laughter, and a new appreciation for life. 2015 kicked my ass. I also kicked 2015's ass. In short, 2015 was perfectly imperfect: messy but wonderfully so.
If I had to sum up what I learned this year, I would say that I learned that I am capable of more than I think I can handle. I have confronted challenge after challenge this year with a persistence that I sometimes forget I possess.
On my way to Niger in March, 36 hours into my journey, I sat in the Charles de Gaulle Airport and cried. I just walked off my plane from the US where one of the aircraft engine's had stopped working. Firetrucks were standing by on the tarmac in case the other engine caught fire. I had just fallen down the end of an escalator with my hands full of camera equipment, sunscreen, and saltines. I had developed a bad cold under the stress of delayed flights, bad weather, and lack of sleep. I was all alone in Paris with no cellphone service and no easy way to contact home. I told myself that this was it. I needed to fly back home. I could not handle a trip of this magnitude. What was I thinking traveling to West Africa alone? I still had to go through Istanbul.
Kate, you aren't strong enough for this trip. You really think you can make it to Niger? Well, you can't. Just give up. Go home. You are already going to be two days late with all of these delays. It's not worth it. Give up. Turn around.
I walked into a pilates studio for the first time in May. I was scared out of my mind. I looked at the rows of reformers and the extremely flexible and coordinated women kneeling next to me on their machines. A voice of doubt creeped into the forefront of my thoughts.
Kate, you are not strong enough for this. You don't know pilates. You are going to look like an absolute fool. This is so humiliating. Look at all these other women. They are better than you. They are more athletic than you. Just leave while you can.
It was a warm July day in California. There was a slight breeze at my back as I stood up on bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. After assisting a photographer (and friend) for the summer, the photographer offered to give me a photoshoot before college as a thank you/parting gift. I was so excited! But as I stood looking out below me, I felt my stomach drop.
Kate, you think you can model? You aren't beautiful. Are you kidding me? This is ridiculous. You have to know that this is a horrible idea. How are you going to feel when the photos look gross because you can't pose correctly or you keep making weird faces or your dress doesn't flow the right way? Just tell her to put away the camera.
During the second week of classes in September, I was struggling to work up the courage to ask my business professor a question after class. He was the only professor I was still too nervous to introduce myself to. He was intimidating and extremely knowledgable. Frankly, he did not seem too friendly. Yet, I saw my window of opportunity as he packed up his lecture materials and was about to walk right past me.
Kate, he does not have time to talk to someone like you. You are just a freshman. You don't know enough to be deserving of his time. Run along.
After doing a pre-orientation program in August, my dream to start a group or non-profit organization to empower young women was reignited. The only problem was, I had no idea how one would go about starting a group at my university. I visited the activities fair and community service fair. I went online and looked up different clubs and their missions. One day in October, I stumbled across the photo of a senior who was in another club I was thinking about joining. He had started his own social justice orientated service group at Hopkins, and it seemed pretty successful. His email address was right there on the webpage. Could I reach out and ask him for advice?
Kate, are you crazy? No one has time to talk to you about these things. He is busy. He won't respond to your email, and then you will feel bad and take it personally even though you know you shouldn't. Don't go down this path. It can't lead to anything good.
You get the idea here. We are all confronted with moments where a negative, doubtful voice in our minds threatens to derail our dreams and goals. It can fill our spirit with shame, insecurity, self-loathing, and unworthiness. That voice tells us that we can't do it. That voice tells us to give up, to walk away. That voice tries to dissuade us from the possibility of rejection and hurt feelings but in the process, can deny us the possibility of connection and acceptance.
So what did I do in those moments of uncertainty this year? In the Charles de Gaulle Airport, I let myself cry. I used up all of the remaining Kleenex I had left in my overstuffed duffel bag and gave myself a moment to acknowledge my pain and my fears. Then, I told myself that I had come too far to stop now. Before I could question my decision, I stood up and headed towards my gate where I would soon board a plane to Istanbul. Don't look back I told myself. Don't stop now.
At the pilates studio, I took a deep breath. In one two three. Out one two three. In one two three. Out one two three. This isn't a competition. It's your first class. Be kind to yourself. We are not going for perfection here. We are going for progress. On the California cliffs, I gave myself permission to laugh. Okay, you might look a little bit ridiculous. But this isn't about being a model. It's about having fun and letting loose. Be grateful to be in this beautiful place with a person you love and admire. Smile. Smize. Let your hair down a little.
With my business professor, I took a step forward. You are just as deserving as any other student in this room or in this school of your professor's attention. You are smart enough. You are capable. What's the worst that can happen? He probably won't just straight up ignore you. Go ahead. Ask him. With the senior club leader, I paused. A lot of people like to be helpful. If he has the time, he will respond to you. If he doesn't, then it's not personal. You never know unless you ask. It's okay to be scared, but don't let fear stop you from connecting with someone that could be really helpful.
Moments of self-doubt are almost certain to arise time to time. It's how we go about talking to our negative voices that determine the way in which we move forward. For the record, my trip to Niger was life-altering and amazing. I now really love pilates. My photoshoot made me embrace my body and sensuality like never before. My business professor and I ended up talking almost everyday after class for the entire semester. He not only gives great book recommendations but is a supremely kind person. And the successful club leader responded to my email and was very helpful.
It would be foolish for me to think that I could banish my negative voice permanently. Sometimes I have and will let that negative voice take over and influence my decisions; however, if I learned in 2015 that I am capable of more than I think I can handle, then in 2016, I want to remind myself, especially in those moments of doubt and insecurity, I am strong, worthy, and deserving of love. And so are you.
I'll make you a promise if you'll make me one. We won't let our negative voices stop us from kicking 2016's ass. We won't be afraid to show that we care. We won't be afraid to face rejection head on. We won't be afraid to be ourselves.
Let's do it.