Do you ever get this weird feeling that we, as a society, have decided to base our success mainly off of our productivity and achievements? Don’t get me wrong, my personality is the absolute embodiment of this idea. I feel happiest, proudest, and the most fulfilled when I’m succeeding. And I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
I’ve always been about the destination. I like to set goals, meet them, then move on to the next. The whole “it’s about the journey, not the destination” stuff? Yea, not for me.
I reached a pretty big “destination” about a year and a half ago, on the day my therapist told me she didn’t need to see me on a regular basis anymore. That I had a handle on my anxiety, and I wasn’t letting it run my life anymore.
It was simultaneously the most exciting and terrifying day.
On the one hand, I did it. I “fixed” my mental health problems. I, like Chidi Anagonye on The Good Place, had found the answer. I’d reached the destination.
But let’s be real, that’s not how mental health care works. Not even a little bit. Like any chronic illness, you kind of end up living with it forever. So even though I was doing great in that moment, what if things got bad again? Did I have enough strength if I had to start over at the beginning?
The reality is, reaching a destination of endless happiness is impossible. You may think you’re there, then something comes along and shakes the solid ground you thought you found. Something may easily thrust you back into that place of anxiety and uncertainty and doubt.
Something like a lost job, a broken relationship, or a deadly pandemic mixed with an international quarantine.
When the solid ground you built crumbles, you’re sometimes forced to start over or go back to basics. And sometimes starting over can really feel like failure.
Over the past two years, I’m proud to say I have accomplished a lot. A few months ago, I would have told you I was in the best place I’ve ever been in my life. I was in control, I was secure, I was happy. Then COVID happened. And I was no longer in control, no longer secure, and my happiness bounces up and down like a yo-yo.
My anxiety spiked. Which honestly makes sense. It’s an anxiety-inducing time for anyone, it’s only natural that my history with overthinking and anxious tendencies would rear its ugly head. But no matter how understandable it is, having to start over with a mental health journey, can be disheartening.
Going back to the basics can sometimes feel like failure. When you’re doing full tumbling passes on the balance beam, it sucks when you get hurt and have to go back to practicing cartwheels. Likewise, when I feel like I’ve fully conquered my anxiety, it sucks to go back to the basics. It sucks to have to journal or go for a run or meditate just to get through the day. It’s hard to go back and rely on your starter tool kit when you’ve already built the deck.
But here’s the thing. Going back to basics isn’t failing.
Maybe, rather than viewing going back to basics as a negative indication that we failed, we can look at it as a visitation to a helpful part of our past.
Our basic self help tools are important. Leaning on them isn’t bad. In fact it's great. How lucky are we that we have these easy tools and a basic understanding of how to lift up ourselves and others. So yea, maybe it feels basic and simple to wake up and start your day with ten minutes of deep breathing and centering your mind. But if it helps, it helps. End of story.
Going back to the basics isn’t failing. It isn’t failing now. It isn’t failing once quarantine is lifted. It isn’t failing two years from now when you have a bad day and you have to recommit to your basic self help practice.
Finding the root of what makes you feel good and happy and healthy is never failing. In fact, it's the biggest victory you can achieve. It’s a sign that you are so committed to success for yourself that you’re willing to put in the work and commit to your journey. It’s the literal opposite of failure.
Going back to your basics is the beginning of success. So rather than restarting the same journey. Think of this as your new beginning. A new beginning, with an exciting new journey, and an even more exciting new destination.
Love to you all.