Growing Pains
Vinay P., 24, Indian-British
By Leona Françoise Caanen
Understanding ourselves is a process – one that takes up a whole lifetime. We are constantly changing, growing, and learning from the events in our lives and the people who surround us. It's a journey that throws us into uncomfortable situations and requires us to face the things we don't love about ourselves. Luckily the lows are balanced out by the highs and give us the opportunity to grow into any direction that we choose. Yet this journey of growth and deciding who we want to be amidst all the life that is happening around and within us, requires a lot of introspection, being present, and daring to step out of our comfort zone. For Vinay this has brought a lot of self-confrontation in regards to the person he wants to be and the way he wants to let his challenges shape him.

Sometimes to realise in what direction our growth is taking us, we have to take a moment to pause, catch our breath, and look inside. Then you have to ask the daunting question "do I like who I am becoming?" Followed by an even scarier question of "do I have the courage to change it?" For Vinay, this dislike of who he was becoming was a mix of the way he is socially, as well as who he is when alone. He doesn't enjoy the fact that he has been such a closed off person the last few years. While he recognises that not everything has to be shared, there was a feeling of disconnectedness from those who surround him. Socially Vinay wasn't too happy with how he was presenting himself either – as if he always knew which mask to put on. He'd know what to say to make people feel good, to let the conversation flow smoothly, and know how to be a shoulder someone can lean on. But friendship is a two-way street and Vinay wasn't reciprocating his side of the sharing and the authenticity that asked of him.

Having experienced a few big challenges, the realisation started to sink in that if Vinay were to continue at his current pace, he wouldn't make it past the age of
30. There was a certain emptiness inside and to shift away from that Vinay hadto want to change. Even more so, Vinay had to choose to take active steps into the direction of change and to stop being afraid of things that could help this process. One of these things was therapy. Eventually deciding to brave the gap, going to therapy is what mainly kickstarted the shift towards a version of himself that Vinay does feel good in; one that can grow old and grey.

While therapy provides Vinay with comfort and understanding of the person he is becoming and how to move into that person in his day-to-day life, it was the individuals in his playing field that, initially, made the real difference. Having moved to Berlin for work and meeting the people who are now his good friends, there suddenly seemed to be room for real conversations. Ones that dove into life and death and what it means to exist; conversations about who they wanted to be and how they were feeling. Having other people speak about these topics so openly, provides us with a little more ease to step away from being closed-off and find ways to share bits and pieces of ourselves too. Many of these conversations about deep and personal topics, about therapy and how others managed their loneliness sparked a shift in Vinay. Learning that many of his friends went to therapy, Vinay, although still influenced by previous generations who saw going to therapy as a weakness, decided to give it a try. Now Vinay is glad to have crossed that bridge, as it has given him the opportunity to be plunged into the discomfort of self-development.

On the journey of personal growth, Vinay also spent a lot of time reading – there's a certain comfort to be found in reading similar experiences or thoughts from someone else's point of view. As if suddenly your own feelings are better understood. Therefore, it's no surprise that Vinay also sought out conversations with individuals who have gone through similar challenges. Not per se to talk about how they had navigated the experience, but more because certain characteristics of other people would trigger Vinay into realising what he did and did not want for himself. And even more so, Vinay was confronted with the fact that the negative behaviours he observed were in other ones he'd been carrying around too.

Not everything seemed so clear from the get-go. Before Vinay embraced his path of self-development, seeking insight and understanding within both himself and the people and books around him, everything simply felt very blurry. There was a lot of self-isolation going on and connecting with others felt challenging. Each day was focused around trying to survive – not the survival or well-being of the mind or emotions, but of the body as a vessel that would carry Vinay forwards. Oddly enough, it worked out. This vessel, along the way, bumped into people, places, and things that have altered the course of Vinay's future. Even more so, the people that are no longer around have really sparked life back into Vinay. Knowing people who have passed away, whose lives have been cut short, it reminds him of how fleeting everything is and that it's worth it to live life as best as we can – to put ourselves out there, to not hold grudges, and to really be present along the ride. Even if that requires us to tremble and shake as we open up and share our vulnerable selves.

And as life flutters along, brings us new people, takes us to new places and gives us new experiences, Vinay has understood that, most important of all, we must be comfortable in ourselves. To be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with who you are, and most of all with who you're growing into, knowing that the growing pains are only temporary. Vinay is feels good about who he is right now, but also knows that this time next year he might have changed, and that this, too, isn't a burden. On this road you'll never stop experiencing new things and always find space for personal growth. There will be challenging and exciting encounters along the way, but at the end of the day you get to exist knowing that, as you experience life on this beautiful earth for however many years, whether you make it past the age of 30 or not, your personal growth is exponential because that's the path you decided on.
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