Finding connection through vulnerability

It’s been 63 days since I finished Remote Year. The experience was — in a word — transformational. Of the many takeaways that helped to define the shape of my next chapter, the most surprising for me was the need I’ve developed for community.

community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a paradox when it comes to social interactions. Sure, I’ve scored as the typical ‘extrovert’ on every personality test I’ve ever taken, and charmed my way through networking events while wearing my “PR Mask”… but I’ve also frequently uttered the words “I hate people,” under my breath while navigating through thick sidewalk traffic or witnessing the human race doing something incredibly rude.

Before this year I would have defined myself — through a guise of dark humour — as someone who could fool the room playing a social butterfly, while secretly believing no one could ever understand her, ultimately destined to die alone. (ha.)

A strategist at my core, every conversation would find me categorizing “good information” to share and “bad information” to mask within my subconscious, while speaking to my peers without batting an eyelash. Needless to say, it was a lot of work.

My Remote Year experience slowly shifted my perspective. I was part of something incredible with 50 other adventurers. We were living a thousand lives in a mere 12 months, and we were leaning on each other throughout this epic and unifying journey. I almost missed the power of that.

In fact, in the first half of my year abroad, I was called out. Something to the effect of, “You always listen when we tell stories, but you don’t actually share anything.” Or “I’ve known you for months, but I don’t actually feel like I know anything about you.”

In the accelerated time capsule of Remote Year, I started to realize opportunities were passing me by — and the mask that I had often worn to protect myself in the business world or the big city streets of Toronto was no longer serving me. People were changing, growing….happy, and I was being left behind.

Painful as it was, resistant as I was, I started to share. Slowly at first. With people I trusted, or through my exploration of writing. I found a smaller tribe of like-minded women who were endlessly supportive and excellent listeners. In fact, our model was one where we all listened and held space for each other. It was a level of support I had never felt before. The power of pushing past fear and allowing myself to be vulnerable, only to be accepted and acknowledged regardless of what I said was incredibly freeing.

Although I felt very bonded to these women, the biggest connection I found was to myself, my self-acceptance, and the strength of my own voice.

It took more than 30 years and an epic trip around the world to realize that I will always get more out of being vulnerable and connected than being calculated and “appearing perfect”.

A close friend of mine shared this beautiful passage with me — reminding me that even though those around me may not have experienced exactly the same challenges as me, they will have empathy… but I have to be open and vulnerable. I have to take some risks. I have to start by sharing.

No one knows the days that almost crushed you. No one knows the heart break that almost broke you. No one knows the fear that almost froze you.
No one knows the courage it takes to be you. No one knows the strength it takes to face the battles that you do. No one knows the inner warrior you must invoke in order to get up and give each day all that you’ve got.
No one knows how far you have come. What each movement forward has meant. What each of your triumphs has had you triumph over. What each moment of healing has helped you to accept. Winning isn’t always about what we get. It’s about what we’ve learned we can overcome. Glory isn’t always glorious. Sometimes its quiet. Uneventful. Unseen by the world around us. Witnessed only by the goddesses that guide us.
Each of us needs to be witnessed. To be acknowledged in our entirety. To be recognized for the spark of divinity that we are. It’s human to want that kind of recognition. Attention. Acknowledgement. It’s our job to make sure that we find our own way to shine. To illuminate what is most meaningful to us. To take the stage that will best showcase our kind of light.
We are all made of stars.

What isn’t shared can’t be appreciated, it can’t be nurtured and it can’t be comforted. Those of us who seek community must keep taking brave steps, embracing vulnerability, and living with an open heart. We will be rewarded with connection; both to supportive friends and to our own truth.