Finding Your Outlet: A Personal Story

Last week, I wrote about the importance of having an outlet and how to find your outlet. This week, I have a story for you readers about my own experience with my outlet:

It’s 3 a.m. I had been in bed at 12, but I lie restless for hours, failing to expel the stressors that keep me awake, stressors that not only trap my mind but taunt my fragile heart. I fear that this heart has been broken, like it’s glass-like composition has now shattered to pieces. These worries start to swell so much that the act of closing my eyes demands effort, so I call my mother (c’mon, who else)…and miraculously, at this terribly inconvenient hour of the night, she picks up. (My mother is a superhero.)

I talk. She talks. We balance sharing and listening. How lucky am I to call my mother to whenever I need, to call my favorite person to talk to. After an hour of conversation, I let her go to sleep. In place of the worry and emptiness I felt before the call, I now feel relief and overwhelming gratitude, but still very much awake from these ideas. My thoughts trail into what I would do if my mother was not here. Then, a good friend Alisa crosses my mind.

Alisa and I met four years ago on my high school’s cross country team when she came to the United States for a year as an exchange student from Germany. After we were separated by an enormous body of water called the Atlantic Ocean, our friendship only grew stronger, staying updated with each other’s lives one way or another. It was November when she mentioned that her mum had been battling liver cancer for the past year, and how her lifestyle was compromised because of it. Meanwhile, she was optimistic about her mom’s recovery and about life in general, telling me about a fleeting desire to be a flight attendant, her pursuit of medical school, and her excitement to send me a Christmas card. On December 15th of that year, her mother passed away.

The day of the funeral, she told me “I don’t know if I can handle this.” How do you handle that?

It’s been almost a year since, and you wouldn’t believe the incredible things Alisa has done. She got a 4.0 in her schooling, started an internship at a hospital, got into medical school, and worked (not as a flight attendant–she realized that was not her dream after all) to make enough money to fly back to the States to visit an old friend from the high school cross country team. At a blue picnic table over two #2 Zingerman’s sandwiches, we talked briefly about her mother, and of course she was sad and she missed her terribly and she was confused as to why it happened. Despite this, she maintained a most positive attitude about the situation and, moreover, about life entirely. She found comfort in that her mother had no pain anymore, that the time they shared is something for which she will always be grateful. At that blue picnic table over two #2 Zingerman’s sandwiches, she told me something her mother told her:

“When making decisions, think with your mind, heart, and eyes.”

So, with all this in pooling in my head, I pick up a sharpie. begin to let the thoughts flow out of my head through my fingers and onto the paper in black ink.

One side of my heart is protected by barbed wire and the other side is guarded by my own observations. People like my mom and Alisa walk through the gapes that lie between the shielding. What had been troubling is clear now, and having it outlet helps to remove the thoughts from mind and place them in front of me. With drawing is my outlet, worry no longer manifests in my mind because I enable myself to see how it all comes together.

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