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Discovering Me

By Tree Alexander

February 1, 2013

Last year I was having a quarter-life crisis at the age of 26. I felt lost, stuck, and in a deep rut. I felt like I needed something BIG to happen. Something that would change my whole life. So, I waited, but nothing happened. Every day that passed me by only made me feel worse. One morning I woke up and couldn't con myself to get out of the bed. At that point I said enough is enough.

Since then I have taken time to really get to know myself over the past few months. I have learned so much about who I am and what I want out of this life. As I increased my awareness of how my actions have affected my life and all those around me, I have also gotten a better understanding of how I have gotten to where I am right now. They say nothing in life is free, and success does not come without sacrifice. I was somehow convinced that was not true at all, or that I had suffered and sacrificed enough to last me a while. Thinking like that was truly a mistake. The truth is my life is my responsibility and I really don't know how I began to think otherwise.

They say a single event can awaken within us a stranger, totally unknown to us. That's just what happened to me. A serious reality check broke the slump I was in, and I have come to see so many things that I left for neglect. This forced me to make some changes. I started with myself. Taking a look into my current situation, my wants, and my needs. Really being honest with myself when it came to my strengths and weaknesses, my goals and expectations. This was really hard to do at the beginning. It's so funny how much I couldn't believe what was happening. "No, that's not me ..." "I don't do that ..." "That was just that one time ..." "I really don't think like that." But the truth is I did. I began to make excuses for my justifications and then deny it all.

I used to think of life as suffering and the only thing that keeps us going was the occasional happy moments that we cling to. No one told me life would be so hard. My parents did an amazing job of making providing for the family seem so easy. But, back to my own responsibility, when it came down to the conversations I had with myself it all started with one question. What brings me joy? Of course I made a long list and at the top of that list stood sex and vacationing, along with being my own boss and never paying taxes. All things that brought me great joy, even the thought of them, but I had to be realistic with myself.

I started with drawing a timeline. Marking down all the "major" events in my life that I feel have built me up and all of those that has caused me great pains. Again, this was not easy at all. This activity brought back so many memories and emotions. This was not a time for wallowing and weeping but a chance to really see the building blocks of my life. Keeping it real and simple, identifying the major changes and lessons learned.

Next, a clear mind and a clean slate. Exploring my own ideas of values and morals helped me to come to terms with things I had been ashamed of because of what others may think. Life is really what you make it. Your values and morals are what you were taught growing up, but it is also what you have learned along the way. Stand up for what you believe and if something works for you that may not work for others, don't worry about their opinion and approval. In turn, I then began to release the need to be loved by everyone.

It's human nature to socialize and find people to connect with. I thought I was doing a good job of making friends and building networks until this whole quarter-life crisis thing began to interrupt my entire life. I realized I had no one to talk to because no one really knew me. I solidified support systems but these people didn't know what I was going though. I have always been the shoulder for others and if I explained what I was going through, I felt like I would have to explain who I was. I just wasn't sure if they would remain a part of my network once all was revealed.

The truth is I'm a nonconformist to the core. A cisgender pansexual polyamorous individual. I believe that healthy, long-term, successful, open relationship does exist and that sexual identity is just as fluid as sexual preference and desires. If you think that's complex, wait until you hear my views on society. It all comes down to becoming comfortable in my own skin, with my own beliefs, without feeling like I have to appeal to others' ideas of identity and relationships.

This brings me to building confidence. Spending time alone to begin to build my own level of self-confidence has shed light on my fears. My fears of success, my fears of failure, and my fears of being an outcast. Once I started to remove the vices that kept me a lonely secret of a man, then I got the opportunity to have amazing conversations with the people around me who felt the same way and had no one to talk to either. On the flip side, I bumped heads with those who completely disagreed. That's fine too because it brought out great points that we both needed to hear. What's to be expected in life are dead ends. There is nothing wrong with hitting a dead end. Just turn around and set sail on a new opportunity.

Meditation also helped my recovery a great deal. This was when I took the time to really meditate, not just isolate myself in my depression. Even releasing tension in muscles I wasn't even aware of. I in turn let go of all those negative thoughts and feelings about myself and my future. Relieving myself of all those unrealistic wants that I was convinced were needs, I could finally live in the moment and be true to myself and those around me.

It feels so good to just be me, so I leave you with this quote:

"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself." -- Alan Alda

Tree Alexander

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See Also
10 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Emotional Well-Being
Depression and HIV
Feeling Good Again: Mental Healthcare Works!
More Personal Viewpoints on Coping With HIV

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Roy (Palm Springs, CA) Thu., Feb. 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm UTC

Even though I'm much older than you, what you have to say is so relevant to me. You really expressed yourself so well. The things you have to say about self-exploration and finding purpose and fighting the isolation that we experience with depression, all of this rings true for me. I admire your openness and willingness to take on the challenge of fighting the ongoing stigma of HIV. That takes a lot of courage, and each act of courage helps someone live a better life.
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Comment by: L-Harmony (Bronx, NY) Mon., Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm UTC
Overall, I found this article to be very insightful and a breath of fresh air. Thank U Mr. Alexander for your wonderful contribution! I too am in the midst of unearthing my misplaced identity as I have been a consumate people pleaser for quite some time. As a thirty year old man, I find that I am no longer as concerned about what other people think of me as I was when I was younger but there are still times when I regress back into familiar habits.Because of that, I want to point out that the process of unearthing yourself is on-going and fluid. I try to avoid the" Here-I-Am-This-Is-Me-Finally" mentality as life is ever so changing and will mold and adapt your way of thinking constantly. Growth and self-discovery is clearly on-going and requires constant maintenance. I think this article made it seem like it is a destination as opposed to a never-ending journey that demands constant vigilance and dedication. Once again Thank you Tree for your words. Stay Inspired :)
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Comment by: Erica (family of Tree) (Chicago IL) Mon., Feb. 4, 2013 at 3:44 pm UTC
I think at some point we all go though this stage in life. We wonder just what life really mean and what it all mean in reference to us. It's always a wonderful feeling to have someone to bare your heart to, no judgement. So, often we are force to fit inside of these nice neat boxes in order to keep the peace to make others comfortable, but you. Being able to take the time to explore self is something that is too often over look. We are so busy blaming others for our faults, denying our roles in our let downs. When we start to be honest with ourselves we discover another level of freedom. So happy you are living in your truth and not someone else's design for you.
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Tree House Talk (All Strength No Shade)

Tree Alexander

Tree Alexander

Tree Alexander, born in Chicago, Illinois, now living in Brooklyn, New York. HIV-positive AIDS activist and Case Worker. "I am the change I wish to see." Motivational speaker and youth advocate. Tree's target is to empower the youth and reduce stigma. Tree found out his HIV status one month after he turned 20 and HIV has changed his life completely. Tree travels and tell his story, letting people know that if we continue to conceal and fear this disease, we shall never overcome.

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