“The greatest gift you can give yourself is a little bit of your own attention.”
Anthony J. D’Angelo
I’ve been giving myself attention all week—no work, friends, family (only a little), no commitments, responsibilities, nothing.
Just me, myself, and Fai.
I haven’t checked my emails or social media apps. I turned my phone off, and I gave myself permission to be.
And it was the best week I’ve had all year.
On the 3rd of August, I woke up. I made a cup of coffee and sat overlooking the porch, thinking, feeling, and just being.
And I thought, wow – this is all I need.
You might be thinking, “Why are you being so extra?” And that’s understandable.
That day I turned 30. And there was nothing more I could ever ask for. I was full of life, gratitude, and love for every moment that brought me to that day.
And I felt this way all because I was alone to observe my birthday, exactly how I need it to be observed. Full of stillness, silence, and ritual with No 👏 One 👏 To 👏 Disturb 👏 My 👏 Peace.
I am easily unhinged, in case you haven’t noticed.
I realized it had been a long time since I did something for myself and by myself. Being an overly generous person, I tend to give, give, give without any real understanding of how that will make me feel afterwards. I’ve done it many times over, why haven’t I learned yet? But this time, I had listened to what my soul truly desired, and I gave it to myself.
My joy was a culmination of finally having a clear view of what I need to be truly happy, having the means to fulfil them, and allowing my values to guide me into living as authentically as possible.
Let’s go back a few years…
I was living in Vietnam, renting a studio with my partner. We slept and lived in the same small room. He worked from home, and I was trying to create art. There was a brief period where I tried really hard to get in the zone. But for the life of me, I couldn’t while he was in the room. Sometimes he would lean in and ask about my work. His enthusiasm to learn more about me, and what I was creating would secretly infuriate me.
And I felt guilty. Guilty for not producing any quality work, guilty for secretly wishing he would just go out for the day, and guilty when I wasn’t able to be enthusiastic about my process when he asked me. I tried hard to make it work, but I was never able to.
So I convinced myself I had a problem. A problem with being an authentic human being. Was art really my thing? Why wasn’t I passionate? What was I hiding? Maybe this isn’t what I should be doing. My inability to just flow through my work like any other artist meant that I had a problem. So I stopped.
Then a few weeks later, he left to go to the States for a month. And then I started painting. I felt as though I could breathe.
Up until that point, all I could recognize were my failures, what I couldn’t do, what I was not. I didn’t think about what it was that I needed. And I started to notice other areas where this was also the case.
We find ourselves in relationships and situations like this simply because we don’t have a clear image of who we are and what we need.
When our needs aren’t met because we have failed to meet them ourselves, we tend to blame others for our lack of happiness. And you arrive at a point, asking, ‘How did I allow this to happen?”
When you pass your life, not giving yourself the very thing you need to thrive – which for me has always been silence, peace, and contemplation – you’ll spend every opportunity searching for it elsewhere.
And all I found myself in was chaos, suffocation, and stagnancy—my very own definition of hell on earth.
When you neglect your own needs, expect to starve.
It’s that simple.
At any given moment, we are confronted with a choice that calls into question our values or inner guidance. Every decision we make in life is guided by something. There is a motivation behind it. But when we aren’t aware of our values, needs, or desires, it results in making decisions without really understanding how this impacts us. Which then harms us in the end.
Reflecting on my story taught me that all the resistance I was feeling was because I did not know how much I value time alone. How much I cherish the process of my human nature, to live authentic and free in a space that holds no judgment for any aspect of my being. I need time alone to explore what anything means to me.
My imperfectness as a human being is perfect. I’m not always going to be in top form. I’m not always going to have something interesting to say or have the energy to listen to you talk. I’m certainly not going to be passionate 100% of the time, or be up for a spontaneous adventure. I will never do something the way you want me to, and I’m definitely not going to want to eat all my meals with you.
This truth is not depressing at all.
Actually, it’s liberating. I just learned the formula for how to show up 1000x better as a lover, friend, and general human being.
So I say all that to say this…
When it came to how I wanted to spend my 30th birthday, I knew I wanted to do it alone.
To relieve others from being the source of my happiness specifically on that day put me in a state of real appreciation for those around me and paved a way for authentic love to come in. This small token of fulfilling my own need turned into an empowering and self-fulfilling moment that i’ll never forget for the rest of my life.