Confessions,  Living Abroad

Confessions: I am Feeling Vulnerable in these Uncertain Times

Dear Esmeralda,

It certainly wasn’t my plan to talk with you about vulnerability the other day, much less try to convince you that it was something that you shouldn’t be afraid of sharing (and even less something I was planning to write about today). We discussed this topic and how vulnerability is perceived as weaknesses in all situations (as would be implied by its dictionary definition) but we also talked about how something is changing with the perception of vulnerability. The thing is, at the end of the day, none of us are totally self-confident in everything we do, and that leads us to feel vulnerable. By showing vulnerability to others, we are putting ourselves at risk to be influenced, manipulated, attacked, or hurt. However, we also give ourselves the opportunity to connect with others who feel similarly.

That is why today I want to share with you three of the ways that I have been feeling vulnerable as 2020 comes to an end. If you are interested, I would also encourage you to read some of our other posts about mental health (like these mental health resources). We believe that it is important to talk about things in an honest open way. At the same time, please know we are not healthcare professionals and encourage you to reach out to someone you care about and can trust if you are having issues.

1.) Vulnerability in friendships:

Moving abroad has always been hard for me and creating new friendships is oftentimes a good definition for me on how my ‘new’ life is going. I wrote about vulnerability in friendships in this post when I was moving from my steady life in Granada to live abroad in Helsinki. Now, Helsinki has become my home, but the process is never easy. Over the past (almost) two years, I have drifted very far apart from some of the people who were closest to me when I left Granada, and by being vulnerable in the friendships, I set myself up to get emotionally hurt when these friendships faded away. And trust me when I tell you that it did hurt.

At the same time, since moving here I have also had the opportunity to meet and bond with some amazing people I would have never met otherwise. I still don’t put myself out there as often as I would like but, somehow, I have managed to make myself a little mini community here of some of the most wonderful people and I feel grateful every day to have them in my life. I could never value one friend more than another, but it is true what they say about one door closing and a different one opening.

On one final note here, in times of COVID and the strange year that 2020 has begun, we have all been spending more time at home. For me, that means being alone, in my apartment, without contact with many other people. This has definitely meant vulnerability in friendship to me because I am not sure who are the people I can reach out to and who doesn’t have the time to hear from me any more. However, I am more successful than not when reaching out to friends around the world and have been able to celebrate our reconnecting. Even though it feels scary at times to take the first step, when it works out, it also feels so nice.

Vulnerability in my health:

Earlier this week we shared a post on online therapy and that hit close to home because my personal health (both mental and physical) is a really important point to me right now, even if it doesn’t always feel like it is taking priority. I recognize that I have anxious tendencies and when life gets complicated some of the issues I face are anxiety and not sleeping well. To mitigate these feelings I try to do things like daily yoga, gratitude exercises, and get out of my own head by reading or listening to podcasts about other people’s stories. In addition, I always say that my therapy is playing sports or exercising. I even started running alone now that it looks like we won’t be able to do much in the way of team sports for awhile here in Helsinki.

However, I also recognize that my health is vulnerable. While my normal practices usually are enough to keep me happy and upbeat, these days I don’t always feel that same energy. Sure, the world is in a hard place for everyone right now, but that doesn’t always make it easier to get outside of my own head and take actions where I can. This is one of the reasons that I think the guest post we shared earlier this week is such a nice addition to our articles on mental health—I am not afraid of asking help from professionals when I think I need it and I don’t think you should be either!

If I could share one thing I have re-learned over the past couple of weeks is that you are worth the investment. Oftentimes, we are really focused on everything else around us that we end up with so little to give back to ourselves. Whether it is going for a run and cooking a healthy dinner or taking a bath with a glass of wine, taking time for ourselves isn’t only nice, it is often essential to be able to do our other jobs in life.

Vulnerability in travel:

Like many others, I will not be going home to see my family this year. It is not the first year I have chosen (because, in all honesty, it was my choice) to spend the holidays away from my family, but this year is different. Even though my family would have supported the decision to go to see them for a couple of weeks, I decided to stay in Finland. Right now, I just don’t feel comfortable traveling. The situation isn’t ideal, but I cannot change it, I can only change my reaction and, so, I am trying to be positive about what I can do here.

In the above cases, I talk about vulnerability in friendship and vulnerability in my health as things to continue working on; however, in this case, vulnerability in travel means I will give up travel for now. It wasn’t an easy choice, especially considering that after the year we’ve all had, we all want some comfort food and time with the people we love. At the same time, this is the active choice I am taking and, although I don’t think it is the only right choice, it is the right one for me.

I guess, all of this is to say, if you feel vulnerable right now, please don’t feel alone. Being vulnerable and recognizing your vulnerability is not something to be ashamed of either, no matter what society might tell you. Remember that everyone feels vulnerability, even if they don’t want to share it.

If you ever feel like you need to talk, please know we are here.

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