a picture of Celina Carra in the Swiss Alps in 2008
Me in 2008


I used to think that the epitome of 'growing up' was leaving everything behind— Moving onto bigger and better things in bigger and better places, and adamantly denying that you could ever be reduced to a box as small as where you came from. That's how I functioned for my first year of college, as a product of a person, far removed from the factors that made me who I was. As well as I did socially and academically that first year, I found myself confused when it came to my values and self concept. When I tried to fulfill my commitment to myself and change for the better, I didn't know where to start.

Productivity has long acted as my main form of validation. I think this is probably because I've felt restless for as long as I can remember, so I’ve been eager to make the most of my time. But recently I've had to adjust my perception of what productivity is, because I’ve realized that my old habits gave me very little potential for real growth.

Putting things behind me as fast as they happened for the sake of moving forward to the next productive task never allowed me to process experiences in full. I spent a lot of time forcing closure and judgement so that things wouldn't hang over my head, and pretending like that would be the last of it.  But experiences are rarely all good or all bad, and categorizing them as such neglects the most important fact: they made a difference. 

For the first time in a long time, I've slowed down to a comfortable speed. At first, this made me focus on the fact that my past struggles had taken a lot from me— important and personal things. And I felt like a forgotten library. I had lent out books of every kind to people that I trusted, but half of them never got returned. I was left with stacks full of gaps like busted smiles, so that when I went to reference a line that gave me hope or happiness, I was faced with an overwhelming feeling of loss and betrayal, knowing that my carefully built collection was now incomplete. And I was terrified to give another page to anyone.

But now, I’m finding the time and space to understand the ways that I’ve been changed by the traumatic events in my past. I’ve been piecing together what I’m left with and what I’m still missing, and it hasn’t been a pretty process. A lot of things have been coming back to me that I pushed away for the longest time, and I’ve been struck with pangs of shame for the mistakes that I’ve made, or with pangs of anxiety for tough situations I’ve found myself in. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have the tools to deal with these emotions because I’ve dropped the unhealthy ways that I got through them originally.

It’s common to face a sense of hopelessness because the mistakes you've made or the things that have been stolen from you feel irreparable, but I’m accepting that all experiences involve both giving and taking in some capacity. Often, they make a difference through taking, and it gives you perspective or peace in the end. This realization has made me so much more connected to everything in my world. It’s comforting to know that as much as situations can hurt and feel unfair when you’re going through them, they do serve some purpose to your growth. I think right now, productivity for me looks like taking the time to process and accept these things, so that I realize what I truly value. Through investing into what matters to me, I’ve been getting to know who I am now. Not as an isolated kinetic force, but as a combination of everything that have made a difference in my life. I haven’t felt this whole, or this much like myself, in a very long time. Slowly, I'm beginning to give and be vulnerable again.

All of this is to say that things do matter, and because of that, they are a part of you that can’t be ignored. They work in mysterious ways, so it pays to spend time understanding them instead of rushing past them to function in an empty way. I think that that’s what growing up is— knowing that to truly learn, you have to acknowledge every part of what made you who you are. Those things aren’t intrinsically good or bad, but you surely need them to find balance, peace, and connection. Never underestimate how much going back to your roots can teach you.

That's where I'm at right now. But I’m still working on all of those things, so I guess I’m not quite grown up yet. 

Thanks for reading. 

-Celina Carra

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