Throughout my college years, my parents would always tell me, “you’re so independent.” This confused me, because my mental picture of young adult independence is someone who emancipated themselves at age 16, has their own phone and car insurance plans, and moves to a new country every two years because they just don’t need to be tied down to anyone or anything. I was not that person in college.
However, I did and still do tend to refuse help from my parents and from others. Maybe this is because I do not consider myself independent, but wish that I was. To be the opposite – to be dependent – seems like a bad thing (It’s not. I am. We are.), and so the slightest suggestion of dependence on anyone or anything puts me on the defensive. No, thank you. I’m fine. I can do it. I’ll figure it out. There are some instances when it is healthy to forge your own way, independent of others, and there are other times when it is just foolish.
The past few months have forced me to ask for and receive help. I can remember weeks ago feeling like I had more on my plate than I could handle… and then there was a serious fire at our office building… and then I sprained my ankle… and then my stress levels went through the roof. I had no choice but to ask for help from roommates, neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers, at least every other day. And I gotta tell you… I hated it every bit as much as I thought I would.
You would think that receiving help would feel good, that it would make me feel loved in a tangible way. And there are definitely moments when I do feel loved in a way that I desperately need, but it also makes me feel weak, incapable, like I am a burden, and indebted to those around me. I find myself apologizing anytime someone does something nice for me, which makes no sense, because if they didn’t have the desire to make me dinner, they wouldn’t offer; if they didn’t have the patience to listen to my worries and frustrations, they wouldn’t ask.
For some reason, my brain has differentiated receiving “support” in the abstract as something good, and receiving tangible “help” as something bad. Like most issues, I am sure this has more to do with me than the people around me offering their help. If I were an optimist and not a cynic, I would look at this season as an opportunity to practice receiving help. My parents, wonderful as they are, have offered help at every step in this season of transition, and I have no choice but to accept it and receive it. Because I need help, and can’t deny it, even if I don’t like it. It’s a type of vulnerability that I’m not comfortable with, not yet. But it’s a necessary growth step, one that I probably wouldn’t take unless I was forced, and for that I’m grateful. I hope practicing allows me to get better at receiving help, because I have a feeling I’m only going to need more of it as times goes on.