When we become lax with our boundaries, our identity can merge with the identities of others, and we feel a bit lost and untethered. We're not sure where our choices begin or end, who we are, or what we genuinely like, love, or dislike. That just means you have even more time and energy to spend on the things that really do. Create the memories you'd want your 80-year-old self to have. Start today, if you can, even if it's just in small ways. Perhaps it's possible to have too many things, too many expectations, or too many obligations. But I don't think I've ever seen anyone regret having too many memories of integrity, gratitude, or love. You're like a beautiful, ever-growing slab of living marble. All the qualities wanted in a beautiful work of art are already in there, they just need to be chiseled out.Unaware, innocent, fragile and new, my tiny being absorbed the oddities of the place I would learn to call home. I could not have known my truth. I could not have known truth. Those who raised me were blind to their own. Her candor and honesty were refreshing. I just graduated from college. I have a mountain of student debt. I still live at home with my parents. I don't want to keep going to school. I actually want to work, but since I graduated I really haven't found anything that I'm passionate about. So from where I'm sitting, yeah, the future doesn't look so bright. Have you gone on any interviews?

I asked, trying to get a better handle on her situation. Yeah, some, and I even got a job at a local construction firm here in Minneapolis, she explained. We're not sure what lifts us or deflates us. It's that stuck feeling that can have us acting like a deer caught in the headlights: stunned, disoriented, and confused. If we've always relied on others to help us to understand who we are, then we can feel dependent and unable to stand alone. Healthy personal boundaries are when there's an expanse between who we are and who other people are. Our identity is something we hold steadfast to and it dictates what our decisions might be. When we don't have that, we typically borrow or blend in with the identity of others. It might be that we worry that if we start being who we are, we'll be rejected, so we layer the white lies on top of one another until even we become unsure of where we start and finish. Our sense of self can get worn down by life's challenges, too--with grief, depression, violence, and trauma--so perhaps we find ourselves longing for the pre-horrible-thing version of ourselves, grieving for who we once were. It can feel as though we have a blank canvas with no tools or color to fill it in. But the tools and colors are at hand. How then could I have possessed a self? This self, whom I should have known, I did not. Being selfless, detached from the essence of me, resulted in a life I lived in my head. My world did not see me. Conditioned to believe that my identity was determined by the value others placed on me, life was a maze of constant frustration. This self lay quiet, frozen and still, denied its breath. Beneath the burdens of my every day, my self remained a stranger amidst the valleys so wide. This disconnection within so vast, so deep, it is a miracle it did not swallow me up.

It has taken decades to wash myself of these ghosts called guilt and shame. My childhood, soiled by a haunting sense of unworthiness, has led me down many straying paths. It's only been a couple weeks. I work in their marketing department, doing 3D modeling and character animation, which is what my degree is in. I imagined Rox with her nose ring and tiger tattoo in a Minneapolis construction office, then checked myself, becoming suddenly aware of my unconscious bias and the fact that I was filtering what she said by who I thought she was. I had made up a story about Rox before she had fully told me her story. That's bias in all its ugly glory. Even though I really wanted to help, I still fell into that trap of listening through a filter. We all use filters when we speak. When we speak to kids we filter. When we speak at work we filter. When we speak we say specific words and leave others out. They just need dusting off and a little self-discovery. Who Are You? Building a sense of identity is like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Our identity is made up of so many different pieces: our personality traits, our beliefs, our qualities, what we look like, what we sound like, how we express ourselves, the things we feel drawn to or are interested in, the drinks we like and the foods we want to eat, our culture, and our biographies. We get to change the pieces as we change and evolve. We might find that we're passionate about a social cause and so that forms part of our identity. We might try a new hobby and unearth something we thoroughly enjoy, or a hidden talent, and that shapes who we are. We might look through travel magazines and yearn for adventures or prefer our own space and sticking with what we know.

We can meditate on the question Who am I? If you're not an unkind person, then you're probably kind. I have known the soothing voice of suicide, and the aroma of death as a welcoming. Pain can splinter souls and leave carcasses as the only evidence that a soul existed at all. I have been a carcass much of my life, although no one could have known that. I learned very early on to disown myself, and to simultaneously smile on cue. The journey you are about to take, you do so as my companion. I write as the observer now, observing what has been through the jagged peephole of my self-awareness, contentedly unconcerned with the judgments of those who choose to come along for the ride. It is uneasy to remember, as well as to not be able to recall some of what has been. For these reasons I am thankful for the gentle shoulders of wisdom, as spirit urges me to allow uninhibited truths to be told. You will take this stroll down memory lane on the battered bricks that have laid my life's path, and discover how, in the most subtle of interactions, psyches surrender to fantasies and to the silent wills of others, for reasons unknown. In memory's reflection, it feels as if I have been murdered many times, and -- far more horrifying -- as if my suffering never mattered. But we also use filters when we listen. When we make assumptions or think we know a person, that becomes hardwired into our brains. We only hear them as that person. Even if that person changes or takes a different point of view, we will still hear them as we think we know them, not as they really are. We cannot actually hear and understand what they are saying. On one level I had robbed Rox of her individuality. She was a complex person I didn't know, and I had already started assuming things. I needed to step back from this, be aware of it, and push myself to remain open.

When you find yourself filtering, hold yourself accountable. Look for the best and react to the words that are being said, not what you think those words really mean. If you're not someone who loves networking or being with lots of people in busy places, perhaps you're a nature lover who prefers chilling at home with those closest to you, or alone. Listen to the Warning Signs Emotions, feelings, aches, and pains--they're all the processing of data that tell us a story based on the way our brains assimilate our experiences (subconscious and conscious memories) and make a prediction about what the outcome might be. That information then serves as a call to action to the rest of the body and provides us with physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive cues: butterflies in our stomach, nausea, edginess, hunger pangs, a shiver, headaches, shallow breathing, stomach and muscle aches and tightness, or tension in our neck and shoulders, to name a few. Our body tells us to pay attention and primes us to react in many different ways, but we typically quiet them or ignore them and plow on. When we feel uneasy and tense, our body is communicating to us that we might be angry, stressed, and/or unwell. When we heed the signs, we can redress them throughout the day. Perhaps when our breathing becomes shallow, we might pause and take some long deep breaths. When we feel thirsty, we can have a drink. Teaching Our Children (and Our Inner Child) How to Make Space Psychological invisibility poisoned my thought process, as it invalidated my experiences large and small. Life was a balancing act. I tiptoed across a thin thread that was strung from one side of my mind to the other, as fate went about its merry way beneath me. Often I wondered if I were real at all. It is not possible to recover from your own soul's death without regurgitating the bitterness of what has been. A soul's death is the result of invalidation, and the only way to heal is by way of unearthing the ugliness that has been tucked away in the crevices of one's being. A survivor at heart, bizarre coping mechanisms kept me afloat in the cesspools of toxic emotions that flowed through my veins. Ashamed once, I am no more, as the tenderness of self-love blankets me with humble understanding.