The Difference Between Surviving and Thriving

Shot by @AudiAli on Instagram

 Now that Mercury is no longer in retrograde and Spring has FINALLY sprung for real in New England, I feel like I can breathe again. I had to take a quick hiatus to clear my Energy and collect my thoughts. It was a LONG Winter. Like, super long. Like the Universe decided to stack every odd against me and test my strength. There were a few times I felt like throwing my hands in the air and giving up…but here I stand. Out of the ashes.

 It seems like everyone around me has been going through it this past Fall and Winter. Like, the kids are not alright. At all, bruh. We are not okay. But we have to be because that’s what life calls us to do. How much of what we do everyday is out of necessity versus for the enjoyment of life? The consensus from those around me is that we are merely surviving—not thriving. With the way my life has been set up—I can’t remember the last time I was thriving. For most of my life, I have been stuck in survival mode.

 Surviving is doing what is necessary to live—it is existing in spite of danger or hardship. It is what most of us do everyday because of whatever circumstances life seems to have placed us in. Surviving is what created the Phoenix in me. There is a reason why we call people who make it out of tough situations survivors. Trauma changes our brain chemistry and how we react to things. These reactions might be positive or maladaptive depending on the person and the situation.

 The problem with surviving is that life does not always call for us to be in flight or flight mode. Sometimes life begs to be lived to its fullest potential. Our internal instincts may become toxic to us over time. Certain ways of living or being might serve a purpose for a certain situation but may not be helpful once we get through the tough stuff. As our reality changes, our situation changes and those behaviors that once served a purpose, don’t anymore.

 I have never been able to connect with people—and I attribute this to the loss of my mother and abandonment of my father at such a young and formidable age. I simply couldn’t believe that lasting connections could be made with other humans. As a kid, I could never make or keep friends—I often became jealous of the relationships that my one or two friends had with other people. I would become possessive and fixated on the fact that maybe they didn’t think that I was ‘cool enough’ to be their friend. I didn’t know how to share people. Or maybe I didn’t know how to share anything at all.

As an only child, I never learned to really share anything more than material things. You wanted to play with my gadgets? Cool, no problem. You need money for penny candy? I got you. You want to know what I’m thinking or how I’m feeling? Girl, bye. Insert defective humor here. Classic me. Always flip the mirror back to the other person so no one sees how empty and afraid you are. This was my survival mechanism. For most of my life, I have lived in fear that I will finally let someone in and they will do what everyone else always did—leave. Or worse, use all my worst fears against me.

I built these walls because it seemed like I just kept getting hurt so I never wanted to let people in. It was safer for me to hide behind sarcasm and sass. But in the process, I isolated myself. This is what I mean when I say that surviving can become maladaptive. For literally all of my life, all I have ever wanted is for someone to see me for me and not be quick to leave. But in building these walls, I built a fortress that few people have ever had the patience to break through.

Thriving is to grow or develop well or vigorously. Thriving is to flourish and prosper. Thriving is beautiful and healthy. When we are thriving, we are living. Living involves so much more than surviving. I’m still not 100% sure what thriving entails because I am still working through my traumas and trying to grow into a better version of myself. I am striving. Striving is to make great efforts to achieve or obtain something. This might look different for different people. For me, striving is writing more, getting to of my head, socializing—things that have historically been uncomfortable for me.

Life is a strange balance of surviving, striving, and thriving. For most survivors, it is hard to come to terms with the fact that we need to adjust and adapt to the world around us. Most of us do more harm than good to ourselves—no outside ridicule needed. We are our biggest critics. But if we want to grow and thrive, we need to stop and take a look at our methods.

Are you living or are you existing? I’m striving to live.