Don’t go it alone.

Asking for Help: Frustration & Communication

Whatever is is you’re going through, you don’t have to do it alone.

This is something I often forget. Being independent can be my biggest strength, but it can also be my fatal flaw when I fail to seek help when I need it.

There are huge pros to independence – being able to do things on your own and being okay with being alone, just to name a few. Still, there are times in life when you can’t do everything yourself, and knowing how and when to ask for help is really important.

I know that when I’m stressed or frustrated – when I need help the most- is when I tend to push people away. People who want to help me. 

I’m learning that, to overcome these moments, communication is key. 

I’m currently in the process of moving out of my apartment in San Francisco. Moving in any capacity is stressful, but this move has thrown a few curve balls at me. For one, I’m not currently there. I have to figure out when I can get to San Francisco to physically move out of the apartment. I also have to factor in the fact that there is a global pandemic going on and I have to time things around two major holiday’s (Thanksgiving and Christmas), and my baby sister’s 16th birthday. Oh yeah, and I don’t know where I’m moving to yet, and when, or if, I’ll be moving back to SF. 

Like many young people today, I figured if I moved out of the city, I could save some money on rent for a bit. So, when my company announced that we’d be working remote for another 6+ months, moving out was a no brain-er. Right?!

Oh, but there was one little snag in my plan. As part of the remote work announcement, the company also specified certain states (for payroll tax purposes) where employees were allowed to work. It just so happened that Connecticut, where my parents live, and where I’ve been since May, was not one of them.

So, of course, I wasn’t going to be able to just move home to save on rent.

Still, with the guarantee of working remote until the summer, I wanted to be closer to my family. It was time to move out. 

Over the past week I researched moving companies, storage options, apartments in approved states close to my family. I made spreadsheets listing the items in my apartment that I’d need to move. I estimated costs of the items to determine if it made more sense to get rid of things than to pay to move it. I also researched furnished apartments, furniture rentals, and storage options. I talked to leasing agents for apartments, and representatives from moving companies. 

There were, and are, a lot of moving pieces, and it’s been a stressful week to say the least. 

But then the dust started to settle. I found a place in the Philly area that I might be able to live with my sister since she’s in school around there. I’d gotten a quote from a company where I’d be able to both store and move my things. So I could pack up and move out of my SF apartment, go home for the holiday’s, and then figure out where I’m going to live for the next 6 months. I’d also have the option to just store my things should I find a furnished place to rent. I locked in on dates with cheap flights that I’d be able to get back to SF with enough time to pack up my things and move out while also avoiding holiday travel and airport crowds. It was all falling into place. 

Except that I knew I couldn’t do it alone. 

The only downside was that the company I was going to use to store/move my stuff doesn’t do in-home moving. I’d have to rent a truck and bring my things to their facility. I like to think I’m pretty strong, but there’s no way I’d be able to move everything out myself, especially on a tight timeline. I could hire movers from a 3rd party, but that would be expensive and I wasn’t sure how comfortable I, or my roommate, would be with a bunch of strangers coming into our apartment given the pandemic situation.

I needed someone to help me. 

I tried to think of friends in the city that would be willing and able to help, but most of my close friends had already left the city. I could think of a few people who might be around, but given that I hadn’t talked to them much since March, having our first conversation in 9 months be me asking for help moving didn’t exactly seem polite. 

I thought of my dad, I figured he would want to come help me. He’d been itching for an adventure, so I figured a quick cross country trip might be just the thing he needed. A trip just to pack/move isn’t exactly the most fun or exciting, but it’s 2020 so we’ll take what we can get. 

In my mind I had it all figured out. I just had to confirm with my dad, but I was certain he’d jump on board. 

Expect that wasn’t exactly his response. Rather, an immediate “yes, of course!”, he asked questions, lots of questions. He wanted to know everything I just explained, and more. He asked about the different moving companies I’d talked to. He asked about the plans for a new apartment. He asked about the storage options. When I’d get my things. Where they’d be stored. He brought up points that I hadn’t thought to consider yet. 

Instead of listening to his considerations and answering his questions graciously, I got defensive. 

I’m an independent adult, and I’ve made my decisions. This is my move, I’m the one paying for it. I’m the one who did the research. Don’t question me. 

Those weren’t the exact words out of my mouth, but it was something like that, and it wasn’t exactly nice. It certainly wasn’t the way I should be talking to someone who I was asking for help. 

I needed his help, I knew that much, but I wasn’t letting him help me. By stamping my feet and saying “I’m independent,” I was pushing away what I really needed. 

Along with my choice words came all of the built up frustration and stress of trying to figure out this move on my own. The weight of it all was crushing me and by taking it out on my allies I was only making it worse. 

It took me a minute to calm down. I’m a crier, so of course there were tears. But once I was able to have a rational conversation, I felt much better. The weight of it all felt much lighter now that I had someone helping me carry it, both physically and emotionally. 

My dad brought up some good points about other options to consider. He offered to drive out and haul my things back in a trailer, since that sounded more fun to him, and it would be cheaper for me. The timing with the holiday’s was tough though, and we ultimately shot that down. We looked at my dad’s calendar together to make sure the dates worked for him. We booked flights together and made a strategic plan to sit an exit row since my dad likes the extra leg room. 

The conversation shifted from me saying “no” with a grimace, to chuckling as we recounted the story of how my brother’s oversized couch had to be lifted in through the window. I reassured by dad there’d be nothing like that at my place. We worked through the rest of the logistics together and everything seems much less heavy now. 

Asking for help isn’t a weakness. Rather, it’s a strength to know what weight you can and cannot bear. 

But someone can’t help carry your burden, if they don’t understand what’s wrong. 

That’s where communication comes in. 

I’ve learned that if I’m struggling with something, whether if be physical or emotional, it helps to tell someone about it. Sometimes I hate talking, but it can make a huge a difference.

I’m learning to ask for guidance and listen to what my friends and family have to say, because odds are they have insights and experience that I don’t have perspective on. Sometimes I just need to think through something aloud, or share enough just to get it off my chest. I’m grateful to have people in my life to help carry my load.

Still, I have to remember that asking someone to take on part of my burden isn’t a one-way street. I have to help the other person understand what it is I’m asking of them and why. That’s just part of maintaining any healthy relationship. I never want to let my frustrations and desire to be independent get in between me and my friends or family.

I know that I’m not perfect, and communication is something I’m always working on. Asking for help, in particular, is not easy for me. Still, I know it’s worth it. I know that I need the people in my life who love and support me, and I need to be there for them too. And above all, I know that even if I am independent, I can’t go through life alone; what a miserable existence that would be.