Three years ago, I was certain I knew how my life would unfold. But in the last thirteen months, my carefully constructed world spontaneously combusted then slowly burned all around the edges. Beliefs and plans I held dear were flipped over and I wondered if I could ever trust anyone again—myself included. I blazed through days running on ambition and bitterness, a potent cocktail to keep me from giving in to despair.
In many ways, this fuel saved me from myself: I worked towards goals, surrounded myself with old friends and new company, and kept distracted with constant activities. Suddenly, I had new stories to tell that I wouldn’t have lived through otherwise. Now, there was space in my life to fill thanks those who walked out of it and those I’ve hurt out of pain and cut away in the process. I felt things I never felt before, and I grew because of it.
My old life slowly chipped away until there wasn’t much left to do but to take account of what remained and make sense of this mosaic heart. What I received was the surprising gift of self-awareness. I’ve never been so plainly aware of my flaws and the limitations of my existence. It’s like waking up from a deep sleep to see just how indifferent the world is to how I’d prefer my life to play out. Real life is a messy place with a great deal of randomness, and other people are just as complex and downright maddening as we are.
To be honest, I’ve realized how irrelevant my life is to the greater scheme of things. It’s potentially depressing as deep down I—and all of us, really—want to be larger than life. And yet, I’m starting to discover the freedom in this smallness. I was born into my particular set of life circumstances out of pure good fortune, and other than this there’s little that differentiates me from my peers or somehow makes me “special.” I am just as ambitious and well-meaning and yet at the same time just as mediocre and entitled as the next person. It’s just a matter of the day of the week and choosing which side of me wins today.
Taking a hard look at all the things and people I have zero control over in this strange world compelled me to take responsibility for what I actually can control. Among these I have yet to master are:
- My thought patterns
- My reactions and responses
- The words that leave my mouth and the messages I send
- My self care – grooming, diet, exercise and sleep
- Whom I spend time with
- What content I consume
- Whose opinions I value
- The art I create
If I can just focus on maximizing these, perhaps my experience of reality is more malleable than I thought. My life doesn’t look the way I thought it would but yet, look what I’ve got: a different and deeper appreciation for love, loss, and what it means to be alive.
Accepting that life as I knew it no longer existed forced me look for and choose new ways to live. Right now I’m trying my best to eliminate the noise of outside opinions to listen to desires my heart has almost forgotten about. But perhaps most important, this year has taught me that it’s okay to get hurt, to fail spectacularly, to have our expectations disappointed, and to feel completely lost. Because even if it feels that way, we rarely are. We’re simply early in the process. And ultimately, everything matters/nothing matters in the face of the greater cosmos.
One day, I’ll surprise myself with how far I’ve come along on this journey. But until then, I’ll be here putting in the tough work known as healing.
With love & intensity,