You would think that I'd be sad and depressed over all of it, and admittedly I was throughout high school and college. I never acknowledged or celebrated any of it because I still felt overpowered and defined by it. It was a gaping reminder of what I no longer had, what I still wanted, and what I feared would never be again. But as I was writing last night, I realized that I never truly lost it; I still had the memories, and it made me realize later on that I'm still capable of having those experiences. Though twenty-three isn't culturally considered a milestone, it personally is for me.
I don't celebrate such significance because of what once was, but rather what it taught me. I no longer need the promise of a happy ending to start living out the story that has been written for me. Yes, some things were painful and could have been avoided, but one can only have so much self-awareness, especially at a young age. We don't really learn anything worth holding onto until we've tasted salty tears and felt our hearts hurt, even to the point of breaking. So do I regret my choices that long ago? No. And I try not to regret the choices that I made thinking that I could protect myself afterward. The only thing I know for sure is that what I thought kept me safe ended up holding me hostage, instead of setting me free.
But where does that personal freedom come from? Not from self alone, I've realized. It comes from the One that knitted us together with both strengths and weaknesses so that we may experience wholeness. It's choosing to embrace what we were created to do and what for, even if doing so feels like us against the rest of the world. Not that it should be an "us versus them" mentality, but it does feel like it at times. There will always be those who try to put me (and others) in a box; when people can't understand or it makes them uncomfortable, they fight it by feigning ignorance.
But I don't have the energy or the time to worry about that. Not anymore
This is not a time of 'starting over' as it tends to be emphasized. I look at it as a continuation of what I've already been doing, but without the self-denial. There's definitely changing and growing over time, but I truly believe that the core of who a person is always remains the same. I've always been a woman with a child-like heart and who finds joy in the every-day mundane aspects of life. I will always be an old soul with a sense of romantic optimism who is fascinated by human connection, and tries to see the best in everyone.
It's interesting in regards to what happens you get out of the bubble, and life is no longer about papers during the week and cheap drinks on weekends. I've discovered that I am so much stronger than I thought I was capable of being, and that with God's help, I will somehow get to the other side. What seems so complicated really isn't, and the only reason it seems that way is because I was afraid of making the wrong choice and then getting hurt. Overall, when I embrace who I am and love myself in the process, everything else tends to come together as it should.
And so I will rise; rise and continue leaning into Hope that whatever lies ahead is going to be awesome. I'm not a fan of lowering expectations, but rather being open to the possibilities. I have a vision, but I'm willing to allow that vision to take different shapes over the course of time. I strive to take action and get involved, because that's what living is.
Here's to rising, to going all in, and being grateful for every moment of it.