“Celebration when your plan is working? Anyone can do that. But when you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it over and over as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that’s when you start to learn what celebration is. When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that’s celebration.”
― Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life
I often wonder if my own story could have been told a thousand different ways, and if so, if I’d end up where I am now: on the cusp of courage, defiant that the only thing ‘wrong’ about my decisions, behavior and actions was how quickly I compromised. In fantastical stories, everyone praises the sacrifice done on behalf of the greater good, but fail to recognize how betraying it is to the individual character, who relinquishes their truth for everyone’s wishful happy endings that don’t dare explore ever after; simply satisfied sitting on the horizon of achievement but never having to work toward it. It’s why movies have those two minutes montages that signify the greatest change the protagonist will ever go through. I think of any sports-related film where all the training in the world gets whittled down, along with their bodies, into short snippets of mind-body-spirit transformation with the get-on-your-feet music and the wise old sage training them for some magnificent test that awaits. But even those two minutes are far from inspiring. Motivating, sure, but change never happens quite like that. Truth is, you get tested all the time, whether you are ready or not; aware or not.
I understand why these scenes serve a very short percentage of the overall movie, it’s hard work. It’s full of conflict and mental, emotional, physical battles and abuse. It’s full of second guesses and turmoil. It’s full of miscommunication and misunderstandings. It’s ripe with rotten things, like gossip and name calling and jealously and competition. It’s full of blind spots and not knowing any better. It’s full of learning and it’s full of mistakes, lots of them, often repeatable and sometimes debilitating. It’s full of lines with your reputation on them. It is full of outside assumptions and people making decisions on them, determining these faulty details for facts. It is rarely filled with victory. Take the small ones when you can. It is rarely filled with validation and approval. It is void of any answers, but overflowing with an innate, indescribable drive that cannot be measured by anyone watching you. Because you do these things even when they are not watching, when there is no audience, when it is just you and the keyboard or basketball or swimming pool. When it is just you, asking yourself over and over and over again, “Why?” It’s where you start, always, and without a care for where it ends. In fact, you really don’t want to know. You just want to be surprised, and are more than happy to surprise yourself. In movies, however, two minutes will suffice because no one actually wants to go through that. Not in real life. Certainly not on the silver screen. Take me right to happy ending.
But these moments deserve to be magnified. Transition should not be something you breeze through in minutes time, like a mile run. In fact, you have to wade in it, for years. It is uncomfortable and you’ll certainly be unwilling to dip a toe in the quick sand, the ever changing ground beneath your feet. But it will get you anyway, change, that is. It will drag you in and consume. Treading water will feel a lot like having rocks in your pocket and there will be everyday anchors that try to bring you down. Don’t believe it when they say they’re just grounding you, stabilizing you, getting your head out of the clouds and back to reality. Instead ask them what their dreams are, and why aren’t they pursuing them? Because that’s what you’re doing, and you knew from the beginning it was going to be hard work. It’s not headline-worthy, but sometimes people need to be reminded they may not be a part of how your write your own story. I admire anyone who can say that more eloquently. Because pursuing your dreams is a lot like love, really. And love needs no explaining. It can simply stand alone, as is. Without rhyme or reason or boundaries, and full of purpose yet to be known. It takes faith, sometimes a leap but more often a million baby steps, to discover.
That’s what change is all about. And when I think about my own story, I no longer think of the lessons, ever so similar, that have kept repeating themselves for the better part of a decade. It would have been tragic if I were to betray myself with another compromise, but instead, it really is epic not to do so. I am so far removed from my original dreams, that it is has brought me right back to beautiful. Where what used to be seen by others as over thinking and over analyzing, is now understood to be inquisitive and insightful by those who matter. And those who matter, don’t see that as something wrong or too be handled and dealt with. Those who matter, will instead hold on and dig in. They’ll have faith and enjoy the adventure you’ve taken them on. And it’s something worth celebrating. It feels like sprinting down hill with the wind at your back and arms outstretched, flying across the black pavement, free as can be.
So for those who, like me, enjoy the journey, who go to school and work with a purpose beyond the next rung in the ladder, or who never settle for damaging relationships, and for those who are determined to discover and test themselves, to satisfy, bit by bit the hunger they have to learn and be better than they were they last time they sat down to write, you are already equipped with the humble understanding that this world is beyond comprehension, color, brick and mortar and structures of any kind. You already know that it is instead, full of lines in the sand that get crossed over and washed away. Without a doubt, you already know that it is, many times, even beyond the flesh and bones we see ourselves in. For those of you who do this, thank you. You are the folks I follow, model myself after and hope to one day be like, tailoring your teachings to my own style, whether you know it or not. So please, keep going.