Personal Development

How Far We’ve Come

Waking up at the start of the end of the world,
But it’s feeling just like every other morning before…
Let’s see how far we’ve come.

Matchbox 20, “How Far We’ve Come”

.debe. "world in my hand"

Last month, I experienced the greatest growing opportunity of my life thus far. I think I was searching for this, waiting for this. All those months of stagnation and wondering, wandering was going to culminate into something, only I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be a new job? A new relationship? A new place to call home? What, exactly, would lead to this personal change that I was looking for?

When I found an ad in a magazine for a writer’s retreat in the south of France, it felt almost serendipitous. Instinct told me to save the web address and check it out later; a love of the country, a need to renew a passion, and a desire to fulfill a dream encouraged me to send in the application barely a week later. But it was fate that took the reins and brought me there.

Things were about to change, whether I wanted them or not. I knew this, I wanted this, but as I geared up for my trip, the changes began to accumulate in rapid succession. In June, I began to pick myself up from the rut I had fallen into , slowly renewing faith in myself and my abilities and beginning to believe in my future, though still uncertain of what lay ahead. In July, I attempted to put together some form of plan for the changes that were on the brink. In August, things went further downhill. An illness took me out of commission, which led to my resignation from my temporary job assignment that I’d held since May in order to focus on finding a diagnosis and subsequently recover. In September, I hit bottom. I spent most of the month concerned with family situations and my own continued recovery, and when I turned 25, I made a promise to myself that this year would be a turning point. I would make it count. Then, in October, the lease on my apartment ended, I began another temporary part-time job, and I moved home. But still, my spirits began to improve. Things were happening, life was changing. And, truly, so was I.

My trip to France in November was meant to be an escape, a break, a chance for recuperation and rediscovery. Of course I wanted to find inspiration again, but, most importantly, I wanted to find myself.

I should have known that there would be lessons, that I would be tested. I wonder if I knew all along just what this journey would mean for me in the end.

Going to France completely on my own was a huge leap for me, as it brought me out of the comfort zone in which for years I had subconsciously cocooned myself; it forced me to become aware of my own desire for independence that before had only been a glimmer. While I had traveled and left my hometown for college, road trips, and out-of-country adventures, I either wasn’t very far away, which made it easy to come home, or I was able to take comfort with me.

Still, though, the lesson was more than about travel, about change, about my ability to adapt. The lesson was the realization that I didn’t have to cling to comfort, that I could let go and still love, that change was nothing to fear, and, most importantly, that I could rely on myself and be more than ok.

I had placed barriers in my path without even knowing it; so hindered was I by my own fear of the unknown that I clung to the past for comfort and lost myself in the disappointment of a future that was so meticulously planned, but never met. Communicating in a foreign language, navigating a new city, and forming connections with strangers proved to myself that fears can be faced, that obstacles can be overcome, and that, despite being a little bit lost, I have people to love and guide me, and I can always find my way back home, back to me, again.

When I returned home three weeks ago, exhausted and spent, but brimming with a sense of self-pride and empowerment, opportunities welcomed me. A check of my voicemail on the ride home verified that I had a new temp job lined up the following week, lasting until February, and I was brimming with ideas and a desire to immerse myself in the local creative community. I would try to pick up some freelance writing and editing, establish connections with local writers and artists by forming groups with members of the community, and launch my job search again with newfound determination.

Only, as I drove to the familiar place where I had worked before and returned to the streets where I grew up, I found myself struggling to hold onto that feeling of empowerment and confidence that had brought me home. Some days, I feel the familiar weight of insecurity, and there are moments where I wonder if I’ve once again reverted.

But I know that I’m not the same person I was before I left. I know that I only need to call forth those memories, to tell myself, “Look at where you’ve been, look at what you’ve done.”

I’ve handled planes, trains, and taxi rides. I fought against homesickness and anxiety and a desperate urge to run home. I formed lifelong connections, asserted my own independence, and battled myself.

I found the person I have always longed to become.

And there is no going back.

Thank you for traveling with me on this journey. It’s been tulmultuous at worst and redefining at best, but without you, without this outlet, I doubt I could have gotten this far.

2 thoughts on “How Far We’ve Come”

  1. My Dear Susan,
    To paraphrase Glinda’s comment to Dorothy, you’ve always had the power … It has always been there, you just found a way to set it free. You tested and tasted the unknown and dare I say, you found enjoyment. Huzzah.

    I am curious, dear one, that for all of the sturm and drang, for the tsunami of emotional energy expended in France fighting the fear of the unknown and struggling to return to where you believe that you are most safe and secure, now that you are here, you say you now feel insecure. An interesting conundrum. Perhaps the Land of Insecurity is the place that feels most familiar? Hmmm. Worth a ponder. Or two.

    Your friend,

  2. My Dear Susan,
    If you are in the mood for pondering, here’s a nugget to gnaw on from Jim Lehrer of PBS. I thought of you when re-reading this. It seems to this flawed observer that you succeeded in taking to heart sentences one and two. Your recent trip is Exhibit A. What rang a bell was the third sentence. Just a thought I had and wanted to share. Your friend, BenjaminBunny

    As you search for your place in life I hereby advise you to take risks. Be willing to put your mind and your spirit, your time and your energy, your stomach and your emotions on the line. To search for a safe place is to search for an end to a rainbow that you will hate once you find it. Take charge of your own life. Create your own risks by setting your own standards, satisfying your own standards. Take charge.

    It is unlikely that any of you will have occasion to remember either me or my commencement address. I don’t blame you. But if by chance something does linger, I hope it’s just that there was a guy up here who kept saying, risk, risk. The way to happiness is to risk it. Risk it.

    May 2002 Jim Lehrer commencement address at University of Pennsylvania

    BenjaminBunny – It’s a pleasure to hear from you again; thanks for sticking with me and reading, as always! As you can tell, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster, but looking back, the ride has been worth it. Fear is what has always held me back, and I’ll admit that there are certain times where I feel that familiar pang of uncertainty, of insecurity. And indeed, it is most familiar. Once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head — because doesn’t the familiar bring the most comfort? But I also believe that that’s normal, that it’s a continuous journey. I’ve changed, but unfortunately it’s not as grand a transformation as I would like, nor do I think it’s right to ever expect it to be 😉

    Thanks so much for sharing the commencement speech, as it did resonate with me in more ways than one. If I can indulge in this for just a moment to explain…There was a moment in France where there was a rainbow spanning the entire length of a mountainside, and it seemed to end on a little, uninhabited, run-down shack. A fellow writer joked about finding gold there, but the beauty, for me at least, wasn’t in what was at the end, but the colors, the way it lit up the mountain through the mist. For that moment, that’s what was breathtaking.

    I didn’t get a picture; it’s only a memory that I had even forgotten until now. But maybe that’s what I need to remind myself of. Maybe he, and you, are absolutely right. I’m too busy searching for that gold, that safe place, that I forget to appreciate what comes before it, what leads me there.

    Thanks, as always, for your insight and for your words. Wishing you the very, very best. – Susan

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