A year ago, I boarded the red-eye back to Raleigh from a five-week, bittersweet adventure on Oahu, Hawaii. I had not been back to my home for nearly seven years and though being reunited with my childhood playground and where I came from was incredibly refreshing, ultimately, it was not the primary reason for my visit. I had a very personal mission that I intended to accomplish: delivering an overdue apology. Many times in our lives we have the opportunity to “right a wrong” and to “heal a hurt”. However, when these opportunities arise, we often are too prideful, too stubborn or too afraid to actually make a daring move to say the very words that can potentially change the course of someone’s life: “I’m sorry”.
Somehow, I built enough courage to not only say these words, but to say them in-person. There is something very special about being both physically and emotionally present when delivering such important sentiments. It requires immense vulnerability and a high degree of courage to accomplish this crucial aspect of human connection. My journey required a nearly 5,000 mile flight across the country, immense emotional strength, my savings account, and precious time. The funny thing is, we often have these extravagant plans in our minds of how situations and circumstances turn out. Unfortunately, theory does not always match reality. In this specific experience, my good intentions did not result in a particularly happy ending.
The truth is, throughout out lives we will run into situations and circumstances that will truly test who we are, what we are capable of and who we intend to become. Circumstances such as: losing a loved one, having to change occupations, being involved in a severe accident, having a messy breakup, filing for divorce, receiving a disheartening diagnosis, and moving to a different town, among so many others. The fact is, no matter how prepared we think we maybe, life has the tendency to throw us unexpected “curve balls”. In addition, even if we are paying very close attention, sometimes we still find ourselves unprepared, aggrieved, and/or exposed. Nevertheless, the situation itself is not the medium that is most revealing as much as it is the aftermath of the situation. Our choices of what to do next have that pleasure.
When faced with these difficult challenges, we have to remember that we have three options:
1. Advance and push through,
2. Retreat to old habits,
3. Remain where you are
When I returned from my journey of self-discovery a year ago, I was in poor shape. I was completely exhausted – emotionally, physically, spiritually and definitely financially. I left Hawaii very broken and hurt – not at all how I had originally anticipated. It did not take much time for me to to become lost in my thoughts and emotions. Eventually, I felt as though everything around me was spinning at a million miles per hour and that nothing made much sense. I remember that all I wanted to do was hide and shut the world away; I refused to do anything, go anywhere or see anyone. The aftermath of Hawaii really pushed me to my limits and it also pushed me towards the third option of facing any challenge: remaining where I was. In hindsight, by remaining still, I was admitting to myself that it was okay to be surrounded in my own helplessness. In hindsight, I was allowing myself to be anti-social and to be stuck. I stopped studying for the MCAT and I stopped preparing for medical school. In being stuck, I abandoned many, if not all of my hopes and dreams. In hindsight, I permitted myself to literally pause my life and the development of the kind of person I always intended to become. I say “hindsight” because at some point between June 25, 2015 and now, I realized something while being surrounded in self-pity: I wanted to get better. So what did I do next? I took a deep breath, had a cup of espresso and took control.
I think that of the three choices we face regarding the aftermath of any devastation or setback, deciding to remain where you are is the most detrimental. Remaining still means we’re stuck between what could be and what was without doing anything about it. It’s a hopeless endeavor and a prison that we make for ourselves. Being in limbo is a location we don’t want to stay in forever. The reality is, if we are not moving, we are not living. More specifically, if we are not moving forward, we are not truly living. The only way we can look back to see how far we have come is by intentionally creating that distance through progress and advancement. If we remain still for far too long or merely retreat to what we are comfortable with rather than what challenges us, we aren’t improving and nothing is going to change. Like most things, the secret to getting better is doing something about it; we have to act. There can be no change without action.
In the end, it is our choices and responses that reveal who we are and who we are to become. The past is in the past so let it go. Let it go – it’s okay. Remember, we can only control the controllable. We also have to remember that we cannot change everything all at once – it takes time. Right now, one thing we can control – one thing we can change – is to make the bold decision to move forward and “un-pause” our lives.
We have to keep going. Go as slow as you need to, but keep moving forward! You can do it. I can do it. We can do it. Start with baby steps. Consistency is key; don’t stop. One day, you’ll realize that the hardships and challenges you are facing now will be the moments necessary to enable you to become the very best version of yourself. We find strength in devastation; a strength we sometimes believe we were never capable of in the first place. Along the way, you may even inspire and encourage others. Rest-assured, in a year’s time you’ll be able to see just how far you’ve come and you’ll be so proud of yourself.
What are you waiting for? Go!