With July steadily melting into August and a new school year slowly creeping around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on the adventures of the past several months.
As it turns out, this summer has been surprisingly intense. Summer of 2019, you have blown my mind with the copious amounts of plot twists and topsy-turvy exposure. God is up to something. Life is weird. Although I definitely did not ask for it, the months of April through July have included a lot of learning. A lot of celebration. A lot of heartbreak. A lot of healing. A lot of writing.
Really, just a heck of a lot of growth.
I recall telling a friend back in early April that three and half months of summer vacation is much too long for this year-round scholastic nerd. Yup, I said that (just a PSA, most Hawai’i schools are year-round or on a track schedule – this is the academic world I come from). I still don’t know what to think about this 3-4 month summer vacation business (which is probably why I signed up for so many summer classes. Ha!), however, it seems I may have learned more life lessons surrounding love and loss outside of the classroom.
Why share this? This mushy, icky, and transparent stuff?
Well, truthfully, someone once challenged me with the following nugget of wisdom:
“A lesson learned should be a lesson shared.”
Maybe what I’ve learned these past few months might prove useful to you. Maybe they won’t – that’s okay too. Take what you can and do what you want with it. Perhaps, you’ll find some inspiration, motivation, or maybe – just maybe – you’ll find some hope through these words.
So, here goes. This summer, I’ve been both deeply humbled and privileged to learn (as well as be reminded of) these two major life lessons:
1. Time is fleeting
Honestly, we don’t know what tomorrow holds. Friends, we don’t even know what tonight holds. Nor the next few hours, minutes, or seconds.
Life. Is. Short. And that is the bittersweet reality. Life can literally change in the blink of an eye. I’ve borne witness to this beautiful and sobering concept over and over and over again. Especially during this summer.
The harsh truth is: we are running out of time. In fact, another way of thinking about it is: we are running out of life. Surely the length of our vitality is unknown, but perhaps the depth of it is something we can truly contribute to. I may be wrong (which I often am), but I still strongly believe we can design a life we love – a life with meaning – when we remember we live on borrowed time. Can you tell I’m an idealist?
I personally try really hard to live intentionally because of this stark reality: one of these days (hopefully not anytime soon), my time will be up. One thing I know: constantly hiding in my comfort zone does not help to create the life I want to live. Granted, although I am extremely introverted and do require a lot of alone time to recharge, I have come to realize that intentional living – at least for me – actually requires leaving my hiding place and venturing out. The life I want to design – the life I want to lead – actually requires me to take calculated risks, make mistakes, embrace myself fully and wholly (awkwardness and all, yo!), as well as be vulnerable. And by “vulnerable”, I don’t mean “weak”. By vulnerable, I mean raw, genuine, and honest with myself and with those around me.
Though I don’t like to admit it, sometimes emotions and sentiments do get in the way of pursuing and embracing a full life. I know, I know. Gross. There are also issues of entitlement, stubbornness, fear, and hurt that can halt the progress. Additionally, let’s not forget the reality of adult responsibilities and obligations – did somebody say bills? Sometimes they can get in the way of actually adding quality to the years I am borrowing. Perhaps you can relate?
With such minimal time on this earth, I wonder why we don’t do the things that truly challenge us? You know, the things that scare and wreck us to the bone?* The things that will help to contribute to a healthy level of personal growth? The experiences that help to propel us to become the individuals we aspire to be? In fact, what do these “things” even look like?
[*I recognize and understand this is me speaking from a stance of privilege but please hear me out]
Maybe these experiences and “things” look a lot like leaving the house for the first time in weeks and going on a nature hike – even if it requires using a cane or a couple of friendly faces to [quite literally] lean on. Maybe it looks like taking a chance and submitting a bid for your first house. Maybe it looks like going on a 24-hour roundtrip road trip to visit family members for a day and a half to grieve an unexpected and awful loss. Perhaps it looks a lot like building the courage to revisit a very personal experience during a drama therapy class or quietly celebrating a two-year anniversary of post-treatment recovery. It is also plausible that it could look a lot like returning to your hometown for your best friend’s wedding and making new, happy memories to replace painful or haunting ones. Honestly, it could look a lot like packing up your life and family and moving across the country to start anew. Maybe it looks a lot like visiting a new city and getting on stage to sing “All I Want for Christmas” at a karaoke bar in front of a crowd of cheering strangers. It could even look like mustering up all the courage you have and asking the love of your life to marry you on the steps of a very, very familiar church. Maybe it means quitting your job unsure if the backup plan is 100% fool-proof or visiting each county of your home state and sharing an idea you are absolutely passionate about. Quite possibly, it could even look a lot like sending an embarrassing love song to your crush or finally building enough nerve to ask them out on a first date.
Often times, the one game-changer to our fleeting life is just showing up and taking a risk at something new. Something different. Something that brings irrevocable meaning into our very short, very limited existence. Sometimes it even includes making mistakes and growing from them. Sometimes it’s a change in our perspective or a change in our daily routine that adds a sense of meaning to our lives.
2. Forgiveness and Closure are radical acts of self-love
Sometimes, negative things just happen. And it sucks.
An unexpected loss of a remarkable high school classmate. The loss of a job. Rejection. A devastating diagnosis. Not getting into your dream school. A mistake with drastic and on-going consequences. Losing the chance and/or opportunity to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” one last time to your dad or your partner. The list goes on.
Although many times, not a fault of our own (because really, how much can we truly control?), the grudges, the pain, the confusion, and the anger can haunt us. And if we grant them permission, they can haunt us for a very long time. Sometimes our entire life becomes jaded and hindered by the hurt we hold.
Yet, I wonder why? Why do we hold onto these things so tightly and for so long? Who do they actually punish?
I think it’s safe to say that oftentimes, when holding onto grudges, pain, confusion, anger, and other intrapersonal acts of violence, the person really being punished is ourselves. Consequently, our self-punishment then trickles into the way we view and treat others, ultimately hurting those we care about in the crossfire.
I’ve seen hate tear people, families, and communities apart – sadly, it’s an everyday observation. On the other hand, I have also seen forgiveness heal people, families, and communities. I strongly believe forgiveness is something we ultimately do for ourselves. We forgive so that our own guilt and anger (among other emotions and icky feelings) hold less control over ourselves. Forgiveness is something we do selfishly – in the sense that we forgive not for the person or circumstance that has hurt us but so we can “move on”; so we can continue living a life of quality and vulnerability.
Forgiveness is something we do as a radical act of self-love.
I’m here to remind you that self-love is allowed.
Yup. You’re actually allowed to love yourself, you know.
The one individual we are stuck with for the duration of our entire existence is none other than ourselves. It’s okay to not like who we are or where we are currently. However, it is also incredibly crucial to realize it’s not healthy to stay in that mentality for too long. So I beg you, please, please don’t stay there for too long. It can quite literally destroy us from the inside out if we allow it. That’s the tricky part though, right? The acceptance and commitment that we are more than enough – that’s where the hard work comes in. At the same token, that’s also where the magic happens because friend, you are truly more than enough.
I used to believe closure appeared in a specific way: a person-shaped package saying the bibbity-bobbity magical words of an overdue apology. You know, the mumbo jumbo that would somehow vindicate all of the heavy baggage of pain, sorrow, hurt, and jadedness. Poof! Closure is served.
From my experience, closure doesn’t exactly work that way – surprise! Forgiveness and closure actually look a lot like uncomfortable conversations with others and awkward pep talks with myself; quietly starting from scratch and making new friends; exchanging toxic people, places, and things for a healthier community, pleasant locations, and action-oriented ideas; writing and processing; a lot of alone time to recharge; attending therapy; visiting a new faith community; leaving a job unhealthy for my mental, physical, and emotional well-being; saying “no” to others and instead saying “yes” to myself; as well as daily reminding myself, “I’ve got this. It’s going to be okay.”
Truth-be-told, I’ve spent years of my life punishing myself by holding onto the false hope of my ideal image of “closure”. So. Much. Time. Lost. So much time I’m still striving to make up for now. Gosh, the irreversible time lost while holding onto bitterness, hoping closure would happen in the way we often expect: a genuine apology from the perpetrator. I don’t believe closure (nor forgiveness) works that way all the time, if at all. Sometimes we won’t ever receive an apology – though we deserve one.
Okay, Ang, so what do we do now with that reality?
I think that’s when we have the opportunity to choose forgiveness and to choose closure. To intentionally and fearlessly protest the hate we hold within ourselves and instead live out loud with powerful acts of self-love. It’s a blessing, really, if you think about it; our freedom lies not in another person’s words, but in our decision to move onward. In this sense, we hold the key to escape our captivity.
I also think we have to make that intentional choice of moving forward; walking through corridors of painful moments and experiences through new doors filled with the unknown. I’m not saying this is a process we need to commit to immediately following a hurt (because let’s be real, we have to leave room to grieve); what I am implying is that there is an opportunity for momentum if we dare to choose it. That is, when we are ready. The very options we are given are 1) to continue holding onto the thorns of bitterness, 2) to let go and take a chance on something different, or 3) remain still. Yet, I wonder, what would happen if we took a chance on something potentially better? Something healthier? Something that could bring us closer to the version of ourselves we aspire to be? What would our lives look like?
Now knowing that today is written in sand and that taking steps to forgiveness and closure is an intentional act of self-love – what are we going to do?
What life do we want to lead? How are we designing a life we love?
Tip: It’s never a bad idea to start right now.
Leave a friendly comment below or send an email my way. I’m curious to know what life lessons Summer 2019 is teaching you.
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed here are solely my own and do not necessarily represent the individuals, institutions, and agencies I am affiliated with.