I took a risk this weekend. I didn’t go cliff diving or climb Everest, but I did step out of my comfort zone for a couple of days. And as we know, the older we get, the more doing something new some times seems like risky business.
I left for this writers retreat not knowing the instructor, not knowing anyone who was attending, and not really knowing where I was going. Little did I know when I arrived how truly risky this could be. To write, sometimes your innermost thoughts or things that you didn’t even know lived within you, and then read them to strangers is a little intimidating. But my “risky” decision was rewarded by an amazing experience, life-changing people, and a new “happy place” to escape to in my memory.
As my instructor would say, “It was a delight.”
It’s funny how I didn’t even realize what I was doing when I was doing it. It wasn’t until the ride home that I started to think that for the first time, in a long time, I had done something for me. On my own. Something that served my interests. With people whose meat I didn’t have to cut before they could eat. And it felt damn good.
I highly recommend it.
Anyway, as many of you know, when you really buckle-down with your thoughts, it can lead to an intense experience. I left the mountains today, feeling mentally exhausted, but also like I had achieved new things I never thought I could.
One of the many wonderful exercises my instructor had us do this weekend was to take the first sentence of a book she picked out and build a piece around it. (For the life of me, I can’t remember the book this came from, but when I do I’ll be sure and post it.)
The first sentence, in quotes, is from the author. The rest is my own. I hope, as you read this, you will start to understand that no matter where I go, you all are always in my thoughts.
I dedicate this to you.
“One day you finally knew what you had to do and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice.” All it took was the ability to drown out those words with the deafening roar of your own perseverance. This talent didn’t come easily. It took time and practice, as anything worth doing well does. But now you are the master of your own life. The hero of your own story. And everyone else is just an extra.
Getting to this point has been filled with struggle. It’s not as if there is a class or a seminar that teaches the ability to take control of your own life. The class is Life and the seminar that you didn’t know was required is Loss. But your graduation gift is Joy with a card attached saying, “Best of luck you in your future endeavors. Signed, Ownership.”
Those people around you, who are shouting their bad advice, have never taken the class. They may have applied, but were never accepted. It could be because their application essay was about how they would do better if they were in your shoes. And since the class of Life doesn’t have an extra seat for Judgment, their application was denied.
I often wonder if those people offering advice will ever appreciate how full life can be. Those people who have no room for Imperfection must also shut out Fulfillment because the two walk hand in hand. Those who judge must also close their minds to the endless possibilities of life because with Possibility also comes Error. They may never appreciate Beauty because they will also shelter themselves from the Pain that comes with it.
I realize that completing this class on Life and Loss was never something you had planned. You received a full scholarship and had no choice but to attend. But, as with any education, it is up to you to decide where you go from here and how this knowledge can be best applied. And it is up to you to take what you have learned and inspire others. Because everyone wishes to be their own true, authentic self. And you are now an expert in that field.
So let them shout. Let them advise. Let the “experts” say what they think. Because the truth is, you are the only expert in your life. You have taken the class and you have done the work. You have studied hard and pulled all-nighters to learn a subject that few people have even bought the books for. To graduate, as yourself, with full honors is an important distinction. Your mind will be forever open to what can be. Whether it’s joy, sorrow, beauty, or imperfection. What a gift you have.
And now you are your own gift to the world.