Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer
We will never fully understand the world by trying to look into the future and predict where our paths will take us. We usually only understand our experiences when we reflect back on where we have been and what we have learned.
Because we spend every day with ourselves, we fail to see how much progress we make on a daily basis. Progress and growth are often so uncomfortable and painful, yet we don’t take time to stop and appreciate the process that is happening and give ourselves recognition for all we have walked through. My birthday is at the end of November, which is also very close to the New Year. So each time I add another year to my life, I make an effort to reflect on the calendar year that has passed.
Looking over the last year of my life is one my favorite self-reflection activities. And yet sometimes I can feel paralyzed when I reflect on the unexpected detours my journey has taken. I am reminded of how the unknown used to leave me so shaken that I would return to negative patterns of behavior that I knew would ultimately lead back to treatment – a predictable and safe conclusion. However, the more I stepped into recovery, the more I realized that the universe does not curse or bless. The universe does not dole out good and bad. The universe only provides neutral experiences. It is in the way in which these experiences impact our lives for better or worse that is in our conscious control. A broken heart can render us incapable of leaving the house. It can color our views of the world so much so that we refuse to trust those around us. It can drive us to put up guards, locks, and walls around our hearts to make sure that nothing and no one will ever harm us again. And little do we know that these guards keep the hurt out, but along with the hurt, these walls also keep out any potential good as well. A broken heart can also drive us to create a masterpiece. A broken heart can inspire us to chase a dream that has long eluded us because we realize the fleeting nature of our existence. A broken heart can help us re-evaluate the kind of life/partner/career/family we want which instills a new sense of self-worth and a refusal to settle for any relationship, situation or activity that makes us feel “less than” or “not enough.”
Sometimes I see pictures of my younger self, and I sit in wonder. This 6, 9, or 12 year old Gracie had no idea the turns her life would take. Did she know that the college experience that she dreamed of — advancing with ease throughout all four years, meeting the love of her life and friends that would last a lifetime – would change into a series of residential treatment centers, struggles to go back to school, and ultimately attending a small college nothing like any that she had dreamed of? Did she know she would fall in love like the magic she dreamed of only to have it crumble and leave her questioning what she could have done differently to keep it? Did she know she would also have the chance to go to Africa, Europe, and South America? Did she know she would fight back for her life and become strong enough to run two marathons? Did she know she would meet people that would change her life forever and that she does have friendships that will last a lifetime? Did she know that the turns in her life would grace her with empathy, resilience, fortitude and courage she never understood a fraction of before?
I no longer fear the unknown like I used to. Of course there are still days where my stomach turns with anxiety, longing for a crystal ball that will assure me everything will be okay. But more and more I have learned that the crack in the crystal ball – the unexpected event, or the unexpected gift that comes from the sometimes devastating turn of events – is really the most exciting and inspiring part of the journey. Now I embrace change, and I even chase it. I make a concerted effort to step into the unknown. In the last year I decided to start the journey of yoga teacher training and became a certified yoga teacher, meeting friends and finding a community that brought such healing to pieces of me that I hadn’t realized needed it. I graduated with my master’s in Social Work and was able to have the gift of working as an individual therapist, returning the gifts of a listening ear, understanding friend and unconditional support that were given to me at my hour of need. I packed up my life and decided to move to a new state, start two new jobs and throw myself into a completely new climate and community. I embraced change, leaned into it and actually chose it. I chose growth. I chose to trust the crack in the Crystal Ball because honestly it has been the most beautiful and transformative influence in my life.
I cannot wait for the future and yet I am constantly in awe by the beauty of the present. I am so excited to see where this journey will lead me in the next year of my life. I cannot wait to look back at pictures of my 20, 21, and 24 year old Gracie and think…she had no idea of the beauty that was to befall her life.