Sunday, October 5, 2014

Choices

"You don't get it. I don't have a choice." I've heard those words quite often in my life. I used to say them myself. Destiny, fate, kismet, whatever you call it yourself, I used to believe that there were so many things that couldn't be helped. Maybe it was because my parents constantly told younger me, "There are some things that you just have to do, whether or not you want to." And so I believed them for a long time. I finally understand now they weren't talking about following any sort of set trajectory and being unhappy or happy because of it. They meant that I was going to be confronted by a lot of difficult decisions, and in those moments, I will have to choose between what is right and what is easy, even if what's right is the exact opposite of what I want to do (sometimes the third option is to charge with reckless abandon, and I like choosing that one).

When I went back to Terra Nova this year, someone said to me, "And the prodigal son returns! Just like you were meant to," as if I were destined to be there. If I were a year younger, I would have believed him. I would have conceded that there were some things that couldn't be changed, and that destiny had engraved an unalterable path in front of me, but I'm a year older, a year wiser, and a year slightly more frayed at the edges. Life showed me that the "prodigal son" always has a choice. The best laid plans of mice and men are just that: plans. You ultimately get to choose everything. If you don't want to live in isolation, you choose who you let into your life. If you decide on the exact opposite, you choose to keep your defenses and walls up. You choose who breaks your heart, who fills it, who keeps your secrets, who isn't worth your time, and who you shower with your love and affection. Your life is a progression of choices, some far more difficult than others, but you're never powerless. You are not a product of circumstance.

My little sister says to me all the time (yesterday included), "You can't make me choose. You know I'm not good at that." But I will. I will keep making her choose, because she's strong, and I want her to show that strength. I want her to forget the word "can't" and all of its derivatives. I want her to go after what she wants without being impeded by fear or hesitation. Because, even if she or you make a poor choice, if you've made a lot of good ones in your life and you chose to let love in, there will always be people waiting to support you, bolster you, and help you.


Monday, September 29, 2014

An Origin Story (of sorts)

If you ever want to accomplish any of your goals and be the person you expect of yourself, you have to know yourself and own it. That best version of yourself has to want to make things happen, has to believe wholeheartedly that the desire to practice and improve will eventually make those things happen. You are not born with talent that will manifest itself. You are born with an ability to put any talent you have to work.

I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, most of them hilarious decisions made in haste, but I hadn't regretted a single one until last year, when the walls I built up over time collapsed one after another. It wasn't moving out in haste, taking random, spontaneous road trips, or spurning sleep for nights out, even as I slept-walked through entire days. It wasn't even putting my trust in people (sometimes through second and third chances) who eventually came back to hurt me. I will always be an optimistic and positive person who is inclined to trust others. It was giving up chunks of myself over and over again, fooling myself into believing that I could so easily cast aside important aspects of my identity, whether it be for others or because of setbacks in my life. I regret hurting people along the way. I regret the days of poor work ethic. I really regret the time I lost with my family and forgetting the people who carried me this far. Making amends has not been easy, but I never pass up opportunities to grow, learn, and bond with family (all brothers, sisters, cousins, and best friends included).

If you know me, then you know that I have never won a single award in my life for being the best at anything. I don't hold any MVP trophies or 1st place medals for academics or athletics. I grew up with asthma and a mediocre brain. I wasn't valedictorian, salutatorian, or prom king. I had consolation prizes and poor test scores to my name. My family doesn't come from anything that could be considered "money", and we certainly aren't famous or popular folk. The only thing I was sure to do was strive to outwork my peers. I never quite outperformed any of them, but that fact didn't deter me from trying. So, when I gave up my running shoes (twice, once for a significant other, the other time because I lost the fire), the summer job I love, and the classroom last year, I became the antithesis of the person I worked so diligently to become. I lost that best version of me.

The universe, however, had other plans for me. It showered me with love and affection, with a brother and best friends who wouldn't leave my side, with a sister I didn't know that I always wanted, but now love dearly, and with a rekindled fire in my heart for all of the things I used to love and now do once more. This is going to be a good year.