The Bell Tolls For Twenty-Three

This is the week in which I always feel the passing of time most acutely. With a birthday so close to the end of the year, it’s hard not to. I turn 24 tomorrow and the bell is tolling for the end of 23 as if to ask what I have done with my time.

What have I done? In many ways, I could look at my year and say that I haven’t accomplished what I wanted. This year was not anything I expected or planned for it to be and, if I’m honest, I’m glad to see 23 go.

Let me take you back through a few highs and lows of this year:

I was bedridden for a month with pneumonia, I lost my job, spent some time unemployed, and then was offered a new job that I didn’t apply for. My car was stolen and then brought back and then broke down. I spent the year leading the welcome team at C3 Los Angeles, I moved into a new apartment, and I started seeing a therapist after I acknowledged some painful things that have happened to me. I started writing again and subsequently realized that writing is a huge passion I have. I got to perform an original poem to an audience of my favorite people. I applied for (and was denied) a writing program that would’ve taken me to NYC for four months. I’ve lost some friends and gained many more, I have started learning how to have real connections with people, and I have begun to learn how to be kind to myself.

When I re-read that paragraph, I can’t help but see the hand of God in each of those things. I marvel at who I am now compared to who I was at the beginning of this year. Through all these events and processes, I spent the better part of the year learning that it’s okay to not be okay and that I am loved even though – and quite possibly because – I am flawed.

There’s a quote from Parker Palmer that really speaks to the heart of my year, “What a long time it takes to become the person one has always been. How often in the process we mask ourselves with faces that are not our own. How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity–the true self within every human being…”

Shaking of ego… that has been my year. I’ve talked before about my obsession with “having it all together.” However, I didn’t realize just how importat that was to me until I had to give it up. That process of letting go of perfection has been incredibly difficult.

But it has been beautiful too. I’ve allowed myself to be sad. I’ve allowed myself to be confused. I’ve allowed myself to be hurt. I’ve allowed myself to be real. I’ve been able to look myself in the eye and say “I love you” with a sincerity I never thought possible.

As I’ve slowly removed that mask that Parker talks about, I’ve realized that my true self is a ridiculously awesome individual. There are still many days when I’m too tired or too scared to let my true self show and I need a mask; and there are also days when I don’t wear a mask and it’s not a pretty sight. But I’m learning to have grace for myself in all of that.

This year has been a roller coaster, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m learning how to cultivate a deep relationship with myself, with God, and with other people. That’s messy, but it’s also beautiful.

So, goodbye 23. I’m ready to have new adventures, to write new words, to make new messes, to survive new heartbreaks, and to fully experience new joys. I’m ready to continue learning how to be kind and messy and real.

I’m ready to be an imperfect and beautiful human.

I’m ready for 24.

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The Bell Tolls For Twenty-Three

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