11 Years Older

Have you ever wondered what could have been? I’ve spent the better part of 11 years not only wondering, but passively wondering; the choices I’ve made, the friends I’ve lost, the places I’ve gone, and the wrongs I’ve convinced myself have been done to me. Could things have been better? Should I have taken a different route? Should I have listened more clearly? Would I have all of my dreams come to fruition had I just been less stubborn? I’ve been perpetually stuck in the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. Lost in my head, not even attempting to find an escape. Blame has been my only true friend for all of this time and he’s been comfortable. If I let him go, move forward, and make new decisions that change the course of where I am, who will I become?

That question terrifies me. The options are endless, anything can happen. Absolutely anything. There’s a song in the original Broadway version of Mary Poppins where the namesake sings:

“Anything can happen if you let it. Sometimes things are difficult but you can bet it doesn’t have to be so, changes can be made. You can move a mountain if you use a larger spade.”

What should be an incredibly uplifting idea has had me stuck for what feels like ages. The stars are a terrifying place, growth is a terrifying thought, figuring myself out is a terrifying prospect. Where will I find the courage to just move forward? Carrying so many questions and so much fear around has been a heavy burden. I know the courage is inside of me, but what does it look like? I’ve been a coward for so long it’s hard to imagine my life any other way. Maybe that’s what destiny looks like… accepting the limitations you have but not allowing them to stop you from being who you’re meant to be. Life hasn’t been easy for so many people in the world, yet they excel and rise above in many circumstances. What’s stopping me?

Learning is my thing, asking questions, finding information, becoming better versed in a variety of ideas – that’s the Rai I’m most in love with. There isn’t an excuse for letting go of the love I have in my heart for understanding the world better, but I keep finding them. During a conversation with my little sister, we discussed the concept of changing bad habits. Shes convinced no matter how hard we try nor how hard we work, what we’re looking to change is always going to present itself. She believes it’s inevitable that we continue coming back to our natural problems, no amount of work can stop us from ourselves. I wholeheartedly disagree. In my heart of hearts I know when we put our minds to something and take the steps to become better, we can hold on to the changes we’ve made. The issue comes with comfort.

As much as we may say we want to change and be better, the reality is that comfort has a stronger hold on our senses. Change is hard, it’s scary, and it hurts deeply. Why would we choose to do what hurts? It’s occurred to me why this is such a prominent problem, and it has to do with the fear of pain. We’re constantly chasing the easiest path to tread down and in so many cases the path of least resistance is the path to our ultimate demise. Growing up means taking risks and accepting that conflict and pain will be a part of the process. The mortgage, marriage, children, and career have no impact on the maturity of a mind. That’s solely to do with being capable of working through the problems life will throw in the pathway.

Most things can be dealt with responsibly and misunderstandings can be worked through. The only requirement is an understanding of the pain reward circuit where our pleasure button (dopamine) is pressed whenever we reward ourselves whether it’s helpful or hurtful. The sensation of pleasure doesn’t necessarily mean we’re progressing towards our goals. On the other side of the token, pain isn’t something to be avoided as we’ve been taught through our parents, friends, and those who were close to. What pain gives us is an opportunity to evaluate what we want and which direction we’re going. The hurt doesn’t lessen when we embrace the inevitable, but the actions that come from the pain can. Pain wires us towards new choices and new choices lead us towards taking steps that lead us where we want to go.

This isn’t to say I’m an expert on the subject, but I’m currently living it and I’m seeing the changes in myself. Life can be absolutely painful and feel as if it’ll never get better in some cases, but as each day passes I feel stronger. The hurt is still there, the seeming loss I have in my heart isn’t full, but it’s easier every single day and I appreciate the changes I’m seeing. For sure there’s more to come and each day I see a more well developed, empathetic, and fabulous woman appearing. With the support of the incredible people in my life, the family I get to choose myself, I’m seeing how asking for what I need and being clear about my intentions is an important aspect of growth. Feeling supported, truly supported, has become the foundation on which I’m rebuilding my life.

Being lost for 11 years has been awful, but I have 365 1/4 potential good days ahead if I focus on making them better. After spending 4,017 3/4 days believing life has no purpose for me, nothing will work out, and the pure misery of my existence; I think it’s worth shooting some positivity my own way and going for gold. Will things continue to be hard? Definitely. Complete ease and comfort isn’t something I aspire to, but I know that the pain I experience moving forward will be good, productive, and absolutely worth whatever the reasoning for it may be.

In this coming year, there’s a sense of determination I’ve never had before. A willingness to let go of the experiences I’d decided to leave behind. Our time here is so short, so precious, and so wonderful – I can’t waste a single moment. I don’t want to anymore. Maybe it’s the thrill of the beginning of a new year speaking, but I won’t worry about those things. There isn’t a realistic expectation of anything other than a year for me to express myself wholly and fairly to those in my life.

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