They say that the end of something is the beginning of everything, and this past week I’ve been working through a new beginning.
For the most part, nothing really feels different. I guess that I’ve always thought beginnings should be huge, seismic events that shake me to my core. Beginnings are quiet. They spend most of the day hanging out by themselves in the corner but creep into awareness at the most inopportune of times. I hate the ebb and flow of them and the occasional bout of bone-crushing emotion. I would rather have everything hit me all at once rather than carry on for days.
I have a friend that wrote me a letter ages ago. My favorite line from that letter – a letter that I have tacked onto a board so I can read it every day – tells me to “never forget that the word ‘inspiration’ literally means ‘that which breathes life into,’ because that’s exactly what you do for others.”
I admit that I do spend a good deal of time trying to breathe life into others. I admit that not from a moral high ground but from the fact that I am absolutely exhausted. A year ago I was starting to come out of my second bout of depression and experiencing another beginning. At that point, I told myself that I would be anyone’s shoulder to cry on and everyone’s cheerleader because I knew too well how it felt to feel alone and hopeless. Knowing that even one person in the world could feel loved by me was the biggest thing that brought me joy.
I like the feeling of being relied upon. I like the feeling, but lately in this recent beginning I’m starting to realize that maybe it’s time I start letting myself rely on other people. I just got home from an incredible weekend in Barcelona. I sat in the sunshine against a pillar at the Sagrada Familia and stared straight into a bright stained glass window for ten minutes. I ate two dinners on Sunday and lost myself in Spanish Zara and ancient ruins. I laughed until I cried a little. I was happy. I was happy and on the flight home I asked myself if this was it.
Is this it?
I asked myself if this was it, if this is what happiness felt like. Real, true happiness where I didn’t have anxiety whispering in my ear. Happiness where I actually felt giddy and that I could do anything. Happiness where I wasn’t worried about the next moment, the next hour, the next person.
I have spent so much time advocating for mental health awareness, trying to break down the stigma on mental illness, being open about my own mental illness and pushing others to work through their mental illnesses. In a weird paradoxical way, I have defined myself by my experiences with anxiety and depression by trying to not define myself by anxiety and depression.
Happiness is odd to a person with anxiety and depression. I almost didn’t recognize my life this weekend because how could life be so good? I wondered if life could always be this way and if it didn’t feel like I was coming down from a high. Could this be the norm? Could this be it?
I apologize that this isn’t a standard travel blog in which I list all of the beautiful and amazing things I’ve done and put my life through the lenses of glossy photos and edited landscapes. I don’t think that’s a fair portrayal and that it’s important for people going abroad to see that life is still life despite being in a different country.
I promise that this long-winded post is coming to an end. In the past week I have been unbelievably happy but also unbelievably sad. My twenty-first birthday is in three weeks, and birthdays have always brought mixed emotions for me. A few years ago, I didn’t think I would make it to twenty. It breaks my heart to admit that, but it’s true. I always have a heavy heart and jumbled feelings whenever I’m close to becoming another year older. A few years ago, I didn’t think I would make it to twenty, and I would never have felt the sun on my face or the joy in my heart from choosing my life. A few years ago, I didn’t think I would make it to twenty, let alone twenty-one, and today I hope I can be included in your prayers.
Here’s to a new beginning, people. Beginnings are hard but if they’ve taught me anything it’s that they’re important and unavoidable. Let’s do this thing.
The light in me honors the light in you,