Lately I've been thinking a lot about life and the stories that come out of it. I think we all have this inherent notion that life is supposed to be how we first envisioned it would be. The thing is, life is a series of twists and turns, love and loss, joy and pain, and we are supposed to adapt along the way. For most of us, it takes something huge and often heartbreaking to realize this.
For most of my life, I definitely dreamed of a life significantly different than the one I have. The first time I realized life was not all that I imagined it would be, I was thirteen. My entire teenage existence was a nightmare; mentally, emotionally and physically a nightmare. Every year I would tell tell myself "Don't worry, this year things will change and it will be how it should be." In college, with the realization that I would never be happy going down the career path that I had wanted for most of my life, I walked away from it. That was the first time that I realized I needed to adjust the dream. Shortly after that, there was a man who damn near broke me. I left Chicagoland and moved to Florida to find myself again.
Even though I had dealt with my dad's heart issues since I was eight, in terms of my parents at least, it never occurred to me that emotionally, I could be more terrified than I had been at seventeen years old. I had to drive my dad to the emergency room while he was having a heart attack and sit with him for hours by myself. It shaped me in so many ways. However, weeks after moving to Florida, my mom; my rock, my best friend and the person who has always understood the physical anguish I endured for so long, was diagnosed with cancer. It scared me like nothing else in life ever had before. During that summer, I lost my last grandparent and watched one of my uncles go through cancer as well. I realized then that life really is fleeting and again that life doesn't usually go how you imagine that it will.
Flash forward a couple of years to when I was living in DC and had a new life dream take shape. I thought that I was so happy and had everything that I had ever wanted, and for a while that was in fact the case. The one day I learned how much of it had been a lie, perhaps a mere figment of my imagination. From past experiences, I knew that if I stayed, it would break me like nothing else ever had before. I removed myself from that situation and at the time, I didn't know just how much that would change my life.
My story felt like chapter after chapter of pain, loss and uncertainty. After dealing with sickness (my own and that of many family members) for such a long time, love and loss, and dreams fading away, I decided that enough was enough. My dream was no longer that life would be a certain way, but that I would live life a certain way from there on out. For so long I placed my happiness and my dreams into the hands of others, and not surprisingly, I was always let down. I realized one day that while God holds my future, and he knows how my story ends, I am the one who tells the story. I am the one who gets to close out a chapter to better myself. I am the one who determines my own happiness.
Last year in my little corner of the world here, I talked a lot about changing your story if you don't like it. I've allowed so many things in life to hold me back from embracing who and what I am called to be. I don't anymore. After I left DC, I realized that I hadn't loved or liked myself even in such a long time. I allowed myself to be jaded by others. What power do you give to others that you shouldn't? What's holding you back from thriving and truly loving yourself?
We don't always get to choose the things that happen to us. The choice we get to make is whether or not we want to stay where we are at in life. If you're unhappy, do something about it. If you don't like your story, you have a few choices. You can stay in that chapter and hope that it gets better and maybe it will. You can close the chapter all together and start the next one and maybe that will be enough for some of you. However, if you're anything like me, there have been so many chapters filled with physical pain, emotional struggles and loss that simply starting another chapter just won't cut it anymore. Write a new story.
Share your stories; not only will you help others in the process, but it will bless you, too.