Aren't those the most mystifying, freeing, beautiful (sometimes aggravating) words in the English language? While they are separate, they seem rather harmless, but put them together and you have one end-all-be-all phrase. It is also something that I have pondered often especially with the beginning of my freshman year of college next week. This summer I took quite a bit of time to recover from the stress (not to mention sleep deprivation) that I experienced during my junior and senior years of high school. I realized how out of balance I was living my life- I had gained weight, I felt constantly tired, I felt ready to cry for no reason most days, and my self-confidence was nonexistent. I certainly didn't feel myself and hadn't for quite a while. I remember very distinctly a heated discussion I had with my mom one night when I felt ready to either explode or crumble. She said to me "Are you ever happy?". At the time I felt very crushed and angry that my mother saw me as depressed and never content, but in retrospect I could see how she viewed me that way. With my friends, I felt a bit better, but I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied at home. I tend to think that those emotions were entirely normal for someone ready to be independent, but it was still very difficult. So, at some point at the start of the summer, I began on my journey towards recovery and wholeness. My mistake, however, was assuming this was the sole beginning.
I began a fitness regime and what I ate was extremely restricted. I went to the gym two, sometimes three times a day. This went on for a while, but when weight wasn't coming off, I got very indignant. I was offended by my own body's stubbornness and lack of cooperation. My resolve was further squished at a doctor's appointment when she said I could loose a few pounds. I was absolutely perplexed because I had a much better diet than my friends and I would work out much more as well and I still weighed 20-30 pounds heavier than all of them. I loathed looking at myself in the mirror and I refused to take pictures because I didn't want to look at myself in them. I couldn't find the answers I needed and so I curved off the extreme schedule of workouts and relaxed my diet. So when I gained even more weight, I was about ready to tear my hair out. What was more was that I still was depressed and extremely unhappy with the place I was at regarding nearly all aspects of my life- my creativity, my relationships, my confidence, everything. Talking with my mom helped, however, and soon I was trying again to make changes- changes including more stress-relief and emotional care. This worked alright for a while, but I still had self-perception issues and that brought down my other efforts. So you see, much of summer was long line of attempts (and seemingly, failures) to improve my overall balance and well-being.
Then my mother and I made a decision to go on vacation to the Oregon Coast. We spent a couple days in Portland, then headed out to Cannon Beach. It would take a whole other post to describe how heavenly this place was for us. Going on hikes, walking forever on the beach, staring at the ocean and strolling through the streets and galleries of the unimposing town was just as therapeutic for me as it was for my mother. The experience was wonderful and it gave me space and time to think. It helped me to form concrete thoughts about what I had learned this summer and one of them was this: One's life journey does not consist of a single beginning, but many beginnings and many times when we must reapply ourselves and grasp again the goal of living fully and in wholeness. Each new and miraculous day comes bearing gifts and it is this "begin again" that allows us to receive those gifts with an open, untainted heart. May we all take each new moment that passes us as a chance to begin again.