Lighthouse

My dreams have always had a way of tearing me down. They come through each day like a wave and with my eyes open I watch as the things around me get worn and washed away, and then the wave comes back and does it all again. I’ve watched this cycle for as long as I’ve been dreaming. I’ve noticed that the more intense the desire, the more intense the wave. When my heart races at the thought of getting what I know is right for me, that’s when the water comes crashing in at full force. I stand with my feet buried in the sand and my body held strong, ready to get hit by what’s coming my way but refusing to be knocked down. I don’t cover my face. I don’t turn my back. I just stay tall and firm, confident in knowing that I will not fall. And while I’m proud to say that my feet have never been washed out from under me, I can’t say the same for the things around me. When the water pulls back it often takes relationships, opportunities, materials, and other things that I thought were too secure to be washed away. I want to run. I want to chase after them. But I spent so much time burying my own feet in the sand that I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to move, and now the same ocean that has it’s grip on me rolls back in laughter, carrying the things I thought were mine to keep.

The truth is, with everything that comes and goes I am learning that a dreamer’s journey is a lonely one. I have fought and struggled and chased down everything that I wanted to stay, hoping that I could remain steady where I am while controlling the fluidity of what’s around me. But I was never known for my ability to chase so I am learning how to show strength in the roots that I build. Though I chose sand for a foundation, I know that when packed and secure, it can be as strong as I need it to be. The only weakness comes from the things on top that refused to dig deep enough to stay. And while I will enjoy everything that sits around me while it’s there, I will also let it go with peace. The water is not meant to be dangerous or scare me into finding solid ground somewhere else; it’s meant to wash away what no longer belongs to me. And as it takes things away, I will remain steady. I will let the beat of my heart and the light of my dreams call out to the water in front of me and serve as a lighthouse to guide and welcome what is mine. Boats and rafts filled with new people and new loves will find their way to me and I will embrace them with open arms, but I will not ask them to stay. I am where I am because of my dreams and they are where they are because of theirs. And if the water washes them away as they are called to venture somewhere else, who am I to stop them?

And as time goes by, I know that with everything around me, I am changing too. I am being molded into who the world is calling me to be. Sometimes my edges are sharp and the clouds in my mind match the ones above my head. But other times I am soft, and the water rolls off me with ease and I am unbothered. Most of the time, though, I am somewhere in the middle – fierce with determination and wild with desire, but calm and content all the same. Enough to tackle what comes, but to accept what goes.

I have built myself into the anomaly of a dreamer standing still. I am a lighthouse attracting everything that is lost and searching for a way, welcoming all that is meant to be. And, if in time, a boat is sent my way with nothing on it, then I will know that it’s time for me to dig up my roots and continue elsewhere. But things in life – be it dreams, people, opportunities, or otherwise – are not meant to be chased, they are meant to be welcomed. And whether I am standing tall in the sand or flowing free in the water, I will welcome what is brought to me and let it come and go with peace.

The Test of Fire

For some reason, I’ve been seeing a lot of side-by-side success stories from people who I have admired for their openness and vulnerability. People have been posting extreme highs and lows at a point in time on their journey – photos of them with swollen eyes and splotchy faces as they wrap up a mental breakdown caused by a mishap in their life, sitting next to a picture of them with a toothy grin and gleaming eyes as they have accomplished some great feat. I would always look at these photos with an understanding that no goal is reached with ease and even the people who seemed to have it all have felt the most humane feelings: loss and failure. So, when I sat in my bed last night after only two days’ worth of an exhausting week with an uncontrollable fit of tears, I couldn’t help but think whether or not this was only a part of my own success story.

For a second, though, before I go on, I’m going to explain something:

I am, in every aspect of the word, a dreamer. Sometimes I think it’s my greatest quality, other times I think it’s my most detrimental quality. Regardless, it’s the most prominent thing about me. My mind runs a mile per minute, but it’s not always wandering frantically, worrying about this or that. Often times, it’s off in its own world thinking about the exciting “what-ifs” in life. But when it comes to dreams that mean a lot to me, not only will I seriously dream about them, but I will seriously pursue them. Whether it’s the travel I’ve done, the school I’m attending, or the job I’m trying to get, I have dreamt hardcore about making these things happen and you can bet that I didn’t stop until I made them happen. But you can also bet that while the accomplishments of each of these things were great, sometimes that fallbacks felt greater.

I say this because as I was sitting in my room looking like the before photo of a before and after success story, I knew that this was a feeling I had recognized: it was the feeling of walking through fire. It was the heat of a flame instilling the fear of failure into my mind, a fear that I had no idea how to work through. But I also knew that if my dream was serious, if it’s meant to be, then it’s golden. And as the Chinese proverb goes, “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.”

I think in so many parts of our lives we experience the test of fire. For me, I experience it most in regard to my goals and plans. For some, it may be experienced most in relationships or other personal circumstances. But I knew that no matter how I felt last night or any other time where I’ve felt lost or hopeless, I had no choice but to push deeper into the flame. I am confident that who I am and what I want at its very core is golden. While I may feel the heat every step of the way, and some parts of my life that were disguised as gold may melt away, I will ultimately walk out unscathed because the test of the fire is nothing compared to the grit in my heart.

The Moment My Life Changed

I remember specific moments where my life had changed. The minute I bought that plane ticket to go halfway across the world; the time I chased a dream despite the many obstacles in my way; the moment I kissed that boy knowing the only two possible outcomes were happiness or heartache. I knew. In every moment I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that life would never go according to plan, and no matter how much you try to bribe your way into a better outcome, the dice have already been rolled and there’s nothing you can do but play the cards you have. I knew that they were course-altering moments and if I were in a movie, they would be the scenes that can be identified by a change in music, forcing the audience to feel one way or another. I knew.

I knew that in all the emotions I could have felt in every moment that my life had changed, the only one that pounded its way across my head, knocking into my skull time and time again to make itself known, was fear. It wasn’t the type of fear that held me back – binded at the wrists and ready to succumb to the innevitable outcome that I had no choice but to follow. Nor was it the fear that boiled my blood and left adrenaline coursing through my veins like a drug that couldn’t be stopped. It was a different kind of fear. It was fear that caused my heart to pound just a beat too fast and my mind to quiet like the world around me as it focused only on the moment I was in. It was the feeling you get when you explore a new place on your own – afraid of what could happen but curious and thrilled at the possibilities ahead. It was the moment on the track just before the gun is shot; the intensity of the musician as the conductor lifts their arms; the readiness of the actor as the curtains open in front of them. In every moment there was fear, but it was the fear of the beginning that puts everything else into action. I knew.

I knew that this fear, while not blinding or adrenaline-inducing, was one I would come to know and love because it meant my life was moving forward. While I never knew if that direction was one that would end in a triumphant roar of the audience or a defeated fall on my knees, what I did know is that I would be better off because of it. The victory would inspire me to go even further while the defeat would teach me to hold my head a little higher.

I have learned not to be afraid of being afraid – an irony that took me more time to learn than I’d like to admit. My mind has been trained into understanding that the greatest type of fear is the one you feel just moments before a change; moments before you push past the comfort zone you once set for yourself and fly into a new territory that has been waiting to be explored by you. Because the only two reasons that you can be uncomfortable with where your life is at is because you’re either staying in your comfort zone where you don’t belong, or you’re pushing past it where you’re not used to. And I would rather feel the fear of moving forward than experience the loss of standing still, and this is something I know.

The Hardest Part

I have always had the mindset that getting started is the hardest part because that’s a cliche I’ve heard my entire life. But lately, as I feel my life slowing down, I’m starting to take on a different perspective.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been someone who’s had a difficult time “starting” things. More often than not, if I have an idea and I know what I want my outcome to be, getting started is pretty easy. Besides, beginning has always been much easier than mastering, but the path between the two is long and windy. With that being said, once the initial excitement that drove me to start fades away and life starts throwing in unexpected outcomes, that’s when things get difficult. That, to me, is the hardest part.

When I was in high school, my band director would always tell us “the devil is in the details.” She wouldn’t say this when we first got a piece and were learning the ropes, but rather, when we had spent months practicing and still had ways to go. Music wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if you didn’t have the details of crescendos and accents or any other musical elements. In life and everything we pursue, the devil is in the details as well. Just as the excitement of a new idea fades and the comfort of where we’re at sets in, the devil creeps around the corner to tell us there is nothing more that needs to be done. But just like those details in the music make it musical, it’s the details in life and our ideas that make them beautiful. 

Starting something is always easy once the “starting” actually begins. But like I said, it’s when the initial excitement fades into something normal and the ideas just become more paths to choose from that the “hardest part” kicks in. The reason getting started is easy is because our eyes are set on the big picture. But like my director said, the devil is in the details. So how do we move from the big picture to the details while still maintaining that level of thrill that pushed us forward to begin with?

To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that one out myself. I’m doing my best to keep my life – my goals and aspirations – from coming to a complete standstill only because I have failed to keep looking for the details, but that is easier said than done. My advice to you (and to myself) is to never stop digging for something more. Even when you think you have it all figured out and the picture is complete or the song is perfected, keep looking. I would be willing to bet that there’s something more – something better – that you have yet to discover.

If there is a devil hiding in the details, hunt that sucker down.

Sonnet

What do you do when you learn you are wrong

When the words you believed

Were lies all along

And now that you know, are you trapped or free

How do you act when your thoughts turn around

And who you are is no longer the same

All you wanted was solid ground

But that’s not what you get when you play this game

You learn to live with what you’re not

But what happens when what you’re not becomes what you are

You learn to deal with what you’ve got

But what if you decide to raise that bar

Time won’t stop and things won’t stay the same

We always have to adjust as fluid beings