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.

Extremes

I’m not sure what’s in the air lately, but I have a lot of friends who are going through the most extreme parts of life and experiencing things in highs and lows with no middle ground. Be it marriage or heartbreak, love or loss, loneliness or fulfillment, everyone I know seems to be experiencing so much. Once is a coincidence. Twice is a coincidence. But three times is a pattern. And this summer seems to have a pattern of extreme emotions.

I love to listen to podcasts to hear what other people have to say about life. One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is called “Ladies Who Lunch” (LWL) and while they’re no longer recording anything, I still listen to their old episodes somewhat frequently. A few weeks ago while I was donating plasma I turned on one of their episodes in which they talked about moving on and letting go and, while they said a lot of really great things, there was one thing in particular that stood out to me. They got a letter from someone whose father had passed away less than a week before, and the person in the letter was asking how they can move on from the hurt they were feeling. LWL gave the typical responses of surrounding yourself with friends and family who love you, doing things to keep yourself busy, etc. But after giving all of those suggestions they stopped for a second to let the person know that it’s okay to simply feel, and something about that really resonated with me.

Throughout the summer as I’ve watched my friends go through all different emotions (or even experienced them myself) I’ve noticed how we’re always trying to move on to the next emotion. If we’re sad, we want to stop being sad and feel something else. If we’re happy, we’re questioning our happiness and anticipating something else. Very rarely (particularly in moments of negative emotions) do we just let ourselves feel. I think this lack of accepting our emotions is another byproduct of our need to constantly desire more. But I also think it’s time for that to change.

If you’re sad, be sad. Let yourself feel. Let yourself hurt. Go through the motions and roll with the punches. I’m not saying you should wallow in self pity and go about life feeling miserable forever, but what I am saying is that sometimes it’s harder to move on from an emotion if you don’t fully understand what you’re feeling. Get comfortable with the pain so you know how to work through it. When you break a bone, you don’t just ignore it and hope it works itself out. You straighten the bone and look at x-rays and wrap it up in bandages and casts which will be full of pain and annoyance but by doing this, you’re understanding the injury so you can enhance the healing. You have to allow yourself to feel your hurt to understand it, and once you understand it you can heal from it.

The same goes for positive emotions. Stop questioning the way you’re feeling. Stop thinking the higher you go, the further you fall. Stop falling in love only thinking about the potential heartbreak. Stop feeling joy only thinking about the potential sorrow. Let yourself feel good. Even if the worst thing happens, at least you were able to truly enjoy some of the best parts of life.

We need to stop fighting things. Time is always on your side and it will keep moving even when you think you can’t, so it’s high time you just roll with the punches and enjoy the ride.