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.

New Beginnings

When I was preparing to come home for the summer after my first year of college ended, I cried knowing things wouldn’t be the same next year.

When I was packing to move back in for my second year, my mom cried knowing that me leaving this time was different.

When I was talking to a friend after a week or two of being at school, she cried knowing things felt different.

The routine and steadiness of this past year became so comfortable that the new beginnings everyone was experiencing became overwhelming rather than exciting.

But the problem didn’t lie in the newness of what I was experiencing, it lay in the comfort of what I had experienced.

The overwhelming sense of “new” that was surrounding my life as I left home to go to college where nearly everything had changed from the year before had sent a shock to all my senses. While I was consciously aware that things were going to be different, it didn’t register until I actually felt the differences. But as I was in class writing a reflection of my week I realized that this shock to my senses was exactly what I needed to get out of the content mindset I was in.

There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, but there is some danger in being content. I had gotten so comfortable in my way of life last year that I had also become content, not feeling the need for or even wanting change. So much so that when change happened I didn’t know how to respond.

But the new beginnings that are taking place in nearly every aspect of my life have served me well and reminded me not only to be careful about becoming content, but to appreciate change as well.

I know that with all the new things I am experiencing I will continue to grow into the person I want to be and learn each step of the way.

I hope you learn to appreciate and see the beauty in change as well.

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.

Lost and Found

Almost every summer my family makes the trip out to North Carolina for a week-long vacation. We’ve been doing this practically every year since I was two or so, yet every year is filled with its own unique sense of adventure. When I was around the age of fifteen, I was sitting on a the pier closest to where we were staying and I had just taken a break from drawing in the little notebook I carried with me everywhere I went. As I was just watching the waves and the people on the shore and the seagulls flying overhead, not really thinking about anything in particular, a fisherman looked over at me and asked if I was alright.

“I’m sorry?” I asked in return.

“Darlin’, you look like a lost soul if I’ve ever seen one.”

I think I just kind of smiled and assured the man I was alright, just enjoying my time on the pier, but to be honest I don’t really remember what I said to him. But I never forgot what he said to me.

I remember that summer being a tough one for me – I went through a lot of personal challenges and I know I struggled quite a bit, so when that man said I looked like a lost soul I couldn’t help but wonder how right he was. I definitely felt lost, but I was astounded that a stranger noticed it as well.

It’s been nearly five years and I still think about what that man said to me on a regular basis. “You look like a lost soul…” practically plays on repeat in my head some days. I still wonder about the truth attached to that statement – about how lost I feel every once in a while (because let’s be honest, we’re all lost souls sometimes). But when I think back to my trip to the beach about a month ago, and I think about when I was standing on the pier next to three of my best friends – two from college, one from home – and about the week I had just had, I know ‘lost’ was the last word I would use to describe what I was feeling. Maybe I didn’t know exactly where I stood in life, but I knew what direction I was headed and to me, it was the right direction, and that’s all it takes to feel a little less lost, right?

Maybe I’m still a lost soul, but I like to think I’m a lost soul who’s a little more confident in her journey.

We steer where we stare

Do you remember learning this in driving school? You were taught that you should always keep your eyes fixed on where you want to go – whether it’s straight ahead or where you plan on turning. And if you’re driving and become too fixed on the car next to you or something off the road, that’s exactly where you’re going to go. If we teach and follow this rule so adamantly for driving, why not think about it in terms of our everyday lives?

Think about it – how often have you fixed your focus on something that you probably shouldn’t be focused on? You took your eyes off the prize, and what happened? Well, you probably didn’t get the prize. I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of things I want to accomplish in my life. I have some pretty big dreams, and I know that being intentional with my decisions and making sure that I keep my focus on the right path is the only way that I’ll make these dreams come true. But I also understand that life can get in the way, and sometimes that deer in the field next to you or that really cool car driving by can quickly take your focus off of the road right in front of you.

But we can bring our focus back just as quickly as it falters. We can avert our eyes from the distractions that surround us and stare steadfastly at where we want to go. Maybe you don’t know where you want to go, but as long as you’re moving forward and focused on moving forward, you’re going the right direction.

If we steer where we stare, are you staring at something that will help you move forward towards a life you want, or are you staring at something that will move you further from the life you want?