Sitting on a bench after finishing a set of exercises in the school gym, I turn to a side and stare at a treadmill runner's silhouette against the crimson skyline beyond the tinted windows. I space out for a moment to her bouncing shadows and the folds of red and gray in distant clouds.
An unexpected thought dawns and brings me back. I squint instinctively and try to find the words. Like sifting through shapes and colors, I piece them together in my mind.
"I have found peace."
Certainly comforting for a random passing thought, but I indulge in brief introspection anyway.
It is now six years since my initial departure from university, two years-plus from the decision point to forswear an old life in exchange for a new one, and now sixteen months since returning to school.
The journey metaphor is a fitting one here, albeit cliche. But redemption from failure was not profound and picturesque as my younger self might have imagined. It is mostly mundanity, hard work, faith and time.
The adjectives I would use instead to describe the experience are: raw, real, visceral, wholesome. Life, as it turns out, is enjoyable in precisely the same way a marathon might be enjoyable: no, not the feeling after you've finished, but rather the feeling while you are still in the middle of running. Shortness of breath, strain of exertion, soreness of muscles, thumps of heartbeat reverberating in your ears: everything you could want to make you close your eyes and scream with glee: "I'M ALIVE; I'M ALIVE; I'M A-LIVE!"
Allan K. Chalmers said it best: "The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for". For having all three, I am grateful. In retrospect, access to these things were always there. I just lacked courage to move and grab them.
Most of adolescent frustrations stem from not understanding how the world works: Why are we not happy? Why do we not have the things that will make us happy? Why do we not know what will make us happy? Why does it feel like we are not in control of our lives? Why?
Now it seems incredibly straight-forward: figure out exactly what it is that you want in the long-term, be sure to understand exactly why you want it. Opportunity cost: calculate what you must sacrifice to get what you want. If the calculus doesn't make sense, keep looking. Once you figure out a dream or vision beautiful enough to believe in, dive into it whole-heartedly and don't bother looking back.
Perhaps it's a measure of growth, or just one quality of time, that I've finally let go of the past. Forgiving yourself is difficult business.
In the present, I am content with everything I've moved into motion in my life. It isn't perfect, but the conscious decision to stop feeding the need to "feel perfect" was the best one I ever made: It freed me to err, to learn, and to grow.
For the future, I look forward no longer in want or worry, but simply instead in a hopeful gaze: be as it shall be, I will carry on.