The end of summer is soon, and while I’m looking forward to fall, I’m going to miss this summer. Five months ago to the day, I wrote an essay that laid the foundation for what became one of my best summers, a summer that changed my life. Even though it began with one of the darkest periods of my life, it ended with such beautiful memories and a reminder of who I am. Not who I wish I was, but who I am. I didn’t get everything I wanted—who does?—but I did get what I needed, and what I needed was to be reminded of how big and beautiful the world is, and that my role in it has yet to be written completely.
In that aforementioned post, I wrote that Montana, my home for the past ten years, didn’t feel like home. “It still feels like I’m passing through,” I wrote. What I wanted, what I had been dreaming about for the past few years, was to leave Montana and embark on a new adventure, to go somewhere else. Whether that was another 10 year adventure or something else, I didn’t say. I didn’t say because I didn’t know. I didn’t know where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go, or how I wanted to go—I just knew I wanted to go. So I wrote my thoughts down, and after I published them on my website, I shared the link on Facebook. I wanted my friends to know what I was thinking and feeling, and on the whole, those that read my thoughts gave me encouraging words of support. And it even resonated beyond my friend group. I received more email feedback on that post than anything else I had ever written. Complete strangers emailed me to offer their own stories similar to mine, and this connection with others made me feel like I was on the right path.
Turned out, I wasn’t.
One of my great realizations this summer came in my notebook. Since the first of January, I have been writing journal entries in my notebook every morning, day in and day out, all year, and I’ve yet to miss a day. I made a deal with myself earlier this year, but instead of writing more posts for my website, I devoted all my energy writing in my notebooks. I’ve filled hundreds and hundreds of pages in my notebooks, and I see no signs of slowing down. Clearly, I’ve spent lots of time with my thoughts, exploring them, analyzing them, understanding them, and one of the thoughts that changed everything for me came after one of the darkest periods of my life.
In early June, I didn’t want to live anymore. At least, that’s how I felt. I felt like I was wasting space, like I wasted so much of my life doing nothing, being nothing. There were many days where I didn’t want to get out of bed. What was the point? I felt like I was going to waste the day anyway. I didn’t trust myself to live, and at that point, why bother waking up anymore? But I kept waking up anyway, I kept making my coffee, I kept sitting by my desk with my notebook and pen, and I kept writing. All I had was my writing, and quite literally, my writing saved my life. I had to convince myself to live, to keep waking up, to keep taking that first step, to keep breathing, and I did convince myself, and my writing was the motivating force behind it all. It’s hard to explain exactly what was going on in my life at that time, why I was feeling that then, but I did feel these things, and I remember how exhausted I felt by the end of each day, exhausted of living, of fighting through it all and making it to another bedtime.
“I didn’t want to get out of bed because I didn’t know what to do,” I wrote in my notebook back then. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to live. I’m tired of coming up with excuses. I’m just tired. I’m tired of not trusting myself to do the right thing, to do what’s right for me.” On another page, I wrote, “What do I want out of life? To not wake up sad every morning. To spend more time with the people I care about. To meet new people. To take risks. To not be afraid to live.” On another page, I asked myself, “Why don’t I know how to live?”
It was in the asking of these questions that I found my answer. What I learned is that no one knows how to live. Not really. We’re all just making it up as we go along, aren’t we? Human nature is the same for everyone but our experiences and lives are our own. They are unique to us, and that’s what makes life worth living, isn’t it? To live however we were built to live? And I wanted to live. I did, and I do. Each day is my chance to live well, and why would I want to give that up? Around mid-June, I decided that I was tired of coming up with excuses, and I decided to simply live, to spend more time with the people I care about; to meet new people; to take risks; to not be afraid to live anymore.
And it was here where I realized something, but I only realized it after I lived a little.
The first thing I did was to rediscover my courage. Somewhere over the past decade I grew used to living behind my walls, and because of that, I grew anxious whenever I left my home. I didn’t want to be seen, and because of that, I didn’t live the way I wanted to live. Fuck that, I remember thinking. I’m done. And I was. Again, I can’t really explain what exactly happened here, but it was like a light switch had been flicked on, and I could see clearly again. My mindset shift was a bit confrontational. See me, I remember thinking whenever I left my home. See me walk down the street. See me buy groceries. See me live.
Through this, everything else just… happened. I hung out with friends (and turtles), and I had a great time. I went exploring, and I had a great time. I went hiking, and I had a great time. I again hung out with friends (and cows), and I had a great time. I went on more hikes, and I had a great time. I even had lunch with a new friend, and I had a great time. I did what I wanted to do, and I had a great time. I put myself out there again, and I forgot what it felt like to be seen again. Whether it was just in my head or for real, this feeling of being seen again felt so good. Feels so good.
By simply living, I realized that where I lived didn’t matter. What mattered was me. What mattered was living. And I lived this summer. I lived like I hadn’t lived in a long, long time. And now, again, I don’t know what to do. What path should I be treading? Should I leave? Should I stay? Does it matter? It doesn’t because home is wherever I decide to be, and if I choose to be here, then I’m on the right path; if I choose to live there, then I’m on the right path. The right path is what I make it, and this was my great realization.
I don’t know what the future holds, and quite frankly, I don’t care. What I care about is right now, this moment, this breath. As long as I have moments to experience and breaths to breathe, I’m happy. As long as I have friends to hang out with, friends to worry about and who worry about me, I’m happy. As long as I’m being seen again and not scurrying behind my walls, I’m happy. And this summer was like a dream come true, a dream of beauty and hope and happiness, a dream I wish will never end.
So… don’t let it end, this endless summer dream…