25

I recently celebrated another birthday here and have been taking this milestone to mull over the greatest, most terrible part of being alive: transformation.

My journey here has taken me to some otherworldly places as of late– beaches, national parks, jungles– but perhaps none quite so mysterious as the depths of my own self-reflection. I’ve been a longtime fan of self-reflection, sure, and in theory I hold it fairly high among human capabilities. Yet in practice, it often eludes me. I’m lazy about it. I talk around it. At the end of the day, it’s so damn hard to look in the mirror and assess what I’m about.

All this is to say that living here has been a serious exercise in self-reflection for me. One of the most salient lessons I’ve been learning is how to more fully participate in The Group. As a self-identified introvert, this has never been an easy task for me– I cringe at the idea of too much time with people, often making excuses or downright declining opportunities. Yet lately, I’ve begun to notice a definitive shift in how I am engaging in group activities: I’ve taken to walking around and inviting myself into people’s homes, offering my house as a local hangout for kids, showing up places unannounced just to chat. All things that would make previous versions of myself squirm in discomfort. All things that qualify me as a fundamentally different person than the one who started this journey.

I wonder if I am the lobster in water set to boil– not noticing the change that’s occurred until it’s too late? And I wonder about the countless other ways I’ve been fundamentally changed by this experience– all the differences too trivial to notice? I suspect it is the case that I am too close to the subject matter to really suss out these things, and yet I wonder all the same.

What I can say with some level of certainty is that I owe every bit of who I am today to my experiences these last few years. The people I have met, the work we have done, the love we have shared– ‘grateful’ is too little a word for how I feel.

On my birthday, I had one of those cheesy moments where I looked around the table at each of the people I was sharing lunch with– some old friends, some strangers, all smiling and laughing. And I felt with my entire heart that I would not rather be anywhere else. I am not the same person, this is true, but I am a relic of her. And together we move forward in this gorgeous, terrifying world.

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