Dude. This has been A Year.

Exactly one year ago, I was packing up for my summer job, preparing to leave my new wife for my fourth summer away from her, once again sad that I hadn’t ever celebrated my birthday with her. I was living in Chicago, and miserable with my 3-5 hour a day commute. I had wrapped up the season for a theatre I was realizing wasn’t going to advance my career goals. I was considered “obsese” by the BMI’s standards. I was a prickly, negative person, gripped tightly in the talons of depression, and it was a struggle to want to go out and do anything fun with my wife before I left town. Every day was a challenge, and I was beginning to wonder if this was what it was going to be like to live the rest of my life.

Amanda and Doom May 2015One year ago in May 2015, cuddling with my daughter DoomKitty, who I lost in the divorce

Wow. Looking back on this person, she looks like a stranger. Some distant memory, partially obscured behind a fog.  Looking through my Facebook photos from around this time last year, it’s a little heartbreaking.  Dull eyes and a forced smile.

IMG_0777Just now, here’s what a legitimately happy Amanda looks like

Today, here I am, packing once again for my summer job. I am divorced from my wife of only a year, and am thrilled to get to celebrate my 30th birthday soon with dear friends I have gotten to know over the past seven years. I now call Delaware my home, halfway across the country and a world of difference. I live ten minutes away from work, and even on its most hellacious of days, my commute is a breeze. I now work for a company that values me as an artist and an individual and is striving to give me the tools I need to become a whole and healthy person. I have lost 45 pounds. And I have shaken off the paralyzing heavy blanket of my depression.

Over the past few months, I have begun to finally discover myself as a healthy adult. I realized that this is the first time in my life that I have not had overwhelming responsibilities to another entity, be it college, grad school, or my ex-wife. I am alone, wholly autonomous, learning who I am without the constraints of first being a “student” or “life partner.”

Last summer, as I began to realize that my divorce was inevitable, my friend gave me a rabbit figurine, explaining that rabbits symbolized rebirth and change. She told me that I was headed into my Year of the Rabbit.

She was so right.

I’m turning 30 this month, and I feel like my life is only now beginning. I have sloshed out of my amniotic sac, and am looking at the world with the eyes of a newborn. I’m viewing everything as if for the first time, realizing things I never knew.  I have experienced an extreme softening of self, ready to mold myself into my Most Authentic Self.

While in the dentist chair yesterday, getting (I’m ashamed to admit it) six years of plaque chipped off my teeth, I heard the song “7 Years” by Lukas Graham.

I had heard the song a couple of times before, but had never really listened to the words. It told the life’s journey of the singer, at different ages and stages in his life, and what he thinks might be to come.

When I got home, I watched the music video and read the lyrics, doing some research into the artist. I discovered Lukas Graham is actually a band from Denmark, led by a 27 year old lead singer named Lukas Graham Forchhammer. Lukas was raised in a hippie commune. I love how researching an artist’s life can give so much more depth and insight into their work.

He sings about his parents’ advice and expectations for his life, finding friends, finding a wife “to keep him from getting lonely.” He sings about friendships he has kept and of those he has lost along the way. And then, he imagines what his life may be when he is sixty years old. Will he have lots of children, and will they even visit him? He acknowledges his own father’s death at age 61, and advises “Remember life and then your life becomes a better one.”

For some reason, this sent me into a mini existential crisis. I listened to it on repeat as I walked in the gently misting rain today, having one of those weird “I feel like I’m in a music video” moments. Coupled with just coming from a workshop in which I had a major breakthrough regarding the origins of my inadequacy complex (stay tuned for a post on that), PMS, going to work to pick up my stuff on my last day of the school year, and the song itself, I stifled some pretty guttural sobs, hellbent on not ruining my mascara.

I feel like I have already lived a life. Several, actually.

I am just as unrecognizable now as opposed to who I was last year as I was in my transition from high school to college, constantly refining and unearthing new facets of my truest nature.

I feel like I’m starting over, completely fresh.  It’s both terrifying and exhilarating. I’ve collected lessons from each of my hardships and triumphs, little jewels scattered in a landfill of memories. And now I’m heading forward in my life with this handful of gems, with hopes they will guide me as I set out upon this next chapter.

I am just beginning.

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