“The universe will provide,” my mentor says during one of our weekly picnic lunches, our legs outstretched on a patch of shaded lawn just outside of campus. “But you have to be willing to put in the work.”
I nod my head in agreement, gazing up at a cerulean sky unfolding on this Thursday afternoon in mid-September.
This is all I need right now, I think calmly, watching bikers and partners walking, ambling along the riverside. A token breeze ruffles the leaves on the massive tree above our heads, and I – for once – am content to let the unknowns of the world float on downstream with the river current, just for a moment.
I wrote last month about my mental collision with this semester, how everything seemingly stayed the same while I, rejuvenated, returned from the summer with a wildly different perspective.
But I guess this season’s not nearly as metamorphic as last September, when I finally admitted to myself – and my academic advisors – that journalism just wasn’t for me. (Not in the way I had originally intended, anyway.)
Conditions have improved. I am systematically, and with more and more confidence, confronting the old patterns of my life – anxiety, shame, isolation – and replacing them with more fruitful antidotes that give these weeks and days more vibrance.
But most surprisingly, I continue to remain overwhelmed by all of the serendipitous encounters that have somehow graced my path since beginning to live more in rhythm with my intuition, with “the universe.”
Small things: enjoying a heaping pile of pineapple, after daydreaming about Hawaiian roadside stalls of the tropical fruit a mere two hours previously; receiving an unexpected phone call from my dad, after listening to a National Parks/REI podcast and remembering our adventures to Cuyahoga this past June.
More meaningful things: randomly listening to a TED Talk and a spoken-word poetry performance, only realizing afterwards how much I needed to hear those words; connecting with my mentor and fellow “soul sisters” more than I could have ever thought possible – in both beautiful and humbling ways.
Conversations with by-gone friends that somehow patch the holes of time. Conversations with my mother that help tie my frazzled ends back together. Walking versus bussing, and serenading a sunset instead. Catching up for coffee and realizing how much time we still needed. Finding someone to swim with in the mornings. Cool breezes down on the river’s edge that bring memories of my grandfather. A volunteer internship finding me, for once.
Once I stopped suppressing opportunities for surprises, no longer entirely fearing the unknown, I realized how much of this world I have yet to uncover, how much of myself I have bursting to reveal, how much time I still (hopefully) have left.
I’ll close with a final discovery of serendipity, one I made after reading this piece again by Candace Rose Rardon, titled “Home sweet San Francisco.”
I had read the post before, but this time I read it with a nostalgic lens for this summer, to be back along the Bay even if just for a moment in my mind. Candace is one of my favorite writers, and so reading words that were seemingly spun out of my own writer’s heart was a magical and awe-inspiring experience. It was like I was right there with her, writing this meditation on place and home and what it means to find yourself in community.
“But then there were the not-so-shining similarities, the hard ones, the days when the solitude felt more like isolation. Loneliness was never far off. I was alone in my little house, not plugged into community, and I couldn’t help thinking that while the seclusion was fine for a few weeks for the sake of my projects, it wouldn’t be healthy for me in the long run.”
Like Candace, I myself have realized this semester how much I truly, wholeheartedly, value the connections in my life – and how being alone is no longer the condition I crave. Like Candace, I have realized the fundamental importance of community engagement, as opposed to the globalized, reserved, and academic approach to life I was desperately searching for last spring. Reading this passage affirmed those sentiments.
And throughout all of these discoveries and realizations and life experiences, the gratifying thing is I know that I am learning. It took living alone to learn how much I value genuine connection. It took searching for a mentor to learn how to brave difficult life crossroads with another person. It took traveling halfway around the world to learn how emphatically I want to fall in love with my own country, again.
And it took an opportunity to reshape my life to learn how to take advantage of the everyday wonder and the extraordinary power that is within me.
Until next month,
This post also appears on labellamemoir.tumblr.com