Galilee, Golan Heights, Safed, Misgav Am, Acre, Haifa, Israel-Palestine.
“What do you trust most about yourself?”
You asked me that, my friend, on a hilltop somewhere far from home. With the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair, high above the world around us, it didn’t take long to answer…
…I trust that I will always choose happiness.
One of the most startling, shaping, significant pieces of knowledge I’ve picked up along this crazy journey called life is that happiness is not a given. It’s not an obligation for life to provide, or an expectation for me to receive. It not…just there. Rather, happiness is a choice. And as is the case with all choices, it requires a decision and it requires action. To be happy I must choose to be.
And this decision has become a drive, a self-imposed challenge to seek happiness in the most unlikely situations. To push myself to find the beauty in the little, overlooked moments or the grand, mind-spinning obstacles. To take what I find and share it.
It’s an ability that stems from the contrast between light and dark, a struggle to find joy in the shadow of depression. I remember calling it a hole—one that seemed impossible to climb out of—one where I could barely see the light. Depression was my biggest opponent, my nemesis perhaps, but I am thankful for my struggles for they made me who I am.
I’m better for them.
Having experienced those depths drives me to reach the highest heights. That struggle gave me the ability to seek, absorb, and share beauty in ways that I couldn’t and wouldn’t have otherwise. Knowing the contrast between light and dark allows me to appreciate the sunshine a thousand times more, and then some.
So to answer your question, my dear friend, what I trust most about myself is that I will choose to find the light, the love, the goodness around me, and do my best to share it with others. I trust that I will be strong enough to change my course when I see that light moving in a different direction. Even (and especially) when that light moves off the beaten path, I trust that I will continue towards it at full speed.
People may tilt their heads and wonder where I’m going and why. They may ask what it is I’m smiling about, and I’ll tell them…
…It’s because I’m chasing sunshine. And I plan to soak it in and let it shine out like sunbeams through the freckles sprinkling my cheeks.
Fear. It’s a scary thing. A scary thing made up of scary things. It’s also silly. It causes us to do silly things, or causes us to do nothing at all. And there’s one type of fear that I think is sillier than all the rest. It’s the type of fear that comes from crossing boundaries. Boundaries we set both internally and externally. From breaking rules. From breaking down boxes. Why is this type of fear the silliest of them all? Because it keeps us from doing one of the most important things in life–living. This type of fear turns into routine. Normalcy. Cookie cutters. And where’s the fun in that? Coloring in between the lines is safe. It’s comfortable. It’s easy. But by doing so we miss out on page after page of line-less life to scribble all over with any color we might imagine. For that reason, this type of fear is my motivation. My motivation to live differently. To travel paths less travelled, or to forge new paths all together. My motivation to be uniquely me. For that reason, fear isn’t something to be avoided, it’s something to embrace. Some of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever encountered were found just on the other side of something that scared me. Challenging my ideas, seeking other perspectives, chasing experiences with the intent that they will expand my horizons, my identity, my concept of life and all its possibilities. Living with this intent can be seen as adventurous or free-spirited or brave. But one thing that it’s not is fearless. That particular path I took scared me, but that is precisely why I took it. And the most beautiful thing about it is that it no longer does. That is a boundary I have pushed further, and as a result have expanded my capabilities as a human being. I’ve seen, I’ve done, I’ve loved something I never would have otherwise. And as a result I’ve added depth and vibrancy and page after page of colorful scribbles to just what it means to be me.
My bookshelf is filled with tales of little princes and rabbit holes and wild things. My walls are strung with photos of sun and sand and stars. Of magic. A paper map is pinned with places I’ve been, and some places I’ve been only in my dreams. My room is the color of celery. My white linen curtains just barely shade the sun, that magnificent light I can never be too far from. In the morning sunlight streams through my windows and I know I have to chase it. I run down paths lined with trees, surrounded by a world much greater than myself. The sun never touches my skin but it touches the leaves above me, making them look like they are glowing from within. I know that my legs and my muscles can take me anywhere. I appreciate what my body can do. I appreciate the sweat running down it. I appreciate the breath within it that gets faster and heavier the further my feet take me. When I stop, my breath and my sweat and my muscles don’t. I walk out from under the leaves on the trees into the sunlight they’ve been hiding. I lift my chin and close my eyes. The sun warms my skin and fills my body and mind with light. I know that whatever the sun touches is a part of me too. I know that as long as the sun is shining I can do anything, absolutely anything I imagine. I’m eager for the future but in love with the present. I see goodness-in myself, in people. I crave adventure and fear and challenge. I want to be confused, amazed, enlightened, breathless. After the sun sets and paints the sky with color, and after the moon comes out to take its place, the world slows down around me. My mind slows down. My heart slows down. Stars sprinkle the black sky above me and fill it with the most magical kind of light. The stars remind me that the sun I love so much is just one of countless others. Of countless other suns shining light into countless other hearts across countless other galaxies. I wish I could pluck one out of the sky and hold it in my hands and press it to my chest. My imagination is a beautiful place. I know that I look at life through a child’s eyes in many ways. I know that I see it through the eyes of a soul much older than myself in others. Mostly, I know that I’m me. Just me. And that makes me happy.
It’s a cloudy afternoon and I’m daydreaming. Daydreaming of a night without a cloud in the sky. Daydreaming that I’m lying in tall grass underneath an ancient tree with bare branches reaching into a sea of black, absolutely sprinkled with stars. The harder I look at the speckled lights above me the closer they seem to be. The brighter they become. Like they are ever so slowly falling down to Earth. Or maybe Earth is spinning ever closer to them. I want to run my fingers through the sky and hear them sparkle. I want to rearrange the constellations. They seem close enough to touch. I pick one out and stretch up my hand. Just before the tip of my finger reaches it, it bursts like a firework into thousands of flecks of shimmering golden light. I reach for another and another until the whole sky sparkles. Stardust rains down and kisses my cheek. It falls into the grass around me. I close my eyes. I feel a cool breeze from some far away place. I feel the galaxy spinning around me. I feel my mind spinning just the same. I open my eyes to see that the golden flecks of light have grown wings and turned into fireflies. I sit up. They swirl around me, lifting my hair into the sky above me. I watch as they fly higher and higher, thousands of them, up into the bare branches of the ancient tree. There they glow and there they stay until they must return to their place in the sky, to light up the world.