Sunday, December 26, 2010

Changing Destiny

If life gave us a map then we could not possibly discover the joy and surprise that accompanies a change in our destiny.

Last week I got my piece of paper. It was laminated perfectly inside of the red, official, book-like hard covering that validates your intangible academic accomplishment to the world. I've gotten two of these before-once when high school was over and once when I got a less advanced version of the same college degree. This time it said "with distinction"-a testimony to what I felt had to be re-written from the first attempt.

Before I received that piece of paper I felt pretty nonchalant about the idea of completing my Master's degree. At the end of two and a half years worth of countless twenty page term papers, essay exams, case analysis after case analysis and mid-term papers, I think my soul was just too exhausted to really care anymore. But when I opened it up and started to stare at that piece of paper with my name on it, I felt something I hadn't allowed myself to acknowledge-a sense of pride.

It wasn't a boastful type of pride or the type of pride that says "now I'm somebody." No, it was more of a sense of "yes, I did it." Yes, I did it despite the fact that at times I didn't think I could. Yes, I did it even though my initial reasons for wanting to changed midway through. Yes, I did it despite all the outside challenges and obstacles that could've prevented me from crossing the finish line. This time I didn't give up, I didn't stop, and I learned to accept something that the textbooks couldn't have possibly taught-that I'm still capable, validatable me with or without that piece of paper.

Chances are that I won't hang that piece of paper up on the wall in my office downstairs. I know it could find a suitable place next to the picture of Paris in winter, or the close-up of the white rose covered in a light mist of morning dew, or perhaps next to one of award plaques I received in my younger days. But like most of the downstairs space in my house, those walls are haphazardly put together at best. Most of it is still a random collection of boxed-up memories of dance recitals, early writing projects, forgotten letters of appreciation, and past choices and existences that still play out somewhere on reality's plane.

The other day I felt a sudden wave of sadness for no apparent reason. Prior to this wave of dichotomous emotion, I was reflecting on the possibility of change. Not just a little change, but a major one. The kind of change that ends one phase of who you are so that you can step into the phase of what you'll become. Sometimes we have to wait for that phase to completely fade into the background because we've created a situation for ourselves where there is no other choice.

I came across someone else's words that stated that "all changes, even the most longed for have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." Even though death seems like a sudden event, it never truly is. I think it's a process that goes on while we're "waiting." Life's choices and achievements are always a two-parter: we have to let go of one concept of who we are and what we want in exchange for another, even if it's only temporarily.

Sometimes while we're busy pushing ourselves towards that new direction- that longed for new change-we get the opportunity to reconcile those parts of ourselves that we never really let go, but needed to. Those parts of us come in the form of people, boomeranged lessons, obstacles that will challenge our ideas of who we are and what we can accomplish, and perhaps the answers to buried questions.

2010 has brought all of those my way and more. So while I sit out these last few months before I fulfill my company's tuition reimbursement waiting period requirement and contemplate a decision on the next available path to take, I think I'll also find a way to be grateful that I got a second chance at closure. A set of closures that needed to occur so that I could be pushed towards my indefinable capability.

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