There has been a lot of healing this past year. And a lot of learning. You learn new things, venture to new territory, new hurts come, and healing commences again.
And then you look back. Over your shoulder. Over the landscape you have carved out of the barren earth you started with. You look at the peaceful, dandelion-covered hills, full of wishes. You scowl at the scraggly cliff-faces that still taunt you and remind you of how they bruised your shins and your heart. All the rivers written by tears and the trees inspired by dreams. The landscape looks nothing like what you started with.
And you realize how much you have changed.
The familiarity that comes with knowing yourself, the comfort you find in being able to predict your own actions, fades into a fear of the unknown.
WHO AM I?
This is the question we unknowingly spend so much time trying to answer. We don't think it consciously, but our entire lives we are testing ourselves, learning, adjusting our sails, re-assessing our surroundings, and moving on. We are exploring our hearts - foreign territory, unfamiliar landscape.
You would think our own hearts should feel like home. Our heart should be a place where the lights glow through the windows and through the darkness, warming us like a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa, tucking us in at night to tell us stories about who we are and who we are to become, leading us forward, and inspiring us with a sense of adventurous security.
But that's not always how it works....
Our hearts are scary places sometimes. We discover things about ourselves we never thought we'd see carved into our landscape, and uncover wounds we thought we'd mended and find them still pulsing and bleeding. In an effort to heal the cuts and burns, we grope at them with our dirty hands, only succeeding in filling them with infection. Somehow, we know that a cup of hot cocoa would make all the shadows disappear, but the warm lights and soft blankets are miles away, and the bedtime stories are eons ago. We have to fight the real dragons now.
A year at college is like fighting dragons - battling the dragons in your own heart, and discovering the dragons in others. Fire rages and carves out unfamiliar trenches, covers the hills full of wishes in scorch marks, and burns down the trees built by dreams.
We are left with a heart that does not look like ours.
We are left looking in the mirror and wondering who it is that is staring back at us.
But even in the midst of fighting dragons, there are those things that remind us of who we are. Those places, those people, the inside jokes, the magic that brings us back to childhood, back to fields full of dandelions...
And yet we cannot go back. We must press onward.
Learning to love who you are becoming is not easy. Learning to love that slightly unfamiliar face you see in the mirror, being willing to venture out into that strange landscape...to learn its geography all over again, even in the face of change...is not easy. And choosing to form that person you are becoming in a purposeful way - containing those fires, healing those wounds, planting new fields of flowers...that is even more difficult.
In the midst of all of this, across the battlefield, remembering the bedtime stories and the warm blankets, remembering the flowers and the wishes and dreams, and hanging on to them, becomes a vital part of moving forward. It is the memories of light and joy which strengthen us. If we think we've lost that light, that joy, then we won't even bother looking for it behind the shadows and the scorch marks. Memories of the magic which fascinated us as children helps us remember how to see it, even now that we have grown. Memories of who we were help us find who we are.
Our landscape will continue to shift and change, and we will continue to explore it. But why are we exploring? What are we looking for? Exploring must be purposeful - without a purpose, exploring becomes wandering, and our lives become aimless. Without a purpose, we plod onward, never truly understanding ourselves, never truly seeing the beautiful landscape we are sculpting. We must remember, as we traverse the tender crevices of our hearts, how important it is to be searching. Always searching. Searching for who we are...and for who we are becoming...and for the light that guides us home.