Where do I even begin?
Maybe I should go back to my short and not at all sweet (more sour than anything) time in New York. It was the first time in my life I faced what I can only describe as a crisis. It was not that something traumatic happened while I was in New York, more than other events in my life, some traumatic, some merely idiotic on my part, some deeply disappointing, disillusioning, others pulling me under the waves so that I found myself sinking into a whirlpool of despair I did not have the strength to escape.
I guess I unravelled in New York. It had been brewing for some time. I sensed the inner hurt and darkness, but I supressed it and kept on pushing my physical and mental energy with work, sports, socializing and dating.
Over the course of my time there I was learning to accept that I was responsible for my own decisions, for my own happiness. They were not pre-destined. A few months before I had left a job my father had pulled strings.
I had made a decision to leave that job because I was miserable there. I hated the atmosphere. It was slowly destroying me. It was a good decision to leave that job. I did it because I was miserable there and it just is not healthy to dread going into work every day and to resent everything that happens there. But my decision was one that dismayed my father. It was the first time I experienced my father’s disfavour.
That’s why I had moved to New York. It was supposed to be a new chapter for me…it didn’t go well! It was so expensive to live there. I was working overtime to try to keep up with the cost of living, the cost of socializing, the cost of paying off my credit card bills. But I did not really ever find a sense of home in New York. It’s an amazing city, but it was not a place I felt at peace.
That period of my life I was spiralling downward, but inside all of my life lessons up to that point were starting to cement. I was contemplating, pondering, working out what was important in life. My values, ethics, sense of purpose were taking shape.
Although in some ways I was growing, I was also vulnerable and weak. I think it is quite natural that as children we often seek approval from others, our parents, our teachers, our peers. When we start to realize that we cannot please everyone, or let other people make our choices, we sometimes falter as we sense others begin to think less of us. My confidence faltered. My mind lingered in a low, dark, gloomy state.
I still had a lot to learn. But it was in Brooklyn Bridge Park where a stranger approached me, a woman with a Bible in her hand, who was incredibly easy to talk to. She listened carefully to my heartfelt mutterings, and she showed me verses that were like a window into my deepest depths. She helped me to want to go on living. Her words and those verses she shared have stayed with me for years. I want to live, I want to learn, I know I need guidance.
I have encountered so many life lessons – but I think one of the most important to me on a personal level is grasping that my life was not pre-destined. I have free will. I am responsible for so many of my own decisions. Yes, there are things that are beyond my control, but I can make choices that effect the course of my life, that effect my health physically and emotionally and financially. It may not be possible to avoid all stress, but it is possible to find peace, joy, purpose and to reap the benefits of a good conscience.
Although my time in the concrete jungle was hard, very hard, it was also a turning point for me. It was the beginning of me growing up, learning more self-control, resilience, confidence and conviction. My dreams did not come true in New York, I just learnt that I did not share the same dreams as many of my peers, my friends or my father. It was fine. I was going to be learning about what life really meant for years to come. Here I am, still learning, still growing, still in amazement that the best made plans often go astray. Yet I am fine with that – I have something better – a wonderful hope, a rewarding purpose, lasting joy and deep peace. Great life lessons for me.