It’s hard to say when “the best” anything happens. You feel so overcome with emotion that surely you cannot compare the moment to any other in a clear, unbiased, non-emotion-controlled way. I know I’ve used this term in countless situations and for labeling even more countless moments, so how could I know when I really and quite literally mean “the best”? And how exactly do you measure “the best”? All of these things may be true. I have several moments in my short life that I consider to be perfect, amazing, indescribable, magical, and all other positive adjectives that you can possibly think of. However, I’m going to contradict myself here: despite what I just said about “the best” being incalculable, I fully believe that I have one.
Two years ago, I was a different person. I had a degree, friends, a healthy family, a place to live, a stable job, and more, but I was not happy. Although I had had a great deal of fun, my daily life was comparable to a hamster in a wheel, keeping my feet moving faster than they possibly could just to get through the next 24 hours or to the next paycheck. Sure, I had goals: I’d done very well at university, had worked very hard in my career, and was well on my way to achieving the next level of education and, ultimately, success. This idea of success was not my own, though; rather, it was the one that had been instilled in me from day one. At the time, I fully believed that I wanted everything that I was busting my ass to get. I didn’t recognize how truly unhappy and unfulfilled I was…not until I decided to say, “no more”.
On an August afternoon in 2012, after a few weeks on my own and with new friends in Poland, I stood in line at Warszawa Chopin airport and asked for the airline worker to give me my bag back. By conventional standards, this was one of the most reckless and irresponsible things I’ve ever done. I had responsibilities to attend to and a shortage of cash to rely on, but that didn’t stop me. From the moment that my suitcase was returned to me, I experienced an overwhelming combination of emotions, sensations, and thoughts: instant regret, hope, excitement, impending adventure, excessive sweating, confidence, nausea, the possibility of love, and sheer panic. To most people, the tumultuousness of this scenario seems like hell. For my old self, that would have been exactly true. But in that moment- the moment that I decided to choose for myself, to take the road-less-traveled, to take a risk- I felt, above all, liberated. Maybe it was the fact that I had been overly stressed-out for years at such a young age; maybe it was that I had been craving an adventure and wanted to set my self free; maybe it was that I had just fallen for a man that I hardly knew, but also knew better than anyone I’d ever met. I think it was a combination of all of these factors.
Since that time, I have gone on adventures that I previously thought were impossible. I have found some of my greatest friends and confidants in complete strangers that I would have never known existed before. I have tried to incorporate something for myself into each day so that, although I am not always happy, I can at least experience undeniably true happiness more than I used to. I have taken risks that have ended both positively and negatively, but that have each been worthwhile. I have loved and felt loved, cowered under fear and addressed those same fears, trusted and been betrayed, succeeded and failed, shared my life and felt hopelessly alone. In the last two years, I have changed because I have lived.
So what was “the best” moment of my life? The moment when I felt every possible emotion spiraling out of control and pulling me in every direction, but still landed on my feet- the moment that I chose to live for me.
Fantastically well written, but that’s exactly what I’ve come to expect with your pieces.
I love to see the life course of someone, especially when it’s someone I can identify with or feel inspired by. To see and read the whole journey of the changes they’ve made to their lives that now has them beaming from ear-to-ear with the biggest smiles due to a happy life filled with so much promise, makes me incredibly happy.
Thank you, Dale! I really appreciate that. I just hope that the stories from people who have made the choices that you and I have made continue to make a difference to someone, anyone, out there. That first leap is always scary, but it’s all worth it.
Lovely piece Leah! I think Howard Thurman’s quote would be a good fit in this case as well:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
May there be many more magical moments for you to follow!
Perfect quote indeed