I love impossible stories. Stories about people who achieve things against all odds, who push through crazy amounts of difficulties and struggles to reach a goal that for the longest time seemed unachievable.
When I was younger, I would devour these stories. Stories of fantasy and excitement and the badass chick who would save the day. I loved movies like Freedom Writers and Shawshank Redemption. My heroes were Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, and as I got older I began to read more about these peoples’ lives and how they had achieved such extraordinary things.
I also began to look deeper into the more “ordinary” impossible stories. First when I was 16 it was Shane Claiborne, with his wild Christian dreams of building a church that was self-sufficient and who’s members worked together to create a larger community, re-defining what it meant to serve God and love your neighbour. Then in London aged 21, it was Cheryl Strayed who walked goodness knows how many miles across the States in an attempt to put her life back together, which had spiralled out of control after her mother had passed away from cancer when Cheryl was in her early twenties. And then, in Berlin at nearly 23 years old, it was Matt Haig, with the story of his breakdown caused by panic disorder, anxiety and depression and how he recovered to have a successful writing career despite the fact that he had been convinced he wouldn’t survive past the age of 24.
And now it’s Jena Lee Nardella and her story about starting the “One Thousand Wells” project. I’m already 100 pages into the book after just two days (which is a feat when you consider how much university work I’m drowning under at the moment) and loving every second of it. The funny thing is, I always wanted to be like these people. To achieve my dreams and overcome some insane obstacle despite all odds. And it just occurred to me when reading Jena’s book this evening that I actually have. Or at least I am in the process of doing so.
On the first day of this semester I had the funniest morning. I woke up too late then snoozed my alarm because I’d forgotten I’d put a wash on the night before (after 12.30am of course for the cheaper electricity tariff) that I needed to sort out before going to class. I was knackered as I’d stayed up til 1.30am skyping Mexico because my friends can’t seem to tell the time and due to my lateness I had no time to shower, meaning I had to tear my room apart searching for the hat I bought solely because it looks like a lemon, before realising that a lemon hat really can’t fix how gross and exhausted I looked anyway. After popping the hat on my head and wrestling my way into my tie dye doc martens (which I got as a present for my 25th birthday thankyouverymuch) I looked at myself in the mirror – black high-waisted shorts, tights, green t-shirt, lemon hat and tie dye docs – and thought, “I look like an oversized garden gnome” and laughed out loud at my own ridiculousness.
The best part about that morning, though, was not that I looked like a large mythical creature. It was that that was my MAIN concern. After years of being so ill I really thought I’d top myself before I achieved anything I’d previously dreamed about in life, I’ve recovered to the point where I can laugh at my poor fashion choices in the mirror, then throw on my backpack with a shrug and roll out the door to uni excited for my first day back.
That. Is. Wild.
And the exciting thing is, this is just the beginning. It’s Shane’s early days of dreaming, Cheryl’s completing the trail and Matt’s showing his illness who’s boss. All three of these awe-inspiring humans have gone on to accomplish so much more than simply jumping their initial hurdles, just as it’s taken years to get to where I am now. But now I know what my dreams are and I can actually work towards making them a reality, rather than having to focus my every energy into getting up in the morning and making sure I have enough to eat and not freaking out at every social interaction I encounter.
No lemon hat and my hair is freshly washed, not greasy, but I think I look kinda glow-y and happy and wanted to illustrate my point.
I can study and hold down a job (or three) and save money and research and learn a language (or three) and start making real, concrete plans about how I’m going to move to Mexico in less than a year. I’m not even sure how to describe how it feels to be so full of hope, aspiration and drive again after years of believing I was worth nothing. People have been telling me for a while now that there is a light behind my eyes that had gone missing for a while, or that they’d never even seen before. I just didn’t notice it myself until I was giggling at my lemon hat and greasy hair.
I can’t say it’s all easy, though. I have to remind myself daily of just how grateful I am for everything I have, because I’ve had to make some tough decisions and sometimes working your butt off can get pretty lonely. But I make an effort to remind myself and thank the universe for all the opportunities I have at the moment. The fact that I have been hired to earn money which means I can fund another trip back to Mexico at Christmas and hopefully save for my future moving plans. The fact that I have access to a brilliant education which means I can apply for the masters of my dreams. The fact that I am surrounded by beautiful, wonderful people who I love dearly, even though any kind of committed romance is completely off the cards for me right now. I have so much to be grateful for and all of this busy-ness is just another challenge I have to get through to get even closer to my dreams.
And of course, I can’t forget that by overcoming all the shit I’ve gone through already, I’ve learned skills that will aid me for a life time. If I had to (I mean, if I really had to) I’d do it all again.