Thursday, January 6, 2011

Open the Door

As much as I hate admitting this, I am one of the millions of the people that buys pretty much anything Oprah puts her name on.  Usually I just participate in her book club, so when she brought up "The Book of Awakening" by Mark Nepo on this years "Oprah's Favorite Things" I instantly went on and purchased it.  It's a unique book, it's written like a diary; there's a passage and activities for everyday of the year.  I figured it'd be a great thing for me to begin doing for the new year, as a way to broaden my horizons. 

The passage from a couple days ago was about letting go.  Nepo described a story of a guy who decided he was going to paint his family room.  He went to the store, picked out paint, brushes, all the must haves to paint a room.  When he gets home he tries to carry everything in at once and ends up tripping, and spilling the paint all over himself.  This made me laugh out loud, I can't even count how many times this has happened to me!  I refuse to make more than one trip back and forth between my car and apartment, no matter what I have to carry. Nepo has a great quote in the entry "We cannot hold on to things and enter.  We must put down what we carry, open the door, and then take up only what we need to bring inside." 

This got me to thinking about baggage, and how we hold onto things that in the end are holding us back from being a better person, experiencing new things.  I've tried to remember the last time I felt that I let things go to take a leap, and it brought me to my study abroad experience that I had five years ago in college.  I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Netherlands for a little over six months my junior year in college. To be honest, I didn't really think it through in the beginning!  I applied, got accepted, and booked the plane ticket.  It all happened about a month before I was planning to leave, which was probably a good thing! I didn't have much time between exams and Christmas break, to realize I would be going into a foreign country where I didn't know the language, one single person, or where I was living!

It was easily the best time of my life. No one knew me, I didn't know anyone - I could be ANYONE I wanted to be, and they wouldn't know the difference!  It was so liberating, and scary.  I won't sugar coat things, there were times I missed home so much it hurt, and longed for the daily events and gossip I was missing out on with my girlfriends.  As I look back on the time now though, I wouldn't have done anything different.  I feel like I learned so much about myself, mostly what a great feeling it is just to be you, no baggage, no previous judgements. 

When you're that far from everything you know, you realize what is important and what isn't. Forgiving, forgetting. and keeping people you do care about in your life is necessary to be happy. 

I celebrated my 21st birthday while in the Netherlands. My friends/roommates thru me a surprise party, making me realize how many great people I'd met in such a short time.

As the years continue to go by, I really try and remember the feeling of freedom and contentment I had while there.  I think we all need to feel a little more of that in our everyday lives, and that's the message I took from Nepo's daily passage. We need to let things go to move ahead.  We have to set stuff down so we have room in our lives for new people, new places. I was very lucky to have met such great people.  In the end, coming home was just as hard as leaving, if not more. To this day, five years later, I continue close relationships with two of the girls I met. And talk usually on a weekly basis, with four of the other roommates I had.  They continue to be a big influence in my life. I thank them for reminding me to set my bags down, and open new doors!

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