My skin mingles with the air brushing across the daggered leaves of Langkawi palm trees, pulling them like hair in a stream of water. Blue light of early, almost dark morning washes the smooth, white walls around the table. Far off, a deep, grinding buzzing as well as the scraping consistency of cicadas, is a background to the intermittent and sporadic chirps of bird calls.
It is morning. The first of 2016.
There will be so many more New Years Day mornings. What does it matter where I am on this particular morning in this particular stretch of time? Why now, am I infusing this moment as significant? It’s not.
And yet it is. We find an evolutionary comfort in the change and rolling of seasons, a recognition of time past and future to come. We need this moment of reflection, to imbue the rest of our moments with significance. This is 2016. This is another year. I am another year older. Time passes, which means I am aware of it passing, which means I am aware that I Am, conscious and living.
What, then, is the significance with which I give this moment?
Every new year, we always want to acknowledge the change that has taken place since the last New Year. This is a modern evolution, this craving for metamorphosis. I feel unworthy without it. Each recognition of any change that has taken place is like a chalk piece, running down a wall in short bursts, a mark indicating my right to have existed, to have consumed the passing of time with my consciousness. Why do I feel the need to show my own evolutionary growth and point out all the ways that my life today is different than a year ago?
We don’t need to. I don’t need to defend my right to breath this year with all the ways that that breathing resulted in transformation or maturation or learnings. I can just have been a human and and have eaten and frowned in frustration and held my arm around my waist for laughing so hard and that can be a Good Year, a Very Good Year.
But I won’t. I will compare and contrast the change because the change is a canonical purpose in itself, a reason for continuing to drink and frown and laugh. The change is the symbol of a journey and that, too, is an evolutionary comfort. To have challenged. To have conquered.
And so the most significant contrast and comparison to make is that this is the half decade anniversary of my liberation from the system that held my mind a prisoner for the first quarter century of my life. Strong words, and offensive to many people I call dear, but no less true to me. I sit with my hand on my chin, a patchworked montage of the past five years piling into the screen of my mind and a smile irresistibly pulls at the corners of my mouth.
There. There is satisfaction.
Of all the questions that swam in my soul those harrowing years of a duplicitous life reflecting a discordant mind, the greatest one, the one that kept my feet moving towards my desk as a Pastor morning after morning, was Will I Regret It?
What if, my mind plagued me, you’re wrong? What if you leave and you discover that they were right all along? That you will feel a blackness steal over your soul until you cry out in misery to the God and beliefs you turned your back on, castigating your pride and desire, incarnating that Great Prodigal moment with your own disgraceful consciousness; your inheritance lost, even if you are eventually welcomed back.
That last sentence was written with smugness. Undiluted smugness that I both at once reprimand myself for and defend passionately my right to feel. Smugness that I earned tramping the fusillade of others’ ideologies and passions from my mind. Smugness that should be incinerated because the journey is not over yet and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you should never say forever.
Right or wrong, smugness is there nonetheless, a bastard child of satisfaction and contentment with at least one of my decisions in life. It’s nice, that feeling, and one I probably return to too often, in the sense that it makes me lazy about the future. I know that it’s always going to shine when compared with the alternate reality my past life would have delivered.
I do wonder though, whether the last five years of my twenties have been lived on a foundation of reactionism to the first five years of my twenties. A cynicism of lifelong commitment to make up for the prison sentence that was a young marriage. An extroversion bordering on FOMO to compensate for years as a task-focussed introvert. An insatiable desire to experience everything, meet everyone, go everywhere, even sometimes at the cost of my own vitality.
It’s not a bad thing and sometimes we don’t have any other choice, to live in reaction to our past life experiences. But when I look down the path of the next five years, the edges flicker and the horizon is blurry. I find myself needing to determine not just ‘what makes this life well lived’ but what makes my life well lived.
Of all the challenging and rewarding work alternatives ahead, which one is mine to tackle? Of all the people I’m lucky to count as friends, which ones are a part of my heart as much as my everyday life? Of all the cities I’ve walked the streets of and even those I haven’t, which do I want to make a home in? And of all the souls I share the air with, which one will mesh with mine?
So this then is the summons of 2016 and beyond… the cultivation of a deep life, now that I have had the freedom of the breadth of it.