LOOKING BACK – Part 6: Final Thoughts
In late January 2021, my luck finally turned around. I accepted a position as a clerk at a local records office. I found a place to live and started rebuilding my life. I never appreciated having a job, a roof over my head, and food in my belly, as I do right now. Likewise, I made it through with the most profound appreciation for the good that happened and those small glimmers of hope that carried me from one day to the next.
I didn’t pass this test smelling like roses or winning awards. Those long seventeen months were an insane test of human endurance, tenacity, and fortitude. I looked at myself in the mirror for the first time after moving into a permanent home in February 2021; I didn’t know who I was. I saw a genderless person who was neither pretty nor ugly, neither competent nor incompetent, successful nor a failure; I became no one, nothing, nowhere, and no time. I scarcely remember I am a doctoral student, a loving mom, a good friend, a human with human desires. I forgot I was a woman who wanted woman things (relationships, companionship, intimacy). I was a nameless, formless nothing who moved past being homeless and losing the former life. For the first time, I saw nothing. Likewise, I felt nothing. I felt no sadness, no despair, no frustration, and no loss. I didn’t see a grim future. I felt like I was in a fog, although, I can’t say being in a fog is necessarily a bad thing either. To me—being in a fog simply means there is nothing before you or behind you. It is an empty canvas waiting for the creator to bring the destination and future into existence.
However, this doesn’t mean my life was all doom and gloom because of the challenges I faced. Despite all of that, I find I feel amazingly remarkable. For the first time, I was present in my body, existing in that moment of time and space. I love, care for and cherish others out of a whole and complete person and not out of the brokenness of my past. For the first time, I am human with human desires and experiences, experiencing very human emotions and living a very human life.
When I look at myself today, I don’t see an insecure girl like I did before. I look at myself and I see a human being living out her life amidst authentic human experiences. I see bravery, determination, authenticity, humility. I learned to have my heart wherever I lay my head. I found that love and laughter matter most. Every experience, including the bad, has potential to be a beautiful experience. I am learning to be wholly present, wholly authentic, and wholly alive. I’ve grown exponentially since Los Angeles. Likewise, I understood I am the source of my happiness—with or without my belongings. I am not pretty or sexy and for the first time; it didn’t matter. I’m getting older and going gray and for the first time, that’s beautiful. I’m not lonely although I am alone. I am not incomplete, because in myself I feel complete. I am not discontent but found I am content with simplicity. I am not remorseful although sadness exists. I experience injustice but believe despite it, I can make the world a beautiful place. I enjoy good food, but I am not controlled by it. I enjoy eating, but I am not addicted to food or looking to food to help me feel better. I am simple and I simply live.
Someone asked me a question recently, “Tikvah, what is your take away. If you were going to share some wisdom or lesson you learned, what would it be?” I think people want this and need this. People need to know that things have meaning, purpose and their experiences aren’t for nothing. Likewise, people need to know things will get better because what is the point if things don’t get better. And what is the point of going through all that if there isn’t some grand purpose behind it.
I thought about this for a long time and finally said, “Nothing. Maybe I can’t apply meaning and purpose to what happened. Sometimes there isn’t a silver lining. Sometimes it is just about showing up and giving your best. If you fail, try again and never stop trying. Sometimes things happen, sometimes they get better and sometimes they don’t. But these experiences are just what they are, experiences that either improve our life or make our life worse. They are human and are what make us human. Sometimes there are circumstances we can’t understand, justify, or find meaning and purpose in them; we can only accept them as very human expressions of very human experiences. We can’t avoid or get angry about them, but maybe we can just appreciate them for what they are and what they make us human—and sometimes it is just the way of life and being human and living on planet earth.”
Does this mean I don’t cry? Absolutely not. I think one of the most human of all experiences is the experience of mourning, crying, and feeling sad. But likewise, the greatest remedy to sadness, depression, loss are the acts of compassion, generosity, laughter and love. These emotions are just other facets of my very human experience. However human these experiences and feelings might be, the most important takeaway isn’t our human experiences but our ability to overcome adversity. Our creator endowed humans with creative power. With that power, we can create from nothing a future we imagine; likewise, after our lives fall apart, we can recreate and build a new life from the ashes.