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By Sam Maracic

If someone were to ask you to describe the most important lesson you’ve learned from life thus far, how would you respond?

Because I’m not sure I could.

But that’s not to say I haven’t tried.

As an inherently anxious thinker, I cannot remember a time in which I wasn’t instinctively reflective. Reflective upon whom I was, reflective upon what I wanted, reflective even upon circumstances I had no part in controlling. And to this day, I remain very much the same. At times my musings have rendered me fervent for experience and at others, apprehensive of feeling anything at all.  I have been my own best friend and also, my own worst enemy. Most often, I stumble between both.

And yet despite my ever-evolving search for self-awareness, the metaphorical road on which I travel has never ceased to present new diversions. Bringing me back to questions I thought I had answered, and navigating me instead toward very different solutions.

At twenty-five years old I can wholeheartedly say I know very little for certain. So, it may come as no surprise that from where I stand, translating the idiosyncrasies of experience into life lessons still seems a bit premature. I’d like to instead believe that in the most organic way possible, my reflections have simply led me to thoughts-  thoughts I have consistently revisited and arrived at, time and time again. They are by no means authoritative. However today, they are the closest I have come to personal truth.

In order to find, you must be willing to look.

The “ah-ha” moments we seek to provide us with the answers to life’s big questions rarely ever come to fruition, or at least not in the way we expect them to. Any truth worth finding requires work. It must be dug for, grappled with and pulled from deep below the surface. The truly exhausting, beauty of exploration is that from it we are better equipped to identify the most authentic, actualized parts of ourselves. We cannot do this if we are looking ahead or turning back. This can only be done in the here and now.

We are not our misgivings — but we are not our assets either.

Attachment to the opinions of others leaves us open for unsteadying. Praise as much as criticism has the power to shape and define self-perception. Surface judgments are unreliable at best. They prevent us from seeking a sense of stability that only lives within. Ultimately, we alone must be the marshals of our happiness.

Sometimes you need to simply be where you are.

The human experience ebbs and flows in a way that renders both the good and the bad equally important. Each and every one of us is entitled to operate within a moment of sadness, excitement, fear or anxiety- if that is where we are. Feeling our emotions fully is what enables us to better understand them, and in the greater sense, understand ourselves. However, in order to learn rather than linger, we must introduce purpose into the equation. Purposefully acknowledging where we are makes us each more attuned to what we need during life’s inevitable chaos.

Vulnerability does not weakness make.

Exposing yourself bare and leaving your soul open to emotional damage is frightening. However, without change we are incapable of growth. A lack of vulnerability is native only to those who wish to remain stagnant.

Emotion is Not Built for Categorization.

To be truly human is to acknowledge that at times, parts of our condition are simply too tangled to unwind alone. Social conditioning has led many to believe their feelings must first be externally validated before seeking help in mediating them. All lives are confronted with shadows. Varying in the degree to which they present themselves perhaps, but always garnished with an absence of light. It is a far braver endeavor to move beyond those dark, dusty stumbling blocks than to toil under the guise that they simply don’t exist. The guidance of others, be it professional or otherwise, can often empower our ability to do so.

When presented with the choice to be either a puddle or an ocean, I will forever seek to be the latter.

To truly live, one must experience.  My feelings, emotions and anxieties are proof that I am not only living, but also uncovering opportunities for growth and evolution along the way.  When properly acknowledged our depth allows us to dismantle  surface level systems that would have otherwise dictated a very shallow existence.  So, while some may point out that puddles are less complicated, I would argue that they are certainly no better off for it.

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