It’s been two years since I started this blog, and time has managed to fly and stand completely still, in the way that only time can.
As I sat on a woven mat covered in dirt in the middle of the desert, shivering in the cold, I wondered why I was there at all. I mean, I knew why I was there – it was my friend’s 21st birthday celebration and we were at the RiSE festival – but as the speaker called to the audience to write what they felt on paper lanterns, my head froze. So many thoughts reeled and came to a screeching halt as I tried to think of what to write on my lantern. Did I want to let things go, watch them float away softly into the atmosphere, never to be seen again? Sure. Did I want to write about what I loved most, what made me happiest? I guess so. Did I want to just put my pen to paper and see what happened?
I was overthinking something that didn’t need to be thought about at all.
As I sat there, surrounded by my friends who were busy scribbling thoughts down on their lanterns by the glow of a cell-phone, drowning in the soothing music the band was playing, I realized I needed help. I played my “phone a friend” card (which is purely imaginary in this scenario) and texted a friend.
“You’ll know what you need to write,” he said.
Well, that was super unhelpful, I thought to myself.
And then I knew. That same friend once wrote to me “The good great stories are all around us. Also the greatest story is yours.” I’ve thought a lot about this quote for the last few months.
Stories. They’re everywhere. All around. All you have to do is open your eyes to see them. I have them, you have them, the woman sitting across from me watching a movie on her laptop and drinking hot coffee through a straw (who does that?) has them.
I’ve said it here before: words break me and save me. Stories keep me alive. They tear my heart apart and put it back together in one sitting. Stories are magic that anyone can experience if they just see them and (more importantly) feel them.
And mine is the greatest.
Not because it’s better than yours, but because it’s mine. I own it, I have control over it. I can choose to write my story any way that I want it to be written. I get to choose my own path, and how wonderfully exciting (and terrifying) is that?
I wrote, scribbling thoughts that I can’t remember anymore onto my lantern. My handwriting turned from soft and patient to small and hurried. Words couldn’t come out fast enough.
I felt cleansed.
Slowly, hundreds of torches were lit to light the lanterns. The dark and windy desert was filled with a warm glow, and it seemed as if the thousands of people gathered there were all in the same mental space. We were excited, afraid. You know that feeling of anticipation? When maybe you know a surprise is coming and you just can’t wait to see what it is? Hopefulness filled the desert.
The lanterns were lit and the speaker invited us to count down to their release.
Ten… nine… eight…
We looked around at each other, giggling and smiling wide.
Seven… six… five…
Our hearts and the music swelled as we reread our words, our promises, our fears written on our lanterns.
Four… three… Two…
We held our breaths.
All at once, thousands of people let go of lanterns half the size of themselves. They soared into the night sky, were carried away by the cool wind. The whole earth seemed to be in awe of the beauty that was in front of us.
People laughed, I cried, couples kissed and friends held each other, too stunned to say much else.
Everything was alive. I thought about the stories of the people around me. The couple behind us who kept letting their lanterns loose before they had enough hot air in them (I nearly got hit by one and captured it in a video!), the couple to our left who was visiting from out of the country, the little girls we saw on the way in dressed in Rapunzel dresses and singing “At Last I See the Light.” All of these people had stories of their own, had their own hopes and fears and dreams.
And then there’s me. With my own story. The one that is the greatest because it’s mine.
I’ve been frozen in fear for so long, too scared to make decisions or take steps because of The Unknown. I hate The Unknown.
But as I watched my lantern float away with my words and my stories written all over it, I felt nothing but hope. Hope for my future. Hope for The Unknown.
For the first time in a long time, I wanted to go and do something. I wanted to not only hope for a change, but to make a change.
I want to take my story back.
And so, as time moves forward and stands still in the way that only time can, I’m going to keep writing my story. (Literally and figuratively, since, you know, writing is my thing.)
There are good great stories all around us.
But the greatest story is yours.