By David T. Valentin
For probably all of us, after 2020, the global lockdown, and political unrest in the United States, recovering on an individual scale felt like a Sisyphean task—constantly trudging up a hill, pushing our burdens along as that boulder grew heavier and heavier. And just when we reached the top, believing we can let go, the boulder rolls back tugging us along with it. Every morning and every night, began and ended with the same question: in the morning, will things be better today? And at night will tomorrow be better than today?” Will I be better today? Will I be better tomorrow or the day after?
And as many of us wondered, knowing the answer deep down, I questioned whether I could ever get back to the proud, confident person I was after college. The person that was so grateful for the present and so excited for the future. I questioned whether that person even existed now after so much, and I wondered if everything could go back to the way things were.
But what I didn’t realize was that, by asking these questions, I was only building up that hill higher and higher. I was only adding weight to that boulder—those burdens—by yearning for a time that no longer existed, and I knew that, eventually, something had to change in my approach. But what? How could I get to where I was before? How could I be the person I was three years ago, after college and before lockdown? How could I, somehow alone, process how I grew and what I learned over the course of four years of experience?
Only a few months ago, about around late July, early August, I let that boulder go. I let it drag me down only to let it smash itself and myself into a tiny million pieces. It was only then, as I observed the wreckage wondering what I did wrong for the millionth time, that I realized I could no longer put those pieces back together. I realized that to make it up that hill, I no longer had to carry the pieces of myself that weren’t me any longer. I no longer had to hold on to the baggage of the past that no longer served me. The pieces I no longer needed to carry because they no longer had a puzzle to connect to whatever happened next.
After looking closely, I eventually realized whole pieces were missing—the pieces that, in some ways, would always find a way of fitting. My appreciation for the arts. The way writing forced me to see the mundane in extraordinary new perspectives. The way those around me, those I loved, always impressed me with their genuine kindness and generosity by sharing with me the truest parts of themselves to me. The best way to explain such a feeling would be with a quote, of course. “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder,” written by G.K. Chesterton.
And in recognizing that thanks, in recognizing my gratitude and happiness doubled by wonder, I found reflected back to me by my family and friends the pieces of them that they had taught me and the pieces of me that I had taught them within themselves. Unconditional love. Patience. Kindness. Confidence. Decisiveness. As I looked at my pieces, and other people’s pieces of themselves, I found pieces of myself within them.
And in seeing, with clarity, those pieces, I was able to put myself back together again—not the same as I was three years ago but as someone new, as someone with pieces missing where myself and others could fill in those gaps going forward and as someone who needed to extend new pieces, both rough and jagged and smooth and complete, come the new year.
To put it simply and plainly, I recrafted myself as a beautiful kaleidoscope of the world I’ve picked up around me along the way through experience, of pieces both beautiful and ugly from the people I have chosen, and continue to choose, to surround myself with. And it is with wonder and gratitude that I also give fractures of others and myself to the world and to my community and those I have met and will meet along my journey; so that they may create their own vibrant kaleidoscope that is their self, however complicated or simple they choose to be. It is what I, and we and they choose that makes us who we are and what we choose to put out in the world.
So, let’s go boldly into 2023 and put out the best of the best of the sum of our parts, and recognize we are not just drifting pieces going about the world, but instead kaleidoscopes exchanging and borrowing and crafting constantly new pieces of not only ourselves but the world around us.