"Lead the way you wish you were lead when you were 17"

-Lizelle van Vuuren

I want to write about my 17 year old self. In this post I am tempted to detail every insecurity and demon I once fought. I'm inclined to rehash the time I was so low that I slid a kitchen knife across my wrist. Not an attempt to kill myself but an attempt to release the pain I felt inside.

But I won't.

Instead, I dedicate this post to her. My 17 year old self who I learned to love.

Today I am 30. Age really is just a number until you reflect back on the 10+ years of your life...I use to think that saying goodbye to my teens and especially my twenties would be difficult for me. However, over the last few years, I've been ready. From learning lessons the hard way to heartbreaks, to disappointments, to losing friendships and loved ones, I've been ready for a transition in my life that would change my world and open my eyes. I've been wanting to be free and to be able to finally breathe.

I know that being 30 is just the tip of the iceberg of lessons to be had, but it wasn't until recently that I decided to change. A few months before my 30th birthday, I decided that I no longer wanted to live my life the way I was living. I was anxious all the time. My reactions to people and situations were irrational. I couldn't find the loving, happy and caring person that I once was. And worst of all, I lost confidence. Out of fear of being disliked, I allowed others to use me and walk on me. I listened to judgements and words that affected me more than they should have. I allowed toxic people make me feel small.

We all have to let go of those people that no longer bring good to our lives. You can be friends with somebody for years and they may never take time to truly get to know you. I’ve experienced one-sided friendships where I was only a sound board when they needed me but as soon as they were happy, I was no longer needed. It was through these experiences that I realized that it is ok to leave what once was in the past.

The past.

Something that I dwell on often. The difference now is that I've come a long way from allowing it define who I am. Who I am today is who my 17 year old self always wanted to be.

As I reflect on the past, my relationship with the ocean comes to mind. She has become my helping hand in finding myself. As a child, I wasn't afraid of her. Even though she froze my boney limbs and her sands were sharp enough to sting, I was drawn to her because she made me feel strong and free. Even on the gloomiest of days, she sang songs to me. When my family and I moved closer to the mountains, we took a piece of her with us. My parents have a giant shell filled with other seashells, including two conch shells. From time to time, I would hold those shells over my ears just so I could hear her whispers. They will forever be a reminder to me to stay young and full of wonder.

This past year, I danced in her waves and felt like a child again. My friend and I were traveling on a work trip and we both decided that we should answer her call. We jumped over her waves and allowed the salt water to wash away our makeup. Her waters were warm and welcoming. I finally felt like I could be me. Without hesitation and especially without judgement. It’s amazing how freeing it is when you surround yourself with people who don’t pass judgement on you.

I have found that judgement can often stem from a place that is as equally as powerful as the act itself. However, it is actually a much more vulnerable position to be in when you are the one who is holding judgement. Often times we judge others when we aren't truly happy with ourselves. It is insecurity and unhappiness that makes us vulnerable. Instead of recognizing and accepting that vulnerability, we are clouded and judgement becomes a defense mechanism to prevent us from facing what is actually going on in our minds. I am guilty of this and I have also been on the receiving end of judgment. What has hurt the most is receiving judgement from those that I thought would support me no matter what.

I consider myself to be a pretty kindhearted, well-balanced and driven person. I love with my whole heart and my family knows this. I don't make irrational decisions that will cause my life to go in a downward spiral. And most of all, I push myself in everything that I do. Because of who I am, my heart will always go into the things that I do. Whether or not I choose to go down the path that I originally set out for myself, there is always a purpose behind my actions.

These are aspects in my life that I feel have been hit pretty hard by people I once trusted. I now live by the rule that unless I am in physical danger or a danger to my surroundings, nobody (friends or family) needs to have an opinion on my life. I realize that those opinions may always exist, but it is how I react to them that deciphers how I move forward. It is whether or not these opinions carry negativity that should decipher who is truly deserving of being in my life. I used to take these opinions to heart because they were opinions of people I once trusted and I wanted their approval.

I was once in a place where I needed acceptance from other people. Nothing made me more anxious than allowing people to know who I really was. I didn't want them to see my imperfections. I learned how to please these people and avoid confrontation. This mind set caused me more issues than I thought it would. As soon as I sacrificed a piece of myself for the benefit of others, I lost myself. And the more I did it, the more my heart and spirit was broken. Although I enjoy doing things for people, nothing is more cringing than giving your heart and time to a person who doesn't deserve it. I'm sure some of you can relate.

Time.

We can't get it back, but we can learn from it. I don't regret the time I've spent with people who didn't deserve it because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have known that I needed to spend my time wiser. Even though those people and situations were unpleasant and toxic at times, I still enjoyed and loved parts of them. Time is valuable because it is so limited. I've come to realize that through loss and missed opportunities. I don't want to limit myself further by not spending time with the people that I love and experiencing new things. When we put time and energy into those people and things that don't deserve it, we are limiting ourselves. Instead...

"Choose not a life of limitation" - Red Hot Chili Peppers, Can't Stop

but a life of liberation.

I am most liberated when I set out to do the things that make me happy and spend time with people that feed my soul.

This past New Years marked the start of a new me. It was a few months after I made some major changes in my mental health. 2018 marked a year where I would take control. I didn't want to spend the day hungover and paranoid about the stupid things I might have said while drunk. I didn't want to keep poisoning my well-being physically and metaphorically. I didn't want to worry about how I looked compared to the rest of the other women in sequins. I didn't want to, yet again, disappoint myself with false expectations of how a drunken night should go.

Instead, I flew out to watch one of my best friend's run her first marathon. Her drive, positivity and motivation inspire me to become a better version of myself. And it is through her that I learned what a true friendship could feel like. We first connected on our High School's track team 16 years ago. Through those years and time spent together, we learned, grew and changed together. A true friendship should always feel fluid and natural. A true friendship means being there for each other in some of the most important experiences. So, naturally, I wouldn't miss one of the most important experiences of her life.

It was through this trip that the ocean called me again. Prior to my friend's race, we took a drive to a beautiful overlook by the ocean and hiked down to the rocks. We sat there in silence allowing her waves to sing to us while her breath kissed our cheeks and the sun warmed us with his presence. It was in this moment that I understood how fulfilling it was to spend my time with a friend who truly cares. We sat in silence as we watched the breeze and current hold hands.

The silence wasn't filled with awkwardness or a need to fill it with wasted words. Instead, I listened to the ocean's whispers telling me to let go.

Letting Go.

"Feeling the past moving in Letting a new day begin
Hold to the time that you know
You don't have to move on to let go"

-Deadmau5, I remember

I've always struggled with letting things go. My younger self didn't want to let go of anything. I wanted to hold onto what was familiar to me, even if it meant sacrificing my well-being. I didn't realize this at the time, but I was suffocating myself by holding onto the past. My time and life were so filled with bullshit that no longer served me, I didn't allow any room for me to grow as a person. The lack of growth clouded my perception of my own reality. I wasn't moving on. Therefore, I wasn't letting go. Little did I realize, that the first step of moving on and growing as a person is letting go.

It wasn't until recently that I was in a state of letting everything go. I was ready to let go of the past. I wanted to strip away the person I tried to be and break away from those people that made me feel inadequate. I wanted to finally stand up to those inner voices that have treated me poorly all these years. This meant that I finally recognized that it was time to move on. To move forward.

In order to move forward metaphorically or physically, we must keep sight on what is in front of us.

As I embraced my 30's in the midst of my own transformation, I once again, greeted the ocean. A trip to Hawaii not only became an adventure of a lifetime, but a great reminder of how far I've come from that lonely 17-year-old.

I have always wanted to surf. I’ve always known that there must be something so freeing about the sport. If I felt connected to the ocean just by standing in her waters, I couldn't imagine the euphoria I would feel when I got a chance to soar on her waves.

I have surfed a few times before with instructors (both good and bad). But this time was different.

It was a warm, beautiful day in Haleiwa. Some clouds lingered but not enough to cover the reflection of the sun's smile. The North Shore is known for surfing and I couldn't believe I was about to get a chance to surf in its glorious waves. We were to meet my instructor in a little surf shop along the coast. I told myself that no matter my capabilities of riding a wave, I would enjoy every moment of it. My instructor went over everything from the beginning, covering safety, how to respect the other surfers and 'The Golden Rule' of surfing. He said that the key to riding a wave successfully is to not look at your feet, but to look ahead where you are going (your destination). As someone who is familiar with a variety of board sports, this made sense. But I had no idea how heavy and true this golden rule would be to my current state in life.

After getting checked in and fitted with a board and rash guard, I was ready. We then drove to Pua'ena Point. As we walked to the beach I could see the surfers (both locals and beginners) enjoying the day. The smell of the sea salt was intoxicating and my heart was filled with excitement. As we put our boards in and stood in the water, I was a bit nervous. Just days before, I had fallen off my rental board and stepped on a sea urchin. Of course, at this point my instructor taught me how to fall if that were to happen again. Apparently, sea urchins aren't like the goat heads I occasionally encounter on the trails in Colorado.

Carefully avoiding being in the way of other surfers, we hopped on our boards to paddle to the sweet spot. It's a bit intimidating paddling towards a wave that could take you out. But, if properly done, you become friends with that wave and learn how to speak to each other with your movements.

The waves weren't huge but they definitely weren't the small rollers I had experienced in Southern California. It was as if the ocean knew I was there because her waves were steady. They weren't thrashing harshly, nor were they minimal.

Once we got to a comfortable spot, it was my time. I remembered the movements I was taught and reminded myself to let go. I turned my board around and waited for the next wave. As it approached me, I paddled my hardest, cutting through the water and at the right moment, I stood up as I was supposed to. I remember that moment as if it froze in time because I took my time getting up, allowing the ocean to glide me towards the shore. For the first time in my life, I was fully immersed with her wonder. Remembering the golden rule of surfing, my eyes didn't leave the shoreline and I rode the wave all the way back to where I started.

Coming back to reality, I could hear cheers from my boyfriend and instructor and I couldn't stop smiling. Filled with excitement and disbelief, I paddled back to them as quickly as I could. My instructor told me that he has never seen a beginner ride a wave all the way back to shore on their first wave. The next few hours, I caught wave after wave until it was time to go.

It was in this moment that the universe seemed to have aligned, and life clicked into place for me. Everything made sense in what I was meant to accomplish. The Golden Rule of surfing wasn't just to get me to ride my first wave in the North Shore. It was and will always be a metaphor for how my life is meant to be lived. I must not fight against the current that forces me forward. I am meant to rise above what is below me. When I let go of the idea of perfection, I give myself the chance to succeed. The only acceptance I need is my own. Lastly, a beautiful thing can happen when I look forward to what can be.

I dedicate this post to anyone who has lost their self. To anyone who has faced the reality of depression and anxiety. To those who have lost their lives to both.

You are beautiful, strong, intelligent, handsome, creative, independent, and full of life. You ARE enough. Always remember that.