With the beginning of the school year eternally rooted in my body, fall still feels like a season of beginnings. Even more than New Years or even Springtime, it is the fresh, crisp autumn air that signals a stirring. And as I prepare to step into the upper 20s with both feet, the opportunities I’ve let pass me and lives I could-have-lived start to weigh more heavily in my mind. The pressure to ‘do more’ and ‘be more’ becomes more pervasive and the inevitable to do list grows alongside the gnawing in my chest.
Depressing and exaggerated, perhaps. But I know I’m not the only millennial who feels this way. In a time with so many options and everyone posting about all the adventures they’re getting into, it’s next to impossible to not have some aching for more: an itch to travel more and date more. To make more and help more. To rest more and explore more. To DIY more and paint more. I’m left wanting more boundaries and paradoxically yearning for more freedom. Heck, some days I even want a puppy and a baby and a fancy plate of cupcakes.
This desire to have it all, however, while exacerbated with the pervasiveness of social media, is nothing new. Nor is the yearning for life to be different than it is.
I was out with my dad and a friend of his from high school earlier this week when they realized that this upcoming May marked 50 years from their grade school graduation. I could not have been more content than I was sitting in the dimly lit tavern, listening to the stories they exchanged of old friends and earlier times. They reflected on both the good and bad, and before the night was out, Phil lamented, “the regrets only continue to collect.” We stayed for a few hours, watching the sky mark the visual passing of time, fading from pink to purple to deep blue.
On the cusp of 28, I’m not married, engaged or anywhere near the sort. My passport stamps and bank accounts are way more sparse than I’d like them to be. My regrets are already collecting. Not only the choices I’ve made or not made, but also the hand that life has dealt me, by no fault - or earning - of my own. With the fear of regrets grows the heaviness, the state where it is just as impossible to act as it is not to act.
Ganesha, one of the most beloved Hindu gods - the god of beginnings - reminds us that it is in this place, in the middle of things, where lies the infinite possibilities of rebirth. He does not describe the how or why we got where we are now, but instead tells us that it isn’t important; it doesn’t matter if we’d rather be somewhere else. What does matter is what we decide to do next. It is in the space between here and there- deep in the thick of it all- that he invites us to begin anew.
As with the act of smearing paint on a canvas to break the daunting, unbroken, indecisive white, we too, must begin anywhere. We must break from the unrealistic expectations, comparisons, and dread that threaten our important next step. Regrets, like all things in life, ebb and flow. While they may be deafening with their high-pitched screaming now, wait it out and they will start to fade into the distant beating of drums in the far distance. Yoga and art alike remind us that no matter where we begin, we are going to confront challenges along the way. We are going to overcome our follies, learn about ourselves, and succeed - only to lose ourselves all over again. Life is a process of folding and unfolding. Even when the past and the present seem unbearable, you may just be in the preparation, in the act of tilling the soil to ready yourself for planting the seeds for the next chapter of your life. Yoga and art remind us that no matter where we begin, we will become.
It doesn’t matter where you are or how you decide to take your next move. All that matters is that you begin.