By Lily Carlson
From October 2018:
The change of seasons, especially from the sweet warmth of summer to the crisp bite of fall often leaves people acutely aware of being in a state of transition. When I was asked to write on Get Real’s ‘Back to School’ theme, I didn’t feel like I had much to say. A year ago, the transition back from the sweetest summer to the most biting fall yet nearly swallowed me in its daunting demand of strength and resilience. But having moved past that, I felt weirdly settled this fall. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m a senior, fully settled into my life at school and committed to my well-established friendships, that served as a buffer to the bite. So, feeling slightly uninspired and paradoxically unsettled with my state of ease, I somewhat subscribed to the unfamiliar notion that I didn’t have much to say. Of course, here you are reading this article, so naturally something changed. In true Lily fashion, I found myself in a bit of an epiphany in a yoga class the other week.
With sweat trickling down my face and my body trembling from exhaustion, my mind was still but my being was full. I know this sounds like some really weird spiritual shit so I’m gonna just get to the point and leave the drama for another time.
My realization was simple: This year has not been a transition as much as it has been an evolution. In these first two months of my final year of college, I have felt my friendships evolve. They have deepened and they have taught me something I never thought a friendship could—truly unconditional love. The type of love where you really feel like you would do anything for that person.
Helping two of my closest friends through some of the biggest challenges that life can confront you with has been the catalyst in bringing me to this place of deep love. ----
From December 2018:
I wasn’t able to find the words to finish the rest of this piece, written about two months prior to where I am now. I was searching for words to capture a feeling that far surpasses the somewhat limited nature of my lexicon. So I left it as it was in October, figuring the words would come eventually.
In that time, life proved itself to be a bitch—destroying any notion of predictability that I briefly found myself savoring in those first weeks back. And in the weeks that passed, I saw the power of unconditional love manifest in divergent ways. While one relationship grew deeper through the vulnerability of a serious cancer diagnosis and a reverence for the synergistic power of unfailing friendship, the other wore thin until it snapped, its only lifeline now a half-hearted proclamation in a better future. While one relationship brought me closer to my fundamental values and beliefs, the other begged me to question how those principles ought to be lived out. While the growth of one taught me the joy of this unconditional love, the loss of the other taught me the pain that caring so much can bring.
In my pain, I didn’t always act right or how I ought to, either. Instead of leaning into the discomfort, I numbed it—I deprived myself of joy as some sort of twisted coping mechanism, until days felt like a chore I simply needed to get through. I tried to show up as best I could, but I couldn’t reckon the way this friendship had deteriorated.. So, I had to walk away. A not-so-innocent bystander told me I was running away from the problem. To me, I was doing the opposite.
Rather, I was taking the distance I needed to come back to myself. In feeling one of my closest friendships slip away, I felt an important part of who I was slip as well. The ones we love most are also the ones who can hurt us the deepest…and I was aching. I questioned myself about if this unconditional love I had so confidently expressed before was now somehow conditional? It wasn’t and isn’t. Instead of expending all my energy on trying to control and fix the mess of a situation, I needed to expend my energy on healing myself.
The other day my yoga teacher told me that self-love is the most honest form of love. In harboring a practice where we can continually meet ourselves in all our flaws, all our strength, and all our hurt, we accept ourselves, from a place of love. In turn, this sense of acceptance and ease radiates out to all of our interactions. So, if taking space from the hurt and taking the time to come back into being with myself was running, sign me up for a fucking marathon.
In parallel with the timely close of the year marking yet another transition, I come back to my initial sentiment: evolution. Despite the unlikely turn of events that have characterized the last two months of this year, my belief in evolution persists. Formally defined as the "gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form,” evolution may be the most appropriate word to capture this year. Friendships, that once felt simple and natural, now deepened and complex. Life experiences, once limited to the scope of my life in Bethesda and Ann Arbor, now expanded to life in Spain, Costa Rica, and about seven other countries. My idea of self-love, once a simple notion of a belief dependent on the approval of others, developed into a practice of acceptance and a deeply venerated value, learned through grit and continual practice. My love of yoga, from a means to stay in shape and slow the thoughts of my monkey mind to an abiding road home, a constant in this wacky world.
This is evolution…a process, an unknown, a loss of something we once loved, a new void waiting to be filled yet again with something beautiful, a continually twisted, often spooky path that may leave our egos bruised, but always leaves us improved.
So thank you, 2018, next.
Lily Carlson is an avid avocado eater and yoga instructor who is studying public health at u of m. In her free time she likes to watch every cooking show Netflix has to offer, read copious amounts of self improvement books, and of course practice yoga. she also collects a list of all the little things in life that make her happy and has danced every day of 2018–two feats she will not let her devoted snapchat followers forget about. she hopes that Instagram will remove the poll feature from her account so she can stop abusing the privilege and to remediate the childhood obesity epidemic one day. Find more from Lily at lilyrcarlson on Instagram.