By Maira Hernandez http://mairahalejandra.tumblr.com/
Let’s face it. Most of us have lied when we have attributed our current success to a sudden “enlightenment.” What we really meant to say when we used the word “enlightenment” -or any of its congenerates- was “rude awakening.”
As hard as it may be to admit publicly, some of the most significant decisions or positive changes in our lives have been the result of unexpected crashes with reality. We thought we were heading somewhere, when suddenly we were forced to an abrupt halt that shook the very foundations of our existence. Think of it as driving at one hundred miles per hour on a main highway, jamming to your favorite tunes. The road ahead seems clear with the exception of two or three luxury vehicles that don’t seem to represent a threat to you – they are actually a treat to your picture perfect journey. Suddenly, you realize you’re about to drive head-on into an abyss. You step on your car’s brake as you also pull the hand brake and manage to stop your car a few feet away from the edge. You catch your breath and begin to reconsider the route you were following: how did you get there and why were you heading in that direction?
I asked myself those two questions a few months ago during a trip to New York: “How did I get here and why am I heading in this direction?” I don’t mean the physical “here” but the proverbial “here.” I wasn’t questioning my geographical whereabouts. I was actually having an existential crisis – like I hadn’t experienced in a few years. It was my first time in NYC, the place I had dreamed about for years. It was in NYC I had hoped to start a new life and launch a successful career as a world-renowned journalist, except what I was experiencing was far from what I had expected.
Never in my life could I recall feeling so apprehensive – it was nauseating at times. I fell in love with the city right away, but it was like an agonizing infatuation with an impossible love.
Something just didn’t feel right.
The tall buildings or the thousands of people racing against the clock did not intimidate me, yet I felt hopeless and defenseless. I realized I wasn’t ready for such a drastic transition. I led a very sheltered life in Miami, and NYC seemed like a beautiful, enthralling jungle where only the strongest, the bravest, and the fittest would survive. I did not meet any of those requirements.
Admitting I didn’t meet any of those requirements was a rude awakening for me. Knots in my throat and my stomach, I took the subway from Jackson Heights to Greenwich Village – by myself for the first time and began to ponder on all these crazy feelings. I realized my timeline was off. I should have been in NYC at least three years ago. I should have been traveling and experiencing the world right out of high school – or so I thought.
Making sure not to miss my stop, I kept digging deeper. Then I hit the nail on its head. It wasn’t about where I should have been by now geographically. Spiritually, I had gone further than I had expected in Miami than I would have elsewhere. I had also grown as an individual and had learned some essential life lessons that would have been hard to endure without the support of my family. But I had reached a plateau. The kind of plateau I had always dreaded. I had a comfortable job, a nice family and a nice church to serve God in. My life had become a routine void of passion. I got too comfortable where I was. I had stopped challenging myself and somehow managed to let my characteristic desire to learn lay dormant; to the point where I had lost sight of how far I was meant to go in life.
I reached Greenwich Village where I met briefly with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school. He was accomplishing his career dream in the big city, yet his life seemed void of purpose. I quickly took a cab to Times Square to meet another friend I hadn’t seen since undergrad. This one had more sense of direction in life, but I could still see I had a sense of purpose she didn’t have. We said our goodbyes and all of a sudden I was eager to get back to Miami. I still had two days before my flight home and I couldn’t afford to change it, so I rushed back to where I was staying desperate to sit in front of a computer and finish the application I had started a few weeks ago.
All those queasy feelings that made me question my very own existence two days before, had led me to realize it was time to wake up from that inert state I had been in. On my way back home I thought about the possibilities of getting accepted into grad school with such a late application. I had submitted my application on Memorial Day – one day before flying back to Miami.
Yes it was a rude awakening. Not something I would brag about. But I prefer a thousand rude awakenings than a passive and stagnant life in which I may never accomplish what I was created for simply because I’m too afraid to be confronted.
Today, as I manage between my full time job with new and exciting projects, full time school (I’m getting my MA in journalism), family and ministry, I can blame my present success on that “rude awakening.” Call it “enlightenment” if you may. All I know, is it was God’s wake up call to get out of my comfort zone and “enlarge the place of my tent and strengthen my stakes” (Book of Isaiah 54:2).