The end of the world: reflections on the last year

me at the ocean

“This then is life,/Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes and convulsions/How curious! how real!/Underfoot the divine soil, overhead the sun.”

– Walt Whitman

One year ago it was Easter week and Chris and I were vacationing in southern Spain. I remember waking up there on my thirtieth birthday and looking out over the Strait of Gibraltar toward Africa in the distance. I watched the sky turned from purple to pink and finally blue.

People had lived in this area since antiquity and yet it seemed lush and wild, able to withstand the force of thousands of years of human inhabitation without notice or complaint. The rocky cliffs registered our presence with ruins that were already half subsumed. We were only a few of so many waves that would simply rise and fall in an endless pulsing rhythm on the shore.

It was once thought that this spot marked the end of the world, that passing through the strait would lead a traveler off the edge of the earth and into mythical realms, to Purgatory or Atlantis. And in some sense, for me, it was a jumping off point. I felt a swell there in my chest compelling me to live to finally let go of fears and anxieties that I had about work and the future and to simply let myself be.

Now at 31 I can look back over the year and recognize the creative energy that took root that morning at the edge of the world. Since then, I have moved three times, from Berlin to St. Louis to Austin, written two chapters of my fledgling dissertation, and, the biggest jump of all, I had a daughter who is transforming me into someone quite unexpectedly real, the mother I once doubted I could be.

You have probably had similar moments when the world seemed to suddenly offer you support and insight. When and where did they occur for you?

4 thoughts on “The end of the world: reflections on the last year

  1. What a wonderful moment! Thanks for sharing. I remember waking up on the morning after my wedding. I was still basking in the glow of a hundred friendly, supportive faces. Faces that were both celebrating our past and championing our future. In that moment, it felt like I was equipped for any challenge and ready to take it head-on.

    • It means so much to have the support of family and friends! That’s why weddings are so great because they give people a chance to express their love for one another. Birthdays (to a lesser degree) can also serve the same function. I love getting calls and messages on mine and I always wish I was better at remembering others’!

  2. This is a beautiful post. A vivid moment in my memory was in Tibet in 2005 when, in the midst of self-pity and heartbreak, I felt the world rise up around me (it was the Himalayas after all!) and give me a hug and a swell of confidence to just be me, no apologies. Maybe it was the chanting monks or just the thin air, but it was powerful!

    • That does sound powerful! I love how nature so often inspires these moments. It has a way of making you feel both minute and magnificent at the same time.

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