I hope that everyone reading this has the opportunity to experience a pivotal moment in their lives when resentment or anger for your struggles transforms into immense gratitude for bringing you to where you stand today so that you can tell your story with head held high. If this is what it feels like to walk into my wildest dreams, then I would trip, fumble and fall over the tightrope all over again just to make sure that the view on the other side is nothing short of a miracle. The inaugural weekend of my Highlights writing fellowship offered such an occasion, the culmination of a vision 20 years in the making, and the beginning of a perhaps even longer journey toward the horizon ahead.
The difference between wanting success and recognizing it in front of you is a constant exercise in perspective, one which comes only from paying homage to all of the failures that taught you to see each milestone as a saving grace. The end goal is an insatiable and fleeting target; there will always be more to achieve. But, the ability to immerse, nay surrender yourself to the universe's grand design as it transpires is well worth the wait and bittersweet agony.
And who says you have to wait alone? The theme of our first retreat was community. In the Cherokee philosophy of The Great Life, my mentor Yvonne, describes community as a commitment to holding things, people, all of the world's creatures on the path. We do not dare let go when someone slips off this path, we make friends and family, and we forgive all those who show up, including ourselves.
When you meet strangers who tell you, "We believed in you before you got here, and we will move heaven and earth to help you," you know that you have achieved your life's greatest accomplishment - conviction. What I love about being surrounded by writers and artists is that you never have to prove you are worthy. Your sense of belonging is not incumbent upon getting published, how much money you make, or how famous you are. You belong because you were brave enough to try. You are seen. You are witnessed.
Author An-Na, whom I was privileged to meet, said, "Find your path and understand your path is not going to be like anyone else's... One moment in your life will never happen again."
Writing is a gift. This fellowship and community are a gift. To all of the people, circumstances and prayers that have led me to this one moment in my life, I am truly honoured.