How A Journey Towards A Brand New You Doesn’t Have To Require Leaving Everyone Else Behind
As she played the first chords, something within me knew that I was about to discover the anthem for this season of my life. Then came the lyrics— It’s been a while…I’m not who I was before… As she continued singing “Brand New Me,” scenes of my life—friendships, fears, and pain—played in my head. Alicia Keys had written a song for me. (I’m almost completely serious about that.) Hearing her close with “It’s a brand new time for me…yeah…” sounded more like “It is finished.” I immediately got out of bed and went to the salon to chop my hair off (again), but this time I resolved that it (my hair) would not be my glory and that no one and nothing would keep me from my destiny. This girl was on fire! Nobody could tell me nothin!
Fancy earrings, selfies, and a shopping spree at the thrift store were only the beginning. The caged bird was finally flying. My passion to write was restored, I was meeting new people, I was traveling, I was laughing, I was dancing, and I wasn’t crying anymore. There was no pain. I’d dealt with the idols in my heart and turned in my counterfeit gods. I could finally breathe. That is until one day, months later, a very dear friend of mine dropped a bomb on me—I’d changed. I’d stopped contacting her as much, I was short in my responses when I did, I wasn’t as concerned with her welfare, and the list went on.
My first thought: HATER. Dang. One of my best friends isn’t happy for me? Really?!? If [she] was worth the while, she’d be happy to see my smile. My response: I did what all the self-help people tell you to do. I decided to surround myself with positive people and not allow any negative energy to bring me down. Derailment avoided. But now, this freedom train was carrying loads of guilt. Had I changed? Was my friend really just hating? Was I willing to lose this friend in order to stay positive? Yes, no and absolutely not.
Some of my change was long overdue and meant freedom, so it couldn’t be bad. But I began to recall Prince’s surprising words during his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame speech. He’d said, “I learned that too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay.” Whoa.
Indeed, other aspects of my change were loaded with pride and selfishness. I’d gone from one extreme (dependence) to the next (independence). My pursuit of happiness had quickly become a path of self-preservation that abandoned chivalry. I didn’t want to hear anyone’s bad news nor did I want to be anyone’s shoulder to cry on. I wanted to think and reason for myself and define things as I saw fit. And I didn’t want to feel bad for enjoying this new way of life. Yet, I had to consider that while there are people who literally do no want to see you prosper, there are others who wrestle with their own discontentment and have yet to overcome it in order to celebrate you. They are not liberated, so your freedom mocks theirs. Your happiness taunts their depression. Your smile laughs at their tears. And beyond that, they weren’t prepared for the new you. You all have not been re-introduced.
But that reintroduction will take time and seemingly slow you down. And if life is a race in which winning is determined by who allows the least amount of pain, burden, arguments, and frustration to enter into their lives before they cross the finish line, then the best thing for you to do is to avoid negativity at all costs. Don’t slow down. Avoid the depressed, avoid pessimists, avoid quitters, avoid opponents, avoid, avoid, avoid. But that’s not what life is. And we know it. We know that because we’ve been depressed, we’ve been pessimistic, we’ve wanted to quit (or have quit) something, and we’ve been opposed to things and people. We would be avoided and left aside on the road waiting on a good Samaritan all the same. I can’t speak for Alicia’s situation—it is actually her song about her own life—so her resolve could very well be the best for her, and I will continue to cheer for her freedom. (Die hard fan over here.) But sometimes the people who challenge and frustrate us, or interrupt our lives the most, are the people who will actually help transform us into better people. So, in turn, the path of least resistance can often be the path to mediocrity, self-righteousness, and incompleteness even if it looks like we’re on the yellow brick road.
After apologizing to my friend, and hopefully mending our broken relationship, I wondered how I could pursue my dreams and be happy without becoming a mean girl and losing sight of what is true and good? I knew it would have to involve resetting my moral compass by an unchanging north star. And I recalled that North Star being what my pastor always says: “Love God, love people, and do whatever else you want. The restriction is in the first two.”
That’s a brand new kinda free…yeah.