The Truth About Having it All: Wisdom Born from Experience

I fell. My body plummeted 15 ft off a rooftop in San Francisco. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the sky shown a glorious facade of white and blue. I remember standing somewhere I shouldn’t be; until I wasn’t. My foot veered backwards, and with my foot the weight of my body inherently followed. It felt long, my descent through the middle of an emergency stairwell. I’m falling far I thought. I crashed one story later, paralyzed by impact, stricken by the intensity of disbelief. I had no expression, no tears left my eyes. Undeniably and solemnly jarred, I fell. 

When I was a little girl I would play pretend. I took myself to places a young girl knew nothing about. I was a mother of 4, a business woman the following day, a journalist on weekends, and an actress on Mondays. I had a wide variety of professions I dreamed myself up as, little girl big dreams my brother always saysUsually he’s referring to my dog, but you get the point. I knew from a very young age I wanted a large life. I am not a simple woman. I would sure love to be, I would love to be satisfied with very little. Though I know that isn’t true… I want it all, every last bit. 

My desire for such a life has been at the forefront of every decision I have made thus far. I am undeniably passionate, often intense. I say yes… habitually and without reluctance. One more drink, one more trip I can’t afford, one more spur of the moment decision. I say yes. I could never understand why some people wouldn’t, their unwillingness to embrace opportunities and relish in new experiences dejected me. When I was younger I wanted so badly to be older. I craved the knowledge that comes from experience, the smile from a woman who knows. Yet, I seldom understood it's price. Experience comes with a price. We pay for our choices, right or wrong, they're bound to us in a way we can’t unfasten. 

I’m old enough to know I shouldn’t be standing on that ledge, and young enough to think I’ll walk away unharmed. I’m old enough to understand the importance of appetite, and young enough to think that every experience I crave will bring value to my life. It took me a long time to realize that some experiences cause real damage. It’s not alluring or seductive like the movies make it to be; damage is painful. It can deeply effect our spirits, and it’s easily passed on to others around us; spreading like a sickness, poisoning our hearts, and setting fire to all that keeps us grounded. The older I get the more I’ve come to understand the last drink is usually not worth having, not every dime we make merits spending, and not every spur of the moment decision will be the right decision. We pay for our choices.   

No one likes to admit when they’ve made a mistake. We’ve been sold a lie that says, it’s all part of the experience, that somehow every rash decision or thoughtless endeavor was intended that way. I think if we’re being honest, that isn’t quite true. We feel the weight of our mistakes, we ultimately carry the destruction they create. It takes strength to look at our actions critically, it takes grit to excavate meaning from them. When I look seriously at my faults, inaccuracies, miscalculations, I aim first to see the goodness in myself and second to see the truth. I try to think of myself as that little girl. I first see innocence. I see long auburn hair, and earnest green eyes, a kind spirit, a pure heart. I remember how it felt to be her, and I bring myself back. She is me, I am her. They say the truth will set you free, and I don’t think I’ve ever known something that felt as true.   

I urge you to focus your efforts on living purposefully, not recklessly. We can live powerful, feverish, electrifying lives without losing ourselves in the process. We can say yes. We can say yes over and over again to all that sustains us, grows us, and gives us pride. There will be moments that call for risk, just as there will be moments that call for certainty and stability. True wisdom asks you to know the difference. So let us walk discerningly and deliberately into all that ignites us. With each new crossroad and each new opportunity I hope each of us deciphers between all that is bountiful and all that is futile. May you seek the right kind of experiences; not those which leave you hollow, but those which build you up.

On May 29th of 2017 I broke my back. I fractured my T12 vertebrae after falling 15 ft. off a rooftop building in San Francisco. The doctors told me I was lucky to be standing, how it could’ve been so much worse. But I will feel this injury for the rest of my life. I will wake up every morning with aches and pains, I will live with the repercussions of a careless mistake. It could’ve happened to anyone… I know this is true. But I happen to think of this injury in parallel to the choices we make every day. While some experiences cultivate growth and understanding, others have the ability to cause permanent damage. Sometimes we fall. We fall hard, and fast, and we crash at the bottom. How do we get up? How do we move forward? I believe we rise with grace, and into wisdom. And next time, we fall better. (Or maybe.. we know better - and we don’t fall at all.)

Anna Vatuone1 Comment