| by K.S. |

It was a beautiful morning in May, in the hardest year of my life, when I had my first real epiphany.

In the months leading up to this day, my life was coming apart at the seams. Less than a year prior, I was 23 years old; I was a newlywed college graduate with a new job. Then a spark turned into a fire and turned my world upside down. My home was destroyed one fateful night less than a month after my wedding. In the months that followed, the other less physical pillars that held my life up started falling, one by one. I felt lost. I hated my job. I lost a dog that I loved and the job that I hated within months of each other. And on top of everything else, I found out that the person I had married was a liar and someone I could no longer trust.

By this time I truly was due for a good epiphany, or maybe a good kick in the ass. I was in the process of trying to decide whether I could forgive my husband for what he had put me through or if I would give up on the relationship after only 8 months of marriage, though we had been together from the time I was 16. Was I ready to be divorced at 24? To give up on an 8 year relationship, which at that point was a good chunk of what my life had been? Would it all just be a waste? Was I worth any better? What the hell was I supposed to do with my life?

I did what many of us do in hard times like this; I clung tightly to the people I loved. My mother in particular was my rock, my cheerleader, my sounding board. One day in a local village while shopping, a flier caught my eye. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama himself was actually going to be in MY TOWN to give a talk in the coming weeks. I had taken it upon myself to learn about him while I was in college and was incredibly moved by his story and his strength. My gut told me I had to go, a feeling I didn’t question. My mother taught me to always trust my gut. As always, she was right.

I arrived at the arena with my mother and best friend in tow. I was excited, but so nervous too. I know looking back that I was hoping for something, though I had no idea what. Somehow, I knew that I needed some wisdom, and I thought to myself, ‘where better than from a man whose name literally means Ocean of Wisdom, someone who I believe truly embodies that concept’. We were in the nosebleed section, and looking down at that tiny man in his big comfy chair was surreal. There was an unexplainable feeling during those two hours. He talked mostly about very general subjects: finding happiness, overcoming obstacles, having a positive and compassionate mindset, and forgiveness. He fielded questions from the audience, patiently listening and giving his perspective in his own, kindhearted manner. He told some personal stories of inspiration, stories that had inspired others.

It is amazing to me now that at 29 years old, 5 years later, I don’t even remember the exact words that hit me like a ton of bricks. Perhaps the exact words don’t even matter. All I knew in that moment was, this life was the only one I was going to get. It was not to be wasted. And I was the only one who could take control of it. Before I realized what was happening, I was in tears. I knew what I had to do. I had to forgive myself. And I had to allow myself the chance to start over.

So that is exactly what I did. I started over. From scratch. And I have never been more proud of myself for how far I have come, and for the bravery it took to get me here.

Always trust your gut. Keep your heart and your mind open. And never underestimate the power of forgiveness. Especially when you need it most from yourself.

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