Life as I Knew It Ended- So I Created My Own

I recently watched all seven seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars for the first time. As a life-long Star Wars fan, I was excited to learn more about prequel-era characters and watch my favorite Jedi (Obi-Wan) go on adventures. I was not expecting to find a new favorite character in Ahsoka Tano, apprentice to Anakin Skywalker. (This blog isn’t all about Star Wars, so you non-stans, just hold on.)

I loved Ahsoka for her attitude and spunky personality, but what made her become so near and dear to my heart is her story. You see, Ahsoka had a plan for her life, and everything was going according to plan. She was well on her way to becoming a Jedi Master, and was working under one of the strongest Jedis she could learn from. But then, someone she trusted betrayed her. Her life spiraled and crashed to the floor, along with her hopes and dreams. She made the choice to walk away from her broken life and start fresh. It was rough for a while, not only trying to move on but having to make peace with the fact that her plans and dreams were something she would never get back. Eventually, she created a life for herself that allowed her to fight for others and continue making a difference in the galaxy, which is what she truly wanted all along.

When I first watched Ahsoka leave the Jedi order, I cried. I cried because I understood. I know the pain of having to walk away from what you thought you always wanted. I cried because I felt so SEEN and understood. I cried because the end of one life may seem like the end of the road, but it’s actually the beginning of something even better.

At the end of 2019, the life I had planned, dreamed of, and loved came to an abrupt halt. Much like Ahsoka, someone that I trusted with everything betrayed me and I was left alone, wondering why. I could have chosen to stay and keep fighting for as long as possible, but I could feel that it was over. I called the final shot and walked away from everything I knew.

Starting your life from scratch at 21-years-old is not fun. I felt like I was tossed into battle without my lightsabers, though I wasn’t completely defenseless. I had my family, my friends, and a heart that refused to quit. I moved into my new apartment, dyed my hair red, and adopted a cat from the shelter. We both needed a friend and we found each other.

The beginning of this year was truly a new beginning for me. I was entering my last year of college, starting a new internship and church, and working through my emotions with grit and determination. Through the tears that I cried over pages of poetry, I thought of everything I could now reach for and accomplish in this new life- things I never could have done before.

I spent more time with friends and reconnected with my family. I enjoyed hours that I spent alone and found that I was finally falling in love with myself. I made after-college plans and reveled in the fact that only I am in charge of my destiny.

Of course life is messy, and a worldwide pandemic ripped up the plans I had just formulated- the ink hadn’t even dried on the page yet. However, the following months in isolation gave me ample opportunities to dig into the crevices and pull up the painful weeds I had been ignoring in my busyness. I was finally able to finish burying the old me, alongside the past and the hurt, and from that dirt grew a beautiful new version of myself that I have loved watching flourish.

I’m not completely where I want to be yet, but I have made leaps and bounds in my progress. Depression, anxiety, and anorexia no longer have a grip on me that threatens to strangle my lungs. Instead, they are kept at a distance. They occasionally try to swing by for a visit, but it isn’t long before I kick them out again.

I have discovered the art of not giving a f*ck. What people think of me is none of my business. Nor does it matter or impact me in any way. If others pass judgement on me, that’s their own problem. This is still something I struggle with in some aspects, but old McKenzie would be astonished at how much I don’t care for the opinions of others anymore.

New McKenzie is much more aware of the struggles of others and is learning how to respond to them. In many ways this makes me more liberal, vegan, and compassionate. I’m learning when to give advice and when to just listen, which is a struggle as an enneagram 2 because I want to FIX everything. I’m learning that isn’t my responsibility.

I’m starting to do more things simply because I want to. I shaved my head, and recently dyed it purple. I have plans to attempt other colors soon, too. I don’t know why I preferred the “natural look” for so long when bright colors are so much more fun. I’m also learning more about my own style and what I enjoy wearing. Along with that, I am much more comfortable in my own body than I ever was before. I still have bad body image days, like everyone, but I truly love my natural body.

I am much more accepting of myself in many ways. I trust my own experiences, and I believe that I know what’s best for me (in most cases). I no longer try to hide from or lie to myself about my lack of sexual feelings and now embrace my sexuality with more love than I know what to do with.

I have matured more in ways I didn’t realize I needed. I’m more aware of my own shortcomings, especially ways that I was toxic in my past. I’m working through that, and I don’t hate my past self for the mistakes I’ve made. I am not the same person I was even just six months ago- why would I waste time hating her when I could work on myself instead?

Something I’ve struggled with most of my life is relying on others in situations when I should simply trust myself and my own judgement. Even just three weeks ago when I dyed my hair, I asked far too many people if they thought it was a good idea, what color I should do, if I could pull it off, etc. To challenge that instinct, I decided to get a new tattoo without begging for opinions. I told two people about the design idea beforehand, but mostly because I was too excited to keep it in. I wanted this symbol inked on my body forever, and I knew that what other people thought was irrelevant. Old McKenzie never would have dreamed of getting something so permanent without at least asking her close friends Instagram story if it was a good idea. New McKenzie trusted herself and just went for it. It may seem small, but it feels huge to me.

This symbol doesn’t only represent my love for Star Wars and one of my favorite characters. To me, it means a new life. It means changing paths with a broken heart and walking away from the dying light towards something better, something you create for yourself. It means inner strength to overcome the hardest battles and a fire that refuses to quit. It means never giving up on yourself, even when everyone else does.

So here’s to more growth. Here’s to Future McKenzie being even more confident, strong, and sure of herself. Here’s to Old McKenzie for surviving impossible things- because of her perseverance, I get to be where I am today. And here’s to New McKenzie, Current McKenzie, who has learned so much and loves so hard and is always, always enough.

I leave you with this poem I cried while wring in January. I hope you can find happiness in the rough times, too, because that’s when you know it’s real.

You left me because you weren’t happy.
I cried because I thought I was.
But once I was free from your grasp,
the black spots in my vision turned to light.
Who would have thought that all I needed to do
to find the happiness I’ve been searching for my whole life
was walk away from who I thought I wanted to be with
and run towards who I want to be.

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