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With Every Breath…Start Over

“It’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best of it or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

A friend of mine recently told me that we learn by looking backwards – too bad we have to live life forwards. Perhaps because I was watching the Oscars and saw many people tell stories of redemption or perhaps because my family has had to do some major shifting after finding a new member of the family, I began to ponder the idea of starting over.

If you were to look at all the big movies in 2008 – Milk, SlumDog Millionaire, Frozen River, The Wrestler, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, and Revolutionary Road – you will see that they all touch on major issues of birth, death, redemption, decisions, relationships, and hope-filled visions. It’s in the smallest of moments when the biggest decisions are made and questions get asked. How do I say good-bye? How can I promote equality and justice? Where do I fit in? How can I love more?

It’s easy to see a speck of light in another, but often more difficult to see it in ourselves. Starting over means we can release the past without judgment and move forward without baggage. How many times have you started over? I think about the first time I moved out of the house at 17 and never looked back. I was hoping for a new environment to escape to and hopefully find a place to thrive. I found my first job in the South Bronx and moved with two duffel bags and a few hundred bucks to start over. I had to find my way, often literally, because I got on the wrong subway. After I felt like I had given all I had serving youth in the South Bronx, I changed jobs. In my new job at the Red Cross, I taught CPR/First Aide and trained volunteers. In starting over at the Red Cross, I decided I would be ‘out of the closet’ from the beginning and put a picture of my partner on my desk. After a few years, and a lot of management turn over, I left and returned to the South Bronx to help create youth focused programs.

After 15 years in nonprofit, I realized that it was my time to lead, to inspire, to create my own way, so I started my own company. With the support of my partner, a dream, and a notebook full of ideas, I launched my healing arts company in 2006. It was outside of everything that was comfortable, easy, and known, but I had to do it. I realize to start over, you may have to be willing to give up what may seem real, important, and safe. But in starting over, the real gift is that life opens new doors and gifts never imagined come into your life.

I am not sure I could ever be Benjamin Button and live life backwards, but I can take time to really ‘be myself’ looking forward. Time is more than a gift; it’s an imaginary line that moves. Starting over is more than changing jobs, it’s changing the direction of the road you travel. Every day, every moment, every minute is a chance to start over. With each breath, I hope you have the courage to start over.

Mary Anne

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