A Great Renunciation

I once heard someone say that every great life has had in it a great renunciation. Now I don’t know enough about great lives to sway whether or not that’s true, but it definitely resonates with me. Ever since I turned 21 I’ve been on a journey of personal growth, determined to change myself and my life for the better. In the three years since then I’ve undoubtedly changed a lot. Yet the whole time there has been something keeping me from making the types of changes I’ve really wanted to make: the core level changes. That something is the past.

By past I don’t mean just the past events that have made up my life. I’m talking about the old habits, actions, beliefs, and thought patterns that have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The remnants of my past have stood out clearly to me as of late. Two weeks ago I finished my 8 month stint teaching English in Spain and moved back home to California for the summer. This isn’t the first time I’ve returned home after being away, but 8 months is the longest I’ve been gone.

I can’t say that I’m a completely different person than when I left back in October. I’ve definitely changed though. I’ve got new experiences under my belt, new perspectives, new insights into the inner workings of my mind. Yet upon arriving home, all of the “new” has quickly managed to take a backseat to the old. I’ve found myself instinctively falling back into old patterns, regardless of the changes I made while abroad. For me those old patterns include a lot of negativity, a lot of sitting in front of the TV, and a general lack of action. All of the great habits I built up while abroad like meditation, eating healthy, reading, and writing seem to have gone straight by the wayside.

The big issue for me isn’t how I’ve struggled in the two weeks since coming home. To be honest I expected to need a week or two to get my positive momentum back and generally adjust to life back in the states. But seeing how quickly and easily I’ve gone back to old behaviors has made me question just how badly I’ve been wanting change in my life.

I’ve talked a lot about wanting change in my life, about wanting to live a life of excellence. While that is my genuine desire, I’ve also been holding onto my comfortable past. Things like laziness, negative self-talk, judging others, complaining, staying in my comfort zone, and allowing fear to control me. These might seem like pretty normal habits, and they have been for me, but they are not congruent with who I say I want to be. They aren’t congruent with the desires that motivated me to start this blog.

I’m starting to realize that I can’t have a new and exciting future while holding on to the mindsets and behaviors that made up my past. It’s as if I’ve been driving, but the whole time I’ve had one eye on the road in front of me and one on the rear view mirror. Sure, it’s okay to occasionally look behind me, but having one eye always focused there makes it a lot harder to stay on the proper path ahead.

So as I sit here contemplating my attachment to the past, the idea of a great renunciation keeps crossing my mind. Am I willing to renounce all the things in my life that aren’t contributing to the bright future I desire? My instinctual answer is yes. But saying yes is a lot easier than actually acting on it. I’ve held onto my past for a reason. It may not bring me the happiness I desire but it’s comfortable. It’s safe. The future I want is full of unknowns. Plus there’s a big part of me that doubts I can even do it. What if I fail? What if I go back to my old ways after a few days or a few weeks?

Of course, these are all hypotheticals. The only way to actually know whether or not I can make such a great renunciation is to try it. So here goes nothing…

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