As my first unit of chaplain education draws to a close, one of the words of feedback I have heard most often (and most emphatically) is just how transformed I have been over the course of the past four months.
I'm not sure I like that. Which is also to say I'm not sure I agree.
Oh, on the surface, I know it seems that way, that I'm powerfully different today than I was when I walked into the door of the hospital four months ago. I am more confident, more comfortable. I am more relaxed. The smile that defined me as a young child seems to be back for good; I have been overwhelmed with joy and peace. Heck, I'm even sleeping consecutive hours a night, and I can't tell you the last time I did that! (I'd have to count such things in "decades.") I certainly look transformed.
And yet, it doesn't seem all that different to me. Because this is the woman I've always been in my head, the one I've dreamed about being, the one I've known has been called to be. There are still a few bugs to work out, but this really kinda looks like her. I've just finally been in a place where I've been able to touch that. Tough this. And it's awesome.
That's one of the bad things about story, about having one, I mean. You spend your whole life telling this story you never wanted to tell in the first place, and all of a sudden, you're set free and people see that as a big thing when to you, it's maybe the biggest thing - because it's absence of story (or at least, a new story) - but it's also a little thing because this is how it should have been all along. This is you.
I've been fortunate, I think, in that the people who have taken this journey with me have known what they are seeing become is the true Aidan, the one who's been aching to live for such a long time. They understand that although I carry my story with me, and always will, the young woman they have seen unfolding before them is as God intended her to be. She is not because of her story. She is not in spite of her story. She is not outside of her story. She simply is. I have rejoiced as they have celebrated this with me.
I think that's the key for all of us, any of us who have a story, no matter what that story is. I haven't really discussed this with a lot of people, but I think in each of us in a little place where we hold the untouched version of ourselves. It's the person we dream we are, the person we see when we close our eyes and put all qualifiers out of our minds. It's the person we pray we'll one day look in the mirror and see. This person, far from perfect, feels simply natural. It feels like the person we are supposed to be.
And I think each of us needs to find a place where we can be that person. If only for a little while.
I could spend my whole life on becoming, and in fact, I have spent a great deal of it attempting to do just that. Yet the value is in the opportunity to simply be.
I went into this opportunity trying not to carry my baggage. I went in hoping I could just be in this place, that I could do the work God has called me to do, that I could do it well and to His glory. I set aside every thought I ever had of becoming anything, even a chaplain. I was just going to be a chaplain and see where that took me.
It took me to incredible places. And maybe I am transformed; I just don't like that word. This is who I have always been. This is who I have always dreamed to be. This is the woman I have always longed to see in the mirror...it's just that finally, I do. (And it's still totally weird.)