A lifetime in a deep sleep. Pleasant dreams and happy memories. Everything in its place and as expected. A prescribed path. A safe way. My dream was all I knew. I was safe and happy.

I was suddenly awakened.

Disoriented and confused at first. I tried to will myself back into the pleasant sleep, back into my dream but I couldn’t quite get there. I closed my eyes and desperately tried to squeeze out the brightness that burned my tender soul.

But my sleep was over. I gave in and eventually forced my eyes open to the brightness.

Squinting at first until I could adjust to the new light around me. For the first time I saw the world through new eyes. Things that were so clear in my dream were now fuzzy and out of focus.

I saw through the eyes of heartbreak, the world blurry through tears. Distorted. I couldn’t tell which way was up or down. But somehow, the tears were cleansing, refreshing, renewing.

On the other side of heartbreak was beauty. No longer in a trance-like state, the colors of the world were richer, deeper. New details I had never noticed before came into clearer focus.

I saw through the eyes of freedom. When I looked around, I saw many paths now, instead of just the one in my dream. There was beauty along so many of them. I felt free to wander among the different paths.

I saw through the eyes of injustice. I saw prejudice and inequality. But seeing it made my world richer. New purpose brought clarity and vision. I saw myself in a way I never had before. Stronger, empowered and validated.

I saw through the eyes of anger. A bitter taste I had only sampled as small bites before was now force-fed by the mouthful. I learned the flavors of anger and grief. Sadness and resentment and blaming and despair. Hurt and questioning and mistrust and doubt. All these flavors added nuance to my world and if I had to trade them all back I would miss them for how they shaped my new perspectives.

I saw through the eyes of a lover, allowing another to see me truly as I am. Conversations that I never considered or had only played out in my mind were spoken aloud in real life. Hours of talking and sharing. Truly seeing a person who I never knew I could know so much more deeply. Allowing deep personal thoughts and feelings to have a voice in our relationship.

I saw through the eyes of fear. The shadows and darkness of fear only served as contrast to the beauty around it. Acknowledging my fears helped me to see where my love and priorities truly lie. The fear of loss accentuated the importance of meaningful relationships that dot the landscape of my life.

I saw through the eyes of a doubter. Allowing hard questions a seat at my table. Deeply hearing them out and pondering as never before. Realizing that answers are not the answer and accepting that most may never come. No longer hiding from the mysteries and discomfort of not knowing. I learned to embrace these questions as my dear friends and cherish the journey they have forced me to embark upon.

I saw through the eyes of nonconformity. Looking at the world through different lenses helped me to see that the common solution is not the only solution. I saw my own opinions as worthwhile even when they didn’t conform to the group mentality. I recognized other nonconformists and I appreciated the powerful changes they made in the world.

I saw through the eyes of acceptance. People and circumstances that I did not allow into my dream roamed freely around me now. I learned to recognize them for their goodness instead of shy away from them in fear or distaste.

I was finally truly awake. But my dream never fully left me. It is just bigger now, and more inclusive. With brighter features and darker shadows.

I realize that my new awakened state may just be another dream—a richer version of the first. I can find peace in this dream and I accept it for what it is. I will let it take me where it may and if I am awakened another time, I will remember this version with fondness and be more willing to embrace the new insights that undoubtedly lie ahead.

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