1. Something new:
"I was shopping for shorts and tried on a pair in my 'usual' size. Instantly, I found that I couldn't button them. When I went up the next size, the shorts zipped — but they certainly didn't fit. So I went up once again, this time feeling nothing but dread. As soon as I slid those shorts on, though, I realized I was so comfortable. That's when it hit me — I'd spent years forcing myself into uncomfortable clothing because I'd made it all about a number. I work in bridal alterations, and I often tell this story to brides who are self-conscious about sizing. It's the moment that started my journey of accepting and appreciating the body I have."
2. The divine intervention:
"I grew up in a very atheist household, but when I was 10, my father took me to Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris. I was immediately stunned by the beautiful architecture and religious images, particularly the painting above the altar. I remember so vividly standing there thinking that I finally understood religion, which had always been a bit of a mystery before. Now I’m a religious historian!"
3. The law of the land:
"In pretty much any industry, when you get your first job after graduating school there's a moment when you realize that no one really knows what they're doing. For me, it happened when I was clerking in law offices and heard experienced lawyers try to cope with the often baffling and frustrating situations they encountered on the daily."
—Eric Sams, Facebook
4. Seeing the light in Alaska:
"I’ve always been in love with the northern lights. My favorite book is Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name. I think it’s the prettiest title I’ve ever heard, and it led me to travel to Alaska to see the lights. When I did, I was wowed by how something so massive and beautiful was indifferent to my existence. It made me feel small and free, because the world is too vast to be constricted by anything. In many ways, it felt like the northern lights had erased my name."
5. A daily reminder:
"This isn't one singular 'aha' moment but a continuous revelation throughout adulthood. Each day I inch closer to understanding that literally everyone in this world is figuring out life like the rest of us, and we're all trying to do our best. This revelation has helped me develop a profound sense of empathy for everyone's journey to make it in this world."
6. A Scandinavian surprise:
"I was planning my first trip outside of the US. I was beyond excited to be visiting Paris and London, two places I'd romanticized forever. When my friend suggested we stop in Stockholm, too, I was...unenthused. I really just wanted to dedicate my time abroad to those two big, beautiful cities. Still, I agreed to visit Sweden. When we finally took our trip, I realized that I was so wrong in wanting to skip Stockholm. The city was stunning, and it took my breath away."
7. Letting go and looking in:
"When I was a kid, I was extremely shy and hated talking to strangers. That fear stayed with me for years, until I started going out when I became of age. When I was at bars and clubs, I realized that the people I was with when I was there liked me in my most outgoing and talkative state. This also meant that they could like me at my most 'demure.' It was an 'aha' moment that allowed me to be the extroverted person I am today and feel comfortable with who I am."
8. The band's visit:
"My biggest 'aha' moment came when I was 12 and watching an advanced symphonic band at my middle school while I myself was in our school's 'beginning' band. They started playing the theme from a movie I loved, and I watched with enchantment. That moment just inspired me to be the best French horn player I could be. Today, I'm in a symphonic band and have had several of these spine-tingling musical moments."
9. The international scholar:
"When I was a senior in high school, I was faced with the following (and very common) question: 'What do I want to do with my life, and where do I want to go from here?' I was feeling pretty down about my prospects, settling for schools and majors that didn't challenge me. It was only when I was about to hand in my applications that I had a moment of true clarity in which I asked myself: 'Is this what I really want with my life?' I did a lot of research and found that pursuing my passion in the UK might offer a more accessible shot at my dreams. Now, I'm studying abroad for a dual degree in my favorite subjects.”
10. A return to the arts:
"Growing up, I was lucky enough to be exposed to a fair amount of musical theatre. As I got older, though, I stopped seeing shows as much, thinking they were something I outgrew. I recently attended a musical for the first time in years, and as the act one finale came to a swelling close, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was in that moment that I remembered the way musical theatre always made my heart swell and sparked creativity within me."
11. Once on this island:
"When I was in high school, I didn't go out too much, and when I did, it was safe, contained fun. It was pretty out of character for me, then, to agree to attend a concert on Governor's Island in NYC one June. I was on this crowded island, littered with people drinking beer and shrouded in layers of smoke. I felt anxious and out of place. When the band finally started playing, though, everything just sort of clicked. As their music surged through the crowd, I could suddenly appreciate everything around me — the warm late-spring air, the gentle waves of the Hudson River around us. It was a dream, and it's the reason I'm in love with live music today."
12. If the diaper fits:
"I was at a restaurant having lunch with some friends. I was about 25 and hadn't thought much about whether or not I'd have kids — maybe I'd want them eventually, but I definitely wasn't sure about it. When I left the table and hit the restroom, I saw a woman changing her baby's diaper. The baby was so cute, and we smiled at each other. I don't know why it was this random moment that opened my eyes and made me realize that I really did want kids some day — but I returned to the table changed. I knew I wanted kids. I've thought of that moment a lot, especially now that I'm getting closer to starting the journey to parenthood."
—Jana Pollack, Facebook
All images from iStock
Note: Submissions have been edited for length, clarity, and spelling.