Thirty years ago today, a marine married an FBI employee. They said it wouldn’t work. They told her he was rigid, and to move across the country for him was an impractical choice. They did. Those people are my parents, and today is their thirtieth wedding anniversary. My birthday is in ten days. Around this time of year, I reflect on what I’ve “learned”, or what I’m carrying into this upcoming year. And while I’ll probably do that, I want to tell you how little I know. You already know this. I’m not even 26 at this point. Hubris reigns high over my ego. I trip over it a lot.
My mother was already dating my father when she was my age. My grandmother was married. I can’t remember to water houseplants! Anxiety flurries through my thoughts. I fret that I’ll never find love or become a mom. I see my peers’ lives aligning. I don’t want what they have, but I want their certainty. I crave guardrails and guidelines that I know I’d light on fire. That’s the rub of being in your twenties– wanting all the freedom and all the certainty. Certainty demands responsibility, and as we have already established from the houseplant example, I am not there yet.
My feral twenties are not finished with me. I can feel it. I wish I were different– more subdued, quieter, more demure, able to mute my confusion through its process. I can’t. My thoughts exist at fortissimo. My voice is an amp at the highest volume.
I don’t know if I’ll build a life with anyone or do that alone. I don’t know what city I’ll call home or what it will look like. I wonder if I will have children and what their names will be. I wonder about life and God and relationships and all the things. Overlooking 26 as it nears, everything is a sea of question marks. Fear looms, but I remind myself that there will come a time when my life solidifies. There will be a day when I have a mortgage and a spouse and childcare fees, and a piece of me will wax nostalgic about the times when I didn’t know it would be this. The other part of me will be grateful.
For now, I cherish the small and sacred things. We build a big life in tiny gestures. A desert is nothing but so many grains of sand. The small things add up. I hold the for open for others. I greet with a wide grin, and I try to brighten up spaces upon my arrival– even when I’m hurting. Humans possess unsummoned superpowers– a great one is the impact we can have on other’s days and experiences. So I check in on people. I ask them how they’re doing. I live my values. I don’t care if it’s making sure that the cashier rings out that last bottle of Diet Pepsi, it’s important to own up to things. Maybe the only God among us is the one we create by reminding each other that we matter. Miracles spark when we show up for one another.
Community is when many of us show up for each other. Community is what we build when we quit being cool and bring our mess to the forefront. Of all the small and sacred things, the gestures and notes and affection from my people reigns supreme. The electric pulse of my friend’s heart as he hangs me tightly is finer than any guitar riff I’ve heard. When my big brother’s body became a shield between me and my own tears, I felt protected. When my friend hurled her arms around mine, I felt loved. People discount the enormity of actions. They think they go unnoticed. No human heart is blind to unconditional kindness. It softens us– reminds us that we’re just cells and flesh and breakable things. We were never intended to harden. The greatest gift I can offer others is the assurance that I will always be their haven– a place they don’t have to perform before, the fortress for their fallen, a sanctuary for their softness.
As for people who suck– because there are plenty– I’m still learning that it isn’t my job to win them over. It isn’t a good use of my time to hope for the worst, for some karmic law where a wrong is righted. All I can do is view this as a data point, not an influencer of my behaviors. I can’t ruminate on who has screwed me over because we’ve all been screwed over. That doesn’t make me special. I am only a victim for as long as I see myself that way. I don’t see myself by what other people have done to me.
I know very little. This entry isn’t the pontification where I wax sanctimonious about how wise I am. I’m not. This is a plea to good things. This is a challenge I raise to myself to stay true blue, even when it’s hard. The past two weeks alone have kicked my ass, humbled me, left me on the floor with a mouthful of gravel. And I still believe life is beautiful, even if it smells like horseshit sometimes. Love is real, and friends are never overrated.
When I really lose sight of who I am, I remember the daughter my parents raised me to be. They taught us to be conscientious, polite. Say please and thank you. Go vote. Obey traffic laws. Help people who need it. Leave a place better than how you found it. Be a good sport. These sound like Leave it to Beaver, second grade, cornball lessons, but there’s truth to them. It feels lonely to live them when it feels like the world is all wolves. But people are always watching. People are always looking for some good to rely on. Be that good. I know two people today who are. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!