And did you get what
you wanted from this life even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
-Raymond Carver, Late Fragment
I’m in Texas right now. I’ve been here for nearly a week now, enjoying time with my family for the holidays. We baked eleventy billion cookies, cakes, and eclairs. We’ve cooked (and cleaned up) 3 separate holiday meals, including two turkeys and a tenderloin. Mom and Ceci and I wore Matchy Matchy Holiday Shirts, this year with EMBROIDERED PENGUINS and sequins (which proves my mother is evil evil EVIL).
So let’s do the math, shall we? 7 days + TONS of food X awful shirts and dishes = Boredom and pants that don’t *quite* fit as well as they did when I boarded the airplane to fly home. So what’s a girl to do? One, quit eating all this effin’ food and two, start thinking about Things. Thinking a lot about Things. And Life. And Me. And You. (Yes, You.) And Years. And also, probably eat a little bit more.
My birthday is coming up soon, did you know? I’ll be 27 in just a few weeks. 27 is slightly scary. All the odd-numbered birthdays have always freaked me out a bit. 25 was terrifying. I know there are those of you reading this saying you’d love to be 27 again, that I shouldn’t be complaining in my youth, and I hear you. I HEAR YOU, OKAY? I’m not complaining really. I’m just…saying some words. Words that are…a little complainy. But more contemplative than complainy, truth be told. Because I’m not afraid of getting older. I’m just afraid of 27.
Remember when you were little and would daydream about being a grown-up? You’d sit and imagine how it would be, eating sugar cereals for all three meals, staying up past 9:00 to watch television, AND you’d be able to buy all the She-Ra dolls you wanted. It was going. To be. Awesome.
Whenever I thought of being a grown-up, I always thought of being 27. And I knew many things about being 27. I just knew I’d have a high-powered job in The City where I rode taxis to the office and wore a pink power suit that could be transformed into a nighttime cocktail dress by turning it inside out to reveal the hot pink sequined underside, which I would do every day after work. Then of course I’d go have a fabulous night on the town with a beautiful boy, only to take a taxi back home to my pink townhouse. With the elevator. My OWN elevator. In my townhouse. And on the weekends I’d play tennis with a different beautiful boy and shop for clothes with my equally lovely friends. I would have three friends. Each of a different ethnicity. And maybe we’d start a band.
I realize as I write this my vision of life was shaped primarily by my Barbies and a collection of contraband Sweet Valley High books.
I’m not completely delusional (really). My dreams changed shape over the years. I didn’t really want that life I used to dream about. Well, except maybe for the elevator. And the reversible clothing. I mean, who doesn’t want reversible clothing? I’m getting off track here, but my point is this: the 20s are effin’ scary. I’m more than halfway through them now and sometimes I still feel like the bottom is going to come crashing out from under me. And yet, so much has changed in just the last year.
Last year, for my 26 birthday, Linds and Toommate took me to dinner. Our conversation seemed to focus on all of the things we thought we’d have accomplished/achieved by the time we were 26. I went home (to Moo and also Ems, who was living in my dining room at the time) and wrote a list of things I knew, things I had learned in my 26 years.
The list was short.
So I crumpled it up and wrote a list of things I wanted to change in my life.
That list was also short.
I knew I didn’t want to be in Texas anymore. I’ve always had wanderlust and I always felt drawn to Seattle. So I decided to try and make that happen. My deadline? I promised myself I’d be living in Seattle by 2010.
Three months later, I packed up Susie Lightning and drove to my new home in the Emerald City. I was certain this move was going to change my life and finally turn me into the person I’d always wanted to be.
I was right. And wrong. And a little bit more right. And a little bit more wrong.
I was right in that this move really did change my life. But I was wrong in thinking I’d turn into the person I’d always wanted to be. You see, I’ve learned exactly one thing in the six months since I moved so far away: I already am who I am always going to be. I’m past the point of getting to choose who I want to be, how I want to portray myself to strangers and new people. Because when you put yourself so far outside of your comfort zone, you cling to any familiarity you can find. To my surprise, my only familiarity was myself. I realized that I know myself better now than I ever have, in all of my life. I *get* me (and not just the gist of me, but all of me). This is important and I’ll get to the Why in a minute.
I’m not saying I’m incapable of change; I’m just no longer capable of creating a New Self. Any changes now are just built onto the foundation of my Current Self, the Me that was created when I wasn’t looking. This is the Self I’ve discovered:
I know that Kindness is, to me, the Most Important bit of being alive. I know that I have a huge capacity for fierce and unconditional love, yet I’m a little afraid to explore it. I trust too easily, I get crabby if I don’t get enough sleep, and I make jokes or babble when I’m uncomfortable. I really am just a very simple girl who likes baking, reading, and being with people who make me happy. I tell stories that go on too long, I laugh a little too loud, I high-five too much (if such a thing is actually possible) and I’m sort of funny looking. I know I will never have a flat stomach and will probably always have daddy/abandonment issues. I can choose, without question or hesitation, the one album I would have with me if I were stranded on an island. I tend to think other people are more important than I am. I’m terrified of imposing on other people and never speak up for myself about little things. I have learned to appreciate all kinds of music, from hair metal Motley Crue to the Beastie Boys to life-changing Neutral Milk Hotel and Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave. Smiling is my favorite. I’m scared 37% of the time. In the shower, I always wash my right arm first, followed by my left leg. I’ve had my heart broken, catastrophically. And I’ve survived a lot. I know how to breathe in and out. I can find my center.
This is what I know of Me as my 27th birthday approaches. And it feels good, to be so familiar to myself. Because then I really am never alone. I’m clumsy, I’m awkward, I’m a little bit crazy, and I’m really quite nice. And that’s a good Self to call home, if you want to know the truth. And it’s really the only thing of which I can be certain. Because you really never know what’s going to happen next in this great comedy of errors we call life. Life doesn’t make promises. Life can’t tell you things are never going to suck. Life can’t promise that you won’t ever feel like something is missing. Life can’t assure you that you won’t want to run off with some guy with plastic hair and no visible genitalia (okay, perhaps Life can promise you *that*). Life is tricky and wonderful and effin’ hard and will take your breath away when you least expect it.
But here is the point of everything: everyone should own one piece of reversible clothing.