Tonight has been a night of introspection. I am always startled a little and usually humbled when I get the chance to read older things I've written: e-mails, journal entries, poems, the embarrassing Livejournal I kept as a high-schooler, etc. As I catch those real glimpses into how I felt and thought and wrote at different stages of my life, I feel much like French-Canadian author Gabrielle Roy did when describing one of the fundamental challenges of writing her autobiography at seventy years old: by that time, the child version of herself was just as much a stranger to her as her old-and-wrinkled self would have been to young Gabrielle had they met on the street. Even at the ripe young age of twenty-four, I think I understand that feeling. Sometimes I look back at myself, even five or six months ago, and I feel like that's a completely different girl in a completely different universe. I'm familiar with her―like we're good friends or something―but I don't feel like she and I are the same. It's even stranger as I look at my younger and younger selves, from high school, middle school, elementary school... the farther back I go, the more I feel like I'm stealing someone else's memories.
In the instance of the writing I found tonight, I'm more blown away by how similar I feel to the Richelle who wrote this on January 1, 2010 in an e-mail to a faraway friend. I had just taken the GRE, I was waiting to hear back about my grad school applications, and nothing seemed certain:
I let my mind wander. I thought about the strange weave of happiness and misery, of trust and fear that comprise the fabric of my life. I thought about A, how he begged for my trust. I thought about C, and how maybe something I did along the way broke his. I thought about moving―all my memories, all my "stuff"―to a new place for graduate school. I thought about my dad and what it would be like to talk to him about all of this. I thought about what I told my friend Philip: how, even as I was "opening up" to him, I have never really let anyone see me fall apart the way I want to every time I really think of how different life is without Dad. Not my friends. Not my family. Hardly myself.
I thought about how my lives are so different. I come home and feel like this is where I'm meant to be: with my family, playing games and enjoying a good time in this house I grew up in. I go back to school and I forget what it was ever like to just be a room away from my mom rather than a country away. I adjust to my new realities with such great ease that I hardly feel the transition. I'm not sure how much I like that.
I thought about taking the GRE. How smart I really am. What "hard work" really means. What it's really going to take to buckle down and do this grad school thing and end up being a professor, as is my (current) goal. I'm not really sure about my goals, though. I'm not sure if I just decided on something to answer the questions that get fired at me.
I took that four hour test and, exhausted, made the two-hour drive back home. I flipped back to that song. I listened to some other music that reminds me of my freshman year at school. I think back to that year a lot because of everything it represented to me: leaving home for the first time, starting my new life in a new place, meeting a boy who would change everything for me, learning who I was because I could no longer be defined by what was comfortable.
Tears streamed down my face.
Today, I had a five-hour conversation with my friend at a Mexican restaurant. We just sat there and talked and talked and talked, our lunch getting cold and inedible but our hearts getting filled with that rich soul food of a good conversation with a good friend. I feel like I just sort of chalked up my life and my troubles to a few basic things... Trust. An underlying sense of justice to a fault. A belief in passion. The importance of a strong mind, and how that strong mind sometimes makes life lonelier.
It's funny how the minute you start to "boil things down" and create a synthesis like today's conversation or Monday's long drive, you realize just how complex life is.
But underneath the summary lies all that goes unsaid, and a universe of possibility.
I'm not sure there is much to do beyond letting all of that speak for itself. The uncertainties I face now (three years later) are largely the same as I prepare to move out of my grad school context in Provo and into... something else. I still don't know how much of me is who I am and how much of me is what I feel others expect. I still marvel at how readily I adapt to new realities, and I wonder what to call home.
This isn't the kind of thing I had planned to share on this blog, but I thought for tonight it might suggest the universality of these little fears and revelations to someone else who is wondering about the grand design of these messy, beautiful things we call our lives.
In the end, I believe it's best to put our trust in that universe of possibility, "for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:27), even writing a master's thesis or becoming a professor or finding a job or a home (in any sense of it) or someone to reallyreally love. We were made to have and to do and to be all of that, and universes more.