I’ve spent most of my life chasing the person I want to be. Because 20-year-old me will have better friends, and 25-year-old me will land a killer job, and 30-year-old me will be madly in love. And me 6 months from now will be skinnier, and me a year from now will be more confident, and me some time from now will be better somehow. So much better. For years, this is what I thought. That if I could just wait it out, everything would get better.
It took me a long time to realize that life doesn’t work that way. Older doesn’t mean happier or easier, and it certainly doesn’t mean better; it just means older. Life isn’t a well plotted screen play, or a checklist, or, God forbid, some waiting room. We need to stop waiting. Life isn’t about growing up to be all that we’ve ever wanted; it’s just about growing.
It’s about love, and change, and crying yourself to sleep when it’s all too much; working at a burger joint, and kissing your best friend even though he might not like you back, and calling your mom every Sunday because you miss her like hell. It’s the puffs of cigarettes even though you hate them. It’s kissing random strangers on the side of a bar, even though you already kissed your best friend. It’s fights, and promotions, and hospital visits. Trips to no where and discovering new hiding spots. And then it’s this: another wedding of another one of your high school or college friends, the third one this year, but this time you meet a groomsman who’s just as down on love as you and you dance all night. And this: he cries when you say “I do.” And this: a kid with your eyes and his dorky ears.
Or maybe not. Maybe it’s this: you write everything, everywhere, all the time, even when the prettier kids make fun of you, and the short teacher with the big nose tells you it’s good. Really good. And this: you’re living in a shoebox, by the skin of your teeth, but there’s a bar across the street that lets you read your poetry, and every time you do, someone in the crowd finally knows what it feels like to be understood. Maybe they even throw you five dollars, just because. And this: your words being published. Your words. Your honest, horrifyingly truthful words. Being bought by people who could be spending their money on anything at all. And you sit in your twin bed where you’ve written your entire novel, a dozen empty coffee mugs still dirty on the nightstand, and you scream until your lungs burn because you can, and because you have a voice that needs to be heard. It’s all of these things, and bad things, and good things, and the raw realization that it doesn’t get better or worse, it just gets different. We grow. And change. Always, always changing. And somehow that makes it more wonderful. Because future you may have the friends, and the boy, and the job, but she didn’t get it by waiting around. She is a product of you. Right now, tomorrow, changing and growing every moment that follows. Day by day, nothing seems to change, but when we look back everything is different. She is kind, and breathing, and beautiful. But she waits for the day she doesn’t have to worry about paying a mortgage bill, and she worries too often about what people think of her. She still doesn’t have it together. And maybe that’s what I’ve learned after all this time. Nobody has it together.
We’re all just here, floundering around in pursuit of being something more. Broken, thoughtful creatures with too much time on our hands, desperate for the companionship of someone who reminds us that we are not alone. We don’t have much of anything figured out. Maybe we never will. But more importantly, I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.