I went to visit some friends I hadn’t seen in quite a long time but I once spent nearly every waking moment with-college friends. We haven’t really kept in touch, to my chagrin and sometimes, resentment. Meeting today was a reminder of how far we’ve grown apart, the different turns our lives have taken, and the new worlds we are now discovering. The realization of all this, plus talking about my new boyf and my life in gay Paris, actually had me feeling dizzy for a while. In the past, I would have been heartbroken realizing that they just weren’t my best friends anymore, not knowing who would be my forever friends or how I could meet them.
Driving down to meet them, I listened to American radio, and drove, for almost the first time in several months. All of the songs I used to sing, and the drama that seems pointless and petty, and the saccharine crushes and fake, all-too-well-foretold disappointments no longer seem poignant. There was a time when all of that self imposed drama, partially a byproduct of a culture of young not really adults from mostly well-off backgrounds, hit home and I identified with those daydreams as my hopes and those specters of personal irrelevance as my fears. Not so any more. This lack of real conflict, real adventure, real blood in the game that’s not just ego-based, might be the particular malady of privileged youth, but I think it comes from letting your own small world dominate your world view, and overall letting external things that are small and insignificant, like this week’s crush or that internship application, dominate your life. It’s good to be a bit less neurotic.
I understand how people get bound up in ennui after a certain point. Life just becomes a series of tasks to be executed: graduate college, get a job, maybe go to grad school, get married, have a kid, lose your freedom to consider other options or so they say. And it’s all about passing the important milestones in time with the rest of the people in your pack, so you aren’t sick to your stomach with jealousy going to bridal then baby showers while still single, wondering “why isn’t that me?” The only way to get out of that rat race is to understand the quesetion, “Why, me?” “What am I here for? What is the point of all of this?” If you can answer that question, no matter what the occasion, you will find it meaningful and uplifting, or at least constructive. You will at least be able to take pleasure in another’s good fortune, and isn’t that friendship?
Personally, I’ve wanted a boyfriend for a long time. I thought if I had someone to love me, understand me, cuddle me, and tickle me, especially when my friends all seemed to have boyfriends, all the difficulties of being an early 20s person would disappear or at least be alleviated. Since I know I definitely want to get married and have children, it seemed like a logical item to have on the list of my all-consuming desires (up there with Purpose, Meaning, Job). As my friends seemed drifting away and loneliness weighed heavy on my heart, it seemed a reasonable one. Given the pain, suffering, and utter seriousness of my first and last relationship, almost 3.5 years with my first love and high school boyfriend, I seriously hoped the next person I dated for real would be the One and with it the end of the ups and downs of having a love life and sayonara to solitary singlehood. Since I was trying to design my life and the blank canvas was staring me in the face and lack of restraints were holding me back, I figured having something to hold me down would make it easier and better. But love isn’t there to hold you back, give you a more comfortable cage, or prevent you from asking the big questions.
I have realized just how much constantly flying from one part of the globe to the next impinges romance. Therefore, I put a lot of pressure on myself to find a “serious” relationship to be “worth” all the hard work and giving up the fun of being single when separated (as much as I felt that I had had enough of such fun and would rather have a long distance honey than be alone, thinking anything else was transitory, fickle, and superficial). And here I am, hoping a nascent love relationship- not sure if we can call it love LOVE yet, not quite the right moment- is big enough to span an ocean, the uncertainty, or rather, adventure of finding a job hopefully in Paris where he is, and the meeting of two different people, and the cultural habits they bring with them.
But I don’t want a small world. The world is small enough as it is, and it doesn’t need small people either. Yes, my experiences have stretched the boundaries of my world, my identity, and my personal limits- and more than that, my soul. It’s not a question of going to grad school, or traveling the world, so I can get it out of my system then find a job and a place and a lifestyle I can tolerate so I can wake up and do the same thing everyday. And know what is “supposed” to happen next week, next month, next year.
I don’t think the people who live “ordinary” lives are boring or humdrum- life is a privilege, an adventure, and for many, a struggle for survival. People who have known real struggle and hardship in their life, or who have something or someone they really care about and work hard for, are not too be pitied because their lives aren’t easy. Immigrants in search of a better life don’t get up every morning and wonder why they do what they do. They might wonder why fate has led them to work in a position far below their skills and why, but for the grace of being born in a developed country, they are not running the office they are cleaning. They might feel those born to relative global privilege are soft and spoiled, and they might weep for family members left behind, or those lost in a new world beyond what their former lives prepared them for. But I don’t think they ask why and I don’t think they feel empty. Some might see their lives as a struggle, a hardship, a duty, but at least their worries aren’t vain and their perspective is grounded.
Here I am wondering in my little loft, in my ivory tower, in my rose-tinted lamplight. I’m about to start another big adventure, and I want to make sure it is a real one, and not just another ego struggle that hurts me and everyone around it. I want to live fully in Philly, keep my eyes peeled for opportunity and not go through the motions, and keep going on the way to get to Paris. My honey is about to meet my fam (cleaning the extra room now) and I don’t know when I’ll see him in the foreseeable future (hoping he decides to come visit again though!), at least not before September or maybe a stopover on the way to Asia for that part of my grad school in June. I don’t want to cling to him, because I’m afraid of being alone. I don’t want to force “the conversation,” before its time and the answer has become crystal clear. And I don’t think, with this particular person or in this life, I’ll be able to find safety in routine. Instead, I’m just going to have to watch it develop.
I can say that I feel some desire for him to be it, the answer to my prayers, the final mountain before heavenly couple-y bliss. I don’t really want to be alone, as much as it wouldn’t be easy to be in a long distance relationship, and who knows who I may meet or what revels of youth I would squander being in a couple. But if I can answer the question, “Does he make me happy?” with a yes and a smile, even if I can’t quite say whether i want to have his babies yet, none of that will matter. Even knowing that in a month or a day, things could change. He wouldn’t hold me down, but pull me towards me. And I’m not going to hang on to me if he wants to let go, either. I deserve to be held on to, and held. Even if it means having to admit I want to be;)
Finding out that life doesn’t have rules can be liberating but dizzying. Finding out that life does have certain laws, like laws of physics where the exception proves the rule, can be sobering, but also structuring. And sometimes you just have to have done a little living in order to figure out what to do with your life, and how to do it.
Happiness is not about finding something for nothing, a penny on the sidewalk, or simply being born under a lucky star ( though it helps). Happiness is about using the nightsky for navigation, as well as wonder, and knowing every step you take is leading you closer to something and farther from where you are now. It means accepting change, but also knowing what is true, right, and constant- knowing the “forever” as well. Realizing that we are always, and will always be, in the eternal now. It seems like we are moving, but we are still here, and always were here. But here is an adventure, here is what dreams are made of, and now is the time to make them.