At 27, particularly as peers buy houses, make babies, get engaged, get married, hit career milestones, finish grad school, pay off student loans, and buy cars, I sometimes feel a little left out. Not to mention, there are moments I have felt that with all my personal package, not limited to student loans, I will never be able to find my way out of the imperfect mess I made, the choices I made when younger and less full of piss and vinegar that seem to put boundaries around my life, like a pet carrier or a baseball diamond.
For a long time, I grew like a goldfish within them, until I got a sense of what it felt like to be accepted for who you are, to finally fit in without trying, and then I realized I was a goldfish and started hating my container.
I did everything I could to protest it without actually breaking the bars.
I took up more space, ate too much, ran late to things, spent too much money, let everything be a mess and refuse to clean it up, because it was hopeless anyway.
And the more I tried to set a goalpost, the more squished I became in my container, unable to move towards it, going backwards, just shoving it down with all my supposed flaws, trying to tell myself I could consume my way to happiness if I just learned to live in the box.
I went to a psychologist, like a Victorian woman, hoping to be fixed. That a better girdle could be found for me, that my insane modern life was just in my head, that everyone who loved me was right and I was wrong and I could go back to being a good little girl and hit the milestones, and stay in the cage where it’s safe.
Why should I be the one to break my chains and stare towards the light rather than the shadows on the wall?
How could I know I wasn’t wrong?
I stopped going to church, I read up on Buddhism, and released, drop by drop, the traumas of being conditioned by the hive mind. A few days ago, I woke up in a hostel bed in tears, realizing I may have been cared for but not loved, and they may have been proud of me and supported me but never really accepted me, which is what I needed more. Or at least, that’s how I experienced it, and why my life was built within four walls of shame and a big lie about who I was, and the belief that I am always wrong, dirty, shameful- something is wrong with me.
Not long after this suffering, which passed through me with sobs but like a storm washed me clean and fresh, I got a glimpse of who I might be, who I might have been with no boundaries. And I realized, with all the soul that’s in me, that I have to be that person.
I have to be Joan of Arc whose father told her brothers to drown her if she ever went off with soldiers.
I have to be Ernest Shackleton, called a dick because he beat his competitor, the hometown hero, to the South Pole.
I have to be a witch of a woman who doesn’t live by and for men, who doesn’t predicate the value of my life on ensnaring one and doesn’t think a baby is a valid reason for being.
I believe we are not simply born to serve others, or to please others. We are born to be ourselves, and the deepest most wonder and awe part of the divine that exists in each of us is the still small voice pushing us to our greatest joy and highest truth. I don’t believe god is the bogeyman they use to keep children out of the wild woods, nor the scarecrow put in the fields so no one will come further than the bounds of the town.
I believe we are, with God, both the bow and the string. We don’t simply lie there, passive, accepting, receiving, gestating- God also calls us to do something and to ask Him for things, to use power on His behalf.
And the truth is there is no process. All the mess I made, which I would still like to clean up, in the eyes of God is so much rubble at a construction site, so much rock that was hewn off to make the sculpture. The pain only came from me believing that I was the extra bits laying on the floor, the perfectly square factory made block, rather than the sculpture within.
Like all great works of art, it’s never finished, and it’s made for the sculptor as much as or more than for the world. And God is both, and sometimes the adze that chips the old parts away and the sun that lets me see what I am doing and the moment of fatigue that causes me to make an “error,” to take what I think is too much away because it doesn’t go according to my original plan. The divine plan looks like chaos sometimes, and I don’t know what I’m doing.
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.
Luckily there’s no finish line to be found, the Odyssey is just a ruse because Penelope is hidden on the ship the whole way long, Ithaca is not just the goal that gives you the journey, it is the journey itself.
There’s no where to go but here, now.