Imagine that your life were recorded in clips of the most important, as well as the most mundane of moments, just short 1-2 minute clips. What kind of movie would yours be? Would it touch hearts? Would is make you turn your head away in shame? Would there be moments of triumph, of beauty, of meaning? The last two are most important to me: beauty and meaning. Looking back I haven’t been alive very long, just thirty short years. Compared to the age of the earth, of the history of humankind, my life is only a short blip, really insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
My movie would show a happy childhood, filled with warm memories, of birthdays, and holidays, family trips, time with friends, new discoveries, and love, so much love. Some of my favorites are of family trips to the beach, picking pumpkins, cutting down a Christmas tree, and sledding on fresh snow. Adolescence was a bit darker, with a few storms raging— doors slamming, teenage angst in its full fury. I had so much to learn and wanted so much to be taken seriously, to not be a dumb kid anymore. My parents tried their best to teach me all that I needed to know, to keep me from great harm, and I am grateful that they did not turn me out into the street with a swift kick to the rear (I certainly deserved it).
The clips from adolescence would picture me in the throes of laughter with friends, listening intently as a teacher spoke about things of great importance: Voltaire, The Holocaust, Geometric Proofs, Equations, Formulas, The Periodic Table, Punnet Squares, DNA, and so on. Oh how I loved school! I wanted to explore the great wide world that books offered. I wanted to know it all! My favorite classes were my English classes, even though I wasn’t the best writer (too sloppy, ADD). I loved talking about controversial topics (Brave New World), and reading rich words, tinged with sugar, sweeter than the sweetest candy. I have always enjoyed reading: the quiet, the beauty of language, going deep into other worlds ( worlds where I wasn’t gangly, the characters were smart, beautiful, and triumphant–everything I wanted to be).
As I’ve only lived three decades, one-third would be filled with early memories, mostly sensory in nature, another third with adolescence, and the last with my twenties. Up until college I felt like the world was laid out for me, with a road paved with gold; the path was known, and success/happiness was assured.
The reality of life and the greater world set in gradually as I was faced with big questions I didn’t know the answer to: why are people so evil? Why does love have to be so painful? Where do I fit in? I felt like I had played the part of the dutiful daughter, pretty and smart, and never in trouble up until this point. In college I felt like I could go off script, but then I was also playing a part where the script wasn’t written, and that was scary. College is where I was challenged for the first time by school, where I fell in love for the first time, where I fell out of love for the first time, and where I began to discover who I was. For the first time I wasn’t who others said I was: “smart,” “pretty,”funny,” “good,” or “nice.” I could try on other adjectives (with limited success): “edgy,” “confident,” “artistic,” “compassionate,” “beautiful,” and even “sexy.”This period of life would be a more complex movie: some scenes bright, filled with light, others dark, the outcome more unknown. There would be time with new friends, conquering the world together. There would be long nights spent studying, exams, lectures, and furious note scribbling. There would be first dates, hands held, kisses stolen, and hearts broken.
After college there would be clips from my first wedding day, angry fights ending in tears, working with children, and just daily life: cleaning our condo, petting our cats, doing the dishes after a meal, and watching a movie on our couch. Later there would be clips of graduate school and my first year of teaching and living in Eastern Washington. The most recent clips would be of me filing for divorce and crying in the car, and later moving my now ex back to Seattle while we both cried. Later there would be clip dedicated to the day I found out that my ex had done what he had always threatened: taken his own life. Then there would be clips of meeting my now husband for the first time, our first dates, going to Kauai, our wedding day, the day I received a positive result on a pregnancy test, me looking at my growing belly, the day my daughter was born, and the last couple of clips would be of our life now: daughter, mom, and dad and our various adventures or just spending time at home.
What we remember the most about our lives was how we felt at the time, especially if it was a very strong feeling, such as, joy, love, disappointment, hatred, or hopelessness. I was luck enough to be born into a wonderful family, the child of two incredible parents whose love knew no bounds. This foundation of love and trust allowed me to achieve at high levels in school, and to know what love looks like. My career life has not been without its ups and downs, but I never had to go without food or a roof over my head, and for that I am grateful. The future is still uncertain; I had no idea if I will be able to get back into teaching, and so my career may have to change. Of one thing I am certain: I will always love my daughter, I will work tirelessly to keep being married to this man I love, and I will never stop loving and learning. Our lives are short, but the options are endless. I choose to make this the best life I can, to make it mine.