What I’ve learned at 25:

Sometimes I’m wrong, a thing I’m terrible at admitting.

When that happens, it’s okay to cry for approximately three minutes.

Then stop crying and figure it out.

 

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On relationships with parents as a 20-something.

“Oh God, I sound like my mother.”

A phrase women have said for probably forever, with the smallest hint of terror in their voices. That’s the first feeling, at least, followed by an overwhelming sense of comfort.

For me, at least.

My mother drives me crazy, as mothers often will, but she’s a kind woman who sacrificed a lot of things for me, and she means well with her advice — no matter how frustrating it can be.

In the past year, I’ve said the phrase less. The thing is, I realized I’m really not turning into my mother. Sometimes I wish I was.

A few months ago I woke up at 4 in the morning, loaded the dog in the car and drove a few hours away to go on a hike by myself. I called my mom later in the day to tell her how amazed I was at the sunrise I saw on a country road in the middle of nowhere, about my dog collapsing in protest at the top of the mountain and the detour I took through small towns when I turned off my GPS to see where I would up. I expected her to be horrified. I thought she would scold me for driving around in the middle of the night alone. I assumed she would tell me how dangerous it is to go on a hike by myself. I was waiting for her to tell me it’s odd for a young girl to stop at abandoned motels to take pictures of them.

But she didn’t. She told me I was adventurous and she didn’t think she would ever do anything like that alone.

And in that moment, I realized I’m not turning into my mom. Not at all. And there’s a part of me that’s very sad about that — honestly, when I think about the daydreams I had when I was five, these weren’t them. They were of my mom’s life — of the earliest view of normal I had.

I do love my life very much. The past year has exceeded every expectation I could have set for it. I am baffled by how blessed I’ve been and how much God has taken care of me.

But sometimes I struggle with what my life isn’t.

A month or so ago I was talking through an issue I was having during a phone call with her — to which my mom responded, “Well this is the life you chose.”

I immediately found a reason to hang up.

Because in some ways it is, but so much of my life hasn’t felt like a choice. It’s felt like a need. To prove something to myself, mostly.

In my head at that moment, it sounded to me like she was saying I actively chose not to have certain things — like someone walked up to me on the street, asked whether I’d like to do things the easy way or the hard way and I said, “Hey, yeah, being single sounds good. Companionship is for the birds. Kids? Who needs ’em. Give me that long way around! I can’t wait!”

It’s not ever been a choice. It’s just where my heart has ended up.

It took me awhile to realize, though, that’s not what she meant. She didn’t really mean anything negative — my mom’s just never lived this life. My life is as foreign to my mother as having a two-year-old is to me.

Neither is wrong. Just different.

And maybe one day I will turn into my mother.

 

 

A lot of words about dreams (also known as memories of last year)

I’ve been thinking of life in terms of dreams lately — not the big, ambiguous kind that fuel desires and achievements. An actual dream – a set of many details, capable of being forgotten in a second; in the time it takes to wake up.

I can remember the dreams I had last night — a horrifyingly nerdy tale of forgetting to do a menial task at work, one that I’ve remembered successfully every day.

I remember one from last week about a boy, but that one’s fairly common.

I occasionally remember nightmares from years past, as I assume everyone does — the terrifying kind where bad things happen and I’m just looking in on the whole thing, questioning why I’m still stuck in the dream and why I’m doing nothing to stop any of it. Unsure why my subconscious is doing this tonight.

I even remember the recurring dream I had when I was a kid, that a witch was going to sweep through my bedroom window and steal me. (This happened often enough that 20 years later, it’s still ingrained in my psyche).

But the color of the sky behind the witch is long gone from my memory. I remember that boy’s face, but not the color of the shirt he was wearing. I know the task I forgot last night, but not its importance in regards to my day. These details fade momentarily.

I like writing things down, but often don’t. Because what I have to say is less than exceptional; a thought we’ve all had a million times that won’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. It certainly won’t change the world.

But life is a bit like a dream. I’ve forgotten many of the things I have to say that I didn’t bother to write down. And there’s a longing in the bottom of my heart to say each one of those things, long after I don’t remember any of them.

I didn’t write much down about 2015, because I felt like it didn’t matter much anyway. I said the things that did matter to people around me, and I thought as long as I’ve spoken it into the world, it happened and it will be remembered. That’s not the way it works, though, and I’ve been a bit sad about my decision to do so for most of the year.

I’ve taken many pictures. One for most of the days of last year. But the smiles, the laughs, the tears that happened in the course of the year aren’t remembered.

In 20 years, I may remember the joy I felt driving across Maine at 6 in the morning as the sun came up by looking at a picture I took during that trip, but maybe I won’t. It was the feeling of being alive in the most pure way possible – I spent the night before with my best friend, on a pitch-black coastal road in Maine that ended in a small fishing village. We spent the night with strangers in a beach house, laying across rocks and staring at the most beautiful stars I’ve ever laid eyes on. I talked about God with a guy I just met, who probably would have spent the entire speech contemplating how crazy I was if he had been a little more sober. Three hours later, driving through tiny towns as they woke for the day, I felt love. From God. From the universe. From anything that can possibly send love. It was one giant hug, a reminder that I’m doing okay.

I hope to remember the ocean the day before. Standing in the middle of rocks so intricately carved, I don’t see how anyone can question the existence of God. I felt small, in the way that we all hope to feel small. In the way that reminded me things are bigger than I could ever imagine and any hurt in my heart is even more minuscule than I, so it must certainly disappear much sooner than I’ll cease to exist.

I hope I remember the moment a friend looked at me and said, “It turned out just like you planned, right?” His sarcasm in discussing the way my life is going filled me with nothing but happiness — this is certainly not what I ever envisioned, but I’m thankful to have people along the way who understand me.

There was a fleeting moment or two this year when I proved myself worthy — to myself. Some people don’t struggle with this, but I’ll never know what it’s like to be them. There were a few moments this year when I was fully and completely proud of myself, and that’s progress.

In less time than it takes to forget these things, I’ll have forgotten the bad about 2015 — the growing pains. Life is easier when we romanticize it; so much so that I can’t even bring myself to write any of the specifics down. That was my plan, with writing my favorite moments down. I’d also write down the bad, because that’s where the lessons come from — but I’d really rather I just remember the lessons. That’s what I’ve learned most about getting older — the general idea of the bad thing is a better memory than the details, and that’s the way it was all designed for a reason.

I do hope I remember the lessons I learned from those growing pains, though, because they hurt quite a bit. I’d like to remember to trust my intuition; to stay away from things that aren’t good for me; to take the long road if possible (not because of any virtuous reason, just because I’m stubborn and seem to like figuring out the answers on my own); and I hope I remember to be kind.

I also hope I’ll remember to write down the details more in 2016.