Life's journey isn’t as predictable and clean as expected. Stuff happens, making us more similar than we care to admit. Different styles and patterns of life’s gifts (and messes) are presented, yet how we view and handle them tend to mold our maturity.
In the last month, I’ve had three friends lose a parent. Ironically, they all fell along the same timeline of my own father's death years before. I began thinking of all the things they’ve yet to experience. Like a boomerang, old sensations and familiar empathy stir back up when close friends experience what we’ve already tucked away. Selfishly, I began thinking of my own obstacles and the bureaucratic formality that occurs after someone dies. Death isn’t always timely and peaceful, wrapped in a soft blanket.
When we’re young, the camaraderie and anticipated life experiences are exciting, fresh and a bit unnerving. We jump into the world with butterflies in our stomach, full on the feelings of an indestructible psyche. Minds open like an immortal mythical being. Nothing stands in the way of our naive and know-it-all mentality.
We chased fireflies on warm summer evenings. Felt soft mud squeeze between our toes. Rode bicycles with no helmet and danced until dawn. We’ve tasted the salty ocean air and woke up to faintly scented smoke from a beach bonfire. If you were lucky, you experienced heart-breaking love under a starry sky. More candidly, you learned not to mix whiskey with vodka and that wine coolers were never cool (even in the 1980s). Maybe you still fondly reminisce about those times while pumping gas or hearing an old song. Your skin may wrinkle, but the eyes and heart never grow old.
We read college acceptance letters to parents. Our first real job gave us a true sense of independence. You felt grown up, but occasionally relied on mom and dad. We married for love. Children began blooming like fragrant magnolias, joyful with the anticipation of a new beginning.
The purity of these infant stages forces us to reflect and even appreciate how the simple things have impacted who we are today. Like any adventure, life becomes unpredictable and complicated. Our dearest and closest relationships from our pre-debt selves have fizzled to infrequent e-mails and even less frequent phone calls. We see friends and family separate and divorce. People that would make wonderful parents struggle with infertility. Friends lose a parent, a spouse, even a child. We begin to realize we are no longer that immortal mythical being and discover bad things sometimes happen to good people.
Although we can’t predict or even control what’s thrown at us, we learn from those 90 mph curve balls. Some of your adult tribulations are not just milestones, but awakenings. A loved one may come out of the closet. A widow finds love again. We let our children flee to discover and become who they’re meant to be.
I’m grateful for the unpredictable excitement life has thrown me. I’m grateful for seeing my children take their first breath and grateful for the gift of being with my father during his last. Not bad for a gal that likes to daydream at the gas pump.