bookends 

I developed a bad habit when reading books as a kid.  The story would reach a point of suspense and I was compelled to skip ahead to the end, unable to wait in anxious anticipation for the rest to play out. The way I saw it, if I already knew how everything was going to happen, I could go back and read through with a better sense of peace.  There was nothing more comforting than never having to worry that a movie or a novel would abruptly end without conclusions being made.  It was always buttoned up.  The lessons were always learned and the characters were left with a sense of certainty.  To me, there was nothing more beautiful than that. 

It should come as no surprise then, that I experienced a great deal of disappointment early on in learning that the world didn’t really work that way.  There was nothing more unsettling  than asking my mother why something had happened or when something would happen and being told those three little words: “I don’t know“.  Because I wanted to know everything, and not knowing anything just wouldn’t do.

I wanted to grab life by the spine and read it like a book.  This brain of mine has been working overtime since day one, tirelessly longing to connect events into a storyline that made the world around me make sense.  

Over the years, I have collected coffee mugs and post cards and baseball caps from cities I’ve drifted through. I made playlists, took pictures, kept ticket stubs and filled journals front to back.  There was an unwavering determination inside of me to put the puzzle pieces together: to somehow create a tangible way of summing up a final draft of me and my place in the world; what exactly it was that I was here to do.  If I could weave all of these things together like a complex math equation, it might lead to a conclusion that made life make sense – made me make sense.

In my mind, I was either whole or I was nothing.  The journey toward “becoming” was never one I found comfort in taking.  Like an impatient child, I was anxious to arrive at the final destination. Struggling to sit bit and take in the scenery.  

I sought a confirmation from the universe: a promise that she had lovely days in store for me.  That there would be more laughter than tears, more sunbeams than sloom.  That in finding myself, life would be as rosy as the fresh cut flowers in my living room; as perfect as petite green Tiffany boxes, tied together with glossy white ribbons.  

This sense of longing to understand how the future would unfold – this thirst to confirm the road of unknowns would always be kind  –  was the idealistic thinking of an adolescent.  What I couldn’t understand back then – deeply entrenched in the dramas of my small universe – was that all those dark disappointments I dreaded facing – all the gloomy hurdles that would break my heart – would later be the the benchmarks that built me up. 

Those were the hardships that would shape my brain. Strengthen my soul. Make me stand slightly taller.  Smile and mean it.

Life is more complicated – stranger a thing – than anyone could have ever prepared us for when we were young.  And it’s impossible to see just how beautifully naïve we once were until we’re not anymore. 

Like a rubics cube, the complexity of it all can bog even the strongest of men down.  There will be moments of unbridled bliss and others of sheer sorrow.  The ebb and flow of life makes my childhood fantasies of feeling “whole” an impossible feat, because the storyline keeps changing. Conclusiveness was never something the universe promised to us.  

No matter how many books I read or pictures I take, I’ll always be growing and things will always be changing.  Realizing that most of life falls into a gray area as opposed to the black and white way I expected it to be as a child still keeps me up at night. I worry if the future plans to be gentle with me; if I will able to handle the curveballs I’m bound to be thrown along the way.  I still long for answers to questions that I know have no answers. I don’t think that will ever change.  

There’s nothing quite the same as being sixteen and starving to start your life, so blindly optimistic and beautifully fragile. Our view of the world changes as we grow older.  We know too much; we’ve seen the things that don’t work out. The events that have no hidden meaning; the tragedies that fail to leave any good in their wake.

Still, there is an eager excitement that drums upon my heart now as an adult.  The unknowns that lay ahead become less scary to me as life experiences begin to build a barrier of strength within.  It gets easier somehow to cope with the obstacles once you’ve proven to yourself that you have before and you will again.  Because the world kept turning last time it beat me to my knees, it will keep turning next time, too.  It will remain to be a beautiful place regardless of my decision to see it that way or not.  The unknowns of tomorrow and how we choose to look at them – how much we fear them – will either shackle us or set us free.

So nowadays, I try to think less about putting the puzzle pieces together and more about letting life set me free, too. It’s too precious – too short a thing – to waste away.  The end chapter will come soon enough, so let the suspense last while it can.

 

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