I had a quick chat with a perfect stranger today. She is 20 years my junior and has the great privilege of sharing my birthday month 😌. Though we didn’t talk long, the conversation was still significant. I told her not to rush turning 18, even though I felt really old saying it. “Once you’re grown, you’re grown,” I advised, in my now late 30-somethings’ voice. She laughed and nodded, then said, “I just hope it’s not as horrible as everyone says it is.”
Hmmm…interesting. I interpreted her to mean that “growing up” was horrible. That “being an adult” was horrible. Speedily, memories raced in my mind of my own experience, and in the little time we had to chat at the Walgreens register, I shared, “I definitely don’t think it’s horrible, but there is responsibility. You will, however, have opportunities that you wouldn’t as a kid, and hopefully you’ll grow and mature.
We went our separate ways shortly after; me, to my 2017 Ford Escape, her to her register as a cashier at Walgreens. Still, her statement lingered with me. I reflected back on the last 20 years, which were far from horrible. I felt that most of my greatest experiences were actually happening now, in my 30s. I realized that, though life has been far from easy, the experiences and opportunities I’ve had are probably very unique from many outside of my community, and academic acquaintances.
Even during the pandemic, I went whitewater rafting with the guy I was dating, spent Thanksgiving cooking a full course meal for him and another loved one, decorated my home and Xmas tree with the same guests, in addition to my new kitten, and even last month, hosted my dear friend of 18 years, along with her lovely family. For a single living alone, it’s been pretty action-packed, (even if there were ample lonely nights and grief stricken days woven in between the action.) And, let’s not forget I have written over 900 pages within the last year! Yes, life has not been stagnant, even if it hasn’t been what I imagined.
So, what would I tell my 18-year-old self who was engaged to a man she thought was the man of her dreams, but who ended up being just short of a nightmare? Well, probably that things do get better. God has a way of answering prayers in His own way. Life will be filled with people, and love, and really good experiences. There will be more heartbreak, more pain, more laying down of her desires, but she would grow, and evolve into a classy, sweet, compassionate individual who somehow, someway, was still walking with Him. And really, He was still walking with her.
I was listening to a podcast this morning that I’m really growing fond of. The host is a Christian single woman who’s found herself in her mid 30s with her life looking nothing like she thought it would. Sound familiar? Well this morning’s interview was with another woman who has a strong faith but got married, and I suppose, has kids, yet still found herself waiting.
Still found herself comparing.
I was intrigued when she talked about her longsuffering. Unlike yours truly, her longsuffering came in the form of waiting to publish her first book.
She shared that she first had this inclination some 20 years ago, and did not get to see its realization until her 40th year of life. Wow. She would watch from the sidelines as friends, or peers, spit out their novels and transported their crafted stories into published works of art, when all the while she would wonder, “When will it be my time?”
Can you relate?
I know I can. Except not with book publishing. You see for me I have this knack for churning out content almost effortlessly. One of my close friends has even told me how much she admires how quickly I am able to produce written work. She too is a writer. A really good one I might add.
My very first book was short and sweet. I published it within months of writing it. My second book was a little longer, and required a tad more work. I had to conduct interviews and transpire what I was told into stories that made sense. Still, I conducted all said interviews, then typed up those stories, and again, published the finished product within a few months (whew!).
Now I am working on my third book, and first hand at fiction. It will be well over 500 pages according to Amazon’s handy template manuscript. I am so looking forward to this work as it has brought both joy and healing in a season of difficulty. And even though technically I started writing some of these stories in 2017 (when I lived with a roommate, and was still a W2 employee) the bulk of it was written during this here pandemic. The bulk was written in the last 9 months.
The funny thing is, even though writing tends to come easily for me, and ideas swiftly converge into thoughts on paper, I was always leery about writing a full novel. Honestly, I was downright intimidated. It sounded like such a large feat! Well, not only have I written 500+ pages of a compilation of short stories and novellas (sprinkled with poetry) but I also simultaneously wrote my first novel (which will be over 400 pages). Crazy right? I know.
And yet, there are others out there who do not have this grace to produce writing so quickly, for whatever reason. Whether it be time, resources, or a lack of inspiration, it just doesn’t happen for them.
Even recently I was presented with a freelance writing opportunity by one of my BFFs. I’m really excited about this position because it will give me a broader audience and an opportunity to continue enhancing my writing skills. There are some particular rules for writing for this online magazine, and as a result, I’m more challenged, but thankfully I always appreciate a good challenge (within reason).
So anyways, I submitted my first pitch for my first article four days before the deadline, and guess what? I already have the whole article written, and it’s not even due for two more weeks. I know. I know. Crazy.
But what I realize is, some things are just easy. Some things are really easy and some things are really hard, and depending on who you are, and your lot in life, the things that are hard and easy can vary drastically.
It took 20 years for this woman I heard on this interview to churn out her first book, and I have written two in the last year. Two. Now quality of course is more important than quantity so that’s not really saying much, but my point is, we all have our own graces.
The Creator knows our purpose, and identity and our end result. He also knows how to get us to “said end”. He knows the weaknesses that prune and humble us so that we bear more fruit. He knows the graces and strengths that offer us hope and encouragement. The ones that cause us to soar over the darkness that combats us in the valleys. He knows.
And even when we do not know, we know Him.
And that is another thing that has come easy for me.
Some 18 years ago I met some people who would become “forever friends”. I know this because they told me so. Sadly, at the time of, I admit that I wasn’t a believer of the term. At a young age I had already experienced rejection by my peers which caused extreme trust issues that only layered the already abandonment/rejection issues I had accumulated from birth. Still, I went along for the friendship ride and when they used the terms “Bestie”, or “Bestfriend”, or “BFF”, well, I did too. But cautiously, because inside I was holding my breath for when I would get dropped when the honeymoon phase ended. When they discovered I couldn’t possibly be deserving of the lifelong love and loyalty they were offering (oh the lies we believe).
If this were a perfect world, or if I were writing one of the short stories in my new book (shameless plug), I would say that that never happened. That I never got dropped and those girls were right, and I was so happy to have been proven wrong. But the truth of the matter is, I have been dropped. And actually, I have done my share of dropping (insert audible gasp). But that is the reality of life. It is messy as hell. And honestly I’m at the point where I believe that true love has to be tested. If our bonds with others don’t go through the fire, we will never know if they are strong enough to overcome its flames.
When I look back on my very close relationships with women, I can see that there have been some serious fall outs in several of them. But for many of them, most of them in fact, we have found our way back to each other. I think that is because there was something deeper than just a friendship that drew us to one another. Now I can say, it was a real sisterhood. They were no longer just friends. They were family.
One of these women has been one of my greatest teachers of what family looks like when you aren’t blood related. She saw through the baggy clothes and immature attitude and sometimes arrogance that seems to tag along with most (if not all) only children. I think she and I connected on a deeper level because we discovered that we shared a divine connection with our Creator around the same time.
In a sense, we fell in love with God together.
Over the years we took different paths. She became a wife and mother. I became a roommate before finally getting my first apartment. I attended her showers (both bridal and baby). She bought me my first set of really good cookware (shout out to Calphalon). She obtained her Masters in Theology and I flew to her graduation. I received my MBA, and she made the trip to Cleveland. Even though our lives were becoming drastically different, we still walked with each other through various turns of it. Surprisingly it seemed, we were learning the same life lessons at exactly the same time. In fact, we still are.
People told me that when she got married things would change. That I would have to take a backseat, and maybe in some ways I did, but in other ways, I felt like I was needed even more.
We have beared with each other through a lot. The ups and downs of life are unreal sometimes and there aren’t too many things that stay the same. Yet her being there has.
Regardless of the time apart, or the distance that has separated us, her love has never been separate from me.
My heart was full this week as she and her tribe made the two-day long drive to visit her fam, which included yours truly. At my request, all six of them stuffed themselves into my one bathroom (not even a half bath to offer relief), quaint two-bedroom bungalow (bless their souls). For the first time since I bought this home it was overflowing with life. Two babies, four adults, one pre-teen, and a 6-month-old kitten, filled it’s corners and caressed its edges. We took pictures and videos because we know how fleeting life is and the importance of capturing the moment (we have all experienced our own losses). But we lived in the moments too. I soaked up our one-on-one times while the babies were asleep, or blessfully, being watched by their stellar dad. I snuck in a mini “car-turnup” on our short trip to get our eyebrows done. She finally got to learn my step workouts and cracked me up at her dance moves (which are still on point by the way). We were in our own world even when said world consisted of motherhood and a new marriage partner.
Her visit meant so much to me because in a world with Covid-19, isolation is at its peak. Even for an introvert like me, loneliness is inevitable.
God has been so good to set the singles in families. I’ve given up on that notion that the good things in life should cancel out the negative ones. Instead, I feel that both the highlights and the hard parts can beautifully coexist. In other words, I’m of the mindset now that the good parts of life do not remove the hard parts. For a long time my frustration at not having “my own” family weighed on me like a 20lb dumbbell. Even still, it is an unmet desire that accompanies me on my day to day journey as a single. But what I will say is, part of my pain stemmed from the difficulty with believing that I had people who loved me like family. And now, I realize, my unbelief stemmed from a core belief that I could not possibly be so loved. I simply wasn’t deserving.
For years I wouldn’t allow this love to go too deeply within my heart due to fear of rejection/betrayal/abandonment/loss/etc… I wouldn’t, but that didn’t deter her. She pursued and waited, and loved me anyway.
Through my shortcomings.
Through my weaknesses and stubbornness.
And in the end I think that is all we can ask. To find people who will love us like that.
To find people who will love us like God.
1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love