These days I find myself constantly conscious of the brevity of our lives, the fragility of our very selves.
Ninety years or so of life on this planet — and what does that mean to the rest of time? Ninety years ago, we still hesitated to use electricity and automobiles.
I don’t write this to be pessimistic. I don’t find this cognizance of frailty and infinity disheartening. Quite the contrary: I find this perspective rather inspiring. These realizations force me to think more carefully about who I am, what I do, and where I want to go in my life.
Not, you know, that I have any particular idea where I’m headed.
These thoughts about how short our time here is, though — they change things. They make me question how people are remembered, what they are remembered for, and why any of that was important. Mandela. Abigail Adams. Alexandre Dumas. Marie Curie. What are their legacies, how did they become whom they were, and do I even want to be like that?
Not particularly. I don’t quite know what I want to do in this world, but I’m pretty sure global fame is not on the list. I’ll stick with my Miss Rumphius plan, even if the details continue to change: you must do something to make the world more beautiful.
And oh, the details do keep changing. Med school? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see. Connor, love– you’ve been dreaming of this for five years. Are you sure you want to change that?
No, I’m not. I’m not sure about much of anything at the moment, to be honest. I’d even say I’m remarkably uncertain and unsure with regards to just about everything, but I certainly won’t let a little detail like that derail me. There is much, much more to life than being certain of what you’re doing and where you’re going. If I learned nothing else from these months abroad, I did learn this: life does not go according to plan, and that it is often all the better for the change.
After all, my family didn’t stay in New York, I didn’t stay in that biochemistry program, and just look what happened when Kelly got you to try fishing instead of sticking to your comfort zone. You’d never know I was once squeamish about worms if you saw how easily I can bait a hook nowadays.
In the meantime, though, I have some ideas. I know what I want to be doing, even if I don’t yet know what I want to do. List those blessings, darling, long and loud.
& over all of this booms a melodramatic memory of Mufasa: remember.
Remember the ways your family drives you absolutely out of your mind, and then remember how much you missed them when you were gone.
Remember to wash your hands and put the dishes away for your mother.
Remember the small things, those ones that make up so much of you.
The love of a grandmother seen in that vase of Christmas lights in the bedroom, the glass of peppermint sticks on the table, and the large pitcher of Russian tea in the fridge; Aunt Lorraine’s sass when she asks “What fun would that be?” of Kelly after he bid us a sweet “y’all take care now” before he left; the quiet, steady love in Papa’s voice as he whispers Mornin’ and brushes a whiskery kiss on my forehead as I slowly wake up on a Monday morning.
The joy in arriving home to snail mail; a secret handshake between sisters; the smell of the Long Room; the calm that comes with picking up a battered copy of your favorite book; the sound of O! Brother, Where Art Thou? echoing through the car with our five voices singing along as we drive back to Philly; the sense of smallness that comes from standing on the edge of the ocean or staring at a starry sky; the clink of teacups and warmth of tea shared with friends; the satisfaction of biting into a delicious tofu hoagie and knowing you’re finally, finally home.
Remember to breathe, remember to live, and remember to be thankful for that stubborn tenacity that runs so thickly through your bloodline, from grandmothers to parents to siblings and you. It’s a blessing and a curse. Use it effectively for me, okay? You’ll thank me later.