You know that phrase que sera, sera? I’ve often used it to explain away parts of my life. What happens, happens. What will be, will be.
Today, though, that seems foolish. It’s like that quote from Winnie the Pooh: You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
You can’t spend all your days sitting around and waiting on something to occur, waiting for some sign that yes, this is when your life starts. Head’s up: your life already started. You’re already alive. Right now, your heart is beating. thump. Blood just passed from one chamber of your heart to the next. thump. It’s rushing past your lungs, picking up the oxygen you just inhaled. thump. back to your heart. thump. Out to your body.
Right now, there are thousands and thousands of mitochondria making energy for you to use. There are red blood cells and white blood cells making sure your body’s doing what it’s supposed to. There are nerves telling you that the mosquito bite you got last night is itching rather dreadfully–can’t you do something about that? There are brain cells telling you not to do something about that unless it’s something like cortisone because scratching a mosquito bite–you might remember this from your previous encounters with them–makes that bite worse.
You’re alive, alright, but that was never the question. The question was whether or not you’re living.
That’s an answer I can’t give. You can only really figure that out for yourself. I know a fair bit about being alive–I can tell you that there are three types of muscle in your body and that oxygen is practically our life blood and that the reason I take antihistamines every single day is because my body reacts to things like trees or flowers or grass like they’re an attack on my immune system, and that triggers the release of histamines that make you feel all puffy and swollen.
But living–that’s another issue entirely. I’m only twenty-two, so I don’t know much about living, really. Still, here’s what I’ve figured out so far.
In a nutshell? You can’t sit around waiting for life to happen.
Living isn’t passive. You can’t always wait for things to come to you–you have to go out and find them. Sometimes you have to fight for them. Have you ever read the story of Jacob wrestling the angel? He was losing from the beginning, but he kept fighting. He clung to this angel as tightly as he could, wrestled with him until the angel agreed to bless him. Sometimes, you have to cling to the hard places until they bless you. Not always–sometimes, you have to let them go.
But sometimes, other times? Sometimes you have to grab life by the lapels and shake it and say, “You don’t own me. I am not defined by what you put in my path. I am more than the sum of my experiences, and I will not let you make me forget that.”
Because, you see, you are more than the sum of your experiences. Here’s a newsflash: life is not about you. You can try to live like that, but you will only ever succeed in making yourself miserable. Human beings are meant for community, meant for relationships–we quite literally need each other, even if you don’t like that idea. We need encouragement and affirmation and love, whether that means holding hands, high fives, swapping recipes, pulling silly faces at each other, having deep conversations, crying over ice cream together, or creating secret handshakes.
You are more than the sum of your experiences because you are also some of their experiences. That time you and your best friend went on a road trip to nowhere in particular, the time you almost burned down the kitchen but your roommate realized you’d left the stove on, the nights you spent as a kid running around and catching fireflies, that feeling of absolute terror and absolute excitement you got from hearing those words, Congratulations to the Class of…, the awe you felt when your parents took you to the ocean or the mountains or hiking in the woods for the first time, that glance you shared with a classmate when your teacher made a really bad pun or a really funny movie reference.
Whitman had it right: I am large. I contain multitudes. So did e.e. cummings–i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart).
You are many things, see? Life is many things. Living is so, so many things. Don’t dither over which station has the cheaper gas when you could be on that road headed Somewhere. Don’t worry about the shortest route when you could be blasting music and chasing dreams and singing at the top of your lungs, or maybe just driving in silence as the miles slip past you and the stars come out overhead and fill you with their wistful calm. You’ve been given a chance. Don’t waste it.
And when you get to your Somewhere, remember this: sometimes, somewhere is right where you started, and that’s okay. It’s okay to stay put. It’s good to sink roots. It is a ridiculous, crazy, life-altering blessing to stay in one place and get to know that place so incredibly well that you actually know it better than the back of your hand.
That’s the funny thing about Somewhere: it’s not anywhere in particular. It’s not a state, or a country, or that spot on the highway where you know you’re almost home and can’t wipe the smile off of your face; it’s not a solo road trip with your favorite tunes or a cramped city bus with no more standing room; it’s not a job or a five-year-plan or getting into that school you’ve always wanted to attend. Somewhere is all of that, but also none of that.
Somewhere is a fancy way of saying Where you are now, Where you have been, and Where you are going to be. It’s a way of saying that life is not a destination, but it’s also not your average journey. You might not know exactly where you’re going. You probably have no idea where you’ll end up. If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t even know all of the people who will be traveling with you.
And when you get to your Somewhere, remember this, too. I want you to remember wondering what you were doing with your life, whether or not you were living, where you were going and why. Remember how scared you were. Remember how terrifying it is to have no idea what you’re doing with your life. And when you do, I want you to laugh at yourself. Feel that smile stretching across your face–because you’re Somewhere now–and laugh to yourself because you may not have known where you were going, but look where you’ve ended up.
You’re already alive. Living is just the next step. Don’t worry if you’re scared–I am, too. We all are, here. None of us know what we’re doing, or where we’re going, or even (sometimes) how we ended up where we are. We all feel pretty lost at sea at one point or another, and that’s okay. Remember what Dory said? Just keep swimming.
And yes, que sera, sera. Life’s going to throw some hard things your way. It probably already has. Maybe it suckerpunched you just this morning. Hang in there, okay? Think about what I said earlier. Your heart is beating. Your lungs are expanding. Your body is processing oxygen and quite literally making something out of thin air.
Remember this: You are more than the sum of your experiences. You’re already alive. You’re already somewhere. You’re living, and there’s an awful lot of stuff for you to do at this somewhere. What are you waiting for? You can’t do much if you’re just sitting there staring at these words on your computer screen. Hop to it.
…and when you get a minute, let me know how it all works out. I’m cheering for you.