In the home I grew up in, the love flows just as steadily as the wine. My dad still looks across the living room at my mom (who is pulling up the corner of her cheeks while talking about her fantasy face lift) and says, “Honey, you’re beautiful. You don’t need that.” In this house that’s a few right turns off of the main road that leads into town, my dog thinks I’m a better person than I really am. In this place, where my room is almost empty, minus some books and bedding, is frozen back in time when I loved playing tennis and hung up pictures of the city I wanted to call home.
And those photos are now sights I could see anytime I wanted. They are only a train ride away and some are views I see each and everyday. I made it to New York and I survived it – or as my friend E says, it let me stay. There is no secret to “making it” in Manhattan, it kicks out those who don’t belong pretty quickly.
But when I’m back in North Carolina, when my pace slows down, when I sit around talking astrology and dreams with my mom, when my dad brings me a heating pad and pillow to curl up with because my stomach hurts, when I walk out of the kitchen and return to find all of my dishes put away, I’m reminded of the place that grew me. The people who loved me enough to let me chase that brilliant ambition that is now my reality. The sense of longing that I used to feel while lying in this bed, looking out at the fog sweeping the mountaintops is gone – and in its place, I feel peace.
I feel this sweet surrender inside of my heart that for the first time, maybe ever, I’m just content. The journals I filled with wishes and hopes, are now subway stops and memories. The stories I used to store in a shoebox are now archived on WordPress and countless other publications I still can’t believe I’ve been lucky enough to write for. Those magazine clippings of inspirational quotes and couples snuggling on the couch are now my own sayings and my own snapshots of the men I’ve loved.
Really, there was nothing this Christmas that I wanted or needed other than to hop a flight back to where the wildflowers grow, the sound of silence echoes pleasantly from hill-to-hill, and sweet tea is within driving distance. And thanks to this blog and all of the wonderful people I’ve met in New York, being a single gal for the holidays feels more natural to me than bringing home a love that wasn’t meant to last.
Sitting around with a group of my friends tonight at the annual Christmas potluck while I’m in town, I thought about where we were: single and striving, learning and loving, letting go and being brave enough to hold on, chasing dreams and their origins, starting all over again and putting together pieces, realizing we’re finally adults and wondering what that really means. Looking at their faces and hearing their stories that while we may have different zip codes, sound scarily similar, munching on sausage balls I pretended had zero calories, I thought about how we all worry about what the future holds.
There is so much more life ahead of us than what we’ve experienced. There is room to reach so many more goals. Chances to love someone more than we’ve ever loved before. Opportunities to see the world and to reveal a world inside ourselves we never knew. Experiences that will test and try us as much as they teach and taunt us. Mortgages and babies who will call us “Mom”, Christmases that will one day mean more to us than seeing our old friends and feeling fancy cooking our family the Eggs Florentine we discovered in the city. Lifelong friendships that only become stronger with age and men who think we’re radiant despite our age.
It’s hard, I think, as a 20-something to see an existence outside of the current one. We’re busy coming and going, figuring out what we want and how to get it, dating and mating, relating and playing, attempting to save money and determining how much we need to put into our 401ks when really, 45 seems old, never mind 65 when we actually see the account. Everything seems so far away, so not-something-I-need-to-think-about right now, something that I’ll address later when I’m ready, later when I’m older, when I’m settled, when I have it all together. We can’t see our children’s faces or truly believe deep into our bones that yes, one day, one man, will be different and it all won’t be so complicated. We can’t see that house or the playground behind it, the successful career that we worked so hard to achieve at its very peak, we can’t see the impressions we leave on others or imagine our beautiful, youthful friends with wrinkles around their eyes.
But before we know it – or so I’m told anyway – one day, we’ll wake up and our realities will be different. The ways we find peace will be new. Our intentions humble, our pace slower, the things that make us happy, simpler. We’ll look back on these days, where we roamed wild and free, dabbling in this while dabbling in that, fretting over being a size 6, crying over a guy who we won’t remember in the long run, drinking more champagne and coffee than what’s healthy while soaking up sun, and wonder why we took it for granted. We’ll look back and remember all of those Christmases – from being children to having our own, and be amazed at how much things change, how much we change, how much the world continues to change before we’ve caught up to it.
And we’ll wonder how we didn’t see that then, sitting around that table with our friends, talking about how old we feel at the ripe age of mid-twenties, that really, we were just beginning.