Fall is in the air, and even though it feels like summer just began I can’t help but feel excited and energized. This has always been my favorite time of year: the changing leaves, the cool, crisp mornings, new sweaters and “perfectly sharpened bouquets of #2 pencils”… I always begin to wax nostalgic and wish it was me that was going back to the blackboard; so to speak.
I miss it all! Remember the excitement of new school shopping? The way you promised yourself you’d wake up extra early and wear the cute clothes? It was never a full month that had gone by before you rolled outta bed and into the jeans and hoodie on the floor, and then fell into your chair for the start of homeroom. Remember, with the exception of gym class, the way a week or two…maybe even three might pass before you shaved your legs? No one the wiser of the Sasquatch living in your Union Bay faded flared denim and Tommy Hilfiger wind breaker. Ah, the lunch room french-fries, the color coded notes passed between friends, the frantic search for the “one of a kind” dress from your local mall for that special dance with that special guy. These are the things we can never replicate; no matter how many times we check our Facebook wall.
I can think back now, 10 years later, and there is enough room around the little heartaches I suffered, enough space between me and the times it wasn’t so fun, to remember only the good things. I can also look back and realize how little I actually knew, how unprepared I really was to just head out into the real world and try and be a fully functional adult. Of all the math, history, composition, and science I studied, there is one thing that I learned at the start of my junior year of high school that has stayed with me in a particular way- and it was at a seemingly inconsequential moment and passed just as quickly.
For the first 16 years of my life I had lived and gone to school with my mother as my primary guardian; my parents had divorced when I was nearly one. At the start of summer vacation, the summer before my junior year, I had made the move to a much smaller community—really more of a rest stop, the kind of place you’d stop to pee and get a Big Mac on a road trip to somewhere much more interesting—and this time, I had moved in with my father, step-mother, and little sister who had all just moved into their first new house. Growing up I had always been close with my father and the idea of being in a more stable home intrigued me. As it turns out, a house that doesn’t move doesn’t equal stability; but that is another story for another time. So fast forward a few months and I’m riding in the passenger seat of my father’s requisite “suburbanite” SUV, on the way to register for classes at my brand new high school. I’m sure he sensed my nerves, or maybe he could just commiserate, but as we were nearing the school and I was biting my nails while looking out the passenger seat window he said something I will never forget. “You know…” he said, “no one in there knows who you are. You can show up and be any one you want to be.” This was not a call to be artificial or phony; on the contrary, I knew exactly what he was saying and it was a defining moment in my life. Oh, the freedom!
As practice makes perfect—I’ve used this advice in many situations. From new school, to new jobs, to new…whatever, I can show up and be present with people not only the way I want to be, but in the way they would want me to be. Every fresh start is an opportunity to learn about, and practice at, being the kind of person I want to be, a chance for self-mastery. Recently though, I’ve taken this advice a step farther.
I met a man and a fell in love. Then it didn’t pan out so I went out and got a boyfriend. That was an even bigger disaster that really wasn’t honoring anyone, so I planned a girl’s trip to get away. About two months ago, and a week before a nice long trip to Montana, I officially called it off with The Boy. We’d only been dating for five months (long enough to really understand it wasn’t going to be successful) and actually, he isn’t the point I’m trying to get to. One of the other girls on our “Cowgirl Up” trip also broke it off with her boyfriend in the week before we left and we both spent some serious time in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of a few dark and lonely country bars, thinking about where everything might be going. It wasn’t too long after the girls and I came home that my newly single friend and I were chatting on the phone. She was expressing fear that’s so common when you’re first out of a committed relationship—will I ever find someone else again? I told her that these things just take time, that some days will be good, some will be really, really hard. And my father’s advice came back to me… I said, “You know what? Both of us are in a position that’s going to be rare for the majority of our lives. We probably won’t be single forever and so…not only should we enjoy this, but let’s spend the little bit of time we have as single, figuring out exactly what we want in our next partner.” I think being single is only scary and lonely if you can’t enjoy your own company. Not just the “bubble bath and a good book” type of alone time—but the trudging along waist deep in the muck and mire of our deepest, truest selves—being able to be still, with no distraction, in our own lives. Most people cannot do this.
There were a lot of things I really liked about The Boy. He’s tall, has a good sense of humor, can be very generous, and loves his work. These made it right onto the list of things I want in my future partner and have been sent out into the Universe as my truest intentions. For what goes out, comes right back in. These are not the only things on my list of course; I’ve been fine tuning it since way back when my father first explained that we can attract into our lives the kinds of things we want. Of course, I have to be strong and mature enough to turn down the guys who might come along that don’t have the character and integrity of the man I truly want—and that can be hard because, what if he’s my last chance? What if no one else ever comes along? Lol- that lie only works on me for about 30 seconds now—I’m old enough, wise enough, to recognize that that’s just my insecurities speaking and then I tell myself what most people can’t, “Even if that were true—I would be happier in the integrity of being alone than to settle.”
Thanks dad, for the knowledge, the power, and the boost of self-esteem. To know that I can have anything for myself that I can dare to dream? That’s freedom. Hmm…maybe I should shave my legs, call up the girls, and see what’s happening on the singles scene tonight. Wish me luck.