May, 2009. Colorado. I walk across the stage at my high school and shake the principal’s hand. Put my diploma in a drawer and now I have no idea which drawer it was.
March, 2010. I’m in Haiti after the earthquake. I see the miles of blue tarps stretched out over the recently homeless families as I pass by the pop-up village, but the thing that strikes me the most is the crunch of gravel beneath my sneakers. And how it sounds the same as a crunch of gravel in America. I’m still figuring out compassion.
Tonight at around 1:24am, my friend asked why I was going to Starbucks to write. I’ve got a word in my head, I told him: Gradient.
October, 2010. I’m on a plane from Thailand to India. Writing some emotional poem in my spiral bound about the Brazilian girl I met in Australia whom I think I’m in love with because I had a dream about her when I lived on Cape Cod.
My story is a dizzying one. Maybe one day I’ll write it all down and fill in some of these gaps. But not tonight. Tonight I’ve got a word on my mind: Gradient.
You see, my parents’ generation was one of blacks and whites. Of light switch moments, where all at once, everything was illuminated and your future was determined. There was no YouTubing instructions, there was merely mastery or, ‘Honey hand me the phone book so I can call the guy.’
I think it’s July, 2011. I’m on a ferry in Brazil as we made our way from Sao Paulo to Rio. I’m playing worship songs with some kids on the ship. Their parents would give us dinner and a warm bed that night, even though only one of us knew Portuguese.
The next day. I had my first drink ever: Vodka and lime at the Gecko Hostel, Paraty. The fat Australian guy named John told us Thailand is a party. Then I ran 5 miles barefoot, this time thinking about a Brazilian girl I met in Brazil.
Two days later in Rio. We’re being held up at gunpoint and the guy is asking for all our valuables. Well, I thought, If Thailand is a party, Brazil is a poem.
My father knew he wanted to be a pastor before he graduated high school. An older man at his church one day told him that he saw in him the skills to be a great pastor. So he became one of the best freaking preachers I’ve ever heard. And I’ve heard a lot of preachers.
I graduated high school a long time ago and I still have no idea what singular calling beckons my name. Perhaps it’s because no one spoke it into my life the way the old man did to my father. Perhaps it’s because the options are endless these days. Perhaps technology is to blame for presenting so wide a platter of options. Perhaps it’s okay to live in a gradient.
February, 2012. I’m on the phone with my mom from a hostel in Boston. I’m telling her I’ll be going to Nigeria in April because a friend and I are starting an organization. She sounds calm and makes a joke about Nigeria being nervous about me coming.
August, 2012. I’m homeless again. Living on the beach and teaching paddleboard lessons. I don’t know how hard the transition would be when I move to Chicago and begin my third college. This time, it’s for real. This is no community college. This is the number one Bible school in America. And maybe by the time I finish, I’ll know where I’m going and what I’m doing and who I am.
My transition into adulthood has not been a light switch. There was no moment of epiphany to suddenly illuminate the path I am to take. Some people are fortunate enough to have that. However, for me and most people my age, the abundance of information and opportunities have made the decision to ‘iron out our future’ nearly impossible. If not impossible, at least a more time-consuming one.
January, 2014. I’m at Starbucks with a favorite author of mine. He gave me a hundred bucks and explained how to have intimate relationships with others. Including myself. I’m learning that travel experiences make you look cool, but wherever you go, there you are and blah blah blah.
Whenever I see a sunset, I always try to pinpoint the place in the sky where the pink stops and the blue takes over. What I’ve come to find is that you can’t. There is no single point. God was the inventor of the gradient. He was the first one to say, Okay, you fade into this color here. But make it wide. Make it vast. Make it so the lines blur and the beauty in this hue carries into the next. Make it so this color gives way to this one, but not too soon.
Not all at once.
August-December 2015. I’m driving to and from the house where I work, nannying two little boys. I listen to a punk rock song about never growing up, dropping out, and sleeping on a twin size mattress your whole life. I feel it so hard every time.
My transition into the world of suit jackets, briefcases, and grown-up conversations has been a slow one. It’s been a gradient. It’s been a slow fade. A slow clap. Perhaps soon the uproarious applause will break out into full-blown adulthood. Full-blown responsibility. You can’t slow clap forever.
December, 2015. It’s raining in Chicago, so I lace up my kicks and go for a run. I see some newscasters on the deserted beach and get curious.
One month later. I move to Los Angeles and learn how to see through the deceptive media. I learn that the demigods of television and the legendary descendants of Zeus known as pop stars are not that far off from the Wizard of Oz. There’s a big curtain called the Imagination and they’re all huddled behind it hoping no one sees.
I’m in a Starbucks at 3am in Chicago and I’m still wearing a damp swimsuit from jumping in the lake earlier. This Starbucks in particular still reminds me of a girl who broke my heart in college. She and I would come here often and study into the thin hours of the morning.
When I was 18, I was positive I’d be married by the time I was 22.
I think my life so far has been a gradient. It’s been a slow fade into adulthood.
And I think that’s okay.
I feel pressure to feel guilty about being halfway through my twenties and not know where I’ll be next year. Next month. Or who I’ll be, what I’ll be doing, et al. And I think this pressure is unnecessary. I think God is okay with slow fades.
I’m not writing this post as an excuse for laziness and slacking off. I’m not about those things. But I am for bravery. I am for courage and trying new things. And I’m for patience. Sometimes God doesn’t turn on a light switch, but He’ll at least give you a candle so you can see where your foot should fall.
Sometimes you bump into a few walls.
I’m okay with living in a gradient, in a transition period. Sometimes one season fades into the next and you can’t quite see why or how, or even where you’re going. Sometimes you end up in Paris with two people who work for you in this Nigerian organization. Sometimes you’re driving across Utah in the middle of the night to see about a Brazilian girl you met online. But the fact that there’s a gradient means change is coming. It means soon the moon will be up and everything will be peaceful. And after the night is a sunrise; a fading into day. A transition into the next season.
Many of us will have a slow fade into adulthood and that’s alright.
Be at peace and enjoy the gradient.