My parents were a smidgen older than I am now when they thrust me into existence. I didn’t have much say in the matter, but I showed up and immediately started acting like I did.
Despite the fact that I was born omniscient (it seems to have faded after my teenage years) I thought my parents were all-knowing, all-powerful and all-benevolent. I was right about one of those. But with that belief came the assumption that by the time I reached the ripe old age of 29, I’d be as all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-benevolent as they.
Unless something drastically changes in less than two years, I plan on being far from all three.
You see, the thing most of us tend to forget is that moments before we emerged into this humid, chilly world, it was spinning along just fine without us. History was being made without our say, much less our observation.
In two days, I will teach my first history class and I have a monstrous task ahead of me: Convince my middle school students that the universe was extant far before their arrival here. Heck, I was extant far before their arrival. I guess that’s something you have to experience to understand: you see a new generation of self-proclaimed geniuses rise up and realize you never were as smart as you thought you were.
It was chilling recently when I was talking with a high schooler who was born after 9/11. To me, that was one of the most earth-shattering events in my lived history. To them, it’s simply “Pre-Me” history. But now I’m getting off-track.
What I wanted to say is this: I have no idea what the h-e-c-k I’m doing.
Like I said, my parents were a bit older than me when I burst into the world, but a bit younger than me when they got married. I have this tendency to think that certain milestones denote ‘arrival’. Arrival on some glorious, invisible plane upon which life becomes more clear and easy and…lively.
Marriage is one of these planes, despite the fact that every wedding I’ve attended in the past three years has been for couples younger than me (i.e. They’ve ‘arrived’ and I haven’t).
My most recent book is called Now Let Me Find A Stopping Place, and the most obvious implication is that I’m looking for a place to set roots down. While this is true, geography is not the only thing you can set roots into. There are businesses to haunt. You put roots down into cuisine, guilty pleasures and routine.
Then there are people.
There is (so I wrestle with believing) that one person.
This year, three of my best friends got married and one entered a relatively serious relationship; I moved to Guatemala.
Two years ago, I wrote about living life in a gradient. The more I live, the more I realize how accurate that post was. You expect ‘light switch changes’ to occur in your life, but more often, you’re fading from one season to the next. It’s a slow change, a gradual turning of the seasons.
June 21 may be the first official day of summer, but we all know that mother nature pays no heed. Her gears are turning the clock toward summer over the course of many weeks. And months later, those same gears will shift away from the heat and toward the face-stinging cold of a Chicago winter.
I found myself there on multiple occasions: Once for college, once on the news, and a few times since. My Chicago season never ended abruptly, it faded out (I was even there for a day this summer…yes, A day).
So, fellow millennials, what fuels this desire to fade rather than to be? Why does it feel like we’re slowly ascending a mountain rather than stopping at a plateau along the way? Seems like that would be a simpler way to live.
I’m in Guatemala now, but don’t know how long I’ll be here. Don’t know if this is my ‘Stopping Place.’ But one thing I’m not doing anymore is looking back. I’ve nostalgically lived in the past for most of my life—although I may occasionally lapse into longing solely for the future—and that eternal longing never seemed to satisfy.
I don’t know if I’ll go back to Colorado. Or Cape Cod. Or California. Or Chicago. (Or apparently, any other place that starts with a C.) I think I’m figuring out how to have my eyes set both on the present moment as well as the nearish future.
The past holds nothing for me but dreams from which I’ve already woken.
My Spanish is non-existent but I’m loving the experience of living in the disorientation. Every time I feel a longing for home, I remind myself that this is exactly why I wanted so badly to leave America. I can only speak for myself, but I so badly wanted to experience this disorientation for the sake of waking into life rather than pacing through stagnant routine. It’s same reason I go to church, if it’s done right.
You can go to a service which has conformed to the exact ‘pattern of the world’ with the simple rock-concert-plus-TED-Talk formula and know exactly what’s going to happen. You will not be disoriented for the sake of relying on a transcendent God; you’ll be mildly entertained and then ask where people are going for froyo afterward.
No, I prefer to be lost in a liturgy. It’s a pattern the Church has carried for millennia, yet it never ceases to be alarmingly different from the rest of our weekly routine. I went to a liturgical service on Sunday and loved it. I didn’t know what was coming next. The Scriptures sang with Adele-strength power as if they came from the mouth of God Himself (huh…).
If nothing else, travel casts the same spell on me. It loses and confuses. It spins me upside down and, in this episode, takes Ethan to a country where he can’t communicate with anyone else except via pointing and waving money around.
To be frank, I go back and forth between whether or not I think travel is beneficial for the Christian. On the one hand, it’s a first-world luxury which very few people get to enjoy. On the other hand, pilgrimage has been a spiritual discipline for eons, so who am I to argue?
All that is to say, who knows where I’ll fade to next? Who knows what type of human I’ll fade into, and if I’ll find that one special person to fade with? I could waste time and lose sleep juggling these questions in my mind, but for now, I want to be here, now. Because I will spend a good amount of my life not being here, and likely looking back on it wishing I was here again.
I don’t know what I’m doing yet, but I hope to give it my very best. I hope to play my part in the history of the world, so that when I’m long my memory may last just a few days longer than the grass which grows on top of me (better yet, the waves which roll above me!).
Maybe when it comes my turn to spring a child into existence, I’ll have a better sense of what I’m doing. Maybe not, and I’d be okay with that too.
May we be people who live here now. May we not fret about tomorrow, for tomorrow will fret about itself. May we be people who number each and every day, for the days are evil (I have met but a handful that weren’t).
“I prefer to be lost in a liturgy. It’s a pattern the Church has carried for millennia, yet it never ceases to be alarmingly different from the rest of our weekly routine.” Love this!
You’re great, this is awesome, I relate to these questions, enjoy Guatemala. If you’re falling for liturgy, you should check out “The Cloister Walk” by Kathleen Norris. Pax.
As I get older I realize just how much my parents didn’t know and how much I really have no idea what comes next. And considering I thought everything (or almost everything) my parents did was wisdom directly from God Himself it makes me feel a whole lot better about my constant state of clueless-ness. Thankfully God shows us what comes next! Thanks for the post!
Great post! I love hearing about and seeing your adventures.
This quote has to be one of the most relatable things to me that you’ve ever written “i’ve nostalgically lived in the past for most of my life—although I may occasionally lapse into longing solely for the future” it honestly sums me up to a T
I also loved the small point you made about your views on travelling being a western privilege. I’m in the same boat at the minute, as I’m travelling Asia. I feel like having a desire to see the world gives honour to God as it praises the beauty he created. But at the same time I can’t help but look at the poverty around me and question whether or not spending the money I am on travelling can really be justified, in a world where people can’t afford basic needs let alone luxuries.
You are not alone my friend.