So, I’ve hit upon a blogging stumbling block. I have a story that I want to tell, that I need to tell, and in fact I’ve already told it many, many times in my head and now, at last, to the glowing screen. I can’t hit publish, though, because it’s too personal. Too personal for the people who know me and too personal for the people who don’t.
So I’m going to sit on it and tell somebody else’s personal story and then, at the end, I’m going to make it all about me. [That’s how blogging works, right?]
I have a friend, a male friend, that I knew in college and then in law school and it’s really quite bizarre that we still talk. In literature classes we were not friends. We came at the same story from different angles and drew different conclusions, always. He was a rational, unsympathetic reader. His thesis was on H.P. Lovecraft. He had no patience for theory and no respect for postmodernism. [I, for what it’s worth, bought into all those English-major trappings.] He was also the only student who brought a laptop to class and he argued with everybody.
We spoke directly to each other for the first time on the last day of classes in undergrad, after we’d read excerpts from our theses to a group of students and professors in our program. We congratulated each other and must have each seen the relief and terror in the other’s eyes because instead of going home or out to celebrate with friends we went to a coffee shop and poured it all out, shared college memories, childhood traumas, and plans, so many plans that still didn’t feel real. He was going to China, alone, to travel and smoke cheap cigarettes. I was going to law school, alone, to make myself a different person. The plans were really all we had in common, that and a crippling fear of the futures we couldn’t see.
And then I moved and we didn’t speak for a year. And when we dud, we were back to having nothing in common. He didn’t find himself in China the way I did during that first year of law school. I, at last, had plans: to be with Husband, who was still Boyfriend, but had moved across the country for me; to be a lawyer, which may not sound like a big deal, but do you have any idea how many people in law school don’t actually want to be lawyers?; to be a different person, basically. Now that I wasn’t lost, it was like literature classes all over again. He was a rational and unsympathetic legal scholar. We leaned the same direction (um, left) on most legal and political issues, but for drastically different reasons (him: economics; me: compassion). We both brought our laptops to class and argued with everyone.
And then I graduated and we didn’t speak for a year. Until tonight. I called him, at his suggestion, and asked how he was doing. “I feel like I’ve regressed,” he said. And I didn’t know how to respond, because of all the directions I’ve moved this year, backwards isn’t one of them. He kept going. See, the thing is, at the prompting of an observant professor, he’d gone to a therapist to deal with some long-standing issues. This has apparently changed everything for him. For the first time in his life, he is capable of making decisions. He realizes that he has some power over what happens next. Which is great, but not when he thinks about the years of growth he missed out on. He wonders what he would be doing if he’d started thinking about what he wanted before right now. “I don’t know what I want my life to look like,” he said.
And, with that, we were back in the little college coffee shop in Tucson, Arizona, and I understood. I understood perfectly. Because even though I didn’t spend my life avoiding decisions, I did forget to picture life beyond my twenty-fifth birthday. I pictured school and internships, and job interviews, and graduating, and marrying the man I’d spent my entire adult life with, and I knew that things would happen after that, and I knew some of those things would be good and that some would be bad, but I didn’t know what they would look like. Or what I wanted them to look like. I still don’t know, but I’m trying to figure it out.
So today I got to talk to an old friend and he reminded that one of the best parts of being lost is the company.