I’ve been learning a lot as I’ve transitioned into [faux] adulthood over the last couple of years. One lesson in particular keeps showing up, reminding me that growing older is often just a matter of unlearning all the things you once knew to be true. The longer you’ve carried a belief, an idea, or an attitude, the harder it is to peel off as you break the mold of who you were and step into who you’re becoming.
So what have I been unlearning lately? The idea that decisions have to be made now, that situations must be rectified now, that shit must get figured out now. The idea itself once served me well. It probably made me better, faster, stronger at one point, but now I find that it holds me back. It brings anxiety, and often, helplessness and hopelessness– the temperature at which depression’s bacteria grows quickest.
I remember as a child and a teenager having doubts and questions about my faith. Hell, I’ve still got doubts and questions– probably more than I did then. At that point, however, an urgency would rise up in me to solve the issue immediately. It came from this [not terribly helpful] teaching of “if you died today, where would you spend eternity?”. This really popular hand-raising-now-i’m-saved tactic instilled in me an idea that I didn’t have time to let questions linger in the air above me. I had to get it together or burn in hell. I had to assume that my time was limited.
The problem is, most important things in life leave us with a lot of questions to be answered, and we might spend our entire lives answering them. Even when we think we’ve got it, we’ll find out later that we don’t, and we’ve still got so much to learn. That’s not to say that we should avoid making major decisions, but we’ve got to be willing to accept the reality that life is ever-changing, and few things are final. Even contracts are revisited and commitments are amended by shifting winds or selfish hearts. Things change. We change.
I’ve avoided committed romantic relationships for literally all of my [faux] adulthood until recently. The minute I found something I didn’t just love about someone, I ended it, because of the mindset that every decision was final and every decision needed to be made now. I can’t tell you how happy I am that my boyfriend happened to be passing by at a time in my life where I am finding the freedom to enjoy what is currently working. I understand that there might come a time when it doesn’t work anymore, and I have a peace about that. *DISCLAIMER* I am not suggesting that we flail about our lives like those giant things in front of car dealerships every time the wind changes. Please don’t go home and divorce your husband.
Commitments are important. They’re a necessary part of adulting, and thankfully, they can be really fulfilling. But part of adulting is deciding what kind of commitments you’re ready to make, and pushing through the fear and anxiety that come with them because you know it’s worth it. My point is, I’ve long carried fear and anxiety into every (somewhat) consequential decision of my life. And it’s not always worth it.
Losing sleep over boyfriends or classes or spring breaks or jobs or friends or Friday night plans is just not worth it for me anymore. It might be, at some point, but today, it’s okay if I don’t have it figured out by morning. It’s okay if we go to sleep mad at each other. It’s okay if things are awkward for a little while. It’s okay if I mess up. It’s okay if you mess up.
This instant that you grace the Earth’s surface is your entire life, and you have the privilege of using each fleeting second to figure out the questions hanging in the air above you. It’s a paradox. We must find comfort and peace in the fact that we have all the time in the world, but our world won’t last forever. We have all the time in the world to figure it out, but our pain and confusion and discomfort won’t last forever. Things will change. We will change. Things will get better. Things will get worse. We will get better. We will get worse.
But I bet we will get better again if we remember that our lives are not a series of puzzles to put together each week. Our lives aren’t daily to-do lists. They’re unfinished masterpieces that we work on a little each day. And sometime’s we don’t. Sometimes we Netflix and chill instead. And sometimes we spill wine on our masterpieces and have to figure out how to make even that look beautiful. Or someone tears a piece off for themselves, and we have to decide if it’s worth it to hunt them down and get that piece back or just find something shiny to take its place. Our lives will even end as unfinished masterpieces. If we must make any hasty decisions right this second, maybe we could decide to be more gentle with ourselves and with others. Maybe we could give a little more grace as we just keep adding beautiful things to our lives as they come, and give even more grace as they go.