Sunday, May 22, 2016

what I've learned, or not


Lately I've been waking up in the middle of the night, around 3 or 4 usually, and just...lying there. Insomnia's not that unusual, I know, but it's unusual for me. Right now, in fact, I'm having a little bit of it--11:58pm and my eyelids haven't even started to droop. It seemed like a good idea to write.

I've been 30 years old for a whole three weeks now, plus a little extra. My friend Sydney and I wrapped up more than a month of celebration last night with her perfect gift to me: dinner at the Wild Olive, a restaurant that's been on my to go list for years and years. It was at least as good as I expected it to be, better. Then today we walked on the beach, made breakfast, lunch, and dinner, drank wine and watched a rom com (somehow the abbreviated version of that term makes it even more apt). A perfect couple of white women days, really. Sunned, sanded, and wiped out, I would expect to go right to sleep. Here I am, though, thinking, writing, lying here again.

Perhaps what has been giving me pause is the strangely anticlimactic feeling accompanying what everyone has assured me is a pivotal birthday. 30. Three decades, each one vastly different from the last, each inhabited by a different person, really.

My sister asked me a couple of weeks ago what I had learned during my twenties. I balked, then responded with an answer I probably shouldn't post publicly. She told me that by the time she turned 30, she had learned not to have more than three drinks in a night. Nope, haven't learned that lesson yet.

Since then the question has lingered in the back of my mind. What have I learned? Anything? Something, surely. Right?

Doubt is so much more a part of my life than ever before. College taught me to doubt, and divinity school imprinted that quality into my identity. Take nothing at face value. Always look again, and again, and again. When I think about what I've learned, doubt is the first thing that comes to mind.

Doubt doesn't seem like the best starting point for a list of lessons, but maybe what I've learned doesn't fit in a list. Lists are too permanent, or they try to make things so. Recently I was telling my mom that big decisions scare me because I've never been certain about anything, at least not for long. Depending on the day, my ambivalence has sometimes led me to embrace change but more often to flee from it. I may not be certain about what I'm already doing, but at least it's comfortable; at least it's already happening. I have inertia going for me, which is nice.

But on a good day, that doubt can take me in the opposite direction. It can remind me that nothing--not my resolve, not my circumstances, not my understanding--is final. Look again, it says. Try again. Reconsider. Change. Grow.

This brings to mind the book of Ecclesiastes, and particularly its oft-repeated claim about life: "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."

That's an uplifting life lesson, right?

It's important to note that the word used for vanity in Ecclesiastes is the Hebrew hebel, which is often translated as "breath" or "vapor," indicating impermanence, futility, and delusion. But what else does breath point towards? Life.

That's it, really: what I've learned. It's all breath, or breaths, all uncertainty and change, failure followed by triumph followed by despair followed by joy. Mostly all of it wrapped up together, but in some kind of uncontrollable whirlwind rather than a neat package.

Maybe in another ten years I'll have a list. For now, this is about all I've got.

1 comment:

  1. Learning is continues process, one must keep doing efforts and try to learn new things. If you haven't learnt in twenties, don't worry go for it now as it is never too late

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