There have been so many periods in my life that have been so important to me. Periods no one else would understand unless they were there. Things no one else would understand. High school, college, Utah, Israel. We always think about the individuals who have shaped us. The people we’ve loved, the people who didn’t love us enough. I am someone guilty of forgetting how significant community can be. Those periods. High school. College. Utah. Israel. Those communities that no one other than those present would understand. How often we give more weight to the individuals who have affected us over the communities that have shaped us. No one else knows my high school experience except for the high school friends I get to see twice a year. My college girls. The only four friends I ever made during those awkward 2.5 years at CU Denver. How only they can truly know what certain losses mean to me. No one else knows my community in Utah, how the 40 of us would spend every holiday together. No one else knows my Israel experience. No one else in my life can stand next to that experience without judgement except the 50 other people on that bus with me for those ten days that felt like 10 years. I am grateful for the communities that have shaped me, even as I stray from them.
When I was 18, I was in love with an alcoholic. He was 27. He was my boss. I looked him up the other day and found his instagram and chose not to follow it. I have always loved men who throw me away when the next best thing comes along. I have always loved men who treat me like garbage. I have no reason for being this way. I was raised better than this. I loved a man for 12 years who was always running away. I let these men and the men who came before them and the men who came after, I let them shape me. I never let the women in my life shape me. I never let my communities shape me. They shape me, to be sure, but not because I let them.
I am in love with a man I will not let myself love. I am in love with a woman I will not let myself love.
Tonight I spent the night in the company of four people with whom I spent ten days in a controversial country on the other side of the world. We never knew each other before and haven’t seen each other since. Tonight we aired our gossip, our secrets. Tonight I realized just how vulnerable I am to being shaped by anyone at all. And how strong I stand in spite of change. How capable I am of remaining myself while changing everything about my life.
On the way home, I let the iPod do its duty with the car’s media player that I still don’t quite understand how to work. I wrote this in my head much more articulately while driving the darkness of highway 93 home than I’m writing it here. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
Tonight I let the iPod start at the beginning of the alphabet and play through the five or so “A” songs it took me to get home, the route that’s guided my journey since I was 16.
When I was 16 I was in love with an 18 year old boy who broke my heart over and over for the next ten years. When I was 25 years old I went to Israel and re-met that 27 year old alcoholic boss, that 16 year old boy I fell in love with when I was too young to know any better. But I also met the women who would hold a mirror up to my face and say, “no,” and say, “is this really what you want,” and say, “why?”
Tonight on my way home, windows down, heat on, hair in a braid that slowly came apart in the midnight wind, I started with “About Today” on The National’s live album, The Virginia Ep. Followed by “Above and Below” by The Bravery, then “Above You,” by The Whitest Boy Alive, then “Abraham” by Sufjan Stevens, then “The Absence of God” by Rilo Kiley, then “Absolute Beginners” by the one and only David Bowie, then “Absolutely Nothing” by Lily Allen. That’s as far as I got, the song fading out as I pulled into the garage of my childhood home, my parents asleep upstairs.
When I was 22 or 23, I was in the midst of a break up and I went to a Ben Fold’s concert. Afterward, I idled my Honda C-RV outside the house of the boy who broke up with me and I wrote a blog entry about Ben Folds and high school and love, and when we got back together, that boy told me it was tactless for me to refer to him as “the boy I’m in love with” in such a public manner. I was going to spend the rest of my life with that boy, once.
I’ve never been one for tact. I’ve never been one to tell stories for the sake of anyone but myself. There’s no other reason I’d play this shitty Bravery song on repeat. Except it makes me tell my story. Sometimes my friends say, aren’t you embarrassed to write this stuff on the internet? Aren’t you embarrassed to expose yourself like this?
Do you know that you people click on my blog links ten times more often when I mention the word “love” in my little facebook/twitter link pitch than when I don’t? When I mention art, my school life, my boring adventures, I’ll get a few hits. But when I suggest a turbulent love life, romance, pain, almost everyone I never talk to follows a link to my blog. I get it. I do the same thing. I just want you to take a step back from your judgement for a second, from the validation other peoples’ turbulence gives to your lives–or takes from it–and think about why you clicked on this link or why you read this blog.
What I realized tonight is: my life is so much bigger than me. Everything around me is so much bigger than I am. I have known this before, but is is so easy to forget. What I realized tonight is that I am grateful for every single person who has shaped me, whether they’ve known it or not, whether I’ve known it or not. I am grateful for the people, most of all, who have been good to me. Who have tried to teach me to want more, who have tried to teach me that I deserve better, not because I sit idly by, but because I do the opposite. Or try to, at least.