There's a social media phenomenon known as "Throwback Thursday." This past week, I paid homage to my high school graduation.
My caption: "The #TBT Time Machine dial spins and lands on 1994. (Oh my, 20 years?!) This girl thought she had it all figured out, the paths her life would take and when and where and how and who. Little did she know, these were *not*, in fact, the "best days of her life," and that her future held so much more than the narrow view her young (and OMG hugely bespectacled WTH) eyes were able to see. A future that held days both more challenging and filled with amazing light than she could possibly imagine. She would learn that she had so much left to learn and that she would never learn it all. But mostly, she would come to know herself, how to fit inside her own skin, and find both peace and joy. You don't even know what you're smiling at, child, but those should have been sunglasses, because what lies ahead is oh so bright!"
Here's the thing about the girl in this photo. Gosh, she had no clue. None. You couldn't have *told* her that -- oh no, she was seventeen and had seen it all, don't you know -- because she had A Plan. She knew what she wanted. She knew how she'd get there. She had a timeline and a cast of characters.
What she really had was a whole lot of growing up to do.
I planned to be married by 25. Done having babies (three of them) by 30. I'd have a cute little house with a cute boy and some cute kids in my sleepy little hometown.
I was married just days shy of my 36th birthday. I don't (as of yet) have even one baby. I live twelve hundred miles away from the streets and landscapes of my childhood. The boy is cute though, and I love my house. And, really, life is so good, if not what that girl in the photograph envisioned.
Isn't that the thing about life though? God laughing at your plans and all that?
It never goes exactly how you picture. Just when you get a mental image and a path set, along comes something that doesn't figure in, so much so that the whole Mental Image is thrown off trajectory.
If there's one thing that girl hadn't learned yet (newsflash: there were many, many more lessons than one in store for her), it's that you can't fight the tides. You have to bend with the will of Life or Life will break you. (When I ride Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland, the turn of phrase I use is "loose and floppy." That philosophy works well in life as well.) It surely doesn't bend itself to the pictures we create in our imaginations. There are at least a thousand cliches (a number that may or may not be hyperbolic) that apply, but this girl with the bright smile was rigid in her plans, and that worked against more than it ever did for her. Once she learned to relax into the ebbs and flows of Life, that's when it became what she always wanted it to be: happy.
Two decades. It seems as if it went impossibly fast. I no longer have any idea what tomorrow will look like, much less however much time I have left in my hourglass. I no longer have the headstrong naivete to believe I know even a fraction of anything. I no longer a paint mental picture of what comes next to make my life full, but I open my eyes wide, hopefully expectant, because this I know: Life's best gifts come when you're open to them, ready or not.