I wrote my college admissions essay mainly around another of rilke’s quotes, the one where he begs you to “love the questions themselves…and live your way into the answer”. I loved that quote when I was 18. it seemed the perfect mantra for my life in that moment as I stood on the brink of something new, when the unknown was exciting and every distant horizon beckoned, as irresistible as a siren song.
I’ve thought often how in the time that’s passed since, I’m no longer that way. where I used to relish in the limitless possibility of what’s around the corner, I now found myself mistrusting it. I no longer spurred towards the horizon at full speed; instead, I measured and calculated and approached with caution, if at all.
and as I take a step back and realize all these things as I’m writing this, I ask myself a question I should have asked long ago: when did I stop being brave? when did the naive but gutsy 18-year-old girl I was become the learned but scared woman I am?
I think it started in college, when I pursued a dream even when I no longer wanted it because I wouldn’t allow myself a new one, and it continued after college in a vortex of shame, regret, and sadness when I couldn’t forgive myself for all that had come before. I don’t know if I ever consciously thought this as the years passed, but I realize now that these last few years of going along was self-imposed penance in a way, as though drifting without purpose was somehow the price I should pay for walking away from a dream that had and should have died.
and I would have continued going along if James hadn’t gotten laid off. but he did, and it woke me up from a complacency that had gone on for far too long. it was a rude awakening, and as all unwanted awakenings are, it was incredibly painful. but although we didn’t see it that way at the time, it was painful in the way that blood flowing back into your frozen extremities is painful, as inch by painful inch, lifeblood flows back in. it was painful in the way coming back to life should be painful.
it was also humbling in the way all-encompassing grace is humbling. when I think how through all those years of wandering and despite all my best efforts to remain lost, I still somehow found my way to james and to where I am now, I realize that I didn’t find my way to anything – I was gracefully guided there.
and so I find myself on the brink of something new again. new horizons are beckoning, and bigger dreams are forming. I’m ready to go towards them now, towards a new and different celebration in which I’m eager to take part, equipped with the 8 years of questions and answers lived by the woman I am now and the rediscovered pluck of the girl I was then.