It is a perfect day here in Waco, Texas.
Not humid from the stifling river; just breezy and perfect.
It's understandable then, that the young lads at my college Alma Mater walk around with such carefree looks on their faces. Smiling; talking about their weekend trips to Austin or Dallas. Running; facing down the bear trail and looking like a million bucks as they hit mile number two. Cruising; literally, in lawn chairs in the bed of their buddies truck. Chatting; with girls about other girls about other girls. Flirting; like the couple behind me on the porch of Common Grounds who are dreaming about their future together.
They all look so young.
What happened? Are they letting junior high kids into college now or have I just gotten that much older?
These kids are little. This place screams summer camp. And as my dear friend Sam said over lunch today, "They have it so easy and carefree... they have no idea what they're getting into."
No matter what age you are, you do not want someone older than you telling you that your life is simple and trite, as if being a college student is really all that carefree. As if being in junior high is really that easy. As if being five discredits you from knowing everything there is to know in life. As if almost turning 30 is the wonder year that you will long for in years to come. Don't tell me that. This year hasn't been easy at all.
So- I aim at not discrediting the weighty matters of being in college and completely deleting all the meaning out of existence before then. Sincerely.
It's just that I don't remember it. Being back here makes me feel like I am stepping out of the wardrobe closet and back into the professor's house after a long and magical trip to Narnia. This place isn't Narnia.
This is the cold wooden dank armoire bringing me back to reality. Narnia feels like home. This place feels foreign. Or does this place feel like Narnia and where I have lived the last few years as a rootless vagabond feel like the dank armoire? I'm not sure. But I have driven the streets today, looked at the buildings, and tried to retrace me steps. And I am quite sure I have never been here before.
Did I ever go to college here? What did I do? Was I happy? Why didn't I just have fun while I was here? Why did I insist on being so grown up? So serious? So committed to boys? Why didn't I take more road trips? Make life-long girlfriends? What happened here anyways? Was that me or a different me? Have I changed... I mean, who is the real me. Her? Or me, now?
Are you sure I lived in that dorm?
I feel no more connection to that dorm than I do the swing I am sitting in. The swing I have never seen before in my life.
Wait, I must take a time-out here to say that a really adorable 19-ish year old guy with dimples just saved a girl's dog who broke free from the leash. He jumped in front of two cars to save that girl, I mean that dog, and I am quite sure he will have heroic folklore follow him the next four years for these actions. At least that's how the girls squawking over his bravery right now are acting. He is a hero. And he knows it.
And I don't know. I am not in a bad mood. I am not pessimistic or sad or even sitting here in regret. I just feel like a bit of a realist today.
I wonder if that guy will still be a hero in ten years? That's all.
The boy who saved the dog and had all the girls gasping and hugging him. Will he hit adulthood and find out that it's complicated? Hard? Tricky? Will he ever come back here and sit in this same swing and wonder if this place is a dream, if he ever really saved that great big white dog from being hit by a car or if it was just a dream? Will he wonder who he was back then and how he could have grown up so much since then? Will life pass that quickly and that eternally slow for him too?
These are Friday afternoon musings from a girl who feels like she's lived a lot of life since she's been on these streets last.
I met my husband here. I started the band Addison Road here. I studied religion and history and fell in love with the anthropology of people here. I made lifelong friends with Sam and Leslie Smith the very first day of school here. They became spiritual mentors. Teachers. Friends. Parents.
These are facts. They most certainly happened. But it all seems so fuzzy now.
My life is not overly complicated or terribly hard. Still, something about being here tugs deep within me and makes me a little bit afraid. Afraid that I can't remember. Afraid that it seems like so long ago. Afraid that I will be back here soon... with Annie and her boxes. Afraid that life is shorter than I thought and yet oceans away from memories that should be more fresh. Afraid that maybe I miss making memories. Afraid that it is happening all to quickly. Desperately wanting to hang on and slow it all down. To keep it in my hands. Frozen.
Fear will only have me for a few more minutes. Then I will tell it to go away and stop messing with my mind, my memory.
But right now I sit here, on this swing, and I wonder...
Did I really show up here, a scrawny 115 pound little person all by myself? And for what reason? Did I have any idea what I was getting myself into? Did I have any clue that life would happen? Or did God protect me from that little piece of information?
Like he does before you have a baby.
Protects you from knowing how brutal the first few weeks will actually be with strange fluids, aching legs, sore breasts, the strange fear of defeat, utter exhaustion, and a complete certainty that the critter in the other room has stopped breathing.
Maybe that's how we do life. If we knew ahead of time, we would run. So, we live innocently. Freely. Without fear. And when we have to grow up. When we have to face the fire. When the flames get hot...
well, that's when we learn to fight another day.
We grow up because we have to.
But we are changed in the process... because we want to.