If I had one wish, it would be to be a twenty-one year old girlfriend for the rest of my life, repeating my senior year of college over and over again, never growing old, just waiting in line to get into a bar with my boyfriend, forever. Twenty-one year old girlfriends can be carefree and fun, the types of girls I think men imagine the topless ladies on the covers of magazines to be like- “dream girls.”
As you get older you become introduced to yourself. You think you know yourself, but you don’t, it’s a slow and gradual process that takes life experiences that (sometimes painfully) introduce yourself to you. As the years tick off your twenties, you are able to identify the types of girlfriends your mid-twenties turn you into. There’s the twenty something year old girlfriend that will get black out drunk and skinny dip in front of your friends, there’s the twenty something year old girlfriend that wants you to propose and have your babies, and then there’s the twenty something year old girlfriend who wants to travel the world and grow gracefully into an old wise Yoda with you.
When I was twenty-one, I was dating a talented singer in a band who was taking entomology and was never without a butterfly net and a kill jar. You’d be talking to him outside while walking to class and a butterfly would float by and he would, mid sentence, take off after it, waving his net in the air in front of him, other pedestrians frantically moving out of his way at the sight of him charging towards them with a net, afraid he might be coming after them. I would stand there, falling in love as I watched him off in the distance, opening the lid to the kill jar, signifying the end of the pretty butterfly’s life. Once, we stayed up all night with his dead insects, removing their lifeless, delicate bodies from tiny glass containers that were all over his room, and pinning them into the little wooden box he would turn into his professor for his final exam. The bugs intrigued me, but his gentle spirit, beautiful singing voice, and ability to be kind to every single person he encountered (he stopped killing bugs once he passed the entomology class) made him completely perfect to me, and then college ended and the world became a hopeless place.
Real life has a way of screwing everything up because the simple joy of just existing, or staying up all night sticking pins through dead insects, is replaced with burdens such as jobs, money, and surviving in a what I would call a creuler than kind society. When you are forced to fend for yourself, you are in turn forced to define yourself, and you may discover new traits that must have been hiding, deep rooted and suppressed, within the depths of your soul. You pick a career, but what do you pick? What is so important to you that you wouldn’t mind spending the majority of your time here working towards? You discover people’s motivations- money, fame, attention, power, adventure, art, giving back, taking from, winning, exploring, etc, etc. And you discover what motivates you and how those motives align with others, and it’s not as simple as differing hobbies or differing tastes. You can’t just order the veggie burger and enjoy it alongside someone who’s eating steak. The way people choose to live their life is very important, the way others treat people is very important, the way people deal with setback and failure is important, the way people choose to behave after finding success is even more important. And they are all choices that introduce ourselves to…ourselves.
The two most important choices we have though, is the way we think (or choosing to think at all) and the way we love. While most people live honest and normal lives, people who have one appropriate thought that corresponds to an appropriate event, or people who live isolated and in ignorant bliss of anything else going on outside themselves, I find myself having at least three thousand at a single given moment, almost all of them inappropriate and having nothing to do with what is going on around me, and almost always starting with something that leads me down a twisted and soiled path that looks like this:
It’s the first of the month, rent is due. Is Rosie working at Target today or is it her day off? I wonder if her brother got time off from his job to take that vacation to the Philippines. I hate that celebrities get paid more than teachers. I got a new snapchat. I can’t remember how the minimum wage is set. What time is it in Africa? I’m so hungry.
“What are you thinking?” someone will ask. “Why are you so quiet?” “Uh…” I say, trailing off into silence. I have people in my life who I can, without any hesitation, rattle all that off to and as it falls on them, like droplets of water, they catch them in a bucket, they absorb them, signaling to me that my thoughts have not only been understood, but they have been protected. That is the best feeling in the world. I’ve also rattled off thoughts to a blank face, one void of any emotion except annoyance or judgement- that is the worst feeling in the world. There is no easier way to make someone feel smaller than to dismiss their thoughts as nonsense, because whether you know it or not, you are taking away their voice.
The way people love follows closely behind the direction of their thoughts. Love can be many different conversations, but it is never silencing. It is not one person standing tall and mighty above the other, if anything it is two people down on the ground, and at an equal level, sharing their most vulnerable fears, and listening to one another, reassuring one another, building trust. This is hard for people, we seem to live in a world full of alphas, and love is disappointing to an alpha in so many ways because it is a blaring reminder that they, like you, are imperfect, at times dishonest and ugly, and at times regular human beings. We spend so much of our time trying to hide our own humanness from one another. But what’s the point? We are human, and with that we are also each others greatest teachers, especially when it comes to love.
I think the people who are the best lovers are the ones who are courageously unafraid of their vulnerability. These people do not lock it away to age in bitterness, they embrace it and use it to be a more compassionate, tolerant, and empathetic member of the human race. They are the ones who won’t allow their ego to block their vision, or the ones who find words of kindness to build others up. In college I thought most people in the real world would be like this, but as I grow up, I’m discovering people are too damaged. I’ve heard people refer to someone as “damaged,” meaning someone who has had their fair share of heartbreak, but I don’t think that holds any clout. I think you only become damaged when you give up, and you stop searching for good in others, or reminding others that they are good, when you just lie down and accept that it’s easier to laugh at people’s expense, or point out the flaws in others, or judge someone else. The second you cut someone else down to feel more powerful, or to feel better in your situation is the second you become “damaged.”
Unlike in college, the real world forces you to stand for something, and not to be a buzzkill, but one day you’ll be dead, there’s not a lot of time to waste being an asshole. So you have to stand up, this is the life I want to live, these are the things that make me happy, these are things I believe strongly, this is how I want to spend my time, this is someone who I can look at and be proud of, this is how I want to be remembered. I clearly am not still dating my college boyfriend, but I remember him so fondly, I remember him as goodness, and that matters. You start realizing that every single choice you make, is who are you becoming, so your choices start to matter, A LOT. Otherwise, you’ll spend your whole life fluttering all over like you were being chased by a college student with a net and a kill jar.
I miss being in college, full of freedom and spirit, disillusioned with the notion that curiosity and imagination won’t turn you into a big weirdo, and equipped with a cafeteria meal plan. But mostly I miss how college froze time, I miss being able to date people without worrying, will twenty years fly by with this person and suddenly one day I’ll wake up fifty-four, realizing this isn’t the life I wanted, left only to ponder what now? Kill jar.