A few weeks ago I was cleaning out an old email account of ours, one that we haven’t used in years, except as a spam-tastic decoy for all those online registration forms. I was wielding my Delete key with ferocity, annihilating legions of piled-up Viagra ads and invitations to help foreign princes transfer their untold riches into American bank accounts. Suddenly, swimming in the sea of junk, a name popped out at me. Jill.
Jill! My Dunkin’ Donuts, A.P. English, Room With A View, Jay Baik fan club, definitive Hermia, Steak-n-Shake, amazing writer, New York transplant, high school friend Jill. I felt a pleasant tingle of surprise (not unlike the very tail end of that pins-and-needles sensation you get when your arm falls asleep, actually.)
The already months-old email announced the debut of Jill’s blog. Of course, I clicked. I giggled. I wept. I marveled at the rich writing talent I used to know that has only grown more vivid and profound with the intervening years. Most of all, I peered through a window into my friend’s life and saw a kaleidoscope of colors entirely new, vignettes I had never before beheld. For a long moment, I was able to look down the Road Not Taken.
I remember being seventeen and breathless, exhilarated by the knowledge that the world lay open and glorious at my feet, a vast treasure trove of possibilities and future adventures, like glittering gemstones waiting to be picked up on my travels. Uncharted lands spread out before me, ready for my footprints. I could do anything.
What I didn’t truly understand, then, was that I couldn’t do everything.
Endless possibilities aren’t really endless. As the years pass (and they have a way of doing that), decisions are made, paths are chosen, and even exciting crossroads are bittersweet with the knowledge that each choice we make opens some doors…and closes others. No one person could live the many lifetimes I’ve envisioned for myself: the tireless missionary working to spread the Gospel in Uganda, the mysterious American girl waiting tables in a Venetian cafe, the Colorado cattle rancher’s wife roping and riding in faded Levi’s, the reclusive but celebrated novelist quietly breathing and writing in a hidden lakeside cabin in New England. Artist, cowgirl, debutante, wanderer, author–I’ve wanted it all at one point or another, sometimes all at once.
But no matter what they say, no one can have it all. I chose, like we all do, the way that seemed best, the way that embraced my heart’s deepest longings. I married the guy with the quick wit and the impressive unibrow who held me in his arms like he was holding something precious. I poured my desire to leave a mark upon the world into a decision to teach children to read, to think, to care. And then I had children of my own–an affectionate girl, a spirited boy. I can think of nothing more important than loving them and passing on to them the torch of my own ever-deepening faith in the God of the universe.
I have made many choices, and I look back on most of them without regret. I love the rugged landscape of my past, even those treacherous mountain passes I never meant to tread, where I learned heartache, despair, and then hope. I look around me now and thank every step that brought me to this place.
Sometimes I’d like to peek behind those closed doors.
Maybe that, at its heart, is what blogging is about.
Sitting at my computer in the dark, reading Jill’s incisive mix of prose and poetry (how does she do that thing where she puts her finger right on the thing she means to say without saying “thing” all the time?), I become her for just a moment: the adventurous single girl living in the city, an urban explorer surrounded by marvelous and bewildering people, making wild forays into a world of yoga classes and dating disasters and fascinating encounters with strangers in the park. Somewhere inside, I’ve always wanted to experience that life. Now, in a small way, I have.
So thank you, Jill, for your keen pen and your open window. I will be dropping in frequently.