Sorry I Could Not Travel Both

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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.

And yet…

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.

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9 responses »

  1. There’s sadness that goes with the word “potential.” At birth, potential is unlimited. Nothing is actual yet. It is all potential. But with each passing breath, we become a bit more actual and a bit less potential. And then, one day, potential describes what we could have done or been, and can never go back to. That is, unless we invest our actual into those who have greater potential, namely our children. The greatest investment of our actual is to put it into the potential of our children, increasing their potential and allowing them the opportunity to go so much further in life.

  2. Excuse me, but I’M AT WORK HERE! And now I’m all happy-weepy for the love of a friendship rekindled (via the internet of all things) after all these years.

    As I read this, imagining you ax ex-pat waitress, a cowgirl, a missionary, a “serious” novelist, I can see you in each of these roles, literally picture you in those postures and costumes. Part of me refuses to see those as dreams passed-over. I want to believe you’ll rope steer yet! The thing is, of all the people I know and have met, odd and interesting as many of them are, I think few hold a candle to the LIFE you live with such pure joy and full-bodied enthusiasm and I can’t help but think that there’s an expansive space for your potential to breath. I have to believe that — for both of us. (Sidebar: Ooh! Let’s go to Italy!)

    For those of you that don’t know Katrina, as wonderful a writer as she is, and believe me when I say I marvel at her ability to make me — and I’m sure, you — giggle-snort-cry with such breezy effortlessness, she is an even more breezily effortless, incredibly amazing, stimulating and creative personality to be around as well. She makes a day better just by showing up.

    I can’t tell you, Katrina, how much better you’ve made my recent days just by showing up here. I love you then, now and always. . . j

    P.S. Stephanie, Kristen and Katie all say Hello!

  3. I must be true to form here, my dear, as your own moment-taker-awayer from the “old school”…whats with all the weeping?!

    Kate sent me the link to your blog, and I have to say that I’ve not had so much fun tripping down memory lane in years. Reading your work has brought many memories back to make me smile and tilt my head ever so slightly to the right in that “aww, I miss them so” posture. Love it, love it.

    Tell that husband of yours I miss him, and give yourself a great big cantre hug. Love you to pieces.

  4. Kevin! You’re online! *looks around for airborne pigs* How are you, my deeply missed friend? What a wonderful joy to see your name, and to wish all at once that I could have one of your great big Cantre hugs, the kind where my feet leave the ground. I have thought of you so often–don’t diappear again, you got it? And as for the weeping, it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. πŸ˜‰

    Bishop–Good point. I think potential is at its best converted into a purpose to nurture, equip, and enable others, whether that be our children or the people we come in contact with throughout our lives. Let each life be richer for our having touched it, whether for a moment or for a lifetime.

    Jill–Now who is making who cry? At my job, fortunately, tears are part of the job description–both drying them and shedding them. I am so thankful for your friendship, back in my life after all this time. And Italy sounds great! How does Tuesday work for you?

    Becky–Thanks for the sweet encouragement. May God bless you!

  5. Kat, you have such a way of “saying” it too! You take my thoughts and put them on computer screen (rather than paper) with such ease… I can totally see 1/2 of your face doing each of the dreams or vocations you mentioned πŸ™‚ I too have often wondered what might have been. Then the squeely-screams of my crew bring me back to reality and I being to wonder if my actual is really worth imparting to the potential of my kiddos. My life has been very un-eventful and there are many things that I wished for myself that never came to be. But, I too chose this road that I walk, trot, run, or trudge each & every day. My family is my life and I wouldn’t trade them for all the trips to far-off places and myserious romances to be. Well, most of the time anyway πŸ™‚

  6. “For all the sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.'”… but just think, it might have been the life you have now that “might have been”.

    I think I am trying to travel down a dozen paths at once. Maybe like my Mom always I need to focus. (Hmmm strange how all the wisdom of the world can be narrowed down to what mom says). Thanks for sharing your experience.

    You certainly would make a great writer and if you do, your living the so-called “ordinary” life would make you a greatER writer. Bad writers are often those who haven’t lived a life away from book signings. Maybe…

  7. Jennifer–I can tell you cherish your family just by reading what you write. And what you call “uneventful” could also be called steady, nurturing, and peaceful–an environment I wish all children could claim. Mom-hood is full of everyday adventures, especially if we look through the eyes of our kids!

    Sri–What a tremendous compliment! I thank you. πŸ™‚ And I’m sure your mom would be happy to know that you are recognizing her wisdom. (Don’t tell her, though, or you might get more of it than you wanted! Ha!)

  8. I’m at one of those major decision points in my life (namely, getting hitched!), where walking through one door closes others.

    I’ve noticed that I occasionally sense a sadness, I suppose at the impending loss of “potential”. But the “actual” is so full of love and hope that I wouldn’t trade it for all the other potentials in the world!

    Thank you for sharing your perspective and wisdom from a place in life I will arrive at sooner than later πŸ™‚ It confirms the peace God’s already given me about the major change my life will be experiencing in the next year!

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