I recently finished reading through the old entries in my current journal, whose remaining blank pages are quickly waning. The oldest is dated Monday, August 31, 1998. When I wrote that entry, I was on bus from New York City to Boston to begin my sophomore year of college. I’ve let my journal collect dust for some time now. However the experience of reading through so many years of my life inspired me to add an entry.
It’s amazing how foreign and familiar your own words can feel when you come across them years later. Some entries brought memories and emotions rushing back to me. Others were like strangers. They may as well have been written by someone else. I simply couldn’t locate those thoughts or experiences. Where there should have been a memory from my life filled in and restored, there’s a blank or a question mark.
I feel the most guilty about the people I’ve forgotten or lost touch with over the years. I know I pulled away a lot after my mother passed away. Some relationships survived my withdrawal. Some didn’t. A few names clearly meant a lot to me when I wrote them down, but now I can’t even conjure a fuzzy outline of the person. And two objects that I know I must have cherished at one time, I have no idea where they are now—no clue as to what became of them.
There are a few trends I noticed as I read through so many years of my life. I worried a lot—especially about money. However each condition of concern was met and matched with clear evidence of God’s provision. Certain people in my life were very generous on a consistent basis—not just with money, but with advice, encouragement, love, support, and time. I periodically struggled with depression and feeling like I was drifting down the river of life without a tangible purpose. I had a hard time relinquishing crushes. I had little faith I’d ever marry or fall in love. I made a lot of declarations/decisions that were destined to be short-lived. I made predictions. (Knowing what happened later, it was amusing—and sometimes sad and sometimes cringe-worthy—to read.)
In one journal entry I was on a plane towards my long-distance boyfriend. He’d break up with me on my following trip to see him and meet his family. (Thanks for letting me buy another ticket, jerk.) Later, I wrote about wanting the freedom of a freelancer and tried to psych myself up to quit a great job filled with amazing coworkers even if I didn’t have a guaranteed next step. I even declared my last day of work to myself.
I didn’t quit. Within a matter of months the company I worked for would go out of business, and I’d be thrust into the freedom I was too afraid to take. (In terms of my end date, my prediction/declaration was only off by a couple of weeks). I wrote a list (or two) of what I thought I wanted in a husband and marriage should I ever marry. (Suffice it to say, I’ve been both blessed and lucky.) And the church I had a hunch would provide lifelong and life-changing friendships has done (and continues to do) just that.
I was relieved to see I didn’t have many regrets throughout my life. Though there are a few things I wish had happened differently. I wish I’d visited my family the weekend before my mother died—just for the chance to see her one more time. I wish my husband (then my boyfriend) had made a particular trip to Grenada with me to visit my paternal grandmother. He’d come the following year (and every year after), but my grandmother would first have a stroke, so he’d never know her healthy or taste her delicious cooking.
If I could go back and talk to the woman I was while writing any of those entries, I’d tell her to worry less. That’s a message my current self still needs to hear. Things always manage to work out, and even when the worst happened, worrying would have served no purpose. My worries didn’t prepare me for anything or make any situation better.
I was happy to see how many of the things I hoped/dreamed for my life came through—some big some less so. I married my best friend. I’ve begun playing beach volleyball—pick-up games as well as in leagues and tournaments. Despite the spans of time I spent unemployed or uncertain of my professional and financial future, I paid off all my student loans much faster than I expected. I found a church where I feel at home and can be myself. I’m earning money as a freelance writer/editor and writing for pleasure. I’ve been able to travel every year—to new and exciting places as well as comfortable favorites. I’m learning French. (Technically, I’m relearning French since I took it in high school, but I did so poorly then it almost shouldn’t count. My first goal is to be literate. Then I hope to one day have the ability and courage to listen and talk to someone else.) I have two indoor volleyball teams. And now I stay on the beach when I visit Grenada. All things I wrote about wanting to have, do, or be.
I hope I can see the lessons in the life I’ve lived and apply them to the present and future. I should worry less and expend more energy enjoying my current situation. I need to give myself permission to make a change even when nothing is dramatically wrong. God provides in ways I would never imagine even if all I did was try. So just because I can’t see how something will work out doesn’t mean it won’t. I have more than I need and need less than I think. I can dream and have goals without resorting to dissatisfaction. Even in the midst of loss there can be both good and gains. Life is cyclical. I’ll need to learn some lessons more than once. Friendship and love are invaluable. I’ll spend seasons happy, excited, motivated, uncertain, uncomfortable, and sad. Very few decisions are indelible, so it’s usually worth it to take a chance.