We thought we had it all figured out. After graduation, we’d find super awesome jobs doing… something super awesome, and move into an apartment with a view. Around that time, we’d both meet our own tall, dark, and handsome someone, date for two years, get married, enjoy being newlyweds for another two years, buy a house, and then start popping out babies.
My college roommate and I both drove red Geo Metros, majored in English, and loved going to midnight showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show. So, it seemed entirely possible, indeed likely, that our life paths would lead us on the same fabulous and remarkably predictable path – a path that would take us directly into motherhood at the ripe old age of 26.
Needless to say, that’s not how things unfolded for either of us.
By the time we graduated, it was clear that no such path lie ahead. But that felt okay; we rolled with it. There was a lot of adventure to be had, which we somehow left out of the original plan. So, off we went on our own, not identical adventures.
While my twenties and early thirties were an exciting string of plot twists and peaks and dips, I always imagined that life would settle down whenever I finally did get married. When things got crazy (another broken heart, another move, another disappointment) I’d retreat inward and replay a little movie I made in my mind that became a kind of security blanket.
In my movie, I’m in a little Spanish lullaby, bungalow dream house situated on a shady, tree-lined LA street. There are kids, lots of art on the walls, and a husband cooking in the kitchen. There is a garden in the back, a dog curled up in the corner, and of course, two cats sauntering about. The light is golden, like in the movies when the director wants you to feel nostalgic. It’s the cozy life I imagine is just around the bend, waiting for me to get all the adventure out of my system.
I bet you have a movie you like to play too, some happy ending promise that gets you through the hard parts. And if I asked you to describe the art on the walls, I bet you could. I bet your bottom dollar that you could tell me the color of the light and what smell is floating in from the kitchen.
What’s so lovely about these movies is that they give us an illusion of predictability. Oh, how we want that predictability! And we attach ourselves to them because that predictability makes the crazy tolerable. If we convince ourselves that our happy ending is coming, we can get through just about anything. Even those of us who like surprises really want life to be predictable. There is comfort there.
I have elements of my movie now – the husband who cooks, a kid, two cats, a partly tree-lined street in LA. But the funny thing is that I keep adding more specifics. Judah will go to this preschool. We will live in that neighborhood.
All that cozy predictability. So warm and good, like sipping a hot toddy next to a fireplace in a dimly lit pub somewhere in Cork.
After all the plot twists, I like to think I’m done with adventure. But I’m not; something under my skin gets itchy when I stand still for too long. Adventure is intoxicating. And it’s a good thing too because the truth is, adventure never really ends.
Settling down isn’t what we think it is. We think that just because we hit certain milestones in life that the path stops twisting, straightens out and allows us to see exactly what’s on the horizon. And then one day your husband turns to you and says, “I want to apply to grad school.” Or, “I think we should live in New York.” And you want to cry because that was not part of your movie.
Ah, what complex creatures we are.
Deep down, we want it all. Here’s the secret: we can have it all. The cozy and the adventure – we can have both. Isn’t life better that way? When things are constantly in flux we want the cozy. When things are slow and too predictable, we want adventure. Letting go of expectations allows us to navigate the plot twists with much more grace. Because there are always plot twists. (Thank goodness!)
Anything could happen in the next year. We could move across town or across the country. When all the possibilities overwhelm me, I replay my movie. But I’m learning to alter the setting a bit, loosen my grip on all the specifics, and flow with the next plot twist. Isn’t life more interesting that way?
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