I used to be really impressive.
In college, I was a mentor in the honor’s program, and the founder of a university-wide film fest. On the weekends, I woke up in the dark, pinning my stylish straight-across bangs back with bobby pins before running my hands along the cragged rocks on the way to the top of the Royal Arch, cracking open a Coors Light or two with friends as the light finally broke the horizon, sipping beers as the sun rose.
I directed plays, shattering donation records for a non-profit by the tens of thousands of dollars. Once, I literally had a guy stand underneath my dorm room window and serenade me with a song. I started a successful literary magazine.
But most importantly, I was happy and impulsive, carefree and adventurous.
I danced in sweltering clubs where my shoes stuck to the floor, letting my sweat mix unapologetically with the sweat of other people. I drove across the country to sleep under the stars with 20,000 strangers on a whim, spending my days walking barefoot through an Oregon marsh and my nights around a bonfire, sipping tepid broth.
I was always the one laughing the loudest. And I was always so confident in my steps and so sure of myself.
And in the future, I’ll be someone who wears perfectly tailored white slacks more days than not, expertly navigating through a majority of the major cities–New York, Paris, Milan–always knowing someone to ring up who will meet me for an overpriced drink with in a hotel that’s dripping with chandeliers and champagne.
I’ll pen novels, magically becoming the sort of person who says pens instead of writes, probably favoring fountain pens over ballpoint, somehow managing not to let one single stray spot of black ink find its way to my pristine white pants.
I’ll be most comfortable living from a suitcase and surrendering to serendipity, getting swept up in whatever northeastern breeze urges me to move mountains, move across rivers, move continents. I’ll be effortlessly compassionate, completely content, and confident in my ability to take on the world, regardless of missteps or mistakes.
And right now, I’m Jess.
Instead of travelling, trekking across borders and making a life that’s borderline impulsive, I’m spending more time in the sunlight and going to damn spin classes at the gym. I’m rigorously building a routine.
I’m most comfortable in $8 Target t-shirts and a pair of shorts I’ve owned for four years. Some days I fall asleep sure that I know where my feet will fall the next day, and some nights I never get to sleep, standing on my tiny concrete balcony and listening for the train.
Somewhere in the last 7 years, that certain, sugary-sweet, and eternally optimistic girl has become someone who has a tendency to scrawl out everything in a day planner, (slick black ink, please). Who sometimes chooses to nap instead of careening down a dirt road to a tiny mountain town. Who occasionally worries that I’ve lost it–whatever it is, that used to make me so magnetic. But who knows that I’m finding my way back, finding my way forward, fighting my way forward into exactly who I want to to be.
Because sometimes, it takes unglamorous details, unglamorous choices to achieve those lofty goals.
And while, at this very second, I’d likely spill a bloody mary, (extra green olives), all over my white pants, there’s something to be said for the freedom that’s found in accepting exactly who you are, exactly in this moment, and finding rhythm in the process.
We’re not has-beens, and we’re not have-yet-to-bes.
We’re just ourselves.
These bright, tangled wires of will and well wishes, tumbling about until we find our footing in the best way we can. Walking along the waves on the North Carolina coast and knowing you’re doing everything in your power to persevere. To perfect your passions. To become a powerhouse.
You might not be crusading with a caravan of hippies across the country anymore. Unlike the days of yore, you might not have suitors beckoning from beneath your windowpane, (said in my best Shakespearean voice, obviously.) You might not have timeshares in Tahiti yet. And you might not even be sure what your future success shakes out to look like.
But that doesn’t mean you’re not gearing up to cause one hell of a ruckus.
Because maybe you’re learning the layout of the downtown Denver library by heart, or spending every evening walking through a rose garden, stopping to dangle your feet into a fountain where water pours out of a lion’s mouth, old-school style. Maybe you drive three hours home on a Thursday morning, maneuvering down a winding highway with the windows down, finding a song to put on replay at least five times. Maybe you’re drinking a gallon of spiked apple cider while sitting in the shade on one of those totally predictable red and white checkered tablecloths, weaving dandelions into crowns and tucking two neatly behind your left ear.
Do all of these things, if only so you can remember that regardless of who you’ve been, and regardless of who you’ll be, you can smile, let your ribcage collapse with an exhilarating exhale, and remember that life is GOOD. You are GOOD. You’re moving forward. And you have the world sitting to seductively at your bare feet, between the jug of sun tea and a stack of well-worn books.
The real question, as you sip out of a tumbler dripping with condensation and staring at the sun, then becomes: what are you going to do with it?