It’s a good thing I’m not a people-pleaser, because I feel like I am constantly letting someone down with all my coming and going. I leave Raleigh, and people are sad. I go back to Raleigh, and people in Asheville threaten to lock me in a closet because they don’t want to lose me. I tell my students I won’t be back next semester, and they look at me with such disappointment that I honestly wonder if I’ll ever see them again. What’s the point of continuing a relationship (even a teacher-student one) that’s just going to end in two weeks?
It’s really sweet, and it’s flattering for sure, but it upsets me at the same time to know that my actions are upsetting to others. It’s like I can’t go anywhere without leaving a mark.
True story: I worked at Caswell in the summers of 1999 and 2000. In 2001, I went down for a weekend visit, and when I walked into the staff lounge, a guy I’d never seen before pointed at me all excitedly and said, “You’re Beth Parent! I want a massage later.” Because apparently word of my healing hands had gotten around the staff house.
That’s a silly example, but the dude knew my face, my first AND last name, and my hidden talent before I ever knew he existed, which means there was extensive discussion of me with accompanying photos before I arrived. This happens a lot, and that feels so weird to me because I’m just living my life, you know? I’m not doing anything spectacular except having a crap ton of fun, and yet somehow I am special to a lot of people.
I know it’s starting to sound like I’m complaining about how fabulous and popular I am, but that’s not it. It’s really quite humbling to think that I have this gift I’ve never really noticed or thought about before, and it’s just a part of who I am, but what do I do with it?
What does this ability to impact people require of me? There’s a great and weighty responsibility that comes with it, and I haven’t figured out yet how to carry it.
If I were a character in a story, after such a realization, I’d be at a point of decision. Where do I go from here? Given the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve learned and become, how do I proceed? Everything up to this point has just been background and character development. And here is where the story actually begins, but what’s it about, what do I want, and why does any of it matter?
I want my life to count for something. I want to love people well and help those who need it, but I also want to really relish life and facilitate the fun and enjoyment of others. I look at some people’s lives, and I think, “My life is pointless. He’s digging wells by hand so villages in Africa can have water, and I’m writing a book called My Husband Ride Me.” But you know what? I love that I’m writing a book called My Husband Ride Me. I laugh out loud as I’m working on it, and I hope that one day dozens of other people will get to enjoy it the same way.
I don’t want to give up those quirky little things that make me the person everybody wants to have around. I just want to figure out how to use them better.
I want to live a life of such freedom and adventure that when my great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughters read about it, they think, “So that’s where I get it,” and feel free to be exactly who they are because they know they’re not abnormal for being adventuresome.
I want to live a life that awakens people’s imaginations as to what their lives can be, and I want to encourage them to follow those dreams even when doing so is hard.
I never want to believe or say that it’s too late for me to do something I’m really excited about. It is never too late to live the rock-n-roll life, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. Have y’all seen Young at Heart yet? Because you really must. I own it. Come on over, and we’ll watch it together just so I can prove my point.
I want to make people laugh. I want to make other people wonder what’s so funny. I get down on myself sometimes because I think I’m not doing anything meaningful. I mean, clean water is clearly more important than jokes, but here’s the thing: Laughter is bonding, and people need connection with each other. Laughter is healing, and there is a lot of pain in the world. Laughter might not be a part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but it should be. I don’t know if happy people live longer, but they sure do enjoy it more.
I don’t know what the plot of my story is yet, but I hope it involves a husband I can goof off with, travel with, raise children with, and grow with for the rest of my life, demonstrating radical love to everyone around us. I hope it involves at least a short stint in Spain (because I freaking love that country for no apparent reason). I hope it involves all the friends I currently love and all those I haven’t met yet. I hope it involves a lot of writing and a lot of foreigners, a home with an open-door policy and awesome flea market chic decor, delicious food and wine, full passports, surprises, and tons of music and dancing.
If it’s a story I’m writing with my life, it’ll be on Broadway one of these days. Mark my words.
These are the first of my thoughts on life that will hopefully win me a trip to Portland to attend Donald Miller’s conference. These thoughts are too vague, though, so for the rest of the week I’ll be writing more specific stories. Then we’ll pick the best one, and I’ll enter it in the contest.