I have a friend on Facebook, a girl I used to know back when we were teenagers, just starting to formulate our big, bold dreams, and had everything in common the way you do when you're in school together every day and the map of life still seems clear and precise, all spread out before you on the cafeteria table.
My erstwhile friend is nanny to a precious little boy, and is a professional photographer as well, and she has a boyfriend who is a musician in a Christian band. She moved away from her family and built a life for herself in another state. She is involved in youth ministry and, judging by her status updates, apparently lives every day with the blithe assurance that it has been planned out ahead of time, especially for her, by God.
When I was eighteen, I thought that the paragraph above would describe my own mid-twenties precisely. The broad details of her everyday life were the exact dreams of my desperate young adulthood. But for years I could only watch, fascinated and jealous by turns, as other people, like my friend, reached out for what they wanted and -- inexplicably -- got it. I was left behind, paralyzed, caught between the crushing circumstances I had always known and the vast uncertainty of a million possibilities.
I even wondered, for awhile, if my shot at that life had been taken already. If I had missed the boat, and she had gotten there ahead of me and snatched up the life I'd planned, and there was simply nothing left for me when I finally arrived.
But now, can I tell you the truth? The wonderful, liberating truth? It's this: I don't want to be a professional photographer. And I never really did. (Oh, the confessions that make our hearts race, yet mean so little to anyone else!)
It once seemed like my best avenue of escape. I was good at it; people liked my pictures and would pay money for them. I believed that perhaps this was my golden ticket. Except it never worked out, and I'm pretty sure the fact that my heart wasn't in it (aside from other, more obvious hindrances), was part of the problem.
Sure, I could have taken nice pictures of people -- happy, carefree people -- graduating from highschool, gathered with their loving families, getting married, holding their beautiful babies, and smiling smiling smiling because their lives were so fucking wonderful. It wouldn't be their fault, of course. That's why you get someone to take your picture: to remind you that your life is fucking wonderful. But I would have gone numb inside, after awhile. Moreso than I already was.
The hopes I have now are far richer and more complex than the hopes I had as a child, or even the ones I had just a few years ago. The things I want...
Oh, I hardly dare to speak them, so fragile and real and possible do they seem.