Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Savoring the Anticipation

One of the most striking and moving aspects, for me, when reading the beautiful book a picture is worth... (Arch Street Press) is getting to hear the unfiltered voices and perspectives of these young adults, smack in the middle of growing up. They write with insightful reflection about their pasts, and their words ache with excitement for the future when they share their goals and dreams -- graduating high school, attending college, having a family and home of their own.

In her essay, Betania Robles writes:

"I would like to say that at the moment I am at the awkward stages of being a teenage girl. Some days I'm happy and some days I'm extremely sad and depressed, and sometimes both at the same time. I don't know if that's normal but I am pretty sure those weird feelings will pass by as I grow up. I'm pretty goofy. I love boy bands and random things like that, and the Internet has to be one of the best inventions ever. It has caused me much happiness and provides me with things that the outside can't. I also love reading; it is like I enter a stranger's world and I learn and feel their feelings. That is truly amazing. Call me ridiculous, but I'd rather read than go outside sometimes, and because of books I believe in true love."
Reading Betania's essay took me back to my own teenage days -- the newness of adventures, the excitement of the wide-open world, the daily dramas and jokes and loves. In all of the narratives in the book, glittering details about these teens' present lives stuck out like treasure: close-knit friends at school; chaotic dinner tables with their parents and stepparents and siblings; favorite teachers and subjects; the neighborhood and community they have always known. I wanted to reach in through the book and tell the young authors: this time of your life is beautiful, too! Savor it. It will fly by faster than you can imagine.

* * *

In three and a half weeks, I am getting married. Life is a whirlwind of tasks, questions, and to-do lists. I wake up in the middle of the night to scribble notes to myself that are only sometimes legible in the morning: song for recessional? cupcake labels? check with minister about kiss timing. My brain is flooded with details and planning and more details. I feel constantly abuzz with nervous energy, my stomach a flurry of butterflies.

And at the same time, I have never felt more ready for anything in my life.

I cannot wait to marry my sweetheart and officially join our lives together. Yet I am savoring this anticipatory time, too. In the midst of the chaos and craziness, I stand in the middle of our one-bedroom apartment, crammed with wedding gifts and decorations and half-completed craft projects, and smile with giddy contentment to be here, now, in this glorious mess and in this perfectly imperfect moment. There is something delicate and beautiful in these final days before we hold hands and leap together into the unknown.

* * *

When I was in college, I lived in an apartment with three of my best friends. Every year, we threw a big holiday party the weekend before winter break. Our anticipation was born right after Thanksgiving. We spent hours planning the party: sending out invitations, shopping for refreshments, deciding on party favors and music. We cut out paper snowflakes and hung them from our ceiling; we strung up twinkle-lights; one year we even managed to get a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree on super discount at a tree lot, and we decorated it until it was more tinsel than tree. I would be so excited for our party that time seemed to drag on as I tracked its glacier-slow approach on my calendar.

And then, suddenly, it was the day of the party. There was always a flurry of last-minute preparations: baking cookies, making peppermint hot chocolate, wrapping presents. Every year, the party itself passed in a blur of friends and laughter, dancing and singing, photos and hugs. Within three or four hours—the blink of an eye, it seemed—our party was over. We’d wave goodbye as our last guests headed out the door, and then my three best friends and I would be left standing in our empty apartment with a mess to clean up.

It’s hard not to feel a little sad in those moments, when all the anticipation is over, and life resumes to normal. It can feel like the magic is gone. But, looking back, my favorite memories from those holiday parties are not the parties themselves, or even all the anticipation and preparation. The memories I cherish the most are from the mornings after the parties, when my roommates and I would eat scrambled eggs—ignoring the dirty dishes and overflowing trash can for a little while longer—and talk all about the amazingly fun event we had just hosted.

Because, yes, there is joy in the anticipation. There is joy in the savoring. But there is also joy in the telling, the retelling, and the remembering.

"The world is shaped by two things: stories told and the memories they leave behind." — Vera Nazarian

No comments: