Have you ever seen My Best Friend's Wedding? It's one of my favorites. I love it when Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz are talking and Julia tells her: Suddenly, Michael realizes, he doesn't want Crème Brûlée...he wants Jell-O. And Crème Brûlée can never be Jell-O. YOU can never be Jell-O.
I've always loved that line, but I've loved it even more recently. Because lately I feel like I don't really know what I want. I feel like I've wanted Jell-O most of my life, but now I'm not so sure. (For the record, I like neither of the two desserts, but for the sake of the metaphor, let's press on.)
image - can't find the original. anyone have it?
Ever since getting back from Africa, I've had this incessant ticker, running questions in my mind: Am I doing what I want with my life? Am I taking enough risks, pursuing big enough adventures? Do I really want to go there? Try this? Am I happy in my job? With this friendship?
And on and on I go.
For most of my 20s, I've ebbed and flowed between both extremes. Weeks and weeks go by where I'm thrilled with life; absolutely loving what I'm doing and where it's headed. And then I'll suddenly wake up one morning with 1,000 questions for that day - unsure of what, exactly, I should really be doing. But ever since returning, I can't quite calm my mind - constantly evaluating, wondering.
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted a husband and five babies and a house like the one I grew up in: the front door constantly flying open with friends and dear family, never locked. The kitchen table loud and rowdy. Weekends busy. Mornings happy, filled with the smell of coffee and the Jiffy blueberry muffins my mom made.
But lately, I have felt the need to question ev.ery.thi.ng. Do I really want that? Do I want to follow the road I've planned, meeting my husband, getting married, buying a house and having babies? Or, instead, should I just totally go off the track?
Move to Africa and adopt a bunch of babes there...
Hike the Appalachian trail and write a book along the way...
Get certified in yoga and teach on the beach...
Become really good at rock climbing and just climb and camp in Wyoming...
I'm telling you. My mind is moving 1,0000 miles a minute and absolutely nothing is safe. Nothing is off limits. It's just a like a brainstorm session in school: every idea is a good idea.
The obvious answer here is that I need to spend some serious time praying about all of these questions. If there is one thing I've learned in the last few years, it's that God is one of details, and if I'm meant to be a professional rock climber (what!?), then surely He will reveal that to me.
But then, there is this other voice in my head saying just do it Whitney. Because if there is one thing Bob preached in Africa, it's that sometimes you just say yes and the details will work themselves out.
To be completely honest, I think this is less a matter of what I do or do not want, and really more a fear of things spiraling in one direction. I don't want to wake up in 15 years, wondering why I didn't try something crazy. I don't want to wake up someday in a house and feel trapped by its walls, confined by my life.
I want to cultivate a deep awareness for the present, so I never become numb; never too routine. I want to be living an awake life every day, paying attention to details and how I feel.
This is insanely out of character, here, but I've decided to start small. Right now, the answer isn't probably moving to Wyoming, no sir. But the immediate idea is to pursue small, right now adventures. To try new things, be as fearless as I can be and to embrace every opportunity that comes my way.
I'm also keeping my microscope nearby, because I'm examining things a lot more than I used to. Maybe I'm ready for a new church? Maybe I'm growing out of an old relationship? Maybe I just dang don't like the clothes I used to wear anymore?
And that's OK.
If there is anything I've learned in my 20s, it's that the very last thing we need to do is cling to the past. The past can be beautiful and should be admired from afar. But we can't live in it. Memories can become painful if we let them - if we idealize them, ache for what once was.
No, instead we must look forward. And today, for me, looking forward means living as openly and honestly as I can. It means questioning what I want. It means not being afraid to live and let life happen. Because, as far as I'm concerned, just because Cameron Diaz wants to be Jell-O, doesn't mean I do.