I am always struck by what I see when I look out the window of an airplane. Looking down at the world from 10,000, 20,000, and 30,000 feet, I see things as they are, just not how I typically see them. Speed boats trailing a white wake look motionless, for instance, but they’re not. I am just seeing them from a different perspective. And as it is with the world from an airplane, I think sometimes it’s helpful to look at your life from a bird’s eye view. Like, there are things I will do that I cannot predict. There are things I don’t remember. Sensations I never think of. There are things I haven’t learned yet. And in the day to day, sometimes I am too close to it, or it hasn’t happened yet, or I have forgotten it, so I am not seeing my life clearly. I am standing on the ground when I should be in the sky.
In line with this, sometimes, I drive to a barre class on a road called Pomerado which cuts through Scripps Ranch, the community I grew up in. Unable to make the morning class, I usually only go after work. As the sun sets behind eucalyptus trees, theirs a major smell of my childhood, my car is dark. The red tail lights ahead of me are heading to nice homes in nice neighborhoods. The kinds of places where everyone knows everyone and the parents are heavily involved PTAs and HOAs. Out of habit, when I pass that corner, I look for flowers. There aren’t any. There always used to be flowers placed at the bottom of a metal light post for Noelle, a teenage girl who was killed there by a drunk driver, and for whom my fourth grade class let balloons loose in the sky. Her pole, that pole, is on the right side of the road, but if I made a left at the intersection, I’d hit my elementary school. The place where I learned to read. The place where I developed my first crush on a boy named Mark, who I would steal glances at on Saturday evenings during mass. I forget it, but this is where my life was. There, on the softball field. There, in my parents’ first house. There, at the pool. As I drive, my childhood comes flooding back to me, good and bad. The summers that seemed to last forever, the smell of sunscreen, and the memories of my loved ones and the things they did for me. The message on the answering machine I couldn’t make sense of. Their fighting. Her pain.
And here, I remember that I was a little girl once. And it’s like she, this little girl I was, is standing in front of me expectantly, waiting for a judgment. She is silent and tight-lipped, waiting for the rating I will give her, as if on a 1 to 10 scale. And I want to wrap my arms around her and cry and tell her: “Of course, I am proud of you.” Because even though I may not act like it, I am proud of her. I am proud of her for stargazing. I am proud of her for signing up for field hockey. I am proud of her for riding water slides and trying to be a good friend. I am proud of her, in short, for simple things. I am proud of her for simply being her.
I think Ernest Hemingway said something along the lines of: write the truest thing you know. I think one of the truest things I know is that the distance between the people we want to be, and who we actually are, can be very painful. My esthetician, as she plucked my eyebrows recently, touched on it when she said: “There are things I say to myself that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy.” This is something I have struggled with for longer than I can remember.
And I don’t have any answers. As I write this post, teary, at my kitchen table because this topic strikes a nerve, I can faintly hear my sisters laughing in their apartment upstairs. My grandma’s voicemail, which sounded lonely, is still in my inbox (I called her, she sounded instantly better when she picked up). I rock climb about once a week with a great new friend of mine as we catch up on boys and work and writing. And maybe it doesn’t get any better than this. Maybe I don’t become more complete than this.
There are people who remember kind words you said to them, and think of them often. You are good at things, big and small. Maybe your eyes are cool. Maybe you have a good laugh. A great sense of humor. You are better than good enough. So give yourself more than a little credit. Give yourself a lot of credit. And be good to you.