I drove up to Columbia last weekend to be in a best friend’s wedding, scooting out of work early Friday afternoon to drive across Missouri in a car with no air conditioning. I pulled into the rehearsal just in time to throw on a dress and line up to run through the ceremony, laughing at the groomsmen’s antics all the way up and down the aisle.
My best friends were there, the five of us who lived together for four years reunited for the first time since Katie got married a week after graduation. This was the last time in our foreseeable plans for all of us to be together at once. At the rehearsal dinner, we swapped stories about our lives and marveled at how good the potatoes were. Then we stayed up late talking about how much we missed each other and recounting old memories .
Saturday was wedding day, and we spent the morning setting out tablecloths and placing decorations. We drove back and forth across town, grabbing lunch and stopping by the house and heading to the church. We listened to that new Taylor Swift single way too many times. We spent a good hour in the church bathroom doing our hair and makeup (by which I mean my friends had to do my hair because I’m clueless with a curling iron).
Finally, we stood at the front of the sanctuary. We sang along with the band and grinned and cried and shouted the “da-da das” in “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” from the back of the church after the recessional. We ate barbecue in the park, then we danced until we were drenched in sweat and ready to collapse into bed.
The next morning, Sam and I sat in a Starbucks and sipped coffee before church, joking about the chapter titles I’ll use in my yet-unwritten memoir. And after service, I grabbed lunch with friends before hitting the road. I think I made it halfway home before texting my friends and telling them I already missed them. And yet, I was also happy to be headed home.
Because this is what it’s like to be 22 years old and restarting my life. Everything is brand new and interesting and exciting, and I know I’m in the right place. My life is a blank canvas, all the old, negative associations I had with previous places wiped clean. I’m doing the things I’ve always dreamed of doing, four years of hard work paying off almost exactly the way I’d imagined it. All my thoughts and sentences run together because I always have 100 things on my mind, almost all of them new and at least seemingly worth my attention.
And yet I can still feel all the old things that were my life just a few months ago, and they are still so real and close and a part of who I am now. The last few years still feel so big, even though when I look forward I realize they’re just a snapshot of whatever constitutes “the rest of my life.” I can’t escape the feeling of their largeness because they were so instrumental in bringing me to the new adventure I’m starting now. At 22, they are as much a part of me as anything.
So I’m doing my best to stand at this crossroad with my arms wide open. Because I have a future worth embracing, passions I finally have the chance to pursue to their fullest. But I also have a past that’s made me exactly who I am, the person who can do exactly what I’m doing now. And it is worth remembering. It is worth loving. It is worth holding onto.
This is my life for the time being. I’m learning to be OK with that.