Life is all just about chance isn’t it?
An excerpt from my journalling this morning, I’ve been thinking about it all day:
Mornings can be hard. Today was one of those. I woke up in a funk, feeling that same dread of living in a reality that didn’t reconcile to what I thought/ expected/ feel I should be living in at twenty seven. My Saturday night was spent in, having wine and cheese with a close friend. But some of my flatmates went out and I wondered if I should have joined them afterwards, and if by not doing that I wasn’t living my best life.
I know that these expectations or “shoulds” are arbitrary and no indication of what a “good life” looks like. I know that I very much could have joined them afterwards but I didn’t want to. I know all of this, but I still feel like I’m missing something.
It’s that fear that I’m going to get to my 40s and look back and feel like I’ve wasted my 20s. Just like me now, looking back and feeling like I’ve wasted my late teens and early twenties.
But everything that I’m doing now is everything I want and if it isn’t then I should change that. I just need to be honest about what it is that I truly want and separate that from what I feel is expected of a twenty seven year-old.
The hard part is reconciling the versions of myself – the past me to the present me to the future me. The past me doesn’t feel like the present me and I’m scared that the future me will be different again, and result in more disjointed feelings in identity and life.
Perhaps the only way that that can be avoided is if we were static, unchanging beings. But that’s not reality. People are always changing. I’m changing. I’m not who I was when I was younger, and I’m glad for that.
So maybe the reconciliation of the versions of me doesn’t come from being the same, but in making peace with the fact that I was a different person back then, so of course I will feel estranged from that girl, but to also be kinder to myself. I was learning then, as I am now. I was on a journey to where I am today and all those decisions that I regret now has in some way lead me to here.
The same goes for the future. It may be that I’ll look back and wish I had done more, but all the future mes need to respect the past mes and the decisions she made, that that was what she wanted at the time.
I’m dynamic, always changing, shifting. I will ever be static so there are bound to be differences in the way I interpret situations, experiences, in the ways I make decisions. And that’s okay.
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between
We talk about this a lot in English Lit, to look at past texts with kindness because we know things now, that they didn’t back then. It’s not fair to judge their actions in the past using our current knowledge. And maybe that applies with me too.
Past me doesn’t know what the present me knows now, so how would she have made decisions that align with what I now know? I need to be kinder to her. She was just doing her best, just as I am now.
I’ve started listening to a podcast – The Partially Examined Life – which is basically a bunch of dudes discussing a paper written by a philosopher. The episode I listened to today was on “An Absurd Reasoning” by Albert Camus.
They were talking about life and meaning and how meaning in life was to be meaningful to someone. Does that make sense? Basically, there is meaning in life if you mean something to someone. Then one of the hosts made a comment about how that was the function that deities, or religion fulfilled. That is, religion gives meaning to people because they feel that the deity finds meaning in them.
Is that all religion is? A tool to hold human beings back from nihilism?
Oh man, I don’t know. I don’t know how to deconstruct my faith constructively. I don’t want to just pull it apart and leave it at that. I want to seek truth but I don’t know how to do that honestly and objectively. But maybe it’s not possible to do it objectively? Damn it, I keep coming back to this issue with free will. I know that I’m born into a life where I’ve inherited a lot of the decisions that other people have made for me (we all are), so my thinking and values and beliefs are already skewed from the get-go. All I can do is my best with what I know.
…But what do I know?!
Last Christmas one of my best friends gave me a little fern plant. Recently I re-potted it and it has since slowly died… I’m in denial, still watering the ferns that are now dry and brown, hoping that there’s a little bit of life that will press on, defy all expectations and push a little green leaf out of the soil.
Yeah, not holding my breath on that one.
I’m home, alone, on a Saturday night at 10:11pm. I’ve just had a shower and washed my hair after getting home after dinner with a close friend. Before that I was sitting my exam and before that I was studying for the exam.
A few weeks ago I would have felt really sad that I was home so early in the evening on a Saturday, and the fact that all my flatmates are still out would have made me feel really shit, like I’m not doing enough with my life.
But today, tonight, right now, I feel good. I don’t feel like I’m lacking, I feel like I had a good day, had a nice catch up with a friend and now am about to settle into some good Netflix. Life feels good.
This morning when I woke up, I lay awake for a while and started singing in my head “Your Love is Strong” by Jon Foreman. It was the song I played at my baptism and the first time in a long time that I had thought about it.
So I got up, fired up the old lappy, searched for Jon Foreman on Spotify, chucked on my good headphones and listened to that song. I really love listening to music through good headphones and doing nothing else, just concentrating on the sounds that come through into your ears.
I played that song, and then I played “The House of God Forever” which was also played at my baptism. There’s a part in it that says – Your shepherd’s staff / Comforts me – and in that moment, as the song played those lines, I felt God say to me “I know where we’re going”.
The last several months have seen some of the hardest minutes, hours, days, weeks, that I’ve ever experienced. One of the side effects of grief is being ripped away from a life that you thought was safe, that you could rely on, a life that you thought you were in control of. I’ve never felt so lost as I have this year, never felt this deep lack of purpose and meaning in my life.
Now I feel like it’s going to be okay. Because even if I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing with my life, that nothing I do will ever amount to anything, it’s okay. It’s okay because God knows where we’re going.
This one’s for the purity rhetoric.
You know, that narrative that says if you “save yourself” for marriage, the reward is a deep and meaningful relationship that is so much more worthwhile and better than those others, that you will only ever connect with the first person you have sex with so you better make sure it’s the person you agree to spend the rest of your life with because if not, you’re going to be damaged goods and no one wants that.
I’m 27 now and I can see the fruit of the damage that that rhetoric has caused – in my friends, in me.
Imagine learning and internalising that you have this one ultimate gift, one trump card, for that one person you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with. Now imagine that you think you’ve found that person, and you give them this ultimate gift, but then life happens and you’re on your own again but who are you now, if not an empty shell because you’ve given away the one thing that you had. This is the purity rhetoric.
It is so damaging, so traumatic and so oppressive.
We are human, and we have human needs. There is no shame in acting on these needs. But this is the result of the purity rhetoric – it shames and rejects those who go against it.
Me – I’m in my late twenties and still haven’t had sex. I feel cheated of a more fulfilling life, of a life that feels more lived. I feel like I’ve bought into this rhetoric, that’s promised me so much and delivered nothing. I’m in the same position as I was 10 years ago, and only starting to explore what I like sexually when most people my age already know what works for them.
I have friends who still carry with them the shame they felt for having sex outside of a marriage context, this affects the relationships they’re in today, years later. I know of couples who aren’t able to have sex even after being married because they have so deeply internalised the forbidden nature of it that they can’t bring themselves to actually do it. I know of married couples who aren’t able to shake the feeling of shame from the act of sex.
This is not healthy. This can’t be the way that it was intended.
Who even decided that sex was taboo? That it was only intended for marriage? Marriage as an institution was established hundreds of years after Christ. Relationships, all sorts of different types of relationships have existed in all of history. So why this one thing? This is one of the contentions I have with Christianity and religion in general – some things are so arbitrary.
We Christians need to change the way that we talk about sex. Sure, there are chemical reactions in our brain that help us connect with one another more but this isn’t limited to one person. We can connect with multiple people and we are more than what we give. We need to destroy the purity rhetoric if we want to see healthier relationships and healthier people, people who aren’t damaged by the shame that this narrative generates.