(Photo by Emily Long)
I saw an interview with Cheryl Strayed today, and she had this to say about personal essays:
“when writing a personal essay, the unwritten last line should be, “And nothing was ever the same again.” “
How many moments in my life can I say that about?
There are big, obvious ones. Leaving home for the first time, graduating from college, running in my first race, finishing the final Harry Potter, the first time I taught in my own classroom.
Then there are some that I don’t even know if I can explain the right way. The moment in 8th grade when I realized that I had never NOT finished an assignment, thereafter erasing the anxiety that had really crippled me through my preteen years. The time I was praised for my “laid back” personality in my nomination for a sorority council position, something that to this day feels strange to me because I had always thought of myself as high-strung. The moment I realized that I’m not actually an overly emotional person, despite my tendency to cry at any movie, TV show, book, or commercial that tugs at the heartstrings. The time I realized my sister was sad. Like, really sad.
Some moments that feel like a broken record. The time I broke up with my high school boyfriend. (OK, so that’s the only one that feels like a broken record because I have beat it into the ground, but it can’t be ignored).
There are many more moments that I eventually realized were turning points for me. Maybe other people noticed them, and maybe they didn’t, but they are all moments that somehow changed me or my trajectory. That line from Cheryl Strayed really got me thinking about the life I have lived so far. But my favorite thing about this gem is that I know I have more stories coming that will have an understood “And nothing was ever the same again” ending.
I’m one of the first to admit that being in your 20s is hard. It’s full of confusion over how to act, what to want, who to love, and where to go. Because of all that, though, I believe it will probably be the time in my life that is the most packed with moments that change everything, in ways big and small. There’s a whole lot of hope and wonder laced through all that chaos. A bunch of moments just waiting to shift my world.
I wonder how many I’ll be brave enough to write about.