Monday, October 22, 2007

Quarter Life

Almost four years ago I was sitting on a shuttle going through the Munich airport, having a conversation with John Mayer. We talked about a few different things, but the topic I remember most was age. He'd asked how old I was, I said I was 21, and he said, "Hm. I'm 26. But I feel like I'm still 21, just with a few years more experience. Nothing much has changed except the number. I look at my dad, who's 76, and inside, he's just a twenty-something who now lives in an older man's body. Seems like it's probably that way for most people."

Once in awhile I think about that idea, usually around my birthday. There definitely came a point, around mid-college, that my leaps and bounds of growing up and discovering who I was slowed down and I more or less became who I am now. That's not to say I've reached the pinnacle of my personal lifelong growth process, as I'm a true believer in continuing to learn and grow as long as one is alive. But my personality, knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, and methods of behavior and decision-making became more fixed than impressionable. Many friends recall a similar point in their lives. I certainly hope to be a more mature, patient, loving, and educated version of myself in 10, 20, and 50 years. But, in reference to what John said, who "Corinne" is is mostly a done deal. Age from now on is really just a number.

I will admit that it was somewhat surreal and thrilling to sit and have a mellow chat with John Mayer. We were about to fly to L.A. from Germany, and I was traveling with a bunch of students just finishing a 3 1/2 month tour of Europe, during which John's second album came out and had been my soundtrack to our explorations of so many countries. We spotted him in the airport and all stood around talking to him, getting CDs signed, with no one else clamoring for his attention. As we went through security, I was held back for having fingernail clippers, and fell behind my whole group and John and his band. I was bummed, and boarded the next shuttle to our terminal, and somehow he walked on after I did and sat down right next to me. I'd been a huge fan since his coffee shop gig days. Still am. It was crazy I tell you.

So I turn 25; reaching the middle of my twenties, the quarter life mark. The "mid-twenties" have been the most joyful times yet. This is partly due to that fact that somehow I was born with the innate belief that each year is supposed to be better than the last. That conviction has led to some confusion and disappointment in the couple times that it didn't necessarily prove true, which I'm guessing will happen again, but mostly, it will serve me well as life goes on. Believing this is what pushes me through when things are difficult, as I refuse to accept that life is anything less than an upward process of increasing maturity, achievement, and gratefulness.
I've been thinking a lot about the direction I want to go in a few different areas of my life lately. John described this time well in his song "Why Georgia"...

"Might be a quarter life crisis
or just a stirring in my soul
either way, I wonder sometimes about the outcome
of a still verdictless life.
Am I living it right?"

My wonderings are really more a quarter life "stirring" than a crisis.

Finally, for fun, here is some visual documentation of my quarter life birthday celebrationing...

Fire and wine with friends.

Zac and I off to dinner and the pub.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The moments and the story.

"We do not remember days, we remember moments."
~Cesare Pavese, Italian novelist

On Saturday I was walking down the Huntington Beach pier, and I happened to look over the railing down at the beach and witnessed a man propose to his girlfriend. It was really remarkable and moving, and I could hardly tear myself away from my overhead view. A young, but not that young, man and woman were with two pre-teen girls and they all had white shirts on with jeans. It looked like they had a professional photographer taking photos of them. They looked really happy, and then the man and woman hugged, and as she tilted her head up towards the sky, she clapped her hand to her mouth. She pointed up, so I looked up. An airplane was flying by with a banner reading, "Alisha, Will You Marry Me? -Dave" The four of them began hugging and crying and laughing and hugging some more. They continued for quite some time, and as they did, I made up what I thought their story was... that the man, Dave, was the dad of the two little girls (kinda seemed more like he was their parent) and that Alisha was his serious girlfriend whom the girls had grown to love and they were out here and the pretense to Alisha was that they were taking a holiday photo out on the beach to send out for the holidays. You could tell all four of them were ecstatic and just loved each other. The two girls had big smiles and kept wiping away tears as they went back for more hugs from both the man and woman. I wondered what the history was...second chance at true love? finally a mom for the girls...? I actually wiped away a tear or two myself. Now my made-up story is probably not accurate, but even so, it was evident that this moment was going to be really huge in its influence over the rest of each of their lives. None of them will probably ever forget that moment, or how it shaped them in the years to come.

I was thinking today about the two main ways that we remember our lives and pass on what we remember. Our personal histories are revealed in the specific moments that made an impression on us, and in the stories that we design to explain how and why we arrived at where we are now. Moments & photos & journals, show & tell. It's interesting to share with someone about the moments of joy, sorrow, surprise, fun, and learning in my life, or to hear theirs. It's necessary to develop a healthy way of recounting your history so that you understand yourself and what has made you You.

After some reflection once I got back from a month and a half in Thailand five years ago, I realized that nothing I'd ever done taught me so much about my strengths. I've done plenty of things that taught me how I am weak, but this trip I got to know myself intimately and learn what I was capable of when tested and constantly in the unfamiliar. That is the story that developed from the experiences and memory of that trip. As for the moments that remain vividly in my mind's eye; splashing through the rainforest for hours with a couple friends, the first time I strung together a sentence in Thai to try to connect with some of the kids at the center we worked at, riding on top of a van past rice paddies and trying to comprehend just how big the sky was in that place...they will always be a source of pleasure for me and remind me of who I am almost as much as the story does.

This stuff is on my mind partly because tomorrow morning in this new amazing womens' small group I'm in I am supposed to tell a brief 10-15 minute version of my life story. Gotta condense the most influential moments and stories of my life down into the most bare bones and telling format. Should be fun.