Monday, November 15, 2010

The "Thursday Night" Of Your Life

"The path to enlightenment is not a path at all- it's actually a metaphor for the time it takes for you to allow yourself to be happy with who you already are, where you're already at, and what you already have-no matter what."

I was on my undergraduate campus this past weekend, in town to see a play in the theater where I spent four years of my life rehearsing, building sets, sewing costumes, arguing, auditioning, defending, creating, acting, stretching, feeling, and engaging in one epic game of hide-and-go-seek. I walked past the dorms where I'd lived, the buildings where I'd attended classes each day, the Commons where I'd eaten all of my meals. This place, now populated by strangers and changing all the time, was home to me at one point.

Mostly what I felt, underneath all of the nostalgia and remembrance, was a pretty solid happiness that I am not twenty years old anymore.

We all did a lot of growing up in college, and some of us faced further growing up outside of it. Some of us are still in the thick of it. Some are never out of it. The things that I know now...well, there's no use postulating how anything could have been different were you to have been gifted with knowledge and foresight at the time. It was fun, awkward, hilarious, and often painful. It was everything it needed to be.

Standing in a place where one has stood countless times before and coming to it with fresh perspective and advanced knowledge always brings about the hovering question of what sorts of wisdom and understanding you'll someday bring to the table if you should chance to visit the places you frequent now. Imagining myself as a college freshman, ten years ago, and then imagining viewing my life as it currently is, ten years from now, does offer some pretty stultifying perspective in terms of what's important and what isn't.

And mostly what I wish I could have leaned over and whispered to myself all those years was this: It. Gets. Better. In every way. The challenges are new, the pain is deeper, the losses bigger, but monumentally life just gets better as it goes on. Especially when you're comparing the late teens/early twenties to the onset of thirty. My God. How I would never want to be 19 again. Honestly.

Which made me think, randomly, in this fashion: what is the best night of the week?

Normally, everyone says "Friday" or "Saturday." Some really energetic person might throw a "Sunday" out there, just to throw everyone off the game.

But the answer, at least in my mind, is Thursday. All of the really good stuff, Friday night, the weekend, an end in sight, etc. is still yet to come. There's still work ahead of you, for sure. But it's work you don't mind doing - this Friday work - because the end is so close you can taste it. Thursday nights have all of the relaxation of a weekend night, but on more dialed-down terms. It has anticipation. It's when you know the best is still yet to come, and you've come so far already.

Which got me thinking...I'm in the Thursday night of my life.

(This is all a truly meandering train of thought, I know, but this is where my mind goes when I'm doing things like writing all the time and running. Your brain just starts clicking in weird ways. Bear with it. Or...enjoy it. Who knows? I like to think it's some logical stretch but sometimes I say these things out loud and once they hit air, I find myself being gaped at with blank stares. Perhaps some things should just reside in my head.)

But, really. Thursday night. Work still yet to be done, but really good stuff ahead. Starting to put all of these lessons learned and experience gained into some kind of real-world context. I see my friends going through this, when all of the bullshit of their first terrible jobs, and their many terrible failed romantic encounters, and the cheap shoes and bad dates and sketchy decisions; all of that just sorts to fall away, and what takes its place is the fulfilling career, the hard work that feels more fruitful in the doing, the real relationships, the more solid decisions.

This is not, in any way, to say that mistakes don't still happen or things don't still fall apart. It's not to say that life becomes perfect after a certain age. I just see how the anxieties and uncertainties and things that fall through tend to fade away in time. And what takes its place is a calmer, more genuinely stable outlook and feeling. Confidence, perhaps, might be a way of looking at it. A belief that things will turn out the way that they should, eventually, and a faith and trust that everything that is happening is unfolding just as it should. A genuine belief that answers reveal themselves in time. Not a constant, panicked worry that because things aren't working out according to plan, total devastation is the only terrain left.

I guess that's the sweetest part of the whole deal. You get older and start to understand that what feels like complete and utter failure at the time, in retrospect turns out to be some bullet dodged or lesson learned that came in sweet handy at another juncture. You start to see how what feels like a missed opportunity maybe wasn't the best option, that wrong turns sometimes lead to the opening of very right doors, and that all of the twisting and turning was configuring you into something better and more satisfying. Perhaps that's an idealistic, optimistic way of looking at things. And, to be fair, there are some things that have happened in my life purely, I believe, to be fodder for some memoir later on down the road when I have twenty five years of distance from it. But, for the most part, I've seen more and more that things almost universally turn out the way they are supposed to, no matter how wrong or right it's felt at the time.

Maybe Thursday night is the anticipation that, regardless of what happens, this is the magic moment when you believe the best. When the experiences are still phantoms and hopeful ghosts and not yet concrete things that could be weighted with disappointment. There is no disappointment in anticipation.

Mostly, it's just a general appreciation for all that's happened and an excited anticipation of all that is yet to be. That's the Thursday night. That's the "Thursday Night" of your life.

Or maybe I just need to start keeping my thoughts confined to notebooks that don't see the light of day. It is possible I am simply becoming eccentric and slightly insane in my old age.

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