in case you haven’t noticed, i enjoy measuring time. i see life in terms of dates, anniversaries, seasons, patterns. this post is no different. this post is in honor of many ten-year anniversaries in my life this year.
this (just over a) year that i am speaking of is March 2003 to July 2004. during this period of time, many important life-changing events and milestones occurred, each of which i would not be the same without.
first, in march of 2003, my grandpa on my mom’s side passed away. this was quite unexpected, and was sort of a freak accident. this was also the first tragedy that my family had experienced together (to my recollection). i never really got to know my papa as an adult. most of my memories of him involve him sitting quietly at the family dinner table working on a crossword puzzle, kicking everyone’s butt at jeopardy, running around in a wetsuit during our vacations to the beach, or trying to tell a joke or story but loving it so much that he couldn’t say more than five words without being overcome by laughter trying to get it out. i was in my senior year of high school and had my two nieces (2 and 3 years old at the time) were staying with us. i learned one really important lesson about myself during this time: i can do anything that i put my mind to. because my mom was busy taking care of details and family and whatnot, i spent many an early morning getting myself and the girls ready, dropping them off at daycare, picking them up, and finding a way to do my homework, feed us all, and grieve all at the same time. to be clear, i don’t resent this experience at all, rather i see it as an affirmation of my character. i learned that in those moments of crisis where everything seems to be falling apart, i am the kind of person who steps up, who takes care of and supports others, and keeps her head. i like that about myself.
second, in may of 2003, my grandpa on my dad’s side passed away. this was also unexpected. the previous fall, my grandma had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. there was at least some sense that we were sort of waiting for that event to occur. so when my grandpa died of a heart attack, it was surprising. in our strange sort of family spirituality, we talked about this event after my grandma passed as though my grandpa couldn’t stand to live without my grandma, and so it was only natural that he would go first. my grandpa used to tell me that i had an old soul. i have learned a lot about him in the last couple years, and he was a man that i regret having the opportunity to know as an adult. he was a man of his time, the generation of 2.5 kids, “yes dear”s, and dinner of meat and potatoes on the table at 5pm sharp. but he loved his family fiercely, and he was proud of their legacy. he spent his life in service to others, working to improve education in northern california. i grew up hearing negative things highlighted about my grandpa, but since then, i have learned that there is way more than meets the eye. our stories are way bigger.
next, in june of 2003, i graduated from high school. this event, as well as what followed as a result, set a course for my life that brought me to where i am today. high school was lame. i’m sure everyone says that. but there was something unique about my high school experience. i tell stories of high school to people who didn’t grow up there and they look at me like i’m crazy, like that kind of thing wasn’t normal. when i graduated, i hoped for change; for something different, better, bigger. but because i was 16 when i graduated (turned 17 shortly thereafter), i wasn’t allowed to go away to college. the dream that i had of attending stanford or ucla and becoming a writer slipped out of my hands. i ended up living at home and going to the local university, and i found out that college is not all that different from high school when you commute from home. so, this marked the beginning of a period of profound disappointment and discontentment with my life that opened the door for other important things to happen. if i had been able to go away to college, i certainly would be on a different path today.
summer 2003, i should have been arrested. i wont tell that story here, except to say that it isn’t a secret, and i will tell you about it if you want to hear it. the point of including it is that it was the beginning of a wake-up for me. the beginning of a realization that the way i was living wasn’t what i wanted my life to be like.
fast forward a bit, to april 2004. my dissatisfaction with life had reached a new level. i had an experience with some friends that left me reeling. i happened to go to LA to visit a friend that spring break, and that experience quite literally changed everything. i saw something different, something bigger, something better than i had. and thank goodness i had this dear friend, who had been praying for me for years, because she told me about what was so different, and it made sense to me. this dude Jesus was different, bigger, and better than i had imagined. and i haven’t turned back since.
finally, in july 2004, my grandma passed away. we watched her get sicker and sicker. it is hard to watch someone you love deteriorate before your eyes. the hardest part for me to handle was that i never had closure. i heard later about conversations that my aunt, my cousin, and other people were having with my grandma. hearing stories, saying goodbye. i didn’t have that. and that’s my fault. this was back when i didn’t know how to grieve well, and i was afraid. and so i didn’t say goodbye. i never shared with my grandma that i had become a christian. i never asked her what she believed. i didn’t tell her i loved her one last time. i have realized how important it is to not hold back, to push into those moments that are hard because it’s worth it on the other side. and i have realized that it is important to tell people what they mean to you. not just because you may not get another chance, but also because we all need to hear it sometimes.
so there you have it. my reflections on some of the ten-year anniversaries that are upon me in the next few months. it is important for me to look back on these things, to reflect and to remember, and then to look forward. it is important that this year is ten years. i haven’t done anything in my life for ten years (partially because i’m still young, and partially because most of my adult life so far has been pretty non-committal and flighty). in many ways, the period of time that i am honoring with this post (and particularly the event i will celebrate in april of next year) marks the beginning of my journey of figuring out who i am and how i fit in this world. and that’s worth celebrating.