“When you have come to the end of the light that you know and have to take that first step into the darkness of the unknown you have to assume one of two things. There will be something firm to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.” – Richard Bach
I turn 31 on Sunday.
Last night I spent an hour dying my hair with one of my best friends – the gray hairs aren’t abundant by any means nor am I feeling what I suppose 31 should imply, but I am finding a few more each month signifying that I am, in fact, getting older. I’ve been going gray for a while… but not just in my hairline.
It’s bizarre to think that number, 31, is real. I remember when I thought that 30 was going to feel so old, and somehow it came and passed quite quietly. I am indifferent to 31, it seems, I’ve come to realize that the passing of time is consistent and fleeting and ultimately it’s what is squeezed into those precious moments that counts. And the gray hairs don’t remind me of what is lost or a sense of aging, it reminds me what I’ve learned and how I’ve come to earn that knowledge. It’s a reminder of where I pass the time.
I lived the idealized life for nearly a decade in my twenties, checking boxes and moving up the ladder, getting the things I was supposed to want and looking back over my shoulder with distance as a buffer, I realized that the things I thought I wanted were well-meaning, and most certainly definitive:
1. Good Job
4. Big House
The things I pursued for myself were things that I could define and quantify, things I could easily count and feel good about because they were mine and they were not about the intrinsic, they were black and white milestones, achievements on my life line I could anchor myself to when I was unsure of everything else. And I got those things. Check all the boxes.
As the time passed and I was moving forward, checklist in hand, there was this “other” place that kept catching my eye. Dancing along the edges of the black and white in this cavernous center, was this gray space flickering and flowing like a breath, and as I moved so did the gray, and our paths were drawing nearer. The fuzzy outline of it’s edges calling me closer and ultimately to step into the murky depths. And so I stood there looking at what I knew, at the checklist in my hand that was beginning to unravel and then I looked towards this unknown and nebulous place that terrified me in it’s infiniteness. Such anxiety about not being able to see the bottom. But somehow I couldn’t look away and as much as I didn’t know what lay on the other side, I wanted to find out and I knew that somehow I just would.
So I did.
And as the lights dimmed behind me and the familiar fell away I ventured deeper into the gray and I found comfort in the unknown – a place where I realized I was meant to be. And it’s no longer about seeing with your eyes, but seeking with your heart. A deeper understanding and connectivity to faith, a belief in things that aren’t easy to attain or define, and a willingness to relinquish control.
In the gray of my future, there is a different set of values…
Instead of a job, I seek a purpose. Instead of a marriage, I seek to give selfless love and receive it openly in return. Instead of a house, I seek the warmth and comfort that only a home filled with the people that are imprinted in my heart can fill. And that home has no square footage requirements. And I don’t know what those things will always look like, how they will come to me, or even if they will ever materialize. But it won’t keep me from the search. And I’ll know… by touch.
And so, my checklist has evolved… no longer comprised of the things I want to acquire, it’s become the things I’ve thankful for that have been given, shown, and provided. For the opportunities that lay ahead. And that thankful heart is what now seems to have become a part of that gray, fuzzy, dancing space that first called to me. It’s home.
And at almost 31 I’m nowhere near where I thought I was supposed to be and I don’t have all the things I thought I was supposed to have, but somehow it’s exactly as it is supposed to be.
It’s all part of my going gray.