I distinctly remember a day when I was little, about seven years old. It was just after dusk and I was staring up at the stars, when a wave of realization hit me: we are so small, and I’m not sure why we are here. Not here, as in sitting on this pavement staring up at the sky on this cool summer night, but why we are here in this world.
The thought made me anxious. I snapped myself out of it when I reminded myself of what I believed at the time to be true: that one day I’d understand, that the adults had it figured out, and that when I joined that club, so would I.
I think we can all take a moment to laugh at that one.
Of course I now know the dirty little secret: no one has those answers or knows what the heck they are doing. And the sky seems just as large, mysterious, and far away.
When we are young it’s easy to form the impression that things are sort of frozen in time and set, like someone smeared a layer of modge podge all over everything to lock it into place. That aunts, uncles, cousins, and life are and always will be exactly as you see them. You hardly think of everyone’s individual journey, or picture your aunt as a little girl, or imagine your parents as individuals before you came along.
Then one day everyone gets older, maybe someone passes, and suddenly a door is blown open and the air is let out of the vacuum. And as gravity hits, you see things more clearly, and the realization of life’s impermanence crushes in like a ton of bricks. It’s all at once frightening and freeing.
Somewhere in that instability, you can find your footing. Nothing is guaranteed, no matter how hard you push for it. Plans change whether you like it or not. But you can open up to the ride. I wish someone would have told me sooner, somewhere along the way: Hey, play more. No one knows what they are doing. It’s all a blank canvas, endless possibilities of what it could become.
When I can accept that everything is constantly moving and changing and fluid, I can notice things “becoming” all around. I can see that paths are not concrete but are constantly intersected and rerouted, sort of like the changing of railroad tracks. There’s road work everywhere, “under construction” signs hanging around all of our necks. I’m more forgiving towards myself, more forgiving toward others. More open to taking chances.
Creating anything at all can be scary because we don’t necessarily begin with an endpoint in sight. You just take a few steps and work on the small piece you can see in front of you. Whatever you’re creating takes on a life of its own, if you let it. The real hard part is learning to let go and not get attached to any particular outcome. To give it space to become. Even if you’re not creating anything per se, but just becoming yourself, you don’t always have to see a finish line. Just work on the small piece in front of you.
The sucky part is that it’s not a comfortable thing, this becoming business. But the alternative is no picnic either. The times in my life when I’ve been the most off-track or anxious is when I veered away from becoming. I hid, or took a safer path, tried to fight the current. I told myself I wasn’t this enough or that enough, or I had “imposter syndrome” or thought I’d never be good enough at anything to even deserve to have imposter syndrome in the first place. (Turning away from becoming has to come out in some form or another, and for me it is anxiety.)
The times I can get out of my own way and allow things to just unfold, well, those are the best times. The times you look back later and realize, I didn’t even know it, but there was so much magic happening right there.
Becoming a mother was a wake-up call for me because I realized that you never truly arrive at motherhood; instead, you embark on an endless journey of becoming. A journey with changing tracks and roadblocks and thick, billowy fog, and certainly no certainty. You are the conductor, but this train is a crazy one, and you don’t know where the stops are along the way.
It’s natural to want to hide the “flawed” parts of ourselves for protective purposes. But the ride is so much better when you enjoy it and go along with the current, even if that means failing a little along the way. And when I don’t hide, others bring their stuff out of hiding too, and suddenly those shadows are not as dark and scary as we thought.
I think I’ve finally begun to realize that it’s okay to embrace the becoming. The endless sky doesn’t scare me so much anymore because it’s really not so far away when you think about it: it’s full of stardust, which is all we are, anyway. Don’t wait to make the call or share something with the world until it’s “finished,” because it never really is. Like life.
I’m learning to live the process. To make mistakes and to learn from them, and to not be afraid to do so out loud. To fail forward. To see that my path of becoming could help another person on theirs. This is why I openly show my kids when I fail, or make a mistake. They need to see me as a work in progress, as a flawed being. And that it’s okay.
Rough patches aren’t fun, but they will pass. They are a reminder that we are under construction and that it’s normal. The sky is big and vast and far away and as it expands and moves I remember that it is becoming, too. We don’t have the answers, and that’s okay. We just need to give ourselves a little space to become – and then get out of our own way.