A few mornings ago I was sitting in a beautiful living room in Minneapolis, MN. My cousin Michelle and her husband Steve had lent us their bikes and we had just returned from a ride around the Mississippi River. They had offered to take us to breakfast and we agreed. As we waited I was perched at my computer screen, trying to imagine the words I would use to describe our absolutely exquisite morning.
The waterfront had been perfect – just enough sunshine to make everything twinkle, just enough breeze to keep us cool. We had huffed and puffed a little – just the right amount to get a workout, but not too much that we had forgotten to enjoy the scenery. The old colonial style houses had towered over the glowing water. The river had been lined with lush, green trees. Back in my cousin’s living room the sun was warming the counter where I rested my elbows. I had a latte in hand. I could hear the gentle murmur of NPR in the background.
Twenty-four hours later, there I was. In a fraternity house, sleeping in a bed that belonged to someone I didn’t know (don’t worry, he wasn’t in it). And as much as I tried to convince myself that he had washed his sheets and the towel that he had (so kindly) left me, I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that it was true. Outside, people were screaming and glass was breaking. Music was bumping, shaking the walls. The whole building smelled like alcohol and Mac and Cheese.
Do you ever catch yourself in moments like this? Blame it on exhaustion or unmet expectation or just the fact that I am human and I have bad days, but sometimes I find that my bad attitude creeps in and threatens to rob me of joy.
Catch me on any other day and I would have told you our experience at Beloit College was nothing short of amazing. Sharaya’s show there stands out as one of our favorites. The campus was all lit up, green with trees and bright with red brick buildings. It satisfied all of our sensibilities about the excitement of college life. The students we met – Taylor, Gabe, Joey – met us at our car, showed us to a coffee shop, even bought us dinner. They were such incredible hosts and friends.
Still, as I lay there that night and tried to sleep, there was a very confusing string of questions running through my head. It went something like this: What am I doing here? No seriously, what am I doing with my life? Was that glass breaking outside? Really? I haven’t posted to the blog in days. How will I write if I don’t sleep? I’m such a failure. Can someone turn that music down? Oh no. When did I get so old? Am I old? Is this what old people do on Friday nights – sleep? I am old! Only old people can’t sleep when it’s noisy! Oh great. I’m old and I still have no idea what I’m doing with my life. This is a nightmare. I quit.
See, usually our bad attitudes have very little to do with anyone else. Almost always they have to do with ourselves.
This trip (and my life, for that matter) has been full of all kinds of inconvenient moments. Our car broke down in Wyoming, for heaven’s sake. I’ve slept worse places than frat houses, that is for sure. One time a man threw up on my feet as I slept on a moving bus in Peru. Rolling with the punches. Flexibility. Gratitude. These are not unfamiliar lessons to me and while they are good lessons, I don’t think that they are my lesson this time.
So what is the lesson? I’m not sure I know yet. It has something to do with consistency. Completion. Holding on when it is difficult. Embracing the unknown. It may even have something to do with cutting myself a break. The point is that this is not the end of the lesson. But in order to learn it, we’ll just have to keep forging ahead…