I had this flash of an image of you when I read your letter in my inbox last week. I could see you, hands open, a crowd of people in one, all shouting and laughing and crying and jumping on top of each other the way people do at graduations, and in your other hand, the summer, the next things, which look mostly like a huge blanket of fog overflowing between your fingers. There you were, in my mind, holding these two unruly things, this tangle of people and this bank of fog, and you are trying to hold them out in front of you.
It strikes me that you cannot hold onto either of them.
The people are a wonder, aren’t they? I remember at graduation last year this moment with some of my fellow graduates, after we’d marched in and out, taking this picture where we tried to jump in the air at the same time. The picture came out with us all in various stages of contortion, mid-air or landing on the ground with a thump. But the expression on our faces is the same – some kind of uncontrollable delight. Delight in one another. In the day. In the selves we didn’t even know yet we would become in the next year. I have that picture in my office, all of us laughing and delighting together. About January of this year, I looked at it in the middle of typing notes for a project, and felt my throat tighten, my eyes begin to tremble, tears just peeking out from beneath my eyelids. I don’t see those people every day anymore. I don’t even know what all of them are doing, where they ended up, if they got into that grad school or took that job or moved across the country or the world.
I couldn’t hold them. Not in the snapshot from last May. Not in my hands in the quiet nights before we all grew up and outward. I tried to, I really did. Looking at that picture in January was a reminder of how much I had longed to hold on tight and build deep, everlasting bridges, and invite everyone to live on the porch of my heart forever with glasses of lemonade and sweet tea. But the thing about rising, dear one, is that we must keep rising. That’s Sugar. We have to keep going, out past the point of holding onto each other just as we are. Out past the knowledge of what we all do and what we all dream and who we love and when and why. We have to journey into the fog you’re weighing in your other hand.
I’m a big fan of this idea of rising, of journeying onward, even into the fog that seems to murky and dark. Mine has been, this first year out of college – but it teaches you to walk on your knees, to crawl, slow and steady, to learn the feel of decisions and love and the path in front of you, brick by brick and bird by bird. I think that’s where you and the wondrous people you love begin. Together. You get on your hands and knees. Release yourself and release your friends from the idea that you can hold this life: be held by it, instead.
You’ll find the fog not so terrifying when you’re a bit lower to the ground. You’ll feel the path with your fingers, and you’ll find that there are hearts and hands searching next to yours. These will become your community, will journey with you, for a time, for a lifetime, for something in between. They may not always be the people you have loved and lived next to until now; likely, some will depart for different journeys, paths branching out again and again, and you, though you love them, will have a path branching a different way. You ask me for an explanation about why you can’t see it, but there isn’t one of the kind you want. I’d give you an answer if I had one, but I suspect that what you want more than that answer is a way forward.
So: though it is murky, though it is some days dark and damp, though it is not clear, you are held by this life. So are those wondrous people. No more holding on now, dear one. It’s time to begin.