Do you ever have moments when you wake up and think, Whoa. How did I get here?
Too often that question seems to be associated with the negative: How did I let this happen, how did I fall into this hole, how did I get tangled up with this person, how did I let time get away from me? And though that happens to all of us in different ways, the negative is not what I'm thinking about today.
I'm thinking more of myself right now, at 26, waking up, puttering in the kitchen, flipping on the radio, filling the kettle for tea, dragging my full trash bin through the leaves to the street. In the middle of that routine this morning, it crossed my mind as it sometimes does: How did I get here?
How did I come to be comfortable with this life, away from where I began? How do I know the streets by heart, multiple routes to get to one place? There's a tremendous sense of accomplishment as I pour the water over the tea bag, check the weather, get dressed, pile plates in the dishwasher. Even when the house is messy, I feel some twist of pride: It's my mess, and I have the power to make it clean again (or, let's face it, wait too long, then moan and groan when a minor mess is suddenly an explosion - but even that is mine).
How did I arrive at the point where I live on my own, have my own checkbook, pay my own bills, take out my own trash? How did I even manage to find this roof and four walls that, for now, I can call my home? Every time I turn my key in the lock and open up into the warmth of the (my!) kitchen, my heart flutters with happiness and gratitude, even after 2+ years. How is this true? And the job that makes it possible - how did all that happen, exactly?
I guess what I marvel at, really, is that I know exactly how it all happened - I was there, after all - but at the same time, I don't. And it's not because I lost track of time or didn't pay attention. No, it's because so many small choices and actions and moments built up and around and on top of each other to create the tangibles and intangibles that form these days, form me right now.
I can tell you how it all went down, I can recall most of it quite clearly. So often, it wasn't easy. Thinking back to those times, the journeys between Point A and Point B, so often the "between" made me feel stuck. I knew that a Point B probably existed somewhere, but it was all darkness to me. So I plodded on, and somehow my footsteps created the present moment. And I realized that perhaps there isn't a Point B, because even this seemingly solid life won't stay as is; but whenever you can find a place that feels like home, it's good to rest and give thanks.
That's what I did this morning as I puttered and prepped for the day, actions that are now as routine as when my father's quiet knock on my door served as my alarm clock. Downstairs at the breakfast table, the voices of NPR would talk to me as I yawned my reluctant junior high self awake. Now they talk to me in my cozy little house as I scatter granola into my bowl, as I set the thermostat and turn on lights, as I text my love and check traffic on Twitter.
So many moments got me from there to here. My moments today will guide me forward.
In a few minutes, I'll leave my house and drive to the office, the route's now second nature. And at one point, I'll come to a four-way stop sign, and I'll think with amazement: How the hell did I learn to properly manage a four-way stop? It's a miracle!
(Seriously, if you know the deep pit of despair that was my driver's ed experience, you'll know that it really is a miracle.)
How did I learn to... Leave home, write a check, make friends, network, drive around a new city, schedule doctor's appointments, interview for jobs, fly by myself, put myself out there, make my own life? How did I learn?
The truth is, I'm always learning. And in this time that now feels so familiar, I'm learning and moving toward a time that, though blurry and yet unseen, is on its way.
I'm still on the journey. But later today, I'll unlock my door and breath a little sigh of gratitude into my tiny kitchen. The wintry sunset will peek through the curtain.
I'm still on the journey. And so many moments led me here, to a place of rest and giving thanks on the way. A place where I continue to build my life. Moment on top of moment, mundane and glorious, footstep by footstep, plodding and joyful.
How did I get here? I'm still arriving.
We travelers, walking to the sun, can't see
Ahead, but looking back the very light
That blinded us shows us the way we came,
Along which blessings now appear, risen
As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward
That blessed light, that yet to us is dark.
- Wendell Berry, "Given"