I am raising a 16 year-old right now and I know how fortunate I am that he has made it so easy (so far). I was a “good girl”, for the most part, too, in that I got mostly A’s, practiced my violin religiously, was never late for curfew and didn’t roll my eyes at my mom too much.
I have a terrible memory though. Mark can remember things all of the way back to age two, but my memories are becoming faded prior to 8th grade. Thankfully I have been entrusted with the family photographs and I have carefully moved them from closet to closet over the last twenty-one years.
I don’t remember being a difficult teenager, at least prior to my Mom and Dad divorcing late in my Senior year, and had a good, healthy fear of getting in trouble with my parents. I was self-centered, as many teen girls can be, often thinking of only my own wants and needs, over the plans and pocketbook of the rest of the family, but overall I think that I wasn’t too difficult a teen to raise. It was a different time then, being a teenage girl in the 90’s, compared to today. I am thankful that God gave me boys.
I take a lot of photographs because of my poor memory, though I do miss a lot from behind the lens, and still scroll back through 9 years of photos on my Flickr account to make sure the memories are still holding strong in my mind. However, I am already forgetting a lot of the people that I used to interact with on that site, nearly daily, not even a decade ago and it is frustrating.
Sometimes I will pull out a photo album and will focus on a single photograph. I will study every detail in the photo and try and glean the past from those items. If I am stumped, I will ask my sister, who remembers details that I could only dream about. I’ve sanitized those details in my own photography though, swiping the clutter of the background quickly out of the way at times, in order to catch the best shot for my online albums. There will not be as much gleaning from my adult photography twenty years from now, I should probably start writing the details on the back of each photo…but then that would require printing them, and that is something I have sorely neglected to do.
I look at the photo above and can easily get lost in the details and because I was sixteen-years old in 1991, I remember more than with others in the albums. I remember that girl, that smart and happy young person, with big dreams and little fear. People told me all of the time that I was talented, but twenty years out I realize that I was not cut out for Oberlein (my dream). I should have practiced more on my vibrato, it is pretty weak and my habits are so ingrained at this point, I can’t get my wrist to adjust no matter how much I try. I was an excellent sight-reader but a terrible improviser. Mark and Connor can sit and play together, without sheet music, and they always ask me to join in, but I can’t. I don’t know how to jump in and play out of the blue. If it is printed on a page, I can play it. Without the notes in black and white, there is no music, there is only a mess.
Much like drawing, I see the bulletin board in the background full of my doodles and drawings. I loved to draw and make things. I have always been terrible with drawing faces though, and I should have practiced more. I admire people that can draw from their mind, I need something in front of me- much like my sheet music-so I suppose I am more of a copier. Not gifted, just an ok mimic.
I loved to read and I read every single one of those encyclopedias on the shelf beside my bed, multiple times. Dozens of times. They were from the 60’s and horribly outdated by the time they reached my hands, but from the time I was very little, I loved looking at the brightly colored illustrations and reading about the world. But now my attention span is shot, deteriorated by too much time online, too many years of instant gratification from 24-hour news and YouTube videos.
I had a confidence at age sixteen that boggles my mind at age thirty-eight. I played countless solos onstage, auditioned without fear for adult-filled symphonies and loved, more than anything in the world, to be standing onstage beside my stand partner, and dear friend, as we performed duets at every concert we played. In speech class, I spoke clearly and without nerves, and never fretted beforehand. I wasn’t afraid to talk to boys and didn’t care if girls didn’t like me. Now I fear going to Walmart, I enter the store quickly, head bowed, and silently praying that I do not run into someone I know, for fear that I might have to carry on a conversation. And I never get out unscathed, quietly chastising myself for sounding stupid, or looking too fat, when they walk away.
If you asked me to get onstage right now, I would cry. I’ve been practicing again and have found a renewed joy for music after I dusted off the old electric violin and plugged it into Connor’s amp, but as much as I want to play for God again, I struggle. I can play well in my kitchen, my fingers glide effortlessly once again, even if my vibrato does makes me mad, and I feel ready to play in church once more but fear. Ugh, fear. It chokes me. It makes my fingers stiff and my bow arm shaky. It’s been a year since I played in front of people, do I really want to do it amplified?
I’ll be honest though, I see that girl in the photo and I am glad that she didn’t know. I am glad that she was bright-eyed and fearless and unaware of what the next 20 years would bring. Would I go back and warn her that she wasn’t going to marry her sailor or go to Oberlein? Would I warn her that she was going to spend four years on a degree that she has never really used? Would I tell her that she was walking around with a defective gene that would alter the life of her youngest child, and that of the entire family, forever? Would I tell her than living with such a burden, with such fear from the resulting disorder would take away her spark? Would make her fear a crowded mall? Would make her afraid to stand up and play for God?
No, of course I wouldn’t. I am so happy that she had so many good years of obliviousness. I am glad that she faltered her freshman year of university but picked herself up and ended on a high note. She needed to go through every single thing that she did to get to today. And while today is not exactly what she was so sure her life was going to look like, she had learned so much and loved so much that none of what she thought she knew ever mattered. This place I sit today was where I was meant to be.
I snap photos of Connor playing his guitar all of the time and he doesn’t like it much. He and I are a lot alike, though he would be mortified to hear that. And I know that at age sixteen, he likely thinks that he has it mostly figured out too. Who he loves, what he thinks, who he is…and those things might be the same ten years from now, or they might not but the best part is that life is such an amazing journey and if he’s lucky, he will have so much time to figure it out.
I am not going to be like this forever, I am much improved from even five years ago. I am getting a handle on most of my fear, though life sure does like to throw grenades at my recovery sometimes, but I am sure that in another twenty years, if the Lord allows me that much more time, I will look back on this blog entry and chuckle at what I thought I knew in 2013. Shake her head at who I thought I was at age thirty-eight. That is the beauty of life, all of the changing and growing, it would be so boring without that, right? If we all just stayed exactly the same?
I’d like to write more but my life is pretty much like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just the stage of my life that I am in, so I am thinking about posting more photos from my past. Fleshing out my thoughts and memories and reminiscing. Of course, this will be interesting to no one but me but you’re more than welcome to read along.
I am so tempted to always end a blog post with a question, but that is such a blogging cliche- plus, no one ever answers anyway, but here goes…
Would you want to know?