When I was 20, my life took a sudden turn.
I graduated high school at the age of 18, really almost 19. I went from a graduating class of 5, to my first biology class, that had 400. I went from a restrictive and demanding high school, to the freedom and unease of University.
If I had it to do over again, I probably would have spent my first year at a smaller school. The change was overwhelming, and this was my first introduction to how well I do not handle change.
By March of that year, I had ended a relationship with a man I thought I was going to marry, flunked Calculus and Statistics (this was the first time I had failed anything), determined I was not going to be able to go into the faculty of business, and said good-bye to a little girl that had been a huge part of my life.
If my hands were empty, my heart was full - of confusion, fear, trepidation and the whole black hole of unknowing. I have come to hate those who look at the young and tell them that their entire life is before them, words that have envy dripping poison from them. To be 20 and have your entire life before you is too big a responsibility. Every decision becomes paralyzed, imbued with too much power and responsibility. There is no freedom to simply be. In all things, all actions, all decisions, you must consider that terrible prospect of the future, and all too quickly, the future is sacrificed, dripping hopes and dreams and feelings, on the altar of the present.
I became almost paralyzed - struck dumb, in words and actions. My boarding school education that prepared me to do hard things had quickly turned everything into a hard thing. The weight of success weighed heavily on me, the expectations of others, of myself overwhelmed me. I needed to succeed. It seemed as if everyone else was more together, more with it, and knew where they were going. I wasn't choosing one route on the map, I had a map of Africa, and a map of Europe, and then every morning got another one. I was, to chose a single word, lost.
In the middle of this, I ran into an older lady from my church. It was pouring rain, and I stopped to give her a ride home. She brought me into her kitchen and gave me a cup of tea and a towel to dry myself off.
And she asked how I was.
Suddenly, it all spilled out, the hurt, the confusion, the heart break, the black hole of nothingness. That I didn't know where I was going, but I didn't feel like I could stay where I was. She listened and nodded. If she had done nothing else, the listening and nodding would have been enough.
She told me that I was going through a transition, and that transitions are always hard. For everyone. This was the first time a grown-up had told me that transitions were hard. That nothing in life prepared us for them, except the actual experience.
I am a process driven person. I move from item to item on my list. And on Tuesday, we threw out the list. I'm somewhat back in that place again. Of loss and confusion, and a black hole of nothingness.
But I have Elsie's words. Her promise, that things will resolve themselves, that they always do. She told me that night that I would find, in a few years, that things had resolved themselves. Perhaps not the way I hoped or wanted or expected, but that things would settle themselves. She was right. It took less than 2 years, I was married, working, and things did not seem so lost and confusing. I think she winked at me the day I got married. Her way of saying, gently, I told you so.
That was the gift she gave me that day, of 86 years of life experience, of many, many times that she had been lost and confused, and of the way things resolved themselves. Like her irises that came up each June, sometimes earlier, sometimes later, but always blooming, when they were ready. Things work out she said, patting my young hand with her much older, worn, vein-y and translucent one.
Not the way she wanted them to: a fiancee killed in the war, a baby that died, a marriage that ended too soon with a death, but that things worked out, given time. Now was not forever and the work of a life time did take an entire lifetime.
At 20 I couldn't believe, I wanted the answers before I'd asked the questions. At 30, I know: give God time to work.