People say they "loved every minute" of certain experiences, most often in the hyperbolic sense, like all four years of college, when you know that's really not possible, because finals? No. No, you did not enjoy every minute of finals, unless of course you were high, in which case you probably did not enjoy every minute of receiving your grades.
Or maybe you did.
But I'm kind of British in this sense. I always remember the moments that I did not enjoy and regale you with them in a way that is sometimes rawther amusing, much like a movie in which Hugh Grant plays a twit (the novelty!) and everything goes dreadfully, hilariously wrong.
So when I hear people say, "I was a Highland dancer all through high school and loved every minute of wearing a kilt!!!" I'm skeptical.
But then I think of the times when I was loving at least every other minute of life. And I know I'm blessed because there's been more than one of those times.
Grade school. I didn't love every minute of grade school. Loved most of my teachers. Loved a good handful of the boys. But junior high? Kinda bit. My mother bought me these too-small maroon polyester gym shorts (We wore school uniforms, which included gym uniforms. I'd tell you this was Pre-Vatican, but that be a lie.) and refused to take them back. She maintained that they were the correct size ("Mom, Daisy Dukes would think twice about wearing these around the house.") and so I dreaded gym day all week. In the winter, it wasn't so bad because I wore the uniform sweatpants. In the warmer weather, though, woe woe woe was me. I would sometimes rummage through the lost and found box - which smelled like a flooded basement - in the school dispensary to see if there were any more becoming gym shorts. On a good day, I wore some "lost" shorts which I had found. On a bad day, I was not loving every minute of gym class.
High school. I think it's safe to say that the minutes that I loved were few and far between. And it's a shame, because there certainly was potential there to love high school. But I treated high school much like I imagine a CEO runs a Fortune 500 company. Tirelessly. Exhaustively. My locker was my corner office. My backpack was my Blackberry. I ran club meetings like board meetings. I treated my friends like they were dog-eared cards in my Rolodex. If you were to look at my schedule in high school - and I don't just mean the courses that I took - but my actual schedule, you would fall on the floor laughing. 3:15pm, ride bus home. 4pm, write letters to Senators to exhort to choose life and abolish abortion. 5-6pm, homework. 6-9pm Dairy Queen. 9p -1am - Finish reading "David Copperfield." It's safe to say that I took myself a bit too seriously. But I was dealing with a lot of pain in my life in high school, and what better way to grieve than to fill your life with club meetings and GPAs and multiple jobs and play practices that completely distract you from the pain?
There was one glimmer of high school in which I loved every minute. My mother encouraged me to attend a writing geek camp at Kenyon College. I called home once during those two weeks. I was very busy loving every minute. I am sure somewhere I still have saved the notes that the other writing geeks wrote to me on our last day of camp. At the time, I read them, thinking, Boy, did I have them all fooled. They thought I was bubbly and nice and funny, and talented. If I went back to read them with the hindsight that 10 years removed allows a person, I will know that they were right. I was all those things. But how sad that I only allowed to be those things for two weeks of high school.
After high school graduation, I was in a musical at my church. It was the kind of musical where I learned the songs quite easily because I sang them all day, on my bike to work, making the swirly cones at Dairy Queen, eating dinner with my mother, brother, and sister. I had completely become a drami. I had a crush on every single person in the cast. Even my sister. I was so amped up on loving every single minute of life that summer, I could never fall asleep at night. I don't think I will ever have another summer like that summer. Which made leaving for college even more tragic.
College. The misery of my freshman year of college has already been well-chronicled. But after freshman year of college, I pretty much loved every minute. I met the mentors who are still my mentors. I met the friends who are still my friends. I met the man who is still my Lovey Loverpants. And my enjoyment of college life was not because of anything magical or deserved, but because of a resolve, I'm sure, just to make it good. I think that is what college taught me the most. That you can decide to be the person you want to be - no one knows you well enough to tell you otherwise. You can spend your time the way you want to spend it. You can eat the Corn Pops for dinner if you like.
The one experience in college in which I am sure I loved absolutely every millisecond was my internship in Washington DC. My internship was somewhat sub-par, but my fellow interns were delightful. My roommates were and are my Golden Girls. Washington DC in the spring and summer is a lot like a county fair. There are heaps of people all around smiling and taking pictures, the air smells like buttery popcorn and the trees look like tufts of cotton candy during cherry blossom season. My pre-husband and I were doing pretty well with the distance, and even though there was a fairly major crisis in my family that spring, I was happy. I don't know if I will ever get back to that place in my life where I feel that edified, or if I'll ever have an opportunity to explore my curiosity about art and history in a place where the museums are so free and accessible and the sun is so warm and the food is so good.
My Golden Girls from Washington DC, reunited, 2005
I am pleased and centered in my life right now. I know who I am (most days) and I know who the important people are to me. I'm still trifled by the occasional ill-placed criticism. I'm still second-guessing myself all the way through my writing. I still distract myself from the pain sometimes, and sometimes I forget to remember what I'm supposed to remember about choosing to be the person I need to be every day. But I'm glad for just having had the experiences that inform the happiness that I now know. I know that it's now possible to love every single minute of single parts in this single life, now doubled in joy and divided in sorrow by the single life joined with my own.