A few years later, my friend arrived at church in a pair of (admittedly cute) capri pants. My mind immediately went to that day we stood in the Gap and agreed to not give in to indecisive clothing. It hurt just a little. The change. The moving on.
Of course I understand that there is nothing wrong with changing your mind or buying a cute pair of capris. I understood it then. It wasn't a betrayal. A lot of things change in the years between fourteen and seventeen. This is probably one of the smallest changes a teenager could make.
My feelings were very little about her and even less about a pair of pants. What this experience really spoke to was my strong memory and my tendency to hold on to small things. Moments. Inside jokes. Bonds.
There is a lot of advice out there to not let other people define you. To see your own self. To chart your course without listening to people who would limit you to a safe and boring shoreline.
But what do you do when the person writing the definition is you?
I have defined myself in big and small ways.
Some of those definitions have served me well, others have not. Sure, they were fine for a time, but I held them close, writing them over and over again like a school assignment, long after they should have been erased. Writing them in ink and type and blood. And when those definitions itched and burned, when they hurt so bad I could scream, I cooled them with my tears. But I did not let go. They were a part of me.
How do you let go of something that is from you and of you? Or even worse, how do you show up one day in a pair of cute capris without apology or explanation - even if just to youself? I did not know. Not for many years, and not really now.
What I do know now is that I'm tired of the itch, the burn, the pain. I'm tired of the definitions that no longer fit, and I am ready to make new decisions. I am ready to find out what is hidden.
Katarina and I just finished watching The Wonder Years. I hadn't seen all of the episodes in many years, and it was her first time watching it. It is the kind of show that feels different in different stages of life. In the last two episodes, Kevin wants to find himself. He keeps saying it over and over again. Sending Winnie away for the summer, then wanting nothing more than to be with her, and as he packs his bag to leave home after a fight with his dad, this is the explanation he gives to his mother, "I gotta be on my own. I gotta find myself."
"I know, but you can find yourself here. People don't realize it, but there's lots of places you can find yourself. I mean, you can go into a restaurant, lost...not knowing what you're doing. And all of a sudden...you can find yourself. It can happen anywhere," she replies.
I've been thinking about it for days now, that restaurant. Being lost, but not really knowing why or how. The struggle against definitions that fit too tightly and words that chafe. I think of what it means to let go of these things and to introduce the world and myself to the person who remains. I think that the problem isn't finding myself. The problem is not allowing myself to be free.
What do you do when the definitions you, or someone else, have placed upon you no longer fit?