I had plans for my birthday. Big plans. Plans that involved not only celebrating reaching 30, but also the imminent conclusion of my thesis. It was going to be epic. (Ok, so maybe going out for drinks with a bunch of friends is not quite epic, but if you knew me you would concede- it was epic for me). And then. Then, I was sick. Miserably sick. Entirely too sick to celebrate. So, I canceled the party and crawled into bed, and thought, "well, fuck. What a year this is going to be."
I had a lot of time to think, lying in bed for the next four days. And most of what I had to think wasn't all that pleasant. Thoughts of my thesis made me feel anxious and thoughts of my future made me feel adrift. Here I was preparing myself to hand off 4 years of my life- a piece of my identity- without any clear idea of where I was going. Sure, I had ideas about what I wanted my life to look like in the future- but in terms of the next day- of, you know, the moment after I handed my thesis- I had no bloody clue. I was filled with this overwhelming fear that whatever I did the coming year would be as horrifically unbearable as my first year in Israel. I couldn't help but to anticipate that this coming evolution in my identity- from student to something else would be just as painful and lonely as my transition from America to Israel. So there I was, generally miserable and depressed, not sick enough to be unconscious and not well enough to actually do anything, meditating on the great wide unknown that was my life.
Then I got an email a friend way across the ocean. (You know who you are). Masked as an email from the Chicago Cubs, it said: "We heard you had a cold on your birthday, so we went ahead and signed Kerry Wood to compensate." I started to laugh and then to smile the way I hadn't smiled in days. Everything was going to be just fine. My boy Kerry was coming home and the world was right again. But more than that, absolutely more than that, the email was proof that whatever the year would bring, I was going to be ok because I have friends; friends who would go out their way to make my world bright and steady; friends who know what I love and love me. And when eventually I was well enough to celebrate I was moved beyond what I could express at all the people that came to sit with me, not only to celebrate, but just to be and to enjoy each others' companies and be friends; to fill each others lives. And that is a gift.
The email was also a reminder that the world is not quite as cold and confusing as I might think. Yes, sometimes you send people you love back into the chaos that is Africa and you have no way of knowing if they are safe and well. Sometimes, whole forests go up in flames. But sometimes, a pitcher will turn down millions of dollars to come home. Sometimes, an organization will make room for that player, because it's the right thing to do. These things don't always match up. They don't weigh the same amount in the weight of the world. A life weighs more than a game. A forest weighs more than a game. But, sometimes you are reminded in the small gestures of life that the love you put into the world comes back to you. And that is a gift.
These past few weeks of post-thesis life have been a gasping race of change. I have, in the span of three weeks (in this order)- taken a job writing for a small children's magazine, joined a micro-business program that helps women open culinary businesses, and accepted a (sort of) promotion at my current job. It's a lot and I'm terrified. I told a good friend that I felt like I was in one of those time-lapse videos that show a caterpillar turning into a butterfly is 30 seconds, and I'm pretty sure that doesn't happen in nature. I'm also pretty sure that my body is in an active state of revolt (don't ask me about my back). But. But. Come spring, (fingers cross, send a prayer up to the baseball gods.) Kerry Wood will take the mound at Wrigley. And as for me, I'm doing what I want to do. I'm cooking. I'm writing. My friends and family have my back. It's going to be hard, all this new, and it's probably not going to be pretty, or graceful. But it's time to fly.
By the way, dear, you know I"m never going to erase that email, right? Perfect. Absolutely perfect.
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