Choosing Our Lives Means Having This One

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“There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.” ~Kazuo Ishiguro

I rummaged through four plastic bins in the basement before I found them. The three photo albums and four school yearbooks sat tucked into an assortment of hand-stitched pillows, a sombrero, a dirt-smudged doll, and a pair of maracas. My childhood ephemera. I was searching for my prom photos to show my daughter what the 90’s looked like on her mother. Big hair, electric blue satin dress, and sequins galore. I couldn’t find the photograph I was looking for, but I found so much more. The memories came drifting back on the scent of cracked albums and old paper and yellowing ink.

I often find it hard to reconcile the childhood me and the forty-one year old version. Lately, in my journaling and in my prayer time, I’ve been trying to return to the girl in the photographs. Trying to recall her, to remember her with clarity, to see what remains of the little one I used to be. I suppose it’s because my children are growing older, and it’s given me pause when I think about what they’re like now and who they could be. They are old enough to hear and appreciate my own childhood stories, most of which I can’t recall with much clarity.

I have tried to write my way into my own memories, the ones clinging to the edges, shimmering like something once dreamed. I want to unravel what of the five year old me remains. What part of her led me to this life? What part of her dreamt this life of husband and children and life abroad and writing into being? I’m sure she’s still here somewhere.

There are so many ways in which the years can unravel, so many paths for our lives to take. It’s important to remember what choices led us to where we are as adults. What did our inner five year old know and love and how do we see her alive in us today?

As I raise my kids, one of my biggest goals is for them to become more fully themselves. This means trying new things on for size and seeing how these new experiences and expressions settle into their skin. Some will wrap themselves around their soul in a perfect fit, some will be outgrown in time, and some ways of living will never suit them.

In order for me to live more fully in this life, as my true self, I have to remember that I could have chosen other paths to follow, but this is the life I am having. This is the life I chose, and the life that chose me. My life is an amalgam of five-year old me and who I’ll be at fifty.

And it is beautiful and heartbreaking and the perfect fit for the skin I’m in.

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