I wish you’d seen this woman.
Petite, flawless skin, and the sharpest tongue I’d heard in a long time. She was exactly the kind of person I was hoping to run into at the coffee shop. We talked so long and so loud that I wondered when someone would ask us to leave.
Somewhere in the midst of the conversation, she mentioned that she was 59 years old. I couldn’t believe it. When I finished picking my teeth and jaw off the floor, I told her to stop lying.
There was no way she looked that good and sounded that sharp at 59. But she convinced me. I had to accept that this little person in front of me was more than half a century old.
She went on to tell me that she’d never been married. Ever. This time, I did a better job of masking my surprise.
As calmly as I could, I asked her to tell me about her journey through life. I wanted to hear about her accomplishments, hopes, disappointments, philosophies. Everything she would be willing to share with a complete stranger.
In my head I’d already pictured her life being something like this:
you know, something adventurous, dramatic, or maybe even a little weird
So you can understand my disappointment when she simply said: “difficult”
What kind of life have you built so far? If someone asks you to sum up your life in one word, what would your word be? tweet this
She went on to explain that she’d grown up in a little town 10 minutes south of us. In that town, there weren’t many people of her ethnicity. She felt ostracized and ignored. The boys wouldn’t date her. The girls wouldn’t befriend her. It made her feel like she needed to defend herself. She needed to focus on staying “one or two steps ahead of white people”.
I can relate to feeling like an outsider. I mean, one time I showed up at a hip hop night club wearing a cocktail dress (long story). So yes, I have some experience with feeling out of place.
What I’m struggling with is this concept of choosing to live 10 minutes away from a place that is apparently so stifling. I wondered whether her life would have been more enjoyable if someone had told her to either change her perspective or change her location.
This Issue Runs Deep
When we’re young, we need permission to do everything.
For me (and people that grew up in certain parts of the world) it was perhaps a little extreme. We needed permission to talk. Permission to sleep. Permission to eat. Permission to grow our hair. Permission to style our hair after it grew. We couldn’t function unless someone else provided approval.
Unfortunately, some of us carry this attitude into adulthood. We find it difficult to move decisively until someone else says it’s okay. I’m not completely innocent of this. But my reality check came when I realized that nobody really has life figured out.
Waiting for permission (or approval) to build the life you want is a classic case of the blind leading the blind. We’re all just making stuff up as we go. So get up, get dressed, and get with the program.