A week ago I had my 30th birthday. As I was pondering the big 3-0, I realized I was at that moment living in my 30th place of residence in my life (the apartment in Pescara, Italy). 30 houses in 30 years. That seems a little extreme.
I sat back and pondered life for a bit, reviewing the past 30 years. I'm not going to lie, on paper, my life seems pretty cool. I've done a very large amount of fantastic things, traveled to many wonderful places and made some fabulous friends. But there have also been a lot of hard things.
I had a discussion the other day with my sister about a recent pet peeve of mine, and one that she has been experiencing lately as well. In many recent conversations with people, I try to express feelings of pain, hardship, suffering, malcontent, etc, etc, but I always get the same response back: "You have no right to complain. You are doing amazing things so therefore your life is not hard. These negative feelings are just in your head."
For example, when I expressed weary and unenthusiastic feelings about being in Italy for a moment to someone, they scoffed back, saying I was in Italy, a.k.a. Paradise, the land flowing in gelato and pizza and Italian lovers and how dare I miss my own bed in Oxford, how selfish could I be, there is no way my life could really be all that hard. But even in Paradise, one can still walk down the street to work and have their iPod decide to play a string of Beatles songs in a row, followed by Stairway to Heaven and Fin by Anberlin, a fresh and painful reminder that it's only been a mere 3 1/2 months since my dad's suicide. The gelato in Italy might be good, but it doesn't get rid hard memories.
This winter break was hard for me. I did a lot of amazing things, as noted in earlier blog posts. I saw some great things, met some great people. But it was hard. And it was tiring. And it was painful. Yes, good things exist and I enjoy them. But painful things exist too. And that's okay. A negative emotion doesn't necessarily ruin a positive emotion, nor does a positive emotion necessarily get rid of a negative emotion. In my life at least, these emotions constantly exist together.
Despite the hard and trying time I had this break, I don't regret my decisions. I'm glad I made the choices to go where I did and do what I did. I learned a lot. I loved a lot. I felt a lot of pain. I was tired for every second of every day. I saw wonderful, beautiful things.
I have a favorite quote from Lord of the Rings (the book, not the movie). After Gandolf has fallen to his "death" with the Balrog and the rest of the fellowship are mourning, Frodo cries to Aragorn, saying that if only Gandolf had known what would happen, they never would have made that journey. Aragorn responds that Gandolf actually probably did know what was going to happen, that "there are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark". Not all good things, not all right choices mean constant joy and happiness. Sometimes the end is dark, but that doesn't make it a road to be refused.
Life is good. Life is great. But it is also tiring. And painful. It's full of Europe and castles and gelato and breathtaking views of mountains and family and playing the violin and puppies and Argentine BBQs and Boston Red Sox and California weather and Oregon and Harry Potter World and love and wonderful people. But it's also full of getting hit by a car and getting irreversible brain damage, and the suicide of my dad, and living far away from family, and being poor, and milk allergies, and homework/exams/boring lectures, and being tired all the time from an inability to sleep well, and broccoli, and never having a boyfriend/been kissed/go on dates, and moving 29 times in my life so therefore never keeping friends for very long. But even still, 30 years down the road, I don't regret the choices I have made. It's not always a bright and sunny path full of butterflies and flowers and singing birds. Sometimes the path is dark. And that is okay.