A few days ago I found a patch of purple wildflowers growing in the yard and lay on my stomach in the grass to study them. The earth was warm against my legs, like the heartbeat of something alive. Wind blew my hair against my lipstick and I turned on my back to see the sky; so clear and blue that the moon was visible like a sliver of ice suspended in it. Sunlight shattered around my head and I closed my eyes. Quieter than the rusty bike chains or the lawn mowers, I could hear the world growing.
Every year it starts over. After the Ice Age, it started over. After Rome, it started over. After two world wars and the atomic bomb, it started over. There is no scar deep enough, war long enough, or plague widespread enough to make the world stop blooming forever.
A year ago, I was struggling to come to terms with the fact that it’s okay to graduate college, move back in with your parents, and have no idea what you’re doing. My friends—most of them younger and still in school—assured me that this was normal, but I’d seen others whirl into married life or their dream careers already, so I was doubting it. But there were school loans that had to be paid off and no money, so I turned 22, moved back into a bedroom still plastered with high school photos, and started a long, fruitless summer of sending out applications.
My mom was glad to have me back, but it was important to her that I felt like an adult and not a kid; like I had some stake in this place where I’d grown up. She knew I loved plants, so at the beginning of June she took me to pick out some herbs and I started my own garden.
That summer, the garden was my life. I couldn’t really control the fact that my resume kept getting turned down, but I could control how often the herbs got watered. Lots of friends called. I saw Shakespeare in the Park as much as I could and went to renaissance fairs. It was a comfortable summer with anxiety gnawing at the edges.
By the fall, I was working eight hours a day at a job I hated and my mood was turning darker. My friends were either back in classes or starting jobs of their own. There wasn’t much time to talk. The herbs struggled valiantly in the cooler air, but the first frost finally killed them. I harvested the lavender and dried it to make tea. The rest rotted away. In October I cut off all my hair—my long, wavy, fantastic hair that I used to braid scarves into—because I thought a drastic change might lift my spirits. It didn’t.
I get seasonal depression, so needless to say that winter I continued to spiral. All the dreams I’d left college with felt impossible. I started to wonder if it was worth anything to try to teach and write, or whether I’d be stuck in my hometown working multiple part-time jobs for the rest of my life.
I don’t really know how or why things got better. All I know is that at some point it was over. At some point, I realized that I was in a job I liked, in a place I liked, and succeeding at something actually seemed possible.
But none of that really matters. I think it would’ve been the same no matter what the circumstances; even if I’d still been in that horrible job. The thing I like best about humans is that we never stay in the same place. We change. We get better. Things end, and new things begin. Now it’s a rainy Saturday before Easter, and I’m sitting in the window of an antique store. There’s a mom outside racing her elementary-aged sons down the sidewalk, and they’re laughing really loud.
I don’t know where you all are today. I don’t know where you’ve been for the past year. But in case you need to hear it, it won’t be like this forever. Things change. People change. Circumstances change. Emotions change. Good things probably won’t last eternally, but neither will bad things.
That’s part of why Easter is so important, I think. Because the world got the chance to start over. We might be stuck for a long time, but we’re never stuck always. Hope is a real thing.
Last night, after a gorgeous Good Friday service, my mom and I were sitting in the family room at almost midnight looking through old photo books. I bemoaned the loss of my hair, but we both realized that in more recent pictures, it hadn’t looked as good as it had a couple years ago. It’d been getting pretty unhealthy and frayed at the ends.
“I think it was a good thing to cut it off,” my mom said, “you needed to start over.”
That’s the hope I have today, as I dream about grad school, travel, and a career as an agent and a writer—all things that are possible, now. Probably they were always possible, but I’d stopped being able to see it.
After I found those purple flowers, I pressed a few between the pages of my journal and wrote,
I am still here, I am starting over.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a garden to plant.