Thursday, September 27, 2007

When I was brave

When I was 22, I stood on top of a sand dune in Lithuania and said aloud, "The world belongs to 22-year-olds." I was wearing my only pair of shoes, the only ones I needed. I had friends. I had a train ticket and enough money leftover from a fellowship to cover gritty hostels for a while. I had a job in a new city. No apartment, but a roommate. No health insurance, but a parental safety net. All the freedom in the world -- literally the world -- and almost no responsibility.

I was brave. That was the year, or the next, that I knit myself a dress. I wasn't an accomplished knitter. I didn't have a pattern. I had never done lacework. I didn't know, in fact, that I was doing lacework. But I had a stitch dictionary, a lot of time spent on trains and buses, and a need for a dress to wear to a wedding in France with an English boy I had just kissed. So I made a dress. I finished it a few hours before the early-morning taxi pulled up to take me to the airport.

That was also the year I founded a magazine. With someone else's money, of course, but my own and a friend's sweat and tears. (No blood, although I did grind a bone in my foot into powder while pounding the streets in wooden clogs. Thank god for parents willing to pay for surgery in the American-run hospital.)

I still have the dress. It doesn't fit anymore, but that's not why I get nostalgic when I take it out. I would no more knit a lace dress without a pattern today than I would found a magazine.

I can't pinpoint when bravery -- or foolhardiness - lost out to caution. But there were seeds of it even then. Stories I didn't write, jobs I never believed I would be qualified for, paths I thought were already closed to me. I was learning to sell myself short, but I didn't yet know what I couldn't do.

That sounds maudlin. And I'm not. I wouldn't go back to being 22. I'm just glad I acknowledge how good it was at the time.

What does this have to do with feeding my kids? No idea. Where did all the nostalgia come from? I'm pretty sure I know: Yesterday at the Y I forgot my towel and had to dry off with my shirt. Ah! Good hostel-y times.

3 comments:

knit, crochet, stitch, stick said...

Your description of growing up as 'learning to sell yourself short' is one of my favourites I think. In fact this entire post is, I enjoyed your honesty about you then and you now.

Its funny how we just dont noice growing up till its over (or at least that segment) and you look back and wonder and realise how many limitations you placed upon yourself.

How lovelly to look back and know that you realised at the time what a golden era you lived in.

I dont mean to sound mushy, I just sincerely appreciated this post.

Feeder of the hungry beans said...

Well, thanks. I think I even knew at the time how important it was to know how good I had it, and to appreciate it.

Thanks so very much for appreciating it.

Olga Berman said...

wow, the concept of bravery is something I think about often! I hope to find mine again soon.