Three years ago my housemates and I graduated. Two days later we packed our junky college cars with blankets, bathing suits, and booze and journeyed north to Sleeping Bear Dunes. We spent campfire dinners reminiscing about moments and memories from the past year. Then, as girls do, we began complimenting each other. Kayla read to us a journal entry she had written about the qualities and traits of each housemate. She organized us by assigning identifying adjectives like honor tassels around our necks.
She began with Betsy. Betsy the caregiver, the friend who brings breakfast in bed and the best snuggles in the Midwest. Lindsey is our adventurer. Lindsey the try-anything-once housemate whose love of the outdoors burdened our front porch with numerous BackCountry packages all year. Leah was, of course, the goofball, the queen of pranks and weird faces.
As the list drew to an end I felt excited anticipation. What am I? What awesomely-fun, entirely-unique, and envy-inducing label was I going to be painted?
“And Bekah, reasonable.”
…Excuse me what?
“Bekah is always rational, always grounded. A real steady-Eddy. Balanced…”
I heard “boring boring boring, lame, bland, dull, oh and did I mention boring.” I glanced around the fire secretly hoping to see housemates stand up in outrage, perhaps even shaking their fists at Kayla and rally for my re-label of ‘coolest housemate of all.’ Yet, to my consuming shock and disappointment, they all nodded their heads in approval. I was universally known as Reasonable Rebekah. My life was over.
(It wasn’t really. Stick with me)
This past weekend I visited family friends, Mamma C and the Captain, in South Carolina. Mamma C and Captain are Southern. Southern in their gentle, rhythmic speech, their love of shrimp and grits, and their comprehensive knowledge of the family histories of every person within a seventeen-mile radius. This intricate social web brought us to Sunday night happy hour on a dock overlooking the saltwater of the Atlantic. Absolutely casual.
Sipping on a margarita, munching on shrimp dip, and chatting with Kenny, our generous happy hour host, I realized nobody on the dock gives two shits if I am reasonable. There is nothing wrong with being reasonable that isn’t my limiting characteristic. My answers don’t need to be reasoned out to reflect my intellectual studies or my extensively contrived bookshelves.
Though I originally detested my friend-appointed title of Reasonable Rebekah, I’ve invested my constructions of selfhood into this label. It wasn’t my top choice of identity, but it was something, and since our generation desperately grabs for any arrangement of identifying adjectives by which to categorize ourselves, I’ve absorbed this one as my own.
On that dock I realized that I hadn’t spent one moment of the previous days trying to ‘be’ anything. Ah! No wonder this was the best vacation I’d had in years. I didn’t have to be reasonable, or goofy, or adventurous. My responsibility was to enjoy food, beverages, and good company, not overanalyze my own behavior.
A month ago I came home from a wedding and, too tired to wash my face, prepared to climb into bed all dolled up. Closing my bedroom door I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I stared, caught off guard by the curled hair and dark lashes, which are rare for me. I stared at myself trying to find a glimpse of who I am. Frustrated and finding nothing, I clambered grumpily into bed.
I am twenty-four, and I shouldn’t be looking in the mirror asking myself what I’m going to do with my life as though it’s a future gift. I am a 5’6” (and ¼”) self-contained universe bumping against the fringes of being-hood. There is no purpose in questioning a slab of reflection for answers only found beyond it.
Sit on a beach or a mountain or on a bus bench in the Midwest and stop trying to catch glimpses of passing reflections.
Instead enjoy food, beverages, and good company.
Rebekah (’12) teaches English as a second language at Grand Rapids Community College. She does not drink coffee nor purchase Apple products.