Exactly how much of what I see and understand is the same as what other people see and understand?
Precious little, it would seem.
A person's ideas are in some ways a product of many thousands of tiny experiences, thoughts, feelings and memories. Of which most of these the average person seems almost entirely unaware.
This individual doesn't like dogs because once, as a child, a dog's barking scared her. She does like cats because she associates them with a good book and a warm cup of tea. Cozy things.
Another person likes dogs because once, as a child, a dog's barking scared away his nightmares. He doesn't like cats because he associates them with sharp claws, dead fish, and snooty women.
A few months ago, I was at work. A coworker came in and told me what seemed to be a deep and unsettling revelation she had just had:
"You know, I just realized we just do the same thing every day. Like we just come here every day, work on these same projects... like... every day."
She spoke as if this thought had never occurred to her before. I was stunned. That thought has been a constant of my existence, at times merely an idea stirring quietly in my mind--at other times a catalyst for a more positive course of action or a darker period of depression.
My husband is the same way. We speculate that maybe he and I have just read a few too many books, so we're waiting for the big adventure. We're waiting for some critical moment that changes the course of our lives forever. A wizard knocking at our door in search of a fellow adventurer. A letter from Hogwarts. A secret world inside of a wardrobe.
We've spent our fair share of time wondering "what if"? What if that big adventure only exists in stories? What if we've missed it?
The reason books always have exciting storylines is because those stories were dreamed up by a writer. They were carefully constructed to be interesting, unique, with sudden twists that the protagonist would never have imagined.
Maybe my problem is being too focused on the story while forgetting the Author.
The Author of my story is an expert. He writes with purpose, imagination, beauty. And maybe instead of wondering where my exciting plot twist is, I should look at the ones I've already been given.
I should be focusing on the people in my life, the everyday joys and sorrows, and the process of working to become a better person. I have so many blessings, I can't count them all. And I have so many opportunities I have dismissed as being trivial or ordinary.
The "ordinary" things are what I have been given. Time spent with my sisters, Saturday mornings curled up with my husband, class periods with my students, and, yes, time working retail.
All of these little day to day things add up over the years. The time with my sisters will turn into a lifelong relationship with them, the time with my husband will be a precious, loving marriage. My time teaching will be a part of a lifetime of work, and my time doing retail... well, I can't quite see the adventure in that.
Yes, I still want to travel. I still want to grow and change and learn and do meaningful, exciting things. And I do believe the Author of my story isn't finished, and that He's got some wonderful ideas hiding around the corner waiting for the proper time.
In the meantime, maybe I'll learn to enjoy the present--to work hard and love deeply.
And maybe someday my Hogwarts letter will arrive.