Written by Vanessa Grillone on December 21
When I awoke on Christmas morning, I pulled the black covers over my head and marinated in the stillness of the house. I breathed heavily, inhaling the stench of my own morning breath, bouncing off the covers and onto my face. I thought about my friend who had gotten engaged the night before. While she and her boyfriend of ten years skated hand-in-hand in the park, he faked a fall. Just as is started to snow, she leaned over to help him up. He got to his knee and pulled out the ring. I was there and it was magical, filled with kisses, hugs, tears, and giant snowflakes stuck on our faces. It made sense, it felt right. They were in love, they both had great careers, and they were old enough to know that their kind of love happens only once.
I thought about my other friend, living in Brooklyn, following her dreams. She’s living alone in a tiny apartment, trying desperately to become the well-known photographer she deserves to be. We had Skyped a few nights ago, she was on the brink of tears, sipping spiked coffee out of a chipped mug. She cried over the hours of work she did for free, over her rude boss (she is currently assisting one of the top magazine photographers in New York), over how lonely she felt, over how unhappy she was. She could barely pay the bills and had to ask her parents for money, which they happily gave her. She had always been independent but now she was alone and that was an intensely different thing. I did my best to make her laugh, to tell her that I’m just as alone as she feels, that I miss her and think about her all of the time. I reminded her that she is literally living the dream she talked about while we were in high school. I told her to go out and make friends, to get a part-time job at a pub and stop hiding from her new life. I told her that I envied her bravery and that if she gave it a chance, she could fall in love with Brooklyn.
I thought about my sister. The new(ish) mom with another one in the oven. I remembered how frightened she was when she found out she was pregnant for the first time. It was an accident, she told me. She wasn’t ready, she pleaded. She wouldn’t be a good mom and her boyfriend acted like a kid himself. She was inextricably wrong. My beautiful nephew was born and my sister and her now husband grew up and grew together. They became the parents they never thought they could be. They became the parents I knew they would become; loving, honest, and completely fair. They fell in love again and with the beginning of their own little family came a new chapter in all of our lives. My sister became a more thoughtful person, a more generous member of the human race.
My mind wandered to my parents and how much they’d given my siblings and I. Food on the table, hot water spewing from the faucets, an education, and love — things taken for granted in today’s society. I reminisced on all of the stories they told me, from the moment they met to the strict rules my mom’s parents had, to their wedding and financial scares. From their best moments to their worst. I thought about all of the sacrifices they made that I didn’t understand until recently. I contemplated on how many hours my father spent at the office and how he felt about missing some of our biggest moments. I wondered if he had regrets, the distant look in his eyes at the dinner table and the sad twinkling smile he gives to his grandson make me think that he does.
Just as I heard the front door open downstairs and let the smell of coffee enter my brain, I thought about myself and my future. I’d been complaining and crying over my lack of career, about allowing my life to become stagnant. I had suddenly, at the age of 27, become afraid of life. Afraid of applying to jobs because I might get rejected, afraid of taking the next step with my boyfriend, and agonizingly afraid that I made the wrong choice to follow my dreams. It’s interesting that when you look at someone else’s life you can bring clarity to their various moments, you can see how things are connected and appreciate them, but you can’t do it to your own.
I walked down the stairs on Christmas morning and picked up my nephew, who had been calling my name at the bottom of the stairs, I chose to appreciate that moment. I chose to understand that whatever happens next, that moment was important. And suddenly the idea of a new year and new opportunities filled me with excitement rather than the paralyzing fear I had gotten used to.
*Connecting Moments is a work of fiction*