The salesman at the AT&T store wasn’t equipped to handle me.
He’s equipped to handle phones. And tablets. And angry customers who drop their phones and crack the screens. I am 100% sure that he is equipped to handle such things. But me? No, certainly not.
I imagined he’d probably gotten up that morning and slugged a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee without any plans of ever encountering an anxious malcontent in a bright red hat who was hoping to get an upgrade and a clean slate– all in one sitting.
“Do you have everything backed up?” he asked me.
“I don’t think so,” I shrugged and looked off to the window. “Does it really matter? Do people actually do that?”
“Ummm, well…” he looked at me, as if staring long enough might be the key to me cracking a grin and telling him I was just kidding. I wasn’t kidding.
“Yea, they do,” he said.
“What would I want to keep?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Pictures? People usually want those. Notes?”
“Does that really matter? I mean, we are all going to die anyway.”
“That’s one way to look at it,” he laughed nervously. I mean, really nervously. I didn’t flinch.
“Let’s not back it up,” I told him. “Let’s just start fresh. Start clean. Haven’t you ever wanted that? A new start? A chance to just begin again?”
“I guess so?”
Like I said, he had no idea what to do with me. I think if his facial expression could translate itself into words it would have simply said: I am genuinely terrified of you, girl in the bright red hat. I am genuinely terrified, and yet somehow intrigued, all at the same time.”
I wish I was kidding right now. I wish I did not have to sit here and tell you that these are the exact words (verbatim) that slipped out of my mouth the other day as I waited on one of those bright orange AT&T stools to get my iPhone 6 upgrade.
You’re probably all like, “There’s Hannah and her morbidity again, lounging back and creeping out men who really don’t want to approach existentialism over tiny metal phones.” You’d be proud of me though– I made no references to the sinking of the Titanic and that, to me, is a pretty big win.
But really though, haven’t you ever wanted that? That one sliver of a solid chance to just start over. To clear the slate. To say, “There are things I am finished with and I am digging my heels into the ground and deciding to be done with them.” Please just tell me I am not the only one who has ever been so tired of the way Yesterday stays crumpled on the floor by the bed like an old lover’s sweatshirt. Please just tell me I am not the only one who wants to forget sometimes.
An old lover’s sweatshirt.
That’s what I think about these days. It keeps coming up. People keep making references. It’s kind of strange– actually. Because it always pulls me back to a navy blue sweatshirt with a big ol’ First Aid symbol on the front of it. He’d spray cologne on it so I could burrow my nose into the material and pretend he was with me when distance came in like an unruly dinner guest and ripped us both apart.
I remember that navy blue sweatshirt and how it held me together. It’s crazy to think that. I mean, I wonder if the hands that made that sweatshirt ever juggled with the idea that an eighteen year old girl, probably countries away, would one day grip that sweatshirt like it was oxygen and her existence all mashed up in the cotton material. I wonder if people ever see the fragility of holding something tighter when you can hold someone no longer. It’s painful. It’s real.
Even when we broke, even when I could not steal his voice through nighttime phone calls any longer, I kept that sweatshirt in my bed. I kept it beside me like it was the lantern to give me light. Like it was the hand to feed me. Like it was my worth and my purpose and my identity all wrapped into one hooded thing that once cost the boy too many pretty pennies at Abercrombie & Fitch for a girl who stole his heart to just go ahead and take it.
Maybe that’s the common thread I didn’t see up until this week. If anyone ever asks you, you can now say with full conviction, “Yes, there is a common thread between wiping away all the memory you neglected to back-up and the hoodie of a boy with blue eyes who owned a laugh that left you as fringed as blue jeans. There most certainly is a common thread.”
The common thread is this: You get choices.
Every single day is stacked with choices on more choices. You get to make decisions. You get to stand at the crossroads of your own life and decide if you want to change, and let go, and forget some things, and walk away.
You get to decide if you want to forgive yourself. Because you, like everyone else, deserves to be able to bury your past in a bright tin box in the backyard and never look back. You, like everyone else, deserves to be able to say, “I could hold on for ten thousand more years. I really could. But I choose to let go and give myself permission to just be okay with never having all the answers.” Just because you can hold something or someone longer does not mean you should.
Here’s the thing: we are feisty humans who want all the answers. We want to play God and doctor up the mystery that is simply meant to just be “mysterious” to small things like us. We want to know why our memory fails us. We want to remember just the sweet things. And then the reality hits us like a car, head-on: It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t going to last forever. It was going to end, like all and most things. And you couldn’t stay in that spot forever. Though it would have been easier. You know, it’s always easier to cling to the things that used to keep us alive with false senses of identity. It’s so much harder to admit the truth: your past is not a name tag you wear on your chest. Your past is not who you are when someone reaches for your hand at a party. Maybe you’ve acted like it could be though. Like some story or some poem or some other set of eyes could actually set you free. You know what’s really freeing? Looking forward instead of clinging to the rearview mirror like a lifeline. It’s not a lifeline. It’s simply over.
This will always be your fight. It will always be your choice.
It will always be in your power to shred the name tag or give away the sweatshirt or clear the memory of an old phone so that you, too, can taste “beginning.”
Some would call that “grace.” Some would call that “forgiveness.” Some would call that “finally letting it go and sealing it with an “amen” to wash that thing away.”