“This is a big world, That was a small town;
There in my rear-view mirror disappearing now…”
Last weekend I drove into the town of Leander,Texas for my little brother’s sixth birthday party. This isn’t unusual. My parents live in Leander, and the city line is about 5 minutes or less from my house. But this five minutes never fails to bring me to another world entirely. And no matter what, the minute I drive in, I am swept away with this bittersweet nostalgia —One that no other town, despite only a five minute drive, could quite provide. With all of the milestones I am passing with each second, I am always overwhelmed by the rush of memories and feelings I experience so intensely and abruptly. It’s like I’m not the present me anymore. I’m not Christina Boudreaux. I haven’t been happily married for two years. I’m not a house-owner, or a full-time student, or a nanny. I’m not satisfied or confident or happy or sure. I’m not a 22 year old girl doing her best to get the most she possibly can out of life. Maybe that’s who I am in the city 5 minutes away, but that’s not who I am the minute I drive into Leander,Texas.
I’m 16 again. I’m lonely and confused. I’m terribly missing my best friend, who’s recently moved thousands of miles away. I’m jealous that she’s making her own way where she is, and I’m unsure why I can’t do the same. I’m missing my old neighborhood and hesitant about this new one. I miss my friends and my pool and having my own bathroom.
I’m 17 again. I think I’ve found security and control in the ability to control what I eat. I am unhealthily thin and people are worried but I can’t see it and I don’t care. I am 5’7 and can fit into my 5’1 cousin’s size 0 blue-jeans, and that is all that matters to me. I will ignore the looks I receive and the fact that I look rather sickly and that my bones should never be that apparent. Luckily, it’s not just the bad kind of determination that drives me. I am also determined to attend an accredited school my senior year, because I do not want a GED, damnit, I want a diploma. And then I do. I do attend an accredited school. And It’s scary and I’m awkward. But I make friends. I slowly find my way to healthy again, with the help of some classmates who truly care about me. In my class of 13, I develop crushes on ¾ of the boys present. I giggle often and at inappropriate times. I convince myself I will be the 40 year old virgin. I also convince myself that I am madly in love with my best (and first) guy friend, and I listen to sad, teenage-angst,TaylorSwift-ish songs because he is dating somebody that isn’t me. It won’t be until much later that I realize I love him without being in-love with him. I’m learning about myself and life and I’m facing my insecurities while still being horribly insecure. I’m still terrified of many things, but I’m doing what I can and I’m learning. I’m learning so much.
But more often than not….
I’m 18 again. I’ve been to Paris and London and Maryland and New York and Colorado within a 3 month period. My eyes are opened. I’m living, I’m fully living, and I want more. I am facing my fears, often without even realizing it. The world is amazing, and I never knew it, and I want to know all of it. I am on the edge. I am innocent beyond measure and I want so badly just to be kissed. I want to fall in love. I want to explore life and the world and do things that I maybe shouldn’t. I can feel these things growing inside of me, and I know that I’m ready for things I haven’t been before, and I know that this could be dangerous. But I don’t care, or maybe I do, but just not enough. I’m not confident, but I’ve found a joy and wonder in living which may slightly resemble confidence, and that’s just enough for me to get by. And then I’m working my first real job. I’m a waitress and I’m a horrible waitress and I get yelled at a lot. And then I get better. I learn how to talk to people and multi-task and to take criticism positively. Somewhere in this mix, I also learn how to flirt. And then I get kissed. And I fall for somebody I shouldn’t. And the city of Leander,Texas becomes a marker for my first broken heart. And pretty soon, I’ve hurt my family and I’ve hurt other people’s families and I’m hurting so badly too. This isn’t what I’d read about or dreamed about or watched movies about at all. Deep down, I think I always knew it wouldn’t be.
I am at the year and the job and the time in my life that will affect and change me more than any other, but I don’t know that yet. All I know is that my heart hurts and I am sad and that other people are sad because of me and that really, I don’t know very much at all.
A close family member and I were talking the other day, and she asked me about those now infamous months in my life. “If you could take all of that back, you would, right?” Without really thinking, I told her that I would, of course I would. But honestly, I know I wouldn’t. I wish I could take the hurt I caused others back, but that would mean also taking back all of the growing and learning I did through the hurt. Yes, that was the hardest year of my life. And in some ways, I did change for the worse. I have major trust issues. Eighteen is the year I put my guard up, and it still hasn’t come down completely. I lost my innocence, not psychically, but mentally. I occasionally miss that girl and her complete faith in the world and others, but more often than not, I just smile and wish that I could give that girl a big hug.
Because if I was still that girl, if I had never made the mistakes that I did then, I wouldn’t be the girl that I am now. I wouldn’t have ever realized that sometimes, it isn’t as simple as good guys and bad guys—Sometimes there is no bad guy. Sometimes we’re all just trying to get by, and stumbling until we get it right. Sometimes black and white just doesn’t cut it. I may never have learned to have such a strong sense of empathy, to realize that everyone is hurting just like me, and sometimes more than me. I wouldn’t know not to judge before I had listened. If I hadn’t seen and found forgiveness in the most unlikely of places then, I wouldn’t have ever learned to let go of resentments now. I wouldn’t know not to take for granted the amazing man I’ve found in my husband. I wouldn’t know that true, real, unconditional love takes work, and tears, and time and sometimes, big mistakes. I wouldn’t understand that those mistakes don’t necessarily mean walking away, that sometimes it means working out the kinks and becoming even stronger. I wouldn’t have ever realized that the worst parts of life can lead to the best lessons, the most growth and the largest changes of heart. I wouldn’t be capable of giving the love that I am capable of giving today.
Four years ago, A wise lady acted as a mentor to me when really she had every right to throw me out of her door and tell me to never come back. She listened to me when I really didn’t have any other mentors to turn to at the time. Whenever we’d talk, she’d often sneak in an, “Everything happens for a reason.” It was one of those phrases I heard without really hearing. Now, it haunts me. In a good way. I rarely go a few days without thinking of the phrase and realizing how true it’s come to be in my own world. It’s more or less the story of my life, or at least the story of my last six years. Leander,Texas happened to me. Whether it be 5 minutes or 5000 miles away from me, it’s the reason I am the me I am today. For the good and bad and for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t take that back for anything.