Enough For The Unknown
When I was thirteen, I really wanted to be a babysitter. I checked out books from the library on “safe-sitting,” I took classes at my church (which always ended in a call to join the childcare team) and I sent out feelers into the world.
I was terrified.
I had a friend who was essentially a nanny. She would watch kids, all by herself, for eight hours in a row. This seemed impossible to me. She would tell me about the kids, and the funny things they would say and do. She would tell me about the challenges that she would face and I would think: could I do this?
Many of the pros of being a home-schooled student were rooted firmly in being able to work during hours when others my age were at school. (This was how I found myself scrubbing grocery store toilets at 7am during high school). It worked for babysitting, too.
I put a small ad into a local newsletter in our homeschooling community and waited for the offers to roll in.
But I was still terrified.
I had read all the books and had all the conversations. I knew that you were supposed to increase your asking price, depending on how many kids you were watching. I knew that it was always a nice idea to do the dinner dishes, even if you hadn’t used them.
No one told me that babysitting would be hard (other than the books I was reading, which walked me through all sorts of scenarios and proper responses). Still, even though I wanted to be a babysitter, along with all that entailed in the sort of books I was reading in middle school, I was concerned that I couldn’t take the pressure, that it would be too much for me.
Now, years later, I can’t help but see the similarities between what concerned me then, about babysitting, and the anxiety I deal with now, about marriage.
I do not need the voices of my married (and, indeed, single) friends to make me anxious about whether I have what it takes to be part of a good marriage. I am at that delicate time in life and relationships where most of my friends are either having babies, or getting divorced. My conversations are emotionally-charged, and sleep-deprived.
I know that I want to get married, and I’m constantly cross-examining myself for idealistic views of marriage. I know that it is not a sex-filled vacation, something that will fill up my life with joy and protect me from challenge. I know that it has the potential to be a very great challenge.
When I am most honest with myself, I admit: I am terrified.
I have strategies for talking myself off the ledge. One of them is this: when have you not been terrified of the unknown? When have you failed to meet it?
When I was getting ready to attend college, I worried about being able to meet the standards of higher education. I read books about preparing for college (is anyone sensing a pattern?), had conversations with people who had been through it, or were in it. I wondered how I would do all of my homework (my friends complained of Too Much Reading and Not Enough Time). I worried about not being good enough.
Slowly, I put one college day in front of the other. I turned in assignments and built my confidence, and did not fail. I thrived in college.
In the midst of my college career, I transferred to a school in the midwest. By the time I attended, the admission staff knew my voice without my identifying myself. I called to ask about the length of the beds (so that I could purchase my sheets), the availability of filtered water, the rules concerning kettle ownership.
I was terrified.
Still, I packed my bags and got on a plane and went to the middle of a cornfield. I fell in love with my writing classes, and consistently failed to fall in love with anyone else.
I think about those units of measurement now: those eight hours of babysitting (in a row), those classes stacked one right after another (was ten minutes long enough to get to my next class?), those years of college, culminating in a degree. I walked into those moments and days, and they were not too much for me. I was enough.
When I talk these days, with my married friends, I sometimes wonder if I have what it takes. I wonder if I can walk into ’till death to us part the way I walked into moments, hours, and years. When I ask these questions, I try to remind myself that I am the same girl who shook in her boots before every other unknown. She shook, but she kept walking.
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