There are a good number of people who know what I’ve been up to this summer (mostly because I broadcast my life over the internet, and also because I’m very, very good at talking about myself—which I know is a fault, mind you), but there are not very many people who know what I’ve really been doing, which is this: I have been playing house.
I was one of those girls who really wished she was a tomboy but, at the end of the day, generally preferred to stay inside and pretend to cook on one of those play kitchens and take care of the children and whatever. And that idea is kind of funny to me now, especially because I’ve literally just been eating quesadillas all summer, but what I think appealed to me the most about that game was just having the ability to create your own life. You could set your own meal times and determine your own schedule and cook what you liked and basically do what you wanted to do whenever you wanted to do it. To a child, to someone who didn’t understand the responsibility it takes to live your own life, that seemed appealing. And, honestly, that’s essentially what I’ve been doing this summer. I’ve been living life on my own, but without any of the stakes. Playing house.
It’s a simulation, essentially.
That’s what I reminded myself when I paid my rent (from my own bank account), when I took my car to the mechanic by myself for the first time (and tried very hard not to get scammed), when I walked into Trader Joe’s (and forced myself to stay away from the dessert aisle). Because, frankly, it’s easy to fool myself into thinking that I’m fully independent now–I go to work, I set my own schedule, I pay some of my own bills–but the real truth of it is that I relish everything I’m doing, mostly because I have nothing to lose. And the fact that I have nothing to lose—that’s a privilege.
That’s what I didn’t see when I was younger. That it’s a privilege to play house. That in order to crave stability, you need to know what stability looks like in the first place. Because, honestly, there’s always a house around kids who play house. There’s always a house around kids like me. You know you have insulation; your parents build in your margin for error. When you burn something on the stove, or accidentally oversleep, or screw up your car somehow, you have people on whom you can fall back. You know that if you mess everything up at some point, you have the space and the chance and the time to learn from your mistakes and move on. It’s comforting, and sobering, and something I’ve been thinking about this entire summer, about how much I don’t deserve this.
In fact, for some time at the beginning of July, I was constantly looking up, because I half-expected an air conditioner to come hurtling out of nowhere and drill my head into the pavement. Stories have patterns, you know, for pacing purposes—good things and bad things happen alternately, to give the audience some kind of satisfaction, only to pull the rug out from under their feet; that’s what makes the people keep watching—and I spend a lot of time thinking about stories, so I thought to myself: This is too much of a good thing. What’s going to happen next? I walked around on tiptoe, looking to see when I needed to duck, because I know I don’t deserve this. I kept waiting for God to treat me like I treat the characters in my books. I kept waiting to be sent to the Good Place.
Then I realized I was being ridiculous.
God’s grace isn’t a plot device. Plot, after all, is a human construct, one that attempts to replicate—or, rather, weakly mimic—the stories that He’s created with each of our lives. Just because God’s given us something good doesn’t necessarily mean something bad is going to happen; it doesn’t necessarily mean something bad isn’t going to happen, either. But sitting around waiting for air conditioners to fall out of the sky, worrying that God’s sovereignty adheres to human understanding of storytelling patterns—that’s neither productive nor good, and quite frankly, it’s a waste of time. Life is fleeting. We’re meant to enjoy it. Here I am, the first two decades of my life nearly over, almost twenty years of my life that have gone by in a blur. Here I am, having lived these past two months of summer, hardly believing I’ll be gone so soon. When it’s over, I’ll probably barely remember it, but for the pictures I’ve taken and the words I’ve written—but I will remember that I was here, and I will remember that His grace was abundant, as it always is. And that’s all that matters.
And it’s easy for me to resent myself for playing house this summer. Honestly, it’s probably really, really easy for other people to resent me, too. I have friends who went to other countries and witnessed all kinds of craziness that I never experienced here in this Silicon Valley bubble. I have friends who went home for the summer and practiced the kind of patience that I never needed to practice here, living my own life, playing house. I spent a lot of time building things this summer—building relationships, building routines, building my life here—that, frankly, I won’t be held accountable for after I leave. Once I pack up my car and drive back to southern California, I imagine that this summer will have felt like a dream. Who knows when I’ll be back, if ever? I don’t.
But I try not to worry about that anymore. Hold things loosely, my dad always says, and so I’m holding this summer with a feather-light touch, balancing it on my fingertips, treating it like the jewel I know it is. Last summer I lounged around at home, baking in my own lethargy and laziness; next summer, I’ll probably be scrambling and trying to figure out what I want to do with the next few years of my life. I spent this summer in the bay, and I spent it playing house, and I spent it with a lot of really nice people, some of whom I knew before and some of whom I didn’t. I spent it at the library and at fifteen different coffee shops and at the park and in the city. And in those moments, in those times, I honestly couldn’t believe my life, but I also knew that I had to at least try to treat it for what it was. So I two-foot drove up hills in San Francisco, tried lattes in Santa Clara, sat at my desk in Mountain View, my heart pounding constantly, incessantly, continuously, and something in the back of my head was saying, every moment, on repeat, it’s a gift, it’s a gift, it’s a gift.
It’s a gift, it’s a gift, it’s a gift—indeed.