I thought graduating from college was a big deal, but I suppose I thought that because I was trained and tricked and sculpted into believing it. I wanted to believe it. And then I graduated, walked across a stage and heard the applause and held a tiny, blank scroll in my hand that was all for show and just like that, it was over. Real life resumed, or began, and graduation day was relegated to just another moment, like brushing my teeth or doing the laundry. Graduating was not a big deal. Debt, though — that’s a big deal.
I thought that getting my heart broken was a big deal, a unique sort of pain that could never be replicated, but then it happened again. And again, and again. And that’s when I realized I should probably get used to it, to being let down and disappointed and sad every so often. The most painful moments, the most joyful moments — they all recur at one point or another. Besides, broken isn’t such a bad thing to be. Broken things heal.
I thought flying in airplanes was a big deal because for a long time, I was terrified of doing it. As a child I flew often, but my courage faded like swollen cheeks and knobby knees and other marks of youth that I never counted on losing, and after that there was nothing I could do. For 10 years I had vivid dreams of planes landing where they shouldn’t land, planes nose-diving into buildings and slipping neatly into the ocean as I watched on in the distance, always watching and always helpless. So I’d back out of vacations and I didn’t visit my grandparents and my friends would move away and I’d tell them to call me when they were in town again because I’d be stuck there, waiting. But then a work assignment came up and I flew six times in one weekend and I decided maybe it wasn’t so bad. I decided I liked it actually, being suspended in air and belonging to no particular city or state. I decided it was no big deal.
I thought leaving my first real job would be a big deal, because I’d had it ever since graduating and I’d come so far and I was afraid of leaving something I’d invested in so heavily, with my mind and emotion and time. Even though I was beginning to hate it and quitting was the only remedy, I felt stuck in place and paralyzed by the idea of resigning. I felt trapped. I lay wide-eyed in bed for months, kept up at night thinking that I couldn’t stay, but I couldn’t go. But then I sat across from my boss and told her how I felt and we both decided I couldn’t be miserable anymore. I said goodbye and floundered for a bit and eventually found a new job where I don’t have to be miserable. Leaving is sometimes easier than we expect it to be.
Sometimes the smallest things seem like big deals to me, like a stranger standing too close on the sidewalk, like a cup of tea burning the roof of my mouth, like a phone call from someone I don’t want to talk to. I have accused the world of ending because a webpage took too long to load. Rejection — professional and personal — has crippled me for hours, days, even weeks. And yet here I am, mostly intact, healed from whatever’s broken me in the past. All the worries I’ve had were extraneous, the anxiety fleeting. I am fine. Everything’s fine. If that’s not a big deal, I don’t know what is.