“Life is too short to build bridges to nowhere.”
When life gets away from me, often the first thing to suffer is this: my blog. Clearly, life had gotten away from me for quite a while of late, as my last post was back in April. Of 2016.
You may notice, attentive, observant reader that you are, that this here quote is the most recent quote I posted. When I stopped by the other day to measure the extent my blog neglect, I saw this quote and I couldn’t help noticing how appropriate it was to recent developments in my life.
It’s easy to get caught up in the cyclical, habitual nature of one’s day-to-day experience – the job, the relationship, all the little things that make up a life. And it’s easy, too easy I suspect, to get all wrapped up in that minutiae and to forget to step back and look at where you’re going. (There’s a machete in the jungle metaphor hiding out in here as well, but that’s a story for another time.)
Let’s look at relationships for a moment (the romantic, build-a-life-with-your-partner kind of relationship) and wade through this bridge metaphor:
You meet someone who seems pretty awesome.
You let yourself get carried away with the NRE and the moment.
You start making plans with this person.
You lay a foundation for those plans, for that future that you see with that person.
You build, build, build.
You notice along the way that, perhaps, you are not both building this thing in the same direction; or, perhaps only one of you is actually laying any stones; or, you’re laying stones, and s/he is laying kumquats.
You ignore these problems, perhaps because you’re already so invested in this structure; perhaps because you were so busy laying your stones that you didn’t notice that you were the only one; perhaps because, in a certain light, those kumquats looked an awful lot like stones.
Perhaps some of these problems were addressed along the way – you noticed a kumquat and replaced it with an actual stone; or, you and your partner reoriented and built in the same direction for a bit; or, what have you.
But then, when something happens that causes the gap of missing stones to give out or the weight of rock on top of kumquat to finally squash everything into a gooey, sticky mess, you finally step back and assess the wreckage, perhaps paired with a sense of relief or some shock (maybe even both). And here, in this assessment, you see where everything started to go wrong – maybe it was subtle, like how you were building north, but your partner slowly began to veer a bit to the east; maybe you look back and wonder how you could have possibly mistaken all those kumquats for stones, after all, it’s so obvious now that they look nothing alike!
And then you see that the bridge you were building was never going to make it to its destination – maybe the destination you were building toward was just a mirage, or the bridge simply couldn’t support the weight of everyone’s conflicting expectations.
So you find yourself sitting here in the murky water, amidst the rubble and the kumquats, with mud in your boots and kumquat juice in your hair, and you wonder if maybe bridges just aren’t your thing. After all, you aren’t some fancy bridge architect! Oh, sure, you may have won the bridge building contest in your 11th grade Physics class, but what do you really know about the structural integrity of kumquats?!
Well, you know that kumquats probably shouldn’t be used to build bridges…
Then, while assessing the damage, you realize how that foundation you were building wasn’t really dependent on that other person – it’s your foundation, and all of those stones haven’t washed away just because the rest of that bridge is gone.
And you realize that you’re not going to swear off bridges.
What you are going to do, however, is try to learn from this kumquat-ridden mess and take some time to clear off the foundation you’ve that put so much blood and sweat into. It’s a good foundation, full of completed degrees and a successful career and progressing life goals, and one of these days, someone will come along who’s building his own bridge, with a solid, non-kumquat-based foundation, and you’ll decide to combine your powers and build a new bridge together.
And maybe you’ll step back more often to check that bridge’s progress and to look for those kumquats and missing stones.
And maybe, just maybe, that bridge will reach its destination.