I sit in the upstairs corner of Franklin’s new local coffee shop, The Frothy Monkey. Sunlight peaks in coyly through the old, spotted window–as if she is unsure whether or not she will be interrupting our conversation. “This history professor,” the woman says, in-between sips of a small, sweet latte, “he told her that she would live many lives. Most people only live one.” And I lean my wild, wind-tousled head into my hand, and I wonder. I know, I think, what she’s saying. The truth behind the simplicity–that so many of us seek out to be one thing–have one career–be one person. No, we will all be a great many things. Some of us know what we wish to be from the moment our eye lids open each morning. But others–we wonder. And we seek. And we pray. And at night when we look at the stars or walk around a busy street corner–we feel as if we are a great many things that outside we are not.
As a little girl, one of my favorite literary scenes involved Jo March sitting around a room with a group of gentleman. She is challenging their line of thought–their philosophical views. One looks at her and says, “Why, Ms. March, you should have been a lawyer.” And with quick wit, she replies, “I, Sir, should have been a great many things.”
We are walking out of the coffee shop; we walk through town and the wind suddenly greets us in scherzando style. I giggle and am glad I changed out of the denim, polka dotted dress I’d been wearing earlier that morning. The chiming of the bell on the Tea shop’s door takes me some place else. The bells are ringing. It’s a quarter past eleven.
I am in a classroom–a large one. Seated behind me, at a small wooden desk similar to my own, is a girl wearing a twirling skirt, red boots, and a pensive stare. She keeps writing me notes, and I retrain myself from laughing at her tiny script, “Ajacks, use the force.” My class notes read, “existential thought. Sartre. The French Lieutenant’s Woman. She has different endings to her story. We have a choice. We must choose.”
And these are just scribbles put down quickly by a girl who is just ready to graduate and move on with her life. Put down on reinforced notebook paper with a black Sharpie pen–inspired by the idea that the French Lieutenant’s woman could choose her own destiny. Just the notes of a Senior English major preparing for graduation.
As the other woman pays for her small package of Peach black tea, I think about that classroom. I want those notes to be real. I want to know that we can choose–that we can look at the many different outcomes and endings and choose to go a certain way. I want to know that in the end, one choice does not limit me from making another–from being another person doing something completely different from what I set out to become in the first place. I want to, when I die, have been a great many things. And is that wrong? Is it plausible? Well, we have the choice. One day I will live the life of a nanny, who cares for twin angels with smiles that light up when I walk into the room. Soon, I will live the life of short-term missionary–I will teach, and visit, and love on women in the slums of India. Maybe one day I will be a teacher or a mother or a writer–even if all I write is a simple story that is only ready by friends and family. Maybe I’ll meet a farmer and ask him if I can dig my hands into the earth and feel its heartbeat. Or perhaps, I’ll learn to tend to a garden…and sell my blooms in a little shop with a large red door that reads “Please come in.”
I read a book once, when I was young, about a girl who couldn’t keep quiet. She was a dreamer. An actress. A writer. A farm girl. A lover of life. And she said once, “There are so many different Annes in me that it makes it troublesome sometimes. But if there were only one, it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”
And so it is.