Categorization has never come easy to me. I was born in between generations, falling in one or the other depending on what source you cite. I couldn’t tell you in less than 10 words what genre I would classify my music taste under. I’ve never quite found a cohesive aesthetic in the clothes I wear. I’m attracted to a wide spectrum of human beings, but in different ways and also ways I haven’t discovered. It’s possible I don’t have a strong distinction between romantic and platonic love. I don’t really subscribe to the US political spectrum in general, but I suppose I’d call myself a leftist, but like with an asterisk with a footnote full of caveats.
I had a bit of a quarter life crisis after shoving myself so neatly into a little box of precisely what my good Christian upbringing expected of me, despite being estranged from the religion for a number of years. I was cramming myself into this little box convincing myself that it was totally cool and, in fact, exactly what I wanted. When I started to feel like a shell of a person and have nervous breakdowns, I was just like “yeah, this is the normal human experience!” The tattoo on my arm that reads “I took the road less traveled by” (I was so different and unique when I was 18) seemed to mock me every day as I assumed my God-given roles and slowly fell in line, as I was taught a good woman should.
Recently, news broke of the images that were taken by NASA’s James Webb telescope, the deepest infrared images of the universe ever taken. One particular picture was an expansive universe absolutely filled with colorful dots. Come to find out, each of those dots was in fact a galaxy. It brought me back to being a kid, living in a tiny village in Missouri, looking at Google maps for fun. There was a feature that allowed you to look at the sky and discover constellations and nebulae. I would zoom in on each little dot that would come into focus and feel a sense of falling. The vast expanses of the universe made the world a little bit too big for my young brain. In high school, I remember a specific night, walking around with my friend in the evening, looking up at the night sky. We were marveling at how unbelievable it all was. What we didn’t consider was the unbelievable amount of luck and circumstance that led to us existing together in that moment with the capacity to consider the unendingness of space. The night sky has consistently awed and terrified me.
I think I’m winding down this quarter life crisis of mine and the vastness of the universe is helping. For so long, I struggled with not only who I was, but also with who I should be. I still can’t always escape that. It turns out that a nervous kid being taught that there is someone constantly watching them and listening to their thoughts makes for a bit of an anxious adult. Even today, I wonder what people will think with every bit of myself I put out into the universe. I can hear the criticism before it’s even said to me, which is rarely worth considering, this imagined criticism is often just a projection of my own insecurities. When I’m confronted with an unending universe of innumerable stars, however, I find things a little bit easier. When I think about the fact that space is just forever and my bones are made of stardust, it starts to seem a bit silly to worry about squeezing myself into a little box. Space and time are constantly expanding, and I am here trying to reign myself in so I can label myself and be properly understood. I expect myself to be a neat and tidy picture of exactly what it means to be this or that, whatever it is. Don’t think about the absurdity of it all. Just squeeze, just fit nicely.
I think instead, I should probably take a note of that which I have come from and continue to allow myself to expand. I would not try to wrap my mind around the absurdity of the universe, so why do I think I am so easily explained? This isn’t an invitation to cast aside all morals and care because nothing matters, but instead to revel in the inherent preciousness of life while letting go of unnecessary constraints that seek to box us in and simplify us. It is so absurd that life even exists. It should be honored, but also allowed to exist with a freedom to be complicated and indefinable. I can embrace the unconscionability of the fact that my brain can even reckon with my own consciousness and allow the fences surrounding my identity to crumble away.
I think we could learn a lot from allowing ourselves to be mystified. The ideas of god and the universe are both relatively undefinable concepts that we simply have to fall before and allow to be unknown to us. We are made of the same stuff. Every day I can discover new things about the cosmic forces behind it all, and yet I will still never reign in the universe enough to make complete sense of it. What a beautiful thing it is to simply be in awe of something beyond what our minds can reach. I believe the intricacies of human existence are just as incapable of definition and worthy of the same reverence. Allowing myself to be unknown even to myself is an act of respect for the grandiosity of existence.
It’s all absurd, because it’s supposed to be.