Love was a great teacher for me this year. Love insisted on many a mini-essay in her over-used, under-understood name. Here is what I learned.
My sister had her first baby this November, and I was with her for the 26-hours of unrelenting labor.
If you think writing your college essay is hard, try delivering an 8lb+ baby without pain medications.
Labor is messy, ancient, and happens on its own inexplicable timing. No human arrives but by some version of this route. All of our mothers, somehow, bore it– whether assisted or unassisted. This is you and me I am talking about, and our exodus from the mysterious biological soup women’s bodies somehow brew.
When my sister’s baby came out, she was unnamed, and screaming. She already had wordless opinions about her new circumstances and the trial of leaving my sister’s body in order to have her own body, her own existence, her own self. I felt bonding hormones helplessly rush through my bloodstream in response to the newborn’s fresh cries and reddened womb-dusted skin. The hormones came in surges of Jedi-style loving protectorship which make you think, true or not, you can stall barreling trucks in their tracks, hold up collapsing buildings, and bear to change runny diapers at 3AM–while you fend off attacking tigers with your middle finger.
My niece Nora is a little over a month old now. She spends much of the day asleep, re-assuming the shape of the womb, preferably against your chest. She gives you the most earnest stare while you whack her harder than you’d think to get her to burp, and then she adds in a little gas-bubbly fart as a P.S., a digestive afterthought.
This girl blasted open my heart the way water spews from an open hydrant. I mean I was down on my knees because of the magnitude of my love for her; there was nowhere even to put this love, it was unwieldy, the size of the universe, it had to be compressed into baby-gentle kisses. Ever loved like that?
This kind of love is humbling because there is no “earning” it– we are born beautiful and worthy.
But we forget that as life asks us to meet more and more criteria in order to be accepted and acceptable; our status, perhaps, decides how much and if we are to be loved, to be included; we have to stack up in various ways that translate to numbers more and more and connect to feelings less and less.
And lot of our actions don’t come from love. They come from anxiety or self-judgment, worry about how our numbers will look and compare, not how we will feel or make other people feel, and certainly not who we feel ourselves to be deep inside, a place that deserves only the reverence, respect, and love due any 3-minute-old creature.
When we write our college essays, as we must do and do well to complete a satisfying college application and to fulfill our ambitions, let’s consider the worthiness of coming, again, from love. Of viewing ourselves as we are viewed– as we MUST be viewed– when we are fresh from the womb: loveable without criteria.
And when we wonder what scary admissions person is cold-heartedly judging us, putting our scores and stats in the pile with the runny diapers, let’s replace that vision with the reassurance that we are born beautiful and worthy. May THAT be our motivation to produce the best possible work we can.