Steps have featured prominently on my social media feeds in the last week, as back to school pictures get posted. I love the glimpse into the lives of all the kids and teens, eager and annoyed, performing and resisting the annual tradition. I love the schools and the streets, busses and front steps in the background. There are so many stories behind the photos; I can feel the courage and hope that lives under the images.
I miss the routines of my nineteen years of returning to school in the fall. There was comfort for me in knowing that grade ten would come after nine, and third year would follow second. Adulthood offers so many choices, and once I choose a path, it takes some effort to take a different turn. The navigation moves inward. What lies behind us shapes so much of how we will face what lies ahead.
I asked my husband to take my porch picture in the spring when I finished knitting a sweater. The photo represents five years of re-learning a skill my grandma and mom taught me in childhood. The front step is the place I call home, a symbol of the many places and people who have shaped me.
As I walk beside these incredible growing kids, I am increasingly aware of all the steps I have taken and the ones I have stumbled on. It takes courage to recognize patterns and (mis)steps that serve me well and ones that do not. To be and become who I actually am. A lot of uncovering what the comfort of routines and the standard path hid from me.
Richard Wagamese writes in Embers: “I no longer want to be resilient. I don’t want to simply bounce back from things that hurt me or cause me pain….The first step toward genuine healing…was when I came to trust and believe that there was a beyond. Now I reach for beyond every day, in every encounter, in every circumstance. I seek to go where I have never travelled. I wake with the vision of a purposeful day, filled with adventures and teachings. Then I take the first step and try to make it Beyond”(108).
Adulthood invites us into charting a unique path beyond ourselves through many repetitive and familiar seasons. There are fewer road marks and rites of passage. We might be wearing the same clothes or sitting on the same chair on the porch. Our steps wear a familiar path to and from all our usual spots. Making a change usually just shifts us from one well-worn route to another. The adventure happens in the ordinary miracle of seeing the same thing with new eyes.
I do not want to become a “best version” of myself. True growth is not found in the constant flow of external feedback. I want to see myself clearly, to love and be loved as I am, with the hard edges worn off by stepping faithfully toward love.
The carefully chosen first day outfits, faces full of character. Give me more of the snapshots in time that chronicle who we are.
Too many adults resist being captured on the camera, shy away from seeing ourselves reflected back as the world sees us. But here we are, growing and changing, becoming. Each passing year, we have the opportunity to step toward who we are so that we can connect more authentically with each other and the world beyond ourselves.
Who is standing in the front step picture of you today? What adventures lay before you? What wisdom has been won in the last year? Which lessons seem to be pressing on you from beyond where you are right now? What courage will be needed for the next steps? What hope dares to whisper?
As I child, I remember aching to grow up so the world would be clearer and I could do what I wanted. The world is not so much clearer barely this side of forty, but I do have the opportunity to reflect on what I want, who I want to be, and how I want to respond to the beauty and brokenness of the world. It is nothing like I imagined growing up would be, and it is – every step – breathtaking.