16 August 2011

Me and Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse died a couple weeks ago. I barely knew any of her songs nor much about her life, other than that they tried to make her go to rehab and she said no, no, no. Of course it's sad to hear about anyone passing away young, but it really hit me when I heard her specific age: 27. The same age where life stopped for Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain. The age I'll be tomorrow.

Now, there are many things the aforementioned 27ers and I don't have in common: fame, for one, and for another, illicit drug use. Still, 27 is a strikingly low number, and to share it with someone is even more striking. Perhaps it's because I grew up feeling as though I'd been born in a time vacuum--my friends were all claimed by 1983 and 1985. Perhaps it explains why I reel each time I realize that people my age are even old enough to be famous. Well, whatever the case, Amy Winehouse was 27, and her death left the music industry whispering, "Tragedy. Such a tragedy. So much left to offer."

As I get closer to 27, I've been hearing those whispers myself, about myself: Tragedy. Such a tragedy. Not the death kind of tragedy, obviously. (If you believe otherwise, then I definitely should be famous: blogging from beyond the grave!) I've been evaluating my twenties lately and, in doing so, stumbling across regrets--more over things left undone than wrongs committed.

I don't mean getting famous (I gave up that dream after realizing that I could barely do a cartwheel, much less compete in the Olympics. Bela Karolyi, if you only knew my heart's devastation!). I don't even mean having a megalist of accomplishments. I just mean...I thought I'd be different than this. Amy Winehouse left at 27. Was she--with that voice, that hair, that audience--what she'd hoped to be at that age? Am I?

Last night, I found myself revisiting a lingering malaise, and I sat here for several hours, trying to think of the best way to be honest without getting inappropriately personal for the internet. After deleting and revising fifty million sentences, the best I could come up with is this: Aimless. I've spent much of my twenties being aimless. The path to 27 has been lined with good intentions, and now I'm scattering the ashes of really nice ideas--ideas that got left out too long, cold and stale, expired. I got overwhelmed. Perfectionism slapped me across the face, and laziness offered me a cozy rut where I could lie down and recover indefinitely. I exist in a really rich, theoretical inner world that rarely translates into outside action.

I heard something by Jerry Bridges recently: "As we begin to conform to the will of God in one area of life, He reveals to us our need in another area. That is why we will always be pursuing--as opposed to attaining--holiness in this life." And that's where I am right now, feeling this wide-open pit of need inside myself, something that I've ignored in my faulty all-or-nothing expectations. This isn't necessarily about feeling like I'll never be good enough in general (though that's part of it, and I'm my own harshest critic, I know); it's more about recognizing that I have not been obedient to a lot of the simple things I've been called to, and God is prying apart the crevasses, letting me break. Because it's harder to heal properly if there's not a clean break.

Amy Winehouse had a really beautiful gift, and now that's gone. Okay, okay, she's not a perfect example of living well, but the situation still forces me toward this question: is it more tragic if you're using your life well and then die early...or if you survive to a tender, old age without ever living? Maybe it's not so tragic if you allow it to be redeemed. I'm heart-broken that the defining characteristic of my twenties has been aimlessness; it isn't exactly the legacy I was hoping to leave. And tomorrow, I will not wake up and magically find myself full of purpose and vigor. I know I won't just drop my selfish tendencies because I'm another year older and supposedly wiser. Instead, I have a feeling that 27 is going to be another long battle with myself, a sinner--and I hate that I can't just wipe it all up like spilled milk and move on. I will spill daily, spill and wipe, spill and wipe again.

I'm not good at New Year's resolutions or granting myself fresh starts, but that's what I want 27 to be. New. Fresh. A little less like the me I've been. A little less caught up in myself, choosing to live instead of just getting by. I don't know how to manufacture motivation; I don't know where to buy energy. But I have to believe that maybe if I grant myself the grace to be imperfect tomorrow, if I deliberately step in one direction rather than stagnating in an easy place, maybe it will become a characteristic, overriding all the negative things I've let slip in and define me until now. I will force myself to step forward and step forward again, and it will be painful, and I will probably get frustrated that it's going so slowly. But even crawling is moving forward.

So, thank you for your voice, Amy. Thanks for jolting me. Here's to you.

Here's to 27.

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