Castles in the Sand

When the waters rise, will our castles remain?

Sometimes I realize I don’t really know myself at all. That sounds kind of weird to say. I mean, I’ve lived with myself for more than 25 years and I feel as if I’m at least moderately well-adjusted and self-aware.

I think it ties into regrets, but not the way I used to think about regrets. I used to think about regrets as in times that I wish I could change the decision I made because it was a questionable decision at the time and turned out to be quite stupid. Or not even necessarily stupid, but just different from how I would have liked things to end up.

Sometimes I don’t even think about these things in a sad way of wishing they’d ended up a different way, but rather a pondering mindset of just curiously wondering how my life would have ended up if I’d chosen another adventure.

But now I’ve mumbled 150 words about what I’m not really wanting to talk about. The regrets I’ve discovered recently are regrets that it has taken me so long to realize who I am and what I enjoy. It’s kind of like the episode of Seinfeld when George realizes that every decision he’s ever made is wrong and that he should just do the exact opposite of his gut instinct. Except not nearly that extreme.

You see, George realized something about himself far too late to salvage the previous 30+ years of his life. It made for quite the humorous episode. In my case I don’t think I’ve made all kinds of bad decisions, although I have most definitely made my fair share.

No, my problem is just that I did not realize what I was missing as I was happily living an oblivious life. I probably can’t really complain about that, since I loved my high school and college experiences. But looking back now, I wish I’d given myself a chance to realize other passions I neglected.

I recently read Pride and Prejudice. One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, mentioned it in one of my favorite books, Blue Like Jazz, and I found his commentary quite entertaining:

Here’s a tip I’ve never used: I understand you can learn a great deal about girldom by reading Pride and Prejudice, and I own a copy, but I have never read it. I tried. It was given to me by a girl with a little note inside that read: What is in this book is the heart of a woman. I am sure the heart of a woman is pure and lovely, but the first chapter of said heart is hopelessly boring. Nobody dies at all. I keep the book on my shelf because girls come into my room, sit on my couch, and eye the books on the adjacent shelf. You have a copy of Pride and Prejudice, they exclaim in a gentle sigh and smile. Yes, I say. Yes, I do. (Blue Like Jazz, page 140)

That paragraph alone probably gives a great deal away about why I so enjoy reading Donald Miller’s writing, but to be honest it intrigued me about the power of Pride and Prejudice. Even greater, one of my favorite romantic comedies of al time, You’ve Got Mail, references it extensively as playing a key role in Kathleen’s (Meg Ryan) character. Of course, I now realize that their entire relationship was in a lot of ways based directly on Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. Who could’ve known?

Anyway, I’m not much of a reader because I read really slowly and get bored easily, apparently like Donald Miller. And I just always assumed that Jane Austen was not a writer who would appeal to me, so I never even saw any of the movie adaptations. I probably could have been intrigued by a movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but that would be more for the hilarity of fitting zombies into what I believed to be one of the most stereotypically girly books ever written.

Then a few weeks ago I saw that it was the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve had a copy on my shelf for awhile, although even though I like to tease my mother about all the female activity in my room, I would doubt any woman has been in my room anywhere near long enough to see my copy on the shelf. Sigh. Just another example of how much better Donald Miller is than me, I guess.

But I decided to give it a shot. And while I will admit that the first chapter is slow, I found myself having a hard time putting the book down. I read it in about a week, which is really fast for me reading a book not written by Dr. Seuss, and I loved it. It was not shallow and blandly straightforward like so many “chick flicks,” but took two flawed characters and progressed their relationship to a wonderful love at the end.

I found myself relating wholeheartedly to Mr. Darcy. You know, because of course I would see myself as the hero of the most enduring love story novel ever. I mean, I’m basically him.

But really, the way that he struggled with social interaction outside his circle of friends and clung to the people he cared about really hit home with me. The way he was horrible at making good first impressions registered perfectly with my hatred and fear at the thought of traditional “first dates.” The way he was himself and did not want to put on any façade and was perfectly comfortable being out of the spotlight sounded just like me.

And I loved how much Elizabeth hated him. That probably sounds weird, since I just mentioned how much I related to him, but it’s true. As much as I love Disney movies, I really dislike the ideas they perpetuate about an overly simplistic and easy love that strikes at first sight and jumps the highway to happily ever after.

What I found was a complex story about struggle, disappointment, pain, love and hope. I have no idea if that revealed to me the heart of a woman, but it revealed something about my own heart. Wow, that statement really set me up for awkward conjecture.

In the midst of this experience and my newly-realized unabashed love for Les Miserables and my recognition of how much I enjoy musical theatre in general, I’ve discovered a bit of an identity crisis. It’s nothing very severe, but just mere shock that I truly am learning something new about myself every day. I thought by this age I was supposed to know myself.

I guess Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to admit my Pride and Prejudice fandom. I never would’ve imagined myself doing this even a month ago, much less years ago. Then again, two years ago I’d hardly heard of Ashland, Ore., and never imagined climbing mountains and loving Les Miserables. But if Jean Valjean can change throughout his life and face the existential questions of identity, I must face the same – who am I? I’m just now finding out.

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