Not just because in “Life as a House” an adorable young Anakin Skywalker stood in the pouring rain and fervently cried out for Alyssa, the witty and wise girl-next-door, who happened to share my name as well as some of my pretty fabulous character traits. (Yes, yes, I know. Hayden Christensen was acting in the role of an entirely different character named Sam, but to me he was still the promising young padawan – you know, before he goes all dark side of the force – only NOW with bonus blue hair. Swoon.) No, I was sobbing because Anakin/Sam and the other characters in the film were ultimately searching for redemption, love, and an understanding one’s self, all the things I had journeyed to New Orleans to find.
And because I was failing miserably in my search.
My movie postmortem didn’t start with me lying in a puddle of tears on the floor. It started with me sitting upright on the step at the top of a staircase, looking out through a giant window at a warm summer sunset, and holding a pen and yellow paper tablet in my hands prepared to write a veritable masterpiece of emotion inspired by the movie I had just experienced.
As you may have surmised, that didn’t happen.
Nevertheless, that tablet was my trusty companion that summer. I carried it with me most everywhere. I was preparing to take the helm as editor of my university’s newspaper in the fall and I NEEDED to be able to write the moment inspiration struck.
In truth, the tablet mostly served as a security blanket. I was downright afraid of what that fall, the rest of my senior year and subsequently my life after college would bring. Hauling that tablet with me felt like I was taking charge or at the very least like I was making myself ready.
Not-so-shockingly, relationship drama played a role in this scene of emotional torment. The previous fall I had a huge fight (after weeks and months of other fights of various sizes) with the man I said I loved. A week later our two-year relationship officially ended. A few months after that, I entered a hardcore rebound relationship filled with so much baggage that it was impossible for that ship to properly set sail, let alone stay afloat. Now it was the summer before my senior year, and what I thought could quite possibly be my last chance at romantic bliss, and I hadn’t really worked through any of it.
Along with the relationship sadness and the ambiguous future, there was the confusion about my faith. A year before the wailing-on-the-wooden-floor I became acutely aware of how far away from my relationship with God I had wandered. Let’s face it; God and I were barely on speaking terms. But after a year of brutal break-ups and rock-bottom dwelling, God and I were the closest we had ever been. Even so, something still felt a bit, shall we say, off.
Of course, my anxiety was not limited to one tear-filled night. Oh but no. I sweated through most of that hot humid summer analyzing ALL the choices I had made in my short life while worrying about what was going to happen in my future. Whether riding the streetcar through the Garden District, eating beignets at Café Du Monde, skinny dipping with the church ladies in a pool on the street where Anne Rice lived, or getting proposed to by random men in the French Quarter, I spent most of my time contemplating who I was, who I was becoming, and who I actually wanted to be.
Now it’s important to note that I’m Cajun and from what I can tell, Cajuns like to talk, a lot. So after a dinner of smothered chicken with rice and gravy it wasn’t unusual for my uncle and I to launch into a long conversation filled with comical anecdotes. But this particular night, after laughing through a story that involved hunting alligators in the marsh with my grandfather, things got real. My uncle shared some of the hurts in his past and then we ended up discussing the uncertainties of both of our futures. Suddenly I realized that no one EVER has it all together, not at 21, not at 55, not even at 92. We are still human, no matter what our age. We never stop wandering around working out who we are and where we fit. I sat on the couch stunned. After hours of melodramatic musing, in the course of this singular conversation I found the answer to all the questions I’d been asking.
I don’t have to know.
My mind was blown. Slowly, I breathed deep and embraced the peace this new truth gave me. I didn’t have to have it all figured out before I started the fall semester or even by the time I graduated. In fact, I would never have it all figured out because that’s life and that’s OK.
Something about knowing I didn’t have to know everything helped me be certain of at least a couple of things. First, that my life would not be a structured, stationary house; it would be a never-ending journey where I continually worked out my faith, my relationships and myself. Second, for at least the next year of that journey, I would totally be rocking blue hair. Thanks for that, Anakin…I mean Sam.