“I Think When You’re Young You Should be a Lot with Yourself and Your Sufferings….”
I never outgrew my girlish adolescent habit of sticking overtly sentimental quotes on bedroom walls. My collection is still there, hanging loud and proud, cramped between photos of Lucille Ball and Bette Davis. One of the quotes that I printed out says:
“I think when you’re young you should be a lot with yourself and your sufferings. Then one day you get out where the sun shines and the rain rains and the snow snows and it all comes together.”
–Diana Vreeland (1903-1989) Editor at fashion magazines, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. My personal heroine.
This quote instantly resonated. It was a relief to discover a viewpoint that contradicts the societal assumption that youth is merely an exhaustive string of booze fests, promiscuous nights, and general blitheness. I craved to know that even if my existence failed to measure up to secular depictions of a 20-something woman—with a doting lover on one side and a white-hot career on the other—then I would still be alright. I ached to realize that even if I didn’t meet my community’s standards for the 20-something woman—baking quiches for her in-laws’ arrival and wiping the last traces of ice cream from her toddler’s lips—then I would still be alright.
Expectation of 20-something female # 1 Expectation of 20-something female #2
I was, as they say, “a mess of a gorgeous chaos” at the time when I came across Diana Vreeland’s words. I desperately needed reassurance that my young years weren’t fleeing me, and if they were, then I still needn’t panic. Sunshine would eventually pour across my shoulders and penetrate into my tired heart…
The problem was, however, that I was using Vreeland’s maxim as an excuse for staying in the rut I was in. Whenever I lurched into the whirlpool of 20-something angst, I quickly aped Vreeland’s words. Unemployment? Identity confusion? Alienation? Singledom? No problem! I was young and going to anticipate the day when “the sun shines and the rain rains and snow snows and it all comes together.” Until that moment, I would be with myself and my sufferings.
Silly, silly me.
I did not truly comprehend this quote until the monotonous melody that was my life exploded into a rapturous string quartet of opportunity and joy. Suddenly, there was a deluge of excitement. My palms were thrust towards heaven, quickly becoming drenched in blessing. I was offered a stable occupation. It’s not in the journalism field, but at least it pays (which is not a small feat considering the amount of thankless internships I had to vie for up until now). I also found myself in a relationship with a man who was exceptionally kindhearted and sank a thousand and one ships with his dimpled smile.
There were days (during this content interval) when I glanced at Vreeland’s quote, its paper crumbling on the upper right hand of my cork board, and shot it a self-satisfied smirk. “This ‘suffering’ is finally over! Don’t you see? Youth doesn’t have to be synonymous with angst!” I trilled as I dressed for work and glanced at a sweet text from Mr. New Beau.
Days passed. Dates passed. My parents (due to complex reasons) demanded that I quit meeting this man. Yet, aside from my parents’ overwhelming reproach, there were other brambles that grew and prevented the garden of love to flourish between us. With the grim closing of a car door and a sick-at-heart nod (no goodbye hugs for the shomer observant), the relationship ended.
I watched in horror as I morphed into a post-breakup cliché. I steadily made my way through three packages of gummy worms; ripping off their heads in anger and then chewing them slowly in grief. I had Kelly Clarkson lyrics on repeat and jacked up the volume to 100.
My work also grew to be ho-hum, humdrum. I was faced with a “do I laugh or cry?” scenario after spending two hours making one “perfect” photocopy to please my stickler of a boss. The machine was staunchly refusing to cooperate with me, and in the end, nobody used this precious, sweat stained photocopy…so I chose to cry.
What have these past few months taught me? I finally realized that there is a sacred quality to my “first world problems” and to a deeper sense of suffering in general. I saw that there can be beauty in decayed love, as it can arouse an awareness that a soulmate’s duty is not to complete you. I understood that I should try to complete myself without the vow of flirtatious winks, heart-shaped balloons, and Godiva truffles.
I must remind myself of this frequently, as I have a tendency to press pause on my life until marriage. I often find myself saying “I will end foul habit X, pretentious quirk Y, and cruel tick Z after the Orthodox equivalent of Mr. Darcy arrives.” But, this is the proverbial recipe for heartache:
“Yes, love is transformative and enlightening and humbling and probably the most real thing we can experience. It is responsible for a whole slew of miraculousness, but romantic love will not solve your problems. The high you get from the newness of someone will eventually subside, as it always does, and you’ll be left even more raw than you were before, facing the brutal reality that the thing you were waiting for to fix everything didn’t. It’s for this reason that I believe we often see people undergoing self-transformations after breakups. Of course there are other reasons for these behaviors, but I do think that in many cases, it has to do with people realizing that nobody else is responsible for resolving their own issues.” –Brianna West, Thought Catalog
There isn’t a surefire way to flee from our soul’s tugging whispers. I don’t believe it exists. I used to think that suffering was only meant to be experienced passively. It was an ugly, dank, roach-infested tunnel in where we could only sit and wring our hands. It was a way to serve prison time until G-d threw in the bail.
But, no, I’ve learned that suffering is meant to lead to an active experience. If we allow it to, then it can kindle a fire. It can propel inner growth and pave the way for a glorious future. The only way we can allow the sun, rain, and snow to "come together" is if we use pain as an impetus.
So, my dear Diana Vreeland, I think I know what you mean now. Draped in Chanel silk and pearls (do they even have that in heaven? I hope so!), you must’ve scheduled an appointment with G-d and said to Him: “You see, there’s this 23 year old girl named The Beckster, and she has my quote pinned onto her wall. You know, the one about youth, suffering, sun, rain, and bla bla bla? Well, she’s clearly missing the whole point of it. G-d, please tell her what I meant when I said that.” And so He did.