I couldn’t have pictured this


Natalie Mix

The view from a sidewalk bench in downtown Grand Rapids

We roamed the busy sidewalks of a city that I’m always shocked to call home, left the in-between spaces we’d previously occupied, and broke down just a few of the barriers that we’d clumsily managed to avoid. 

And in every sloppily-sketched blueprint of my future, it never looked like this. In fact, I genuinely placed bets on the fact that it wouldn’t look like this. 

All of it is different, actually—every piece of my present reality is a story that almost feels like someone else’s to live. I tell stories, and I read stories, and it’s taught me that there is a story to be told everywhere, but sometimes, I forget that I have a story to tell too, something beyond the cliché rise and fall of the night.

This story though, it’s one whose elements evaded my imaginings. 

I couldn’t have pictured the mornings we now spend on that brown couch, couldn’t have pictured the jokes we share or the reasons we disagree. 

I couldn’t have pictured the person I am, taking everything in stride. I never guessed I’d be strong enough to let moments be moments, strong enough to not let them taint my day. 

I never could’ve imagined what it’s like to be on the other end of the tears, the late night phone calls, the texts requesting grace, and I never would’ve imagined that I’d even sometimes have the answers. 

I couldn’t have envisioned these people, the ones whose faces fill my camera roll and whose names pop up in my anecdotes, couldn’t have guessed which people would fade back into their own stories, which ones would stay in mine, and which ones would appear again, pulled from the past.

Sometimes I feel that this story isn’t mine, but I continue to find myself equipped to live it, proving time and time again that it is mine.

I never expected to find myself falling in love with profiles and features, the stories that once evoked pervasive dread but are now an opportunity for me to tell someone’s story. I never expected to explore the school this way, to fall in love with its hidden rooms and its hidden stories, never expected to traverse the hallways with my recording app in hand. 

And I never expected to feel so connected here, to realize I’ll miss this building, not just room 139/140, but every room in this school, four years of memories that will be memorialized on this site. I don’t think I ever expected to feel the weight of these significant lasts, for them to be so soon after the firsts. 

Somehow, I didn’t expect to feel so attached to my home, willing to stay so close, willing to forgo every promise about moving out as soon as I could. 

And I didn’t expect to feel so free, to not be constantly stressing about college applications, to be somewhat willing to go with the flow, to be okay with letting go of my tight reins on the future. I didn’t expect to hold the wisdom I hold now, even if it doesn’t feel like enough to ward off the approaching unpredictability of the future. 

Sometimes I feel that this story isn’t mine, but I continue to find myself equipped to live it, proving time and time again that it is mine. And while a story can be told from every angle, I can’t wait to see how this story will appear when I look back on it. 

I wonder about the new beginnings I’m creating, the groundwork I’m laying, how much will still be standing even one year from now. And I wonder how I’ll look back on these stories once my time writing for this site has ended, how I’ll thank my lucky stars that I had the chance to capture these four years on the page, to memorialize every moment in a metaphor.  

I truly never could have expected that.