Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

When Thirty-Four is Cool

I've been thinking this week about the first cool thirty-four year old I ever knew.  Take note of the careful wording there, because now that I'm only a few years away from that age, I know tons of cool thirty-four year olds.  But back when I was nineteen, and thirty seemed a lifetime away, Keeley Watkins was in many ways my idol.

When dropping out of college led me to the receptionist's desk at Mansell and Associates, I got to work as part of a small, three-person office staff consisting of nineteen-year-old me, Sharon (whose age never occurred to me, but who I always stuck in a "grandmother" type category), and Keeley.

Sharon's smokey voice and insistence on placing a piece of tape between my eyebrows to discourage me from furrowing my brow are two memories I'll always carry from Mansell.  And now I even have the wrinkles Sharon didn't want me to get - which prove her tape really made no difference.

But when Keeley was hired, the office had a whole new sort of energy.  She seemed to be friends with everyone.  With Sharon.  With the agents.  And even with me, which I thought was crazy since there was a fifteen year span between us.

Keeley was all fun all the time.  All I saw was smiley, energetic, and fun, and somehow I didn't seem to put two and two together that she was also frequently late for work, unreliable, and inefficient.

Keeley had just recently moved to Utah, so I was her first real contact with a bona fide Mormon.  She'd ask me all sorts of questions phrased in borderline sacrilegious ways, honestly curious but afraid to seem interested.  I loved to answer Keeley's questions, and it was always weird how I felt like the adult in those conversations.  I worked up a tolerance for the curse words that were never far apart in Keeley's vocabulary and honestly learned to start accepting people as they are.

And so it is that when I think back to receiving my temple endowments, I think of Keeley.  I remember the week leading up to the big day was full of questions I felt under-qualified to answer mixed with frequent teasing about having my special bag all packed and numerous references to my "Jesus-jammies."  But even though she teased, I could tell she knew it was important to me, and in her own quirky way, that made it important to her.  I remember packing up my things from work that day to head off to the temple, leaving Keeley behind to close up shop.

I wish I could say I remember other specifics about such an important day, but I really don't think I do.  I remember some feelings.  Like extreme concentration and worry that I was going to miss something important.  I remember the comforting feeling of knowing that my mom was right next to me and that she wouldn't let me look like an idiot.  I remember thinking that my best friend Emilee looked just like a pioneer.

But the strongest memory I have is of feeling that with all the things Keeley had going for her at thirty-four, I was ready to accept the blessings the Lord had in store for me, and in that way I was passing her up at only nineteen.  I felt sad that for all of Keeley's outward joy, I knew she didn't have what I had.

Keeley didn't stay with the company much longer.  The chance to replace her opened the door for my love of marketing and design, my story took off on its own trajectory, and I haven't thought much of Keeley. But as I was able to attend my friend Skyler's endownment session yesterday and as I tried to remember anything momentous from my own occasion, I remembered Keeley.

I thought about how I idolized her.  How I hoped to be cool and pretty and energetic when I was her age.  In some ways I am kind of like Keeley, but I realize now that none of the things I saw in her were the things I really should have been striving for.

If I reach thirty-four and can still be considered at least sort of cool and still have at least a fraction of my energy, I'll be thrilled.  But I hope there's more to me than fun.  I hope there's some evidence of something in me that someone might see and think, "I want that."  Even better would be if by thirty-four, I have the courage to say, "You want to know why I seem so happy?  It's because my Heavenly Father loves me, and He has a plan for me..."

I'm glad Keeley set the standard of "cool" so high, and I'm glad Heavenly Father has set the standard even higher.  Here's to hoping I can reach it.


Sarah said...

I really enjoyed reading that. Wonderful, raw emotions of realizing the blessings of bars set high.
(Exciting day for Skyler, too. Wish him well for me.)