Thoughts on Growing Up

The Empty Seat Beside Me

My mom sent me a box of journals and letters from teenage Krisi. Sifting through the box I am finding prayers I wrote about wanting to be a better person, and prayers I wrote about wanting to make others better people.

These journals are also laced with doodles and daydreams of boys.

I remember wanting a boyfriend so desperately at the age of fourteen that I invented one. Or at least my friend did — in one of my journals, she drew a picture of a rebellious looking, facial haired boy and labeled it ‘Krisi’s imaginary boyfriend’.

Exhibit A

Middle school inspired some of my weirdest crushes. In one of my journals a wrote out a prayer thanking god for Peter Pan. The fictional cartoon. I’m pretty sure I had a crush on him.

I also had a crush on Jesus.

I remember feeling so alone at a middle school church conference I pretended the empty chair next to me was for my boyfriend — Jesus.

This was a weird phenomenon of many young evangelical women. My guess is it had something to do with the parallel between being told to wait for love or dating, and also being taught Jesus was the only perfect person, incapable of causing pain or rejection.

So I daydreamed Jesus would hold my hand and sit next to me and laugh at my jokes. Whether it was the son of god or the stubbly saggy-pants boy doodled in my notebook, the basic narrative went like this:

Imaginary boyfriend is in love with imaginary Krisi: a hilarious surfer chick with strong athletic prowess and a just-one-of-the-guys attitude. And pretend boyfriend was really just a placeholder for future imaginary husband.

Through out my teens and into my twenties I spent a lot of time imagining what my husband would be like, daydreaming about adventures we would go on and change we would influence through our work together. Often these daydreams would have a particular face attached, depending on who I was blindingly in love with at the time.

There was the photographer, the youth pastor, the fraternity brother, the musician, the camp counselor, the social worker, the seminary student, the writer… you get the idea.

My pattern was to meet a guy, crush hard, and follow them around like a puppy.

I would immediately begin picturing the two of us doing whatever passion they seemed most interested in. Me — the dutiful missionary/youth pastor’s wife, or the band groupie, whatever it took to obtain the affections of the person in front of me.

Whatever it took to be wanted. To be known.
With the men I would meet, it never got beyond my own imagination. I was too eccentric, too eager, too uncertain, too focused on being a yes-man.

Whoever I wanted to be in the moment, usually influenced who I was attracted to, and who I was attracted to, influenced who I wanted to be. It was a weird continuous loop, like the ‘chicken and the egg’ thing.

Not only did I want to be known by them, but I wanted to know who the hell I was —

and I didn’t.

Now, at the end of my twenties, I am beginning to become more comfortable with myself.

The factors making up Krisi do not look much like I wanted them to at the age of nineteen or fourteen. I am not, for example, a missionary or the wife of a youth pastor, or a photographers assistant.

Recently, I made a list. Not of qualities I want in a partner, but qualities I want in myself. With or without a partner.

I want to be

innovative
a community gatherer
outside
a curious cook
generous
natural
satisfied
vulnerable
thoughtful of spirituality
diverse in friendship

Knowing myself, and making a list about it, is not an answer to getting a husband. I don’t even want it to be. I want it to be a catalyst for me enjoying myself and the life I’m in the middle of right now.

I still struggle with being alone, and occasionally I meet someone, crush hard and daydream all over again of who I could be if I was with them. I don’t want to pretend I am so independent and happy and whole I never cry when someone doesn’t call me back. Because I do. Or more likely, I drink wine and eat mashed potatoes.

But the point is, as I grow up, I am learning to make more choices based on what I want, rather than what I want to be for someone else.

Example:

This year, just for me, I went to Iceland, I moved to California for a job, I took a sourdough class, I invested in camping gear, I bought a $600 chair. Judge me. It’s okay.

Not because I thought it would impress a photographer or a social worker or a writer.

I went to Iceland because I wanted to lose myself in the sounds of Sigur Ros and soak in half a dozen hot springs. I took a sourdough class, not to become a good homemaker, but because I am curious and obsessed with knowing more about the science of cooking. I bought a Herman Miller Eames chair because two gay men told me it would be the best investment of my life, and I didn’t doubt them.

I know myself well enough to know I never want to date anyone who remotely resembles my imaginary boyfriend.

There are still dark days, like when I have to take a train home from the airport after 24 hours of sleepless travel, or when the backyard motion sensor light comes on and I am convinced I will be murdered in my sleep. There are days when guttural weeping overtakes me, brought on by the sorrow of losing a father, of feeling purposeless or lonely. These are the days I wish so desperately to have someone to hold me.

The difference between 14 year old Krisi and 29 year old Krisi is not the desire to be wanted, but a developed sense of self that gives me purpose with or without another person.

I haven’t grown out of loneliness, but I have grown into something new — a freedom of identity not reliant on filling the empty seat beside me.

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One comment on “The Empty Seat Beside Me

  1. Ah! so so good!!! another thought provoking, carefully written, so authentic string of words Krisi! So proud of the growth and work you have done to seek out who you are are and be confident in all the quirks and unique parts that make you you. I love you so much and thought about how I cannot was to squeeze you soon as I read:)

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