A letter from Kate

I met Kate just shy of two years ago. We clicked instantly and have spent countless days and nights discussing a wide variety of topics: music, movies, books, travel, music again, food, drinks, oh, and music.

Most recently our conversations have centered around love, and dating, and all of the muck that comes along with being single in your 20s. She sent me the following email last week, and I have read it no less than a dozen times since then.

I asked her if I could share it with you, and I'm so glad that she agreed to it.

Since we've been having these rather deep conversations as of late, I thought I'd share a related anecdote from the end of my day. Hope you are bored at work and looking for some distractions. I apologize for the length, but you need a little background to understand completely.

One of my best work friends was pregnant through most of this school year, and while I was very happy for her, I was selfishly dreading the day she actually had the baby, because it would signify the start of her maternity leave. And I would miss her! (as it turns out, babies don't care what you think and come just the same)  This dread grew stronger still when she told me that her long-term substitute was an older woman, straight from Spain, completely technologically illiterate, had probably never heard of Benedict Cumberbatch, etc. (you get the picture). Point blank, I expected to avoid this woman at all costs.

As it turns out, it is rather difficult to avoid someone who occupies the exact 10 feet of hallway as you do, and who shares your interests (sometimes students, and more often coffee). As anticipated, she quickly ran into a problem with her computer. She couldn't get the printer to work. I gallantly offered my services, as I figured it was some easy issue that wouldn't take much of my time to resolve (i.e. clicking file > print). 

Turns out it was, and even though I ended up going across the hall to do this same thingseveral times during the hour, it's not the point of my story. I'm getting to that. It's called suspense, people, look it up. Or perhaps digression. In any case.

While I was putting my University of Phoenix IT degree to good use on her printer, she made small talk. She must have gotten my name wrong four times before she finally got it right, but when she did, boy did she make up for it. She was so grateful that I had helped her with this seemingly insurmountable task, that she kept saying, "Thank you! Thank you, Kate!" All that gratitude over the push of a button. And after a while I just started to laugh. 

Then, out of nowhere, in the midst of all this mindless chatter, she asked me, "Are you married, Kate?"

It caught me off guard. And though the question is a common and straight-forward one, I always feel an uncharacteristic need to explain myself when posed with it. But, maybe because it was so out of the blue, I just answered simply, "No, I'm not."

And this is the point of no return. The point where the conversations turns quiet, or awkward. I have been asked this question (or a version of it) countless times in my life, and yet it never gets easier to respond to. Part of me always wonders why that's everyone's first question (particularly older women) to ask a girl of 25, and part of me hates the almost indecipherable look of pity they give when I explain that I am single. I expected as much from this old world, blunt woman asking me today. I expected to hear cliches about timing and fate and everything else that has nothing to do with actual relationships.

But for the second time today, I was wrong. Instead, this woman (whose name I can't even remember she meant so little to me upon first meeting) actually jumped for joy at my answer. She smiled so wide you'd think I'd given her an invaluable gift. She said, "Oh, that's wonderful! You are too young to be married!"

And I was so shocked by this, I didn't even respond. She wasn't covering up an uncomfortable moment by overcompensating- she honestly felt that way. And while I understand that this mentality has its own limitations and biases, in that moment, I felt so validated, when I normally feel embarrassed. 

She asked further, "Do you have a boyfriend?"

Again, I answered, "No, no boyfriend, either."

And that crazy woman smiled wider still, if possible. Gleefully, she told me that her daughter was 24 and felt like she was the only single girl in the whole world. Then she said something I have heard said so many times before, and that I've even told myself, but in her fast, accented English, it's like I heard it for the first time again, today. 

You have time. she said. So much time. 

And I had all I could do not to cry where I stood, fixing that stupid printer and hearing the words I had forgotten being offered by a virtual stranger, a person whom I had actively avoided speaking to. 

Being authentically Spanish, and therefore devout, she asked if I was Catholic, and I told her that I was. She said, "Pray to Saint Joseph, he will find you a good husband, when you decide you want one. Pray to Saint Joseph, he is very powerful."

And I laughed because it sounded like the sort of thing my mother would say. Pray to Saint Anthony and he will find your car keys.  

More out of politeness than anything, I told her that I would. And on her way out the door she gave me a vase full of yellow daffodils for being so kind and helping her with her printer. It was such a nice gesture, and I found myself thinking that it should have been the other way around. Without knowing it, she was kind to me in a moment of personal insecurity and her words lifted my spirit just a bit, almost back up to where it's used to residing.

She reminded me that I have time, so much time. And if I decide to, as Meg would say, receive the mystery of faith, maybe I'll give St. Joseph a call. 

And in the meantime, there is Whitman.

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or
     ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can

                                                                    from Song of Myself