“Have you ever read the diary of Anne Frank before?” I asked, once I saw that the lady sitting across from me had put down her book. We’d both been sitting at Brakemasters waiting for work to be done on our vehicles.
“No, I havent,” the old lady replied.
“It’s a hard read,” I said, “not because it’s difficult to understand, but because of what’s happening.”
And that began a nearly six-hour conversation about loving reading, books, language, life, and several movies, which continued until the Brakemasters manager came to tell me that my car was fixed.
Toward the end, the lady said something that intrigued me. I’d been telling her about my major, about what I was reading at the moment, about artwork that I do, about why I drink coffee versus tea and how it depends on my mood, about riding horses, and hiking, and my family. As I was almost ready to leave, she said, “You live a very interesting life.” I told her, “And I’m only twenty-one!” and the old lady chuckled and put her hand over her eyes and said, “Oh, well that makes me depressed.”
Despite her obvious thought that her life was somehow boring or uninteresting, I was very interested in what she had been telling me about herself. She has four children who must love her very much, because she’s living with family at the moment. She was a nurse for a very long time. She loves to read, but often it’s too noisy or too busy at her home to read. She was divorced at 30, and she was telling me that she had to struggle raising four children on her own.
But in all honesty, I was a little envious. She’s lived her life. She has so much that’s behind her, and so much to look back on. I have a life that’s full of potential, but that also means that my life is full of uncertainty. It’s full of things that aren’t. This old woman’s life is full of things that were. And having been is the surest kind of being. These things that make up her life, that make up who she is, just are. They are stored away, and they make for a rich story to be told and remembered.
While I found her story interesting to hear, I had always thought that my life was invariably normal. This seemed to be the way that the lady viewed her life as well. I think that the “interesting” part comes from where we place our interest, not the events in and of themselves. Being a nurse is not, in itself, interesting. Being divorced is not, in itself, interesting. Riding horses, coming from a particular family, and reading books, is not, in itself, interesting at all. It depends on what you find interesting. And when you’re living something, it seems indisputably ordinary, because it’s all that you know. For others, it could be fascinating. So, in order to lead an interesting life, you must first be interested in it.