In Madison, WI, tucked between the cafes and bars on State Street and the University of Wisconsin campus, sits a concrete box known as Memorial Library.
Inside the library are floors upon floors of dimly lit rooms filled with metal shelves that are lined with books. These are known as the stacks.
When I was in college, I spent a lot of time in the stacks. They had private rooms around the edges where I could study and write and disappear from the world for a while.
And I think in some way the rows of shelves and stacks of books reminded me of myself.
Because sometime around eighth grade, I started collecting regrets and stacking them up in my soul like books on a library shelf. Slowly, methodically, stacking stacking stacking.
Don’t have the genes or drive to make it in the NBA? Put it on the shelf.
Puberty isn’t being kind to me? Stack it up.
Awkward when I talk? Add it to the collection.
With every regret I collected, my soul started to become heavier.
But I just kept stacking, piling up all the bad things that happened and all the good things that slipped away.
And honestly I don’t think I’ve ever stopped. I’m still doing it.
Not a successful writer? Haven’t made an impact on people’s lives like I had hoped? Can’t afford a house, or lose weight, or eat healthy, or make close friends, or earn lots of money?
Stack it, stack it, stack it all. Add rows and rows and floors and floors.
I feel the weight growing every day. And some days, when the weight starts feeling unbearable, I wonder, am I too young for this?
Am I too young to feel the weight of all the things I haven’t become?
Because I’ve been feeling this for years.
I’ve been holding this for as long as I’ve known how to remember.
And if I’m honest, I’ve never even cared about being successful.
I’ve never cared about being rich or famous or popular.
What I really have always wanted is just to feel ok.
To feel light.
To feel like I’m not collapsing.
And everything good that I never experienced, every person I will never become, every future that fades and every past that haunts, it all feels like I’m missing my chance to feel ok.
To feel peace.
To not hurt.
It’s too much. It’s too much.
And it’s here.
When life gets too messy.
When regrets get too heavy.
When there are too many books, too many shelves, too many floors.
It’s here when I see the smiling face of my wife.
When my niece calls me on FaceTime.
When the sun peeks over the horizon on Saturday morning and I have coffee and pastries in my hand.
It’s here I understand that there is grace for me, too.
There is grace for me, too.
And all the things I will never do.
All the people I will never be.
All the lives I have lived and lost and hope for.
They are not too heavy to be made light. To be turned into feathers. To be taken away.
And maybe it’s just a little bit lighter today.
Maybe just a little bit stronger today.
But someday. Someday.
And today. Today. Today—there is grace for me, too.