lesson from a solar eclipse

Life and Eclipses

On April 8, 2024, there was a total solar eclipse and to be honest I wasn’t all that impressed.

I’d been hearing about the eclipse everywhere I looked for about 3 weeks prior and I hadn’t really looked into it until the last few days, because like so many people on social media I thought, “How is it every few years we have a once in a lifetime eclipse?”

After doing some mild research I realized what made the solar eclipse of April 8, 2024, so special was this was a total eclipse, not a partial eclipse but a total blackout. I told myself that if I happened to come across some of those special glasses during my errands I’d buy a pair but I didn’t … so I didn’t.

I woke up super early on the morning of the eclipse. Before I start my work day I like to relax a little and ease myself in. I thought “Let me check the neighborhood Facebook group and see if anyone has some.”

There it was, someone had posted an hour before, and they had free glasses. So I messaged her and walked over to get my pair.

As the main event drew closer I was switching from one live-stream to another trying to figure out when I needed to be in place. Finally, around 1:35 pm I went outside to set up a stool in my backyard. Unfortunately, in many parts of Texas, including my own, we weren’t looking up at a sunny sky about to fall into full darkness for 4 minutes but instead a cloudy sky with little to no sunshine (depending on the moment).

I craned my neck and held the glasses to my face, as the sun played hide and seek with the clouds. I saw a short flash of the diamond ring. It was cool but because of the clouds and whatever other forces at play (i.e. the weather for one) our total blackness was more of someone slightly turning down an already low light dimmer switch.

Underwhelming.

It was so funny because throughout the day I’d seen hundreds of other people gasp in awe and be plunged into temporary darkness but for me, I couldn’t help feeling like Peggy Lee ….Is that all there is to a solar eclipse?

As I headed back inside I couldn’t help but think how this big global event is a lot like most things in life. Especially in American culture.

From day 1 we are put on a conveyor belt and told what boxes to check. I found as I checked them off in my own life many of these milestones felt similar to the eclipse, underwhelming. I can say I saw it and I can say I did it, ‘it’ is all the boxes I’ve managed to check off.

I graduated high school. It was great to be done but I honestly don’t remember much about that day, except we went to Chili’s afterward.

I graduated college. Honestly, I was pretty hungover on the day of my college graduation. I don’t remember much except my concentration on not falling when I went up to get my diploma.

I got my ‘Big girl’ job. I didn’t even last a year, I hated it.

I went into business for myself. My first year I probably cried more often than I’d ever had before my Papa passed.

Then there are the smaller boxes, like my first time in Vegas, my first time in New York, Most of my romantic relationships. Even my first home.

And then I think about how some people fell in love with the city the first time they went to New York and even relocated there.

I think about the very few people, in today’s workforce, who decided what they wanted to do in high school, started doing it after high school or college, and continue to love the work more than a decade later.

I think about the people who talked to that cute guy at a party and now they are married and have a child. I’ve talked to a lot of cute guys at parties, bars, grocery stores, the gas station, target… and I have 34 plants and counting.

We check the boxes because we’re supposed to but they don’t yield the same results for everyone. I guess life and eclipses are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

And that is both beautiful and terrifying. Beautiful because life unfolds as it’s meant to and terrifying because when we release the check-boxes we have to create our own path and hope for clear skies.