What We Think We Need

A month ago, I turned on the television to watch Casey Affleck win his Best Actor Oscar for his role in “Manchester by the Sea.” I felt extremely proud of him…this man I hardly knew. This man I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years.

The one and only time I met him was in 1999 at a restaurant in Boston. I was with my sister and we had decided to grab a late dinner after some last-minute shopping just a few days before Christmas.

It was about a week before “Y2K,” a non-event that threatened us (those old enough to remember it) with the frightening possibility that every computer system, streetlight, and bank would cease to operate in the year 2000. Y2K loomed like an apocalypse, and none of us were quite sure if we would all be left starving in darkness on January 1, 2000. As a result, we felt compelled to carpe diem and do things we might not have done otherwise…like bumping into Casey Affleck’s chair on purpose at a restaurant in Boston.

To my surprise, Casey politely stood up and asked if I was okay.

I wanted to tell him the truth (that I had deliberately tripped to catch his attention because Y2K was coming and we were all going die) but I didn’t. Instead, we chatted about the upcoming holiday. Before I knew it, my sister and I had an invite to his friends’ party at a nearby hotel.

The party was nothing special but I didn’t care because I was smitten. I was already lost in the fantasy that dating Casey was inevitable. So when he scribbled his phone number on a scrap piece of paper and handed it to me, it felt like an agreement.

Yes, we will do this…you and I. Let’s not date other people for the next two decades and suffer heartbreak after heartbreak. Instead, let’s agree to make it easy on ourselves.

At least, that’s what I thought I needed in my life at 22. But as Bethany Toews writes, “Forgive yourself for believing in something that was never really there. We were taught to hope for impossible things.”

The phone number Casey gave me actually worked, however, my brief conversation with his mother did not…probably because I was mortified to learn I had just called his parents’ house.

As I watched Casey win the Oscar (the award he wanted but didn’t think he deserved), I realized just how blissfully unaware we both were in our early 20s. In fact, few of us at that age have any idea how hard or strong life will make us. We can’t fathom how we will survive all of the mistakes, heartbreaks, failures, and near-death experiences. We don’t know why we will have chance encounters with people who make us dream big and long-lasting relationships with people who bore and hurt us. And when the successes happen, we will be mature enough to recognize them for the miracles that they are. We will stand in front of our people and say, “Thank you for seeing me. Thank you making me humble.”

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