“It’s really about cultivating your shit,” Betsy told me. I was sitting across from her at a dingy bar. We were snacking on cheap popcorn and sipping our respective drinks (me: a girly pink cocktail. her: some obscure microbrew). People were shooting pool in the corner, and a group of guys at the bar were getting all worked up about a basketball game that we were ignoring. No one was paying attention to the crazy people in the corner talking about cultivating life’s shit.
Betsy has been my friend since we were four. When you have your entire childhood in common, sometimes that’s all you need to stay friends. If we met now, we probably wouldn’t be. I’m an English teacher living in the suburbs with a picket fence and “sensible” (read: boring) work-driven wardrobe choices. She’s in a band, wears leather jackets and hipster clothes, has half of her head shaved and the other half crimped in a fabulously random way. I wear lipgloss. She wears eyeliner on only one eye. I drink cocktails. She drinks microbrews. On the surface, we don’t have a lot in common. Under the surface, we do.
On this particular night, she was passing through my town on a break from her current thirty-city tour. We’ve both had hellish years for different reasons. We drank to the fact that we were still friends even though life turned out oh-so-differently than we imagined back at sleepovers when we were seven. Or nine. Or nineteen.
Sometimes good life choices result in a happy life, and sometimes they don’t. There’s no guarantee about that like teachers and parents want you to think. We talked about the things we wished we would have known as kids and the things we wish we could know now. Then Betsy came up with this gem:
“It’s really about cultivating your shit,” she said. “Because sometimes life gives you shit. A huge pile of it. But you know what? Shit can be a really good fertilizer. Beautiful things can grow from shit, but nothing’s going to grow from it if you leave it in a giant pile and say, ‘Ugh. Look at all of this FUCKING SHIT.’ You have to work with it. Deal with it. Don’t just leave it there. Put it to use and let things grow from it. Make it work for you so that someday you might see that it actually helped you in the long run.”
That’s pretty beautiful for a disgusting metaphor. Both of us are trying to work toward a place where we can look back and say, “That helped us in the long run,” but until then we’ll keep not caring about basketball games, eating cheap popcorn, and being there to catch each other when life knocks us down.
I’ll drink to that.