“It’s time for the world to end in FIRE.” Key ominous music.
The words of Firelord Ozai from Avatar: the Last Airbender circled through my head, as I carpooled with friends down to South Carolina to see the Solar Eclipse. A Solar Eclipse plays a major role in the Emmy Award winning TV series (It’s on Amazon Prime, if you’re interested). Up until Sunday, The Last Airbender was my only real reference to what an Eclipse even is.
Before Sunday, I was just going on a road trip with some swanky glasses one of my roommates picked up. Along the way, however, we listened to this cool podcast about Eclipse Chasers (seriously, it’s a thing), and learned what an incredibly unique experience Eclipse viewing is. Suddenly I was excited. This was a story I would record for my children—that time I drove eight hours (10 with traffic) to see the moon eclipse the sun. That time I experienced the apocalyptic sensation of feeling like the aliens were coming and the earth would never be the same, only to experience the life-giving sunshine as the sun escapes the moon, shining it’s bright light on all living beings from here until the end of time.
If I could go back in time, I wonder, would I rather have not listened to that podcast? If I’d known I wouldn’t actually get to see the Eclipse, would it have been better not to know anything about it? Would it have been better to remain lackadaisical?
Before that podcast, I was on a road trip with some cool people to see a city I’ve never seen and possibly eat some good food.
Before that podcast, I was Nero in the Matrix before taking the red pill.
Before that podcast, I was a normal girl who didn’t know she was meant to be a hero—and didn’t care.
Then I listened to the podcast and my world changed forever. I was about to be one of a fraction of people to see a Solar Eclipse, to experience this amazing phenomenon.
On Monday, my friends and I set up our camp chairs and lay out our blankets. Cloudy skies were predicted, but we would not let them eclipse our experience (see what I did there).
The sky was blue. A few wispy white clouds hovered over the sun, but we could still see it with our special eclipse glasses.
Then, just as contact between moon and sun was about to happen, a thick dark cloud circumvented our view. It moved in, bringing with it larger, and thicker clouds.
Then the rain started.
Then the rain turned to a downpour and we fled inside.
We watched the rain, hoping it would go away so we might see the Total Eclipse we we’d driven miles to witness.
Meanwhile the eclipse coverage was playing on TV. The cheers from the eclipse viewers grated on our experience. It’s like they were taunting us. Their excitement pushing us further into despair as lightning and thunder joined the rain in blocking out the sun.
A couple hours later, we stood in the garage as the rain continued to fall. The world around us grew darker—we knew the Total Eclipse had arrived.
A minute passed and the sky got lighter. We could see some clear skies ahead, so we jumped in our car and decided to chase them.
The moment we spotted the actual sun, we pulled over. We might just get to see the last half of the eclipse.
We stood in a muddy driveway with our eclipse glasses on our faces and stared up at the Sun.
The beautiful, round, un-eclipsed sun, with its background of clear blue sky. Not a moon in sight.
We’d completely missed the eclipse.
Sometimes, life is like a solar eclipse you didn’t get to see. Sometimes the story you thought you were going to share with your children turns out to be something different. Instead of sharing your super cool eclipse-viewing story, you tell a story of a time you jumped in the car with a few friends and drove for hours, stopping at random places and gasping at how cheap gas and food is compared to your D.C. world.
You share a story of sweating profusely in the Carolina humidity and walking down Rainbow Row, peaking in private gardens and watching sailboats bounce around the harbor.
You share a story of incredible seafood and the ambience that often accompanies incredible restaurants.
You share the story of watching Game of Thrones on a friend’s flat screen TV and having to reign in your screams of rage and terror so as not to wake the friend’s sleeping children.
You share a story of pancakes and coffee and chatting and anticipation.
You share a story of sitting in eclipse traffic, interpretive dancing to Shawn Mendez, and saying to your friends, “Remember that time we drove for hours and didn’t get to see the Eclipse?”
And then you all laugh.
Because, even though you’re disappointed, frustrated, and exhausted, in the end, the story you have is the story you’ve got. And even if it isn’t the story you were hoping to tell, it’s still a good story.
Who knows, maybe you’ll still be alive when the next one comes around.