“There is, I almost remember, another story:
It runs alongside this one like a brook beside a train.
The sparrows know it; the grass rises with it.
The wind moves through the highest tree branches without
seeming to hurt them.
Who was I when I used to call your name? “
There are a few things about life and lived experiences that, theoretically, I know to be true. I learned them in graduate school and I am aware that these components of life occur all of the time, whether I am conscious of them or not. But there is something very different in knowing about these components and then actually experiencing them for yourself—so forgive me for stating the obvious in what follows, but I need to get it out of my brain.
The other weekend, we set out to beautiful Lake Chelan to celebrate Jordan’s Bachelor party. We cavorted with all of the gusto you would expect and generally reveled in a gorgeous home overlooking the towering hills and expansive lake. And there, in thinking about Jordan and the friendship we share, while surrounded by his brothers and friends from varying time frames of his life, a few things jumped out to me about life and personal identity as a whole:
- We rarely have opportunities like this one where so many “sets” of people, who know us from drastically different periods in our lives, are able to come together
- These “sets” of individuals all hold differing outlooks about who we are, how we act, and about what they can expect from us
- We, as individuals, are always trying to grapple with how these “sets” of people have contributed or are contributing to who we are today and we do so knowing full well that no one else quite sees the whole picture like we do
- And while we navigate who we are against the expectations of others, everyone else is doing the same thing against us and our expectations of them
Now I recognize that is a lot to be considering during a weekend that is normally just filled with debauchery, but it really got me thinking about my own “sets” of people and how I encounter them. On the three hour drive home, I was filled with the realization that this process of trying to be seen is absolutely exhausting and that we rarely, if ever, talk about how hard it is. And at the same time, I was struck with hope—that with some individuals, we don’t have to try very hard at all to be seen and that our expectations aren’t necessarily working against others, but for them. Of course, it also comes with an underlying consideration of my own privilege and how it has afforded me a much easier time in this process than some will ever know. How are we able to hold all of this at once?
The experience, while certainly heavy, has allowed me to consider how I hold on to certain people in my life—how I interpret their actions and how I see myself alongside them. There are friends who will always be tied to joy because of the overall ease of my life at the time and others who immediately spark longing or nostalgia because of who I was and what I needed when our paths crossed. And even still, there are closed doors and others who hold outdated expectations of who I am with no opportunity or access to update them. It’s weird to think there are so many people who knew you, but currently don’t know you, isn’t it? That their story may be complete as part of yours, but their memory of you may be altering their current sense (and vice versa, for that matter).
Life is messy business, y’all. I can’t say that any of this has given me a new, concrete perspective, but I can say that it has made me aware of all the myriad ways we are connected to each other. It is almost as though there are potential lives I could be living that constantly run alongside this one. It’s not as though I feel the need to switch tracks, but it is amazing to recognize who sticks with you through the course of your own life and who weaves in and out. I hope, that in the end, the individuals whose lives I play a part in (presently or otherwise) are better for it. And if somehow this is not the case, I hope I am given the chance to one day apologize.
So naturally, as always seems to happen when my brain is in existential disarray, I turn to comfort foods in the kitchen. I have to admit, I have a soft spot for white bean dishes and I am not sure why. I think because I can always imagine myself in Tuscany, sipping wine and marveling at a simple dish made with few and delightful ingredients. There is something transformative about dishes that embrace simplicity, as though reminding the eater that they too don’t need to mistake complication for worthiness. So I will leave you with this beautiful roasted pork tenderloin dish with tomatoes and white beans. Perfect for a weeknight meal, served alongside your favorite greens. And don’t scoff at making two tenderloins—the leftovers are beautiful and will make all your coworkers swoon.
Fennel-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with White Beans
Very lightly adapted from Cook’s Country
2 12-16oz pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 T. fennel seeds
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves
12 oz. tough greens, roughly chopped (kale, mustard greens, collards)
2 15oz cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
1 c. chicken broth
8oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 T chopped basil
Heat oven to 450 degrees with oven rack in the middle position. Season pork well with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fennel seeds, pressing to adhere.
Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until it begins to smoke. Add pork and brown on all sides, 5-7 minutes (this can be done in batches if needed). Transfer pork to a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 14-18 minutes until they register 140 degrees. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil.
Heat another tablespoon of oil over medium heat in the same skillet the pork browned in. Once shimmering, add garlic and stir until fragrant (30 seconds). Add greens, beans, broth, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until slightly thickened and greens are wilted, 5-7 minutes. Add tomato, Parmesan, and remaining 2 T. oil and cook until desired consistency (2 minutes).
Slice pork and pour any accumulated juices back into the beans. Place beans in a shallow dish and place pork over the top. Sprinkle with basil and serve.