- "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." ~Jack London
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
You are young. Each day you learn something new – a word, a song, a story, a life lesson you will carry with you always. The world opens itself to you. It offers up the depths of understanding it has produced and consumed since the beginning of time. It shows you what it means to learn, to listen, to love. It has saved this space for you to grow. It has waited for you to enter it, to fill it, to make something of it. It has anticipated your arrival.
And now that you are here, it rejoices. We may think it’s the foolishness of youth to be so egocentric, but you alone understand that the wind really does blow with such fervor just for you. The sun really does rise and glow just for you. The earth really does blossom just so you can watch, and pick its flowers and grass, and revel in its beauty. You will discover just how true that is someday.
You will discover too, sadly, that life will continue on without you. You will come to realize that life is both shorter and longer than you could have ever anticipated. You will understand that we are all just visitors here.
But trust me, little one, that knowledge does not mean that you should ever give up on your journey. No matter how much you may suffer, or hurt, or have your heart broken, there will always be joys that outnumber the pain, that make it all worthwhile. There will always be people who let you down, but there will also always be people who pick you back up. There will be days when you fall and wonder what the point is, but the days when you rise will answer that question for you.
You will fail and you will succeed. You will laugh and you will cry. At some point, your heart will inevitably be torn open and it will ache like nothing you’ve ever experienced. I’d like to tell you that it will again be made whole, but that’s not the case. The key is to never let it close again. The key is to leave it open and let the entirety of the universe seep in. Let the grandeur of each day soak into you. Let the suffering you feel for yourself and others mix within you until it becomes compassion. Use that compassion to take action.
Do not pity yourself too much, but do not question the validity of your emotions either. You are feeling what you feel for a reason. Accept that. Accept others. Accept yourself. You are not alone here, nor will you ever be. Make this world a pleasant place to be, not just for the sake of your happiness, but also for those around you and those who will follow you.
Love children for their innocence. Love your elders for their experience. Listen carefully to both forms of advice. Becoming wise is as simple as sitting and listening and reflecting. Becoming noble is as simple as knowing when to take a stand. Becoming loved is as simple as loving.
I guarantee you that your life will not go as you thought it would. You will transform into something new each day and your future will change along with it. Your path will curve in ways you can never prepare for and you will feel blind sighted by more than one occurrence in your lifetime. Don’t let it stop you from moving forward. I promise that your newest adventure will be one that you were meant to have.
Believe in things, but remember to be open-minded. Sometimes the most concrete things in your life can shatter as easily as glass. Still, don’t fear the ending of things at the beginning. Dive into your life as though it were invincible. Cherish your strength. It will always arise when you most need it, and even you will be amazed by its magnitude. You are stronger than you know.
You are young. Your whole life is still ahead of you. You will learn these lessons over and over again. As will I, little one, as will I.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Sometimes it feels as though you’ve forgotten that your story is my story too. Your history is my history, your present is my present, our futures are one in the same. Perhaps it’s difficult to see that, as our lives twist and turn in different directions, as we travel forward down paths that cross less and less frequently. But we have grown from the same seed. We are simply two different vines on one, singular plant. We are simply two different people on one, singular earth.
My father says that what I write often seems like it’s been written in code. While I’m writing, I’m always considering the person to whom my words are directed. I have to believe that they’ll recognize it, that they’ll understand. Perhaps my code is simply a plea to find the souls that connect with it, with me. Perhaps my whole life is one long mysterious equation, and my journey is nothing more than the search for people who can help solve it.
And there is no solution, but there is something truly beautiful about the idea that an attempt is being made. We are trying to figure it all out, together. My evolution is dependent upon teamwork. I would be stagnant without you.
It’s Christmas Eve, a time that grows increasingly difficult as my family moves further and further apart. I never thought I’d be the kind of person who cringed at the prospect of holidays. I never wanted that for myself. And it’s not as though I’ve become a grinch by any means, but there is certainly a palpable loss of spirit in me. I just don’t feel the need to celebrate.
I spent last night in Atlantic City with five of my best friends. It was wonderful and lavish and excessive in every sense of the word. It was fun in the casinos and bars and lounges and restaurants, but what I loved most was the time we spent in the hotel room, laughing and yelling and regressing back to the days of slumber party madness. We joked around and jumped on each other and had pillow fights. I haven’t laughed like that in ages.
As we left the hotel, I suddenly longed so desperately to just stay forever. Not because I particularly loved where we were, but just because I loved that we were there together. And that’s what family should be. That’s what family is.
But I can’t recall the last time I felt that way about my family. Yes, I love them, but I don’t feel for them what I feel for my friends. My life doesn’t revolve around them, include them, need them in quite the same way. Maybe that’s normal, but as I watch my friends interact with their own families, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing out on something. I can’t help but feel the lack of belonging.
Because I know I should feel like I belong to the people grown from the same seed. Their blood is my blood, their family is my family, our codes should make sense to one another. But they don’t. We are separated through distance and divorce and disinterest. Our vines have been cut and we continue to grow in different directions, searching for other vines, other plants, to cling to.
Maybe that’s why I have so many friends who mean so very much to me. Maybe that’s why I am so determined to see the best in people, to keep them in my life, to make sure our ties are never cut. Maybe that’s why I would have given anything to have stayed in that hotel room until Christmas was over, laughing with the only family I know.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I like them best this way – rough, worn out, paint chipping away at the edges. All are signs of use, productivity, and accomplishment. If I could add up all the miles they’ve journeyed throughout my lifetime, I wonder what length they would stretch. I wonder how far these feet have taken me.
I didn’t begin walking until much later than the other children. I’d sit happily, watching them all toddle around in my playgroup, or so I’m told. I’m sure my parents worried, as parents do, that I seemed to show no signs of desire to be independently mobile. But that was just me, and that same need to wait for the perfect moment to dive into something has continued to be true throughout my life.
I took my first steps in England. I just stood up and walked the length of an English garden, and that was it. I was suddenly walking. No preparation, no thought, no hesitation. I was simply ready, and so I began.
And I’ve never stopped. Sometimes all the places I’ve been and things I’ve experienced get intertwined in my mind with books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen and dreams I’ve had. Sometimes the past becomes nothing more than a series of stories I’ve heard and told.
But my feet remain the truth, the evidence, the division between fact and fiction. These feet have walked through English gardens, through Canadian forests, through the fields of India. They have hiked up the Himalayas and strolled through the streets of Paris. They have been washed in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, blessed in the Ganges. They have squished in the mud of Tennessee as they danced to the hippie sounds of Bonnaroo.
They have felt the sweet coolness of summer grass and the frigidness of Michigan snow. They have been burned and soothed on the beaches of Jersey, Spain, France, Barbados and Goa. They have led me through the busy streets of Philadelphia, New York, LA, Delhi, Amsterdam, DC, Barcelona, London and Rome. They have stood with me silently and still on the hillsides of Ireland and Scotland.
They have taken me through churches and synagogues and temples. They have journeyed with me through the Sistine Chapel, the Metropolitan Museum, the Louvre and every other exhibit I’ve been fortunate enough to see. They have stomped along with cattle and sheep and horses. They have shopped in malls and open markets and yard sales. They have wandered through libraries and book stores for hours. They have sat patiently through movies and concerts and plays.
They have led me on and off the stage. They have exercised with me and meditated with me. They have run and jumped and skipped and danced. They have grown tough in the summers and soft in the winters. They have rebelled against shoes and worn nothing but slippers and socks for months at a time. They have splashed in newly formed puddles and felt the harshness of concrete on their soles. Their nails have been painted almost every color of the rainbow at least once and they have been placed in every kind of shoe imaginable. They have been cut and bruised and blistered and stung by bees, but they have also been tenderly washed and soaked and rubbed.
They have been cursed for their pain, but mostly, they have been loved for their purpose. One day in an English garden, I stood up and walked, and my life has never been the same since.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
My thoughts no longer flow the way they once seemed to. My life somehow seems so much more grounded in reality than it ever was before. Or at least, I’m more grounded, I think. And I wonder whether I’m evolving or regressing, maturing or settling, seeing the world for what it really is or simply learning to shut it out. I worry what this sense of adulthood means for me.
Because although I’ve always been mature for my age, my favorite moments have always been those of immaturity, those moments of blissful confidence where nothing seems to matter but the moment itself. The moments when I’ve danced like a fool, and jumped into freezing bodies of water with no clothes on, and laughed so loud I thought I may burst into a million tiny pieces. Those are the moments I look back on with fondness and satisfaction. Those are the moments I consider my legacy.
These past few months I’ve dedicated everything to teaching. I’ve sacrificed my writing and most of my social life. I’ve convinced myself that loving what I do was somehow more important than loving who I am, or perhaps, that loving what I do was all I needed to be happy. Of course, in so many ways it does, and I’m grateful to be able to love my job so effortlessly. Still, it isn’t enough.
I miss writing. I miss my friends both in and out of this blog world. I miss those pieces of my life I treasured so before I began this new chapter in my journey. I wonder how I could so easily dismiss them. I feel as though I’ve been really unfair.
The thing about being with children all day is that you forget yourself. For at least nine hours each day I’m thinking of no one, nothing, but those 18 little smiling faces. Which is both why I love it, and why I think it’s been so easy to ignore myself and the other aspects of my life. I’ve just had so much less time to sit and think.
And when I do stop to think, it’s about managing money and time, about lesson plans and paperwork, about what my students know and what they need to learn. And suddenly, days have gone by, weeks, months, and I haven’t called back a single friend or written a single blog or read a single book. And I worry what all of this will mean for me when I finish this chapter and move into the next, whenever that will be.
I worry that this will be time I’ll consider lost. Even if I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time, some small part of me weeps for that longing in my soul to write, to socialize, to become a better, healthier, smarter person. Some small part of me fears that I’ve narrowed the definition of myself to my occupation. Some small part of me mourns the loss.
But perhaps that’s just growing up. I watch movies from my youth, remembering a time when I promised myself I’d be the person I still aspire to be – that artsy, deep, selfless activist that I’d created in my head long ago. I never wanted to be what I considered an adult. I never wanted to settle for reality. I never wanted to become grounded.
So at least once a week, my coworker and I put on cheesy pop music or those goofy Wiggles and make our students dance with us like fools. We use them as our alibis for acting like two year olds, back before we ever worried about those frivolous things like money and paperwork and responsibility. And we dance and sing and jump, making sure to cherish the instant before our feet fall back on the earth, before we are once again grounded.