Sometimes we write because it is an obligation. English assignments, personal statements, application essays. Sometimes we write because we want to. Recipes, comics, tweets. But sometimes we write because we need to. Because it’s a lot easier to share your thoughts than to feel alone, even if you’re insane thinking people actually read your stuff.
More recently, I couldn’t get a quote from Annie Dillard’s Living like Weasels, out of my head. It goes: I would like to learn, or remember, how to live.
I thought first about how I had been spending my days these last couple of weeks: of the quiet suburban life.
Of the way sunshine brazenly infiltrated my bedroom window in early mornings. Of the 5 minute drives to nearby coffee shops, of ambitious attempts to study (often replaced by long daydreams). Of solo-walks in empty parks: to wash off heavy memories.
But last weekend was different. Filled with a bustling reprieve from my usually solitary days, my quiet life of one suddenly felt a lot bigger when I was accompanied by many others: some friends, some strangers. I often became overwhelmed with how much company I had, whether that be at an intimate Japanese restaurant or poolside catering for 10. But even in the midst of dealing with hapless logistics (some which I shouldn’t mention), I was still filled with a sense of gratitude: things may not have turned out the way I wanted them to, but I learned to be content with the experience I had.
If there is anything I’ve learned in these past few weeks, it is that I am grateful for the suburban life. And while I am still figuring out many other kinks, what I know to be true is that I want to spend the next few days living the uncomplicated life.
There is a life that all of us form with our words, and mine is a collation of fragments and unfinished thoughts. In the process of growing up and entering the “real world,” there is a promise embosomed that “things will be okay”: things referring to your world, identity, and mind.
Whenever I think of graduation, I imagine that the fragments of my life will piece together as others have told me, but this thought is often superseded by my preoccupation with the grand-scale fragmentation that comes with the graduation experience. The people I’ve befriended will scatter, and the things we did together will cease. Then everything will have meaning only as a fragment of a whole.
It’s funny how things end up being sometimes.
It’s funny how some relationships are taken away from us before we are ready to relinquish them. And often, these relationships are with people who we didn’t expect to have the most special bonds with.
Funny how we planned our life path for so long, quite content with where it’s going only to see it change without any warning–we either adjust ourselves to the change or reside in denial.
Dear 21-year-old Jen,
I hope that one day you will have the courage to not run away from the things you love–and I hope that by that time, you will have enough steadfastness within yourself to simply hold still with what is in front of you. If things don’t fall together the way you thought they would, I hope that you will piece it together before simply letting go.
I hope that some day, you will have enough patience to appreciate solitude–make it alive as you are, and embrace the sheer resilience in its existence. I hope that when you try to grabble with this idea, it invokes enough intrigue within you to provide you with just enough fortitude to confront life when life gets hard.
I hope that one day in the near future, you will never lose sight of your own strengths. Know that during all those times when you blamed yourself for not being good enough, caring enough, smart enough, you were letting yourself slip away. Understand that there won’t always be an answer no matter how long you search for one. Hold steady and be content with your space. Look at yourself and see yourself through it all. Don’t pass up another chance. And that, eternally, will be more than enough.
The rain poured down hard and fast, as always—a cold shower on my windshield. I watched silently as strangers ran along the sidewalk, finding shelter in shaded trees covering their heads. I watched a pair, among others, walk gracefully from a convenient store—they didn’t run nor hide. They laughed and opened their palms to the sky. They reminded me that the rain will be replaced.
The grey, damp sky that persuaded my eyes to shut, will be replaced. Though I lost hope, I welt candles and tried to work in their glow. I traced shadows though the town was ghostly alone. I prayed for the familiar mornings when the sun beamed through the clouds on the horizon. The world will start again, I was sure of it. As long as I face life with open palms, no storm can make me look down again.
If you know me well, you would know that I have quite an obsession with occupying my time. But I do this not because it generates tangible accomplishments; I do this because my productivity fixation allows me to go through life in an easy, thoughtless way.
A constant line of commitments last quarter was what kept me from thinking about my happiness, my sadness, about who I am, what I want to do, and why I am here. All these emotions and uncertainties were subordinate considerations and were consequently, much harder to handle than any anodyne obligations. So I took the easy way out, and I engulfed myself in classwork, part-time jobs, and extracurricular activities in hopes of not having to worry about secondary feelings. But soon enough, unsettling concerns of ‘who I am’ was beginning to unraveling.
Three weeks spent in solitude, away from obligations I had always deemed important, forced me to reflect in the most unsettling but necessary way because it gave me the introspection I dearly needed. I learned that I despised ‘thinking’ because I was shaken by the doubt that surfaced whenever I spent time untangling my thoughts, because I had always felt that such activity was an unworthy waste of time. But these few weeks taught me overdue lessons that the tangible achievements I am producing mean nothing if I am not processing the experiences they have taught me. The time spent on inaction began as something I abhorred but ultimately became the best thing that has happened to me. Because had I not framed my quarter off in terms that sound unprincipled to my obsessive productive nature, I would be, one day, buried in a horrendous battle trying to find meaning through personal scrutiny.
I have a labyrinth and I walk through it daily. My labyrinth takes me through long periods of uncertainty, yet somehow it is my belief in the intrinsic meaning of life that has firmly induced me to walk deeper into my life path: further into profound, authentic meaning.
A labyrinth is not a maze or a puzzle. When we treat our lives as a labyrinth, we learn that the convolutions we face are only temporary. Though we are never certain, we are never quite lost.
I worry. So I might as well soak it in. I worry I waste too much time watching click flicks. I worry people will judge me from tagged Facebook photos. I worry I don’t get enough sleep. I worry I put too much sugar in my tea.
But I also worry about the more important things. I worry that I’m not bright enough to carry meaningful conversations with my professors. I worry that I’ll never be able to get over the fact that I’ll never be intelligent, pretty, or fast enough. I worry I’ll cave into the fear of settling for mediocre. I worry about not ever waking up.
I then worry about the bigger picture. I worry about prejudice and our inability to tolerate people who look, act, or think differently. I worry about things being said at the wrong time. I also worry about things not being said at all. I worry we all spend too much time thinking of Instagram captions just to prove how witty and seemingly put together we are. I worry that our world keeps getting lonelier.
Summer school has just begun, and I was sitting alone outside the square tables facing the library. The sun was fading, covered by the tall palm trees surrounding the area. A student approached me, asking where I had bought my yogurt, and proceeded to sit nonchalantly at my empty table. He asked me numerous questions, what’s my name, major, hometown, etc, told me how nice of a car he drives, how fortunate he is to live a lavish lifestyle, and tried painfully hard to engage me in a conversation. It was an uncomfortable scene to say the least. However it wasn’t his agonizing awkwardness that strayed my interest (though it contributed), it was what he was saying.
Living at college calls for a type of development of the ‘benefit of the doubt’ you label on certain people since the boundaries between desk, bedroom, and individual space are more difficult to define. It is often too easy to feel secure here, to feel that people actually get why you want the things you want. There is a sense, perhaps a false one, that people love you because of who you are, that they find your mind attractive because they read what you write, or that they actually try to understand you because they too want to be understood. You want to think that they are actually sincere not just someone who just hits you up when they are done with someone else.
But this sense of trust is questioned when you think that maybe that person who you thought was good and lovable is not so good and lovable, maybe that person isn’t as mature as you pictured him to be. It was probably all just in your head. It was definitely all just in your head.
So is it so hard to come across people who are even remotely aware of what they want, whether in relationships, or career, or interests. Is it so hard to carry conversations other than what car you drive or how many shots you can take under thirty minutes, surface conversations that are frivolous and puerile. Is it that hard to find someone who share the similar kind of passion as you have whether it be for art, poetry, music, or the sciences. Is it really that hard.
The logical part of me thinks this is all absurd. Perhaps there really is nobody, at least in the near future.