The letter that follows comes from a dear and talented friend in response to the post ‘What Do You Want?’.
I can’t believe I’m alive. Seriously. Every morning I wake up from some dream and, after kicking the sheets off my legs, going to the bathroom, brushing my teeth and taking a drink of water from the tap (I don’t think much of cups) I take a deep breath and seriously am surprised, delighted and feel genuinely lucky to be breathing, to have a day ahead of me.
It’s not bullshit. I swear.
It’s not always exactly that way, of course. Sometimes I wake up feeling a cold coming on, or I have an upset stomach, or I’m not looking forward to a morning run or dealing with school, work, or whatever I have going on. But usually—and this is how I plan to hopefully keep my days—I am surprisingly privileged to be aware that I am living, that I have gotten this far.
It all has to do with learning. And curiosity and observation. I really like observing things and learning new things. Every day for me is a chance (an excuse?) to learn new things and to see the world in a new way. Maybe that sounds like bullshit but again I’m telling the truth. I write poetry and the reason I write poetry is not because I want to be a poet, or to publish a book, or impress my parents, friends and ex-boyfriends. I write poetry because I like observing and coming to realizations that just the day before I didn’t notice. For instance, this past weekend, shoveling snow in Baltimore, a lot of it, I noticed that my dad and I are really similar. I always thought we were really different, that I had this whole other agenda and way of seeing things than he did. It turns out we even notice the same patterns, and made artistry out of the paths we cut in the snow. We chopped the sides smooth with the edge of the shovel and made a game of the chore that other people (my sister, my cousin, many friends) would have thought to be drudgery work, labor, and a waste of time. For us, it was being outside; organizing and sifting through millions of flakes of snow, wondering, how long will all this take to melt? Where did these come from? When will we see the yard turn green again? And finding ways to make our project, i.e. clearing our way to the end of the driveway, fun. Is this poetry? Is it excessive joy? Is it strange and futile? I am sort of obsessed with time and how it functions. That is how I enter the day.
The problem is that planning for me does not come naturally. I can look at a blanket of snow and think, ok, here’s how I can get through this. I can look at a blank screen before writing a thesis or research papers and say, alright, I’m going to slowly start and complete this thing. But I don’t use outlines, I don’t prepare, I just go and go and go until I’m done, until I can’t go anymore. Is that a strategy? Not at all. And friends like Darrah remind me just how little I know about strategizing my future. Now, I’m not a total loser. I have accomplished things. But I don’t have in mind or even try to predict what the next job, event, or opportunity will be. I don’t network to make a connection; I don’t take on one job with the interest of finding the one that follows.
My work as a publicist at the Prague Writers’ Festival was not necessarily preparing me for the job I just applied to at Penguin Inc in New York City. My choice to go to grad school for an MFA had very little to do, actually frighteningly very little, for career options in the future. I went back to school because I don’t know what’s happening and the only place I feel safe is learning, and growing but not planning. Who knows what will happen? Who can decide anything and believe they will actually get to that place? Who means what they say? My recent trip back to Europe did not exactly have an outline attached to it. I was happy to get on the plane, I was glad and challenged once I saw the blissful and delicately difficult things ahead of me there and when I finished my work there and my tourist-visa expired, I was happy to get on the plane and fly back to the states. I now feel lucky and beautiful to be back in familiar settings, even though the Barcelona beach was good and pebbly and the cafes in Prague murmured with a language I have slowly learned. It has been good; it is there and far away; now I move on to the next stretch of white open space.
Darrah, strategizers, meticulous planners tell me! What is it like to be plan-y? Do you ‘look forward’ and see things? I look forward and see my imagination imagining things but they are not real things necessarily. It is living and learning and taking on not great jobs and finding meaningful jobs, moving to new apartments, seeing out of new windows, meeting people, leaving people, re-uniting, taking plane trips, coming home for holidays, trying to understand my place and our place. What do you see? I am so curious.
My other feeling is this, and it smacks me every day with its blunt, harsh and brilliant truth: we are floating on a ball in outer space. I know it’s hard to hear. But it’s cool and it’s a fact. We are rotating around a ball of fire and we are in a solar system among a hundred thousand others. I like earth. It’s beautiful and full of forests and lakes and oceans and the stars above our apartments and huts and houses reminds us how separate we are. This does not make me sad. This makes me safe with myself. It makes me think, ok, here I am. I am here and no other place. And in a way the fact that I am here, acknowledging, is all I need and want and have to know.