Every time I come back home, this place is less and less the house I grew up in: over the past year we’ve gotten all new carpet, new banisters, new curtains, and a new toaster, and we repainted the entire exterior of the house in addition to chopping down a big pine tree in the front yard. None of this was my doing and I find it all a bit disconcerting, but I basically don’t live here anyway, so I’m not going to worry about it too much.
One of the most interesting parts about coming home is that I can go through all my old stuff (since I am a packrat and never throw anything out) and kind of get back in touch with my roots. This time it’s giving me a chance to read through some of my really old journals, and since I haven’t so much as glanced at them for months and months and months, it’s an interesting experience. I started yesterday with my journal from senior year of high school, which was (oh god) five years ago now. I’m continually surprised that I’ve changed so much in some respects but not at all in others. Reading back through it is kind of cool, almost like I’m able to have a conversation with my former self. Senior year of high school, I was engaged in trying to figure out what I was doing after graduation, and therefore I was muddling through thoughts on life and the future and adulthood and change, much as I am now, although my perspective was very different. I find that my past self actually has some potentially useful insights to offer me. My life was a lot simpler back then, and I had experienced a lot less of the world and life, so initially I didn’t think whatever insights I had at 17 would be worth much. But what I discovered was that sometimes simplicity is insightful in its own way—all this other crap in life (endless debates that go nowhere, trying to tear every issue into pieces for analysis, constantly second-guessing myself) can be unnecessarily confusing, and sometimes it’s nice to go right back to the start and remind myself of where I stood instinctively, before I became mired in all of that.
Disclaimers: When I was 17, I wrote like an early 20th century novel in translation, and said things like “alas.” It’s ridiculous and I was probably picking it up from whatever I was reading at the time (early 20th century literature in translation, as well as fantasy novels and ancient Greek stuff for class). Also amusingly, the most I used to swear was “bloody” and “darn.” It just sounds silly. Apparently college did away with my linguistic censorship. And finally, I had a tendency to be exceedingly vague, redundant, and sentimental in my writing. I try harder to avoid those things these days.
Thursday, November 27, 2003
“I know what I want and I know what sort of life I want to lead. I want…to fall in love with life. I want to live to the fullest extent of the word; I want to keep myself surrounded with that energy and vitality… I want to experience everything and revel in it, every pain and joy. I am thankful that the world is filled with love and poetry. The rain in the lamplight speaks with more eloquence than words ever could, if people know how to listen—and love, of course, is the reason for everything. Love is beautiful and exists everywhere—what more could one ask?”
This is an example of where I still essentially agree with my 17-year-old self, but I tend to lose sight of this all the same. And it just sounds so freaking sentimental.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
“I want life to invigorate me… I want to revel in the beauty of each and every moment, however seemingly commonplace some may be. I’m not actually bad at that… I guess I’m just afraid of forgetting. I don’t want my life to stagnate. I think I’ve mentioned that before, so I must really mean it. I don’t know what I want in my future, but I want to be enthusiastic about it… You know what I’d really like? I’d like to fall into a poem. I want to wake every morning with the mist and the sunrise, to run through purple meadows with my hair loose in the wind, to lose myself in the starry night sky…to savour every little sensation and to believe in the love that pervades the entire universe, that turns planets and lives and hearts and fills every particle of air.”
Sunday, December 28, 2003
“On another note: I have ambition tonight. This is completely alien to me, this whole attitude, but I kind of like it… I’ve become stubborn and determined and idealistic to go along with it. I don’t know… I’ve decided I’m going to take my life where I want it to go rather than sitting around complacently trying to figure out what might become of me. I know what I like, and I have my ideals and halfway decent judgment… I want to come into my own. I seek knowledge and understanding of myself, all people, and the world around me. I know generally what sort of a person I want to become, and I should apply myself to that and to adjusting that vision based on what I learn from life. I know my own faults and weaknesses, too, and can apply myself to the conquering of them. I will not be ruled by fear or by doubts of my own abilities, and I will not submit to anyone else’s concept of me or of how I should live my life. I refuse to settle for someone else’s dream… Whatever I do I will be passionate about it, and I will keep my heart and mind open to the freedom and possibility breathing everywhere.”
Back then, I identified as an optimist and not an idealist, so the whole idealism thing was somewhat new to me. I like the spirit of refusing to settle for what people think I should be doing. What I need to do is dig deep inside of myself to figure out what I want, and then I have to get out there and go after it.
Saturday, January 3, 2004
[Regarding studying abroad in college:] “The thing is that going to a foreign country for a semester where no one speaks English, facing an entirely different culture and even taking classes in a foreign language scares the living hell out of me—well, not yet, but I’m sure it would the first week or so of me being there. This is good. I need to have the hell scared out of me so that I can overcome my fears, learn about people all over, and become a functional, world-savvy adult. Face your fears to overcome them, I guess…”
I think that I still need to have the hell scared out of me—ideally, I should have the hell scared out of me on a regular basis throughout my life. I don’t grow by being comfortable; I grow by challenging myself, facing my fears, and beating them into the ground.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
“I wonder if most people will ever know silence? Silence like darkness, silence like the light from a single star, the immensity of the silence of a snow-covered Earth. It’s a beautiful thing, but I think that it’s overlooked by too many people… The silence of existence, of eternity. Inner silence is probably the most difficult to find; I know for me it’s difficult to calm the thousands of thoughts racing across my mind and just to concentrate on being, where I am, as I am, and accepting everything. It sounds new-agey, I know; but I’ve been into it lately—especially in my most boring and most aggravating classes. Just breathe, and then try to find my perspective—I start by waking myself up, becoming more aware and observant. Then I get to thinking about stuff…deeper stuff than I’m usually thinking in school…like life, and people, and the whole world and how it works. I enjoy having a bit of perspective, I guess, and remembering that we’re all part of something larger; and then the more trivial concerns start to fade away… Life is beautiful, and I know it best when I can simply enjoy living for the sake of being alive, listening to the world around me and savouring every moment for itself without rushing time.”
What I’m describing here is something that I forget about a lot these days. I’m constantly trying to drown out the silence, drown out my thoughts, distract myself with music or movies or talking… I’m always up later than anyone else in my house (whether in Webster or San Francisco), and those last couple of hours are always tough because I am alone. I’m no longer used to it like I was before, and maybe I need to start learning how to enjoy it again.
Saturday, May 15, 2004
“There’s just so much—so much life, so much world—that I’m sure there is no way in heaven or in hell that we can appreciate it all. For that we would have to be—just be, without anything following the verb. Any words that might follow would by their very nature qualify and constrain the word “be,” which entirely destroys the meaning. Be what? Be everything, be nothing, be here, be not here, be human, be the air, be space, be time itself—in short, to exist totally, completely, in every form and moment imaginable or unimaginable. But unfortunately that cannot be done. The best we can do is absorb what we can… Time is passing so quickly for me I cannot seem to get any sort of a grasp on it. The start of spring has gone by in the blink of an eye, and it’s left me with nothing but giant question marks. I’m standing barefoot in the grass with my arms spread wide and my head flung back to take in the Life raining down on me—liquid sky running down my face and over my bare shoulders, collecting in my hair and pooling in the curve of my back.”
This is me being silly and overdramatic and seventeen, but it’s also me trying to express something inexpressible… some aspect of time and existence that’s completely breathtaking and overwhelming and that I’m still trying to grasp. This also relates to my theory on why I have so much difficulty making life decisions: I’m ever reluctant to confine myself to a single existence, although there is no feasible alternative. I want to be everyone, feel and experience everything. I want as much life as I can get my hands on.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
“My problem is that I’d like to feel assured of future success, know that I’m going to lead an exhilarating and meaningful life, make lots of amazing friends, fall in love, etc. and so on. Part of me (a very human part) would very much like to have my whole life planned out neatly before I live it so I don’t suffer any surprises. But then an equally human part of me answers back that if what I want is an interesting and meaningful life, I’m just going to have to take things as they come, no matter what they bring, and face them as best I can. I need to trust that there is an ultimate plan for my life even though I don’t see it and that life will bring my rightful share of both joy and sadness. I need to live from moment to moment, delighting in every moment and seeking the beauty in each; and I need to accept whatever circumstances in my life while always trying to improve. I need to learn to love life’s very fickleness and unpredictability, and I’ll cease to fear for the future.”
Loving unpredictability is a very difficult thing for me to do, and this is something that I still struggle with all the time. I’m not sure anymore whether I believe that there is an ultimate plan for my life. I’ve kind of strayed away from that idea over time, although it would be a comforting thing to believe. I’d like to think that things will take care of themselves somehow—I have free will, and my decisions do matter, but life itself will guide me. I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet on the plane on the way home, and in it, Charles Wallace must learn to let go of his desire to control every situation and instead listen to the guidance of the universe, which knows how to fix itself if given the chance. It’s an interesting theory and I haven’t fully worked out my thoughts on it yet.