Kicking through the autumn leaves

We’re finally starting to hit the peak of fall. This weekend was astonishingly beautiful—in the sixties and sunny—and I tried to spend as much of it as I could outside in spite of grad school (which I’m sure I’ll pay for later this week), just basking in the glow of the colors. On Sunday we drove to Glen Park, playing the old cassette tape of Hootie & the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View that I found at Goodwill last week, to walk through woods and take pictures and soak up the glorious, perfect fall day. This is what I was missing all of last year in California, one of the things I’ve been looking forward to the most about being back in New York… When the leaves first started to turn I walked around my neighborhood, grabbed as many as my hands could hold, and taped them around my room, trying to pull as much fall into my life as possible. They’ve curled and browned now but I left them there because I’m not ready for this to be over, as the early-darkening sky portends. Why can’t this part of fall just last longer? What other season is this great?

There’s so much I want to do—roll in the leaves, drive out to the country, have endless bonfires, watch the sunset and the stars, find a corn maze, carve pumpkins, eat fried cakes and drink cider… I want to relive the best parts of all my falls past. It’s actually kind of stressing me out because I know I won’t be able to do everything I want to because I have grad school to deal with too, and I’ve been sick for the past week, which ate up valuable fall-enjoyment time. I feel like this happens with most of my favorite things in life. I look forward to them intensely forever, and when they’re finally here I can barely enjoy them because I’m so focused on trying to live out all my daydreams. Then they’re over before I know what hit me.

I think I just need to scrap my expectations, sometimes. My ideas are usually good but I just end up putting too much pressure on things so that I don’t enjoy them as much as I would if they were spontaneous. So I think I need to let some of it go and just try to be where I want to be in each moment as it comes—and if I can’t control where I am, I can try to make the most of being there.

Commitment

In my dream, I am in the desert, climbing sand dune cliffs with a partner. I begin to slip as the sand crumbles away beneath my feet, and I consider throwing my weight forward or grabbing onto a rock, but I don’t. Instead I let myself fall as my partner looks on, surprised, intrigued. I watch the mineral strata marking the side of the cliff blur before my eyes as I descend. My feet hit against something nearly solid and I grab onto it with my hands, catching myself on a ledge about five feet from the ground. “Well, are you coming back up?” my partner asks. I look beneath me, then above. The ground is so much closer than the top of the climb…

Someone said to me recently: “You’re never going to succeed at something if you’re not really committed to it.” That line has been etched in my mind ever since. I never really thought of myself as having commitment issues (like the cliché of men in relationships), but it does seem to follow naturally from indecisiveness. Another friend sent me an article back in May that was published in EYE WEEKLY, a free weekly newspaper in Toronto, which asserted that modern twentysomethings “can’t make any decisions, because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they don’t know who they are, and they don’t know who they are because they’re allowed to be anyone they want.” Essentially, we are paralyzed in the face of an excess of freedom that leaves us unable to commit to any one outcome, because in making that choice we would be destroying all the other possibilities. We want to make sure that what we choose is really the best option, but with near-infinite options, won’t there always be one that seems better?

I struggle with this a lot.

And I wonder if I’m going into teacher school with the wrong sort of attitude. Most of the time, the sorts of thoughts going through my head are, “Is this really where I should be? Will I really be any good at this? Will I really enjoy this? Is this career the best fit for my personality? If grad school is stressing me out this much, how on earth am I going to handle teaching? And what am I doing spending so much money on grad school when odds are I’m going to have to sub for years before I get an actual teaching job anyway? I just have to make it through this semester, then student teaching next semester. Then just two courses in the summer and I’ll be certified, and if I don’t want to keep going for the masters I don’t have to.” There are other days, though, when I feel excited about teaching and start to think that I could really do this. But I’m so easily discouraged. There is so much that I’m worried about. I don’t like the idea of being so much a part of The System, and having to jump through all the ridiculous hoops of grad school, which it seems continue into the profession as well. (Am I being unrealistic, though? Will any job be like that? Am I struggling more with grad school, with teaching, or with adulthood in general?) I don’t feel capable of devoting my entire life to a profession at the age of twenty-three. I’m not ready for this yet.

Essentially, I’m not 100% committed to this teacher school decision at this point in my life. Would I have a better chance of succeeding if I could somehow foster a conviction within me that this is where I am absolutely meant to be, and that this what I want above all else? Probably. But I’m not too keen on self-brainwashing. Is commitment something that has to be forced, or should it just come naturally when I find where I’m meant to be? And what does “meant to be” mean? Am I implying that I believe in fate? I don’t think I do, exactly… I don’t believe in predestination, but I would like to believe that there is a kind of natural order to things. “Would like to believe” ≠ “believe unconditionally,” but it is a basis I can go on until proven otherwise.

What is the nature of commitment for you?

Should I keep seeking my ideal career, or should I just “grow up and get a job”?

Suggestions welcome.

Pulling the Memory Thread

Wrote this a few nights ago, half asleep and wanting escape, without really intending to.

Cradled in yellow cotton with satin edges, sitting on a brown plush cushion sucking my thumb and watching Mr. Rogers talk to his trolley from the Neighborhood of Maypuhleave on the TV set with the silver-and-black knobs in a neat little row and when you put your face real close up next to the screen like to kiss Karen when she’s crying after Frosty melts in the greenhouse you can see all the tiny colored squares and it tickles your nose and makes a fizzy crackle noise, while Mommy is in the kitchen making dinner I can hear the pots clatter and remember their bright metal smelltastesound when she lets me play with them especially the strainer that mushes together like a net on the floor and the TV quietly buzzing lowlaughs and grownup talking and the smell of pasta sauce cooking on the stove filling the whole house with warmth and Daddy comes home from work and I runandhug him and it’s time for dinner, seashells and meatballs on my Mickey Mouse dish with the dividers and I climb over the arm of my chair even though Mommy says not to but it’s too heavy for me to move and we say our prayers before we eat: BlessusoLord and theezeye gifts which weyarabout to receive from Thybounty through Christ our Lord amen. “Bounty” is my favorite word because it tastes good to say and I have to open my mouth so wide around it.

No purpose at the moment, but maybe a part of some future memoir or something. I think I liked it because it’s basically a description of a typical evening from when I was somewhere around two or three and something I’m surprised I actually remembered in that much detail once I got going. So I thought I’d share.

Credit where credit is due: I probably stole the words-running-together idea from The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, which is a good read if you have the time.