Category Archives: quotes

you are what you settle for

We can’t let ourselves be the people things happen to.

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I plan to thru-hike a trail north of Houston over my Thanksgiving break—first by myself, then with a boy, then again by myself—but a week long walk in the woods is starting to feel much more intimidating than my 10-month jaunt around the world. The world is full of interesting, friendly people. The woods is full of time. And maybe I’m not sure if I can handle a week with no distractions from my own mind.

—–

My return to regular life came saddled with a long distance boyfriend (who didn’t last long), and a weird new set of daily expectations. More than one year later, I’m still struggling with the monotony of routine—the thing I was most craving when I was living out of a backpack—and even more than that, I think I’m struggling with the monotonous people who don’t struggle with routine.

Boys I’ve dated since my return have found my experiences enviable and my adventurousness enchanting. I have turned myself into a shiny pebble that boys like to show off to their friends. But as they sit around just checking off the traditional boxes in their ordinary lives, I feel myself squirm. I thought I wanted this security, but I just can’t see it. This is not the life I have chosen for myself—and I don’t know how to be with someone who has.

I find myself staying with boys who are lost. Those who have not yet reached their potential, and so their routine has not yet been determined. They are exciting and carefree… and irresponsible and young. They have let themselves become the people things happen to. And, frustratingly, I have let them become the people who most often happen to me.

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My favorite podcast airs an episode about depression, and I find myself agreeing with certain statements a little too frequently. But I don’t feel personally sad like I did once before—instead I just feel sad for most other people.

“When I was depressed—and I think a lot of depressed people share this—I really didn’t believe that anyone was happy. And I believed that people that were happy were faking it…”

What if I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that someone can legitimately be happy in a typical, mundane life, with a typical, mundane job? What if I want more so badly that every single day that I don’t find it feels wasted and sad?

I want to be someone that happens so badly. I don’t understand people who don’t.

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Looking for more, I applied to the Peace Corps back in August, and they are considering sending me to live and teach in China until my 30th birthday. Back when we were speaking, The Bartender told me I had to go if I got it. It wasn’t that simple then; it’s still not that simple now.

Serving would mean leaving my entire life behind and letting the Peace Corps happen to me. Turning it down would mean letting my reasonably happy existence continue to happen to me, without very many more chances for change. I am constantly consulting my compass, but I still don’t know which of these feels more like the move in the right direction.

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I am introduced to a boy who asks me intrusive, intimidating questions and worms his way inside of me too quickly. He is also in the midst of a life-changing decision, and it makes me feel safe to know that I’m not alone. He is fluctuating between teaching and music and I wonder if maybe I have been approaching my life all wrong. The only job I’ve ever loved doing for free is writing. It was the only thing that kept me grounded during my year away.

Why have I been letting teaching happen to me—always too scared to look at my words as a legitimate career option?

—–

I lose my wallet in the last five minutes of our weekend trip to Austin, and as usual, I wait longer than most before thinking I should probably cancel my credit card. When I get an email the next day from a girl asking how she can return my wallet intact, I am perhaps the only person who is not really surprised. I’ll keep my naïve optimism and let the kindness of the world happen to me, even if it means dealing with the fact that sometimes I expect—and experience—strangers treating me better than my ex-boyfriends.

Bird by bird

“E. L. Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim

This is best thing I’ve read in a long time, and exactly what I needed right now.

…What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands. And this is something else I want to tell you, one of the hundreds of things I didn’t know when I was sitting here so many years ago: you are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever. We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was your age, I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy. Whatever those five things are for you today, they won’t make the list in ten years — not that you still won’t be some of those things, but they won’t be the five most important things about you. Which is one of the most delicious things available to women, and more particularly to women than to men. I think. It’s slightly easier for us to shift, to change our minds, to take another path. Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankee who made a specialty of saying things that were famously maladroit, quoted himself at a recent commencement speech he gave. “When you see a fork in the road,” he said, “take it.” Yes, it’s supposed to be a joke, but as someone said in a movie I made, don’t laugh this is my life, this is the life many women lead: two paths diverge in a wood, and we get to take them both. It’s another of the nicest things about being women; we can do that. Did I say it was hard? Yes, but let me say it again so that none of you can ever say the words, nobody said it was so hard. But it’s also incredibly interesting. You are so lucky to have that life as an option.

 

Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women. Thank you. Good luck. The first act of your life is over. Welcome to the best years of your lives.

truth

“We follow wherever the next sunrise and sunset takes us. We are guided by moon cycles and stardust. We look up the the night sky, gaze up at the cosmos, and know that wherever we are and whoever we’re without, we are never really alone. And we are comforted by this very notion.

And so here’s the truth. We travel not just to travel and marvel at people, places, things. That’s not just it. That was never just it for us. We travel to learn, to experience, and to feel all the spectrums of being human in this world.”

an unlikely pilgrimage

“Don’t you ever get scared? All on your own?”
“At first I did. But I am used to it now. I know what to expect.”
The social worker’s shoulders rose and dropped. He said, “But what about other people? The sort I deal with? What will happen when you come across one of them?”
Harold thought of the people he had already met and passed. Their stories had surprised and moved him, and none had left him untouched. Already the world had more people in it for whom he cared.