Category Archives: writing

you are what you settle for

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

—–

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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

Advertisements

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.

different skin

Excerpt from a beautiful, honest post I wish I’d written, by a much more traveled friend:

“You spend the best part of a decade surrounded by people advancing their careers and trying to claw that six figure salary before they hit thirty but the happiest people I’ve ever met live for bed and board in hostels around the world. I feel like I’ve missed out, but I guess I still have forever.

Travel is addictive. Like alcoholism, you don’t ever “get over it” but it remains part of you for life and I feel that once I get back to the UK, everything that follows will be the next step towards the next trip…”

image

modern love

The closest WiFi hotspot is a ten minute bike ride away from the orphanage, which isn’t actually that far when your days are so free. But still, I decide to mostly take a hiatus from my messenger and I find that actually, the less I talk to people, the less I miss them.

I suppose this is what happened with my friends in Houston, a defense mechanism against loneliness that I worry is slowly draining me of my (over)emotional tendencies.

But it also allows me to focus more on the present, and I am grateful for the freedom to share my love with the people who currently surround me without feeling tied to the past or a potential future.

And so I hold sticky fingers and play silly games and let kids and cats and puppies all nuzzle into me. And I give rides and tickle bellies and sit in the dirt and answer every question.

I’m not sure how I feel about going back to formal teaching—though with a potential job offer for August on the table, I should probably figure it out soon—but I do know that I need something where I can be around this every day.

———-

A boy shares a piece of his journal with me, and it is so perfect that I remember why I miss some people after all.
(excerpted without his permission, whoops)

If there is an initial Theme for 2014, amidst all the transitions that are bound to occur, I think it should be to Love Passionately. I want to infuse my daily actions with love.

creativity

“I see the creative process as a necessarily thievish undertaking. Dig beneath a beautiful piece of writing… and you will find all manner of dishonor. Creating means vandalizing the lives of other people, turning them into unwilling and unwitting participants. You steal their desires, their dreams, pocket their flaws, their suffering. You take what does not belong to you. You do this knowingly.”