Heard this last year at a Good Friday Service and loved it, so I’m sharing it here:
What is our life? A play of passion,
Our mirth the music of division,
Our mother’s wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for this short comedy.
Heaven the judicious sharp spectator is,
That sits and marks still who doth act amiss.
Our graves that hide us from the setting sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest,
Only we die in earnest, that’s no jest.
-Sir Walter Raleigh
A busy day comes to a halt.
Simple, loving words are the culprit; they stop
in my tracks –
a little girl’s text message.
My lungs swell with gentle, reminiscent breath
as I remember
that I am missed
by an old friend
G’night, darling child.
Tonight, your fondness shall
into my dreams.
Today at lunch a couple of my co-workers and I discussed the pros and cons of post-undergraduate life. And my initial thought/statement was this: “I don’t really miss school.” Especially since I’m still at school every day (just playing a different role now).
But as I sat there and pondered my own words, I realized that deep down, I’m still quite undecided when it comes to the whole issue of being finished with school. The life of a graduate has a number of significant pros: no homework, more sleep, more time to pursue a social life…hell, I even have more time to, well, waste! Guilt-free procrastination! (Hmm…although, I suppose it isn’t really procrastination, since I’m not exactly putting off any particular tasks or assignments. Whatevs. You get my point.) I love that I can come home from work, eat, relax, watch some TV or a movie, and go to bed without even an inkling of remorse or that nagging question in the back of my mind: “Okay, what did I put off that will come back and bite me in the ass later?”
Blissful sigh. It’s a wonderful life, really.
But, of course, it’s not all pastries and frothy caramel lattes. Being out of school has its cons: my student loans are now in repayment, work (although I still LOVE my job!) can sometimes feel a little too tedious and monotonous – and freakishly busy! Sheesh!, and I sometimes feel lonely and disconnected. Being a student flat out handed me a social network that was always there, even when I didn’t want it. Now I have to work twice as hard to maintain friendships and connections. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! Honestly, I didn’t expecting anything less. But still, for an introverted, semi-anti-social butterfly like myself, it’s not particularly easy! But you know what? I’m fine with these ‘cons’, because I knew they were coming. You can’t live out your college experience forever and truthfully, were the choice mine, I’m not sure I’d even want to.
There is one ‘con’, however, that has created a significant amount of mental stress for me – stress that I keep trying to ignore. But, as usual, one can only ignore these things for so long. My conversation with my co-workers today brought said factor to the forefront of my mind again, and as I went home and thought about it this evening, I found myself a tad bit depressed.
Here’s what I realized (or perhaps “re-realized”) today:
More than anything, school always fueled my ability to create. I learn and create best when I’m surrounded by other people who love to learn and create, and my network of friends, classmates, and profs at NU (especially in the English and/or Music departments) provided me just that.
I think about my Conducting class with Bill Owen, or my creative writing classes with Lenae Nofziger, or my Romance & Fantasy Literature class with Julia Young…the enriching discussions, creative projects, and countless hands-on opportunities to communally discover and express ourselves…I just don’t have that anymore! And my life – my writing, my lack of interest in other creative pursuits that once greatly interested me – clearly reflects that.
Yes, it might be weak and pathetic of me to say that I can’t create without school, but that’s not what I’m getting at. I fully acknowledge and accept that I, the artist, am responsible for my creative pursuits and results. But I realize now how large a role school played in these pursuits and results, and now that school isn’t in the mix, I feel, like I said, a bit depressed.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to two key concepts:
One, I am a learner — and very much a communal learner. I need a community of thoughtful, think-outside-the-box-type individuals to fuel my own interests and passions. Otherwise, I have an awfully hard time coming up with ideas on my own. Second, I need to find new ways to keep a balanced amount of creativity in my life. As much as I like this new stage of life – having a job, having other responsibilities that allow me to build my independence, it’s undeniable that, in this 9 to 5 world of adult responsibility and professionalism, creativity can slip right through your fingers without giving you even the faintest warning. That is certainly my story. And I am seriously ready for a plot change.
It may determine the rest of my life
Or at least the immediate tomorrow.
“Behold,” I say, echoing Jeremiah in his youth,
“I do not know how to speak.”
But in the quiet darkness, I hear a voice—
A familiar voice.
He, as usual, is silently loud, and
His words reverberate an ancient promise:
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’” He says,
“Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
“And all that I command you,
You shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
“For I am with you.”
Today I rest
With touched lips.
Sometimes, when my own words fail, a song successfully says it all. Nani, I miss you–more and more each day. The holidays just aren’t the same without you.
The holidays usually make me happy. Really, really happy. I love how the air grows crisper each day and fills with childlike expectancy, as everyone anticipates the year’s first snowfall. I love how the city, bustling and sparkling with red and gold lights, bursts with magic and seasonal cheer. And, of course, I love the many sounds, smells, and tastes that accompany this time of year: street corner choirs who sing jazzy renditions of Christmas favorites like “Carol of the Bells,” the unmistakable scent of a freshly cut noble fir, or the brilliant aroma of spiced apple cider. And a cup of hot cider must be accompanied by gingerbread cookies, or a fresh slice of pumpkin pie, right? Mmm…doesn’t it all sound utterly fabulous?
Nope. In fact, I’m cringing as I type this.
I know, I know, you’re probably staring at me as if I’m crazy, but I’m being completely honest. The truth is I’m kind of dreading the holidays this year. Whether it’s the family drama, the fact that Nani isn’t in this world anymore, the overall lack of finances (and, therefore, the lack of holiday plans), or maybe just a grand mix of all the aforementioned reasons, the point is the Grinch in me has awoken this year, and as a result, I find myself constantly annoyed with any and all holiday-related ideas. For example, I was flipping through radio stations the other day, and I landed on WARM 106.9 FM. They were playing “O Christmas Tree,” and my instinctual thought was to beat the crap out of my car’s radio. (Oh, and by the way—whose idea was it to start playing Christmas music before Black Friday?!) Another example: a number of people in my neighborhood have already put up their Christmas decorations. Just a few weeks ago, Halloween decorations accentuated people’s yards, and now I’m seeing lights and ornaments and those plastic Santas on people’s front porches. And frankly, they’re making me angry.
What’s my point in telling you all this? I guess I don’t really have one. ‘Cause really, when it all boils down, Christmas isn’t about the decorations, the songs, or the treats. It’s about—brace yourselves; I’m about to throw you a Sunday-school cliché—Jesus. But I suppose it just bothers me that I’m at such a low point and can’t seem to come out of it. What I probably need to do is get my focus off of myself and find an opportunity to make someone else’s holiday season a little brighter. Because I’m certainly not the only person who’s hurting. And I’m positive that many people have it a lot worse than I do. But, again, I believe in being honest; and these thoughts have been bubbling inside of me for a while now, so I figured I’d get them out. Besides, I can’t imagine I’m the only person who’s ever suffered from Grinch-ism. So let me close this note with the following questions: for those of you who have suffered from similar thoughts and anti-holiday attitudes, what’s your story? And how did you overcome your own Grinch-ism?