“There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.” -Howard Thurman
Ever since I joined Culture Shock in the fall of 2013, I have come up with post ideas by asking myself the same question every week: what’s been on my mind recently?
Up until now, this process has worked almost unfailingly. I’ve written about my own experiences, about ideas that come up in class, about discovering my own interests and values over time. Beginning as thoughts, they become posts through the act of writing. As such, the process always felt natural – when I think of something new, I want to write it. Writing is, in a sense, an act of validation, even exhalation. It says: I am here, I am present, I am thinking.
This semester has been a strange one. I’m taking my final classes, completing a required internship, and working three jobs to pull together rent money for the imminent move, all the while hurtling toward graduation this January. I find myself either in class or at work or otherwise engaged for the vast majority of my waking hours. Even free time spent hanging out with friends has a new, added tension: the realization that, wow, this might be the last time I see this person I love and, gosh darn it, I’d better squeeze every possible ounce of meaning from this hour-long coffee date. Living in the day-to-day feels like a held breath. And so writing, my form of exhalation, begins to feel impossible: I find myself not only uninspired, but completely at a loss of what to say.
This week, I asked myself: What’s been on my mind recently? And for the first time, I just didn’t have an answer.
I have been self-soothing by convincing myself I’m just “getting through” it. It’ll all be easier once the day, week, semester is over, and my schedule returns to sane. But “getting through” an experience relinquishes our agency in it. It reduces us to glassy-eyed recipients – of an education, of an occupation, of a life. There’s something profoundly sad about willingly sacrificing chunks of one’s presence in life in order to advance a financial or academic purpose, necessary as doing so may be. I find myself becoming numb to the day-to-day joys I usually adore – the cold autumnal mist on my cheeks, the brilliant New England foliage, the experience of walking my city.
I’ve written about this numbness before. The fact that I find myself drawn to writing about it tells me I have something more to say here, something more to learn. I’m just not sure what that is. I know that I value the tiny connections in life, and that I’m running out of time to experience them with the people I love.
This is usually the part of the post where I find a silver lining and use it to tie a pretty, rhetorical bow, but I honestly don’t know how to reconcile the desire for presence in the day-to-day and the necessity of a overly full schedule. I know this: I want to be present. I want to do more than survive, more than get through. I want to look back on my life as one full of “breathless and beautiful moments”– memories created and recorded, assisted by a full and satisfying exhalation.