Sunday, September 12, 2010

Backwards and Forwards: A Post of Sunday Musings.

     So, its unbelievable that it's been a whole week since I've posted. I know that I just need to get in the habit of posting regularly, but I have no idea how the people I work with manage to accomplish so much during the time that we all have off.  I barely have my stuff together for the next day.

     I think it's because I spent a year having literally no free time during the week. Everything was pared down to the bare essentials. What did I imperatively need to get done in a day? Not too much, even showers are iffy if you live in the woods. (A note: I showered every day. Mostly). I wasn't even at my previous job that long, just a year, but I still feel like an alien sometimes here in this world. My stress level, unbelievably, is much lower. For instance, if I don't check my email one day, will the world really end? I don't think so. When it comes right down to it, that's what living in a tent taught me. We're not as essential as we all seem to think. We are all important but the world won't end if we turn our phones off for a few hours. This is something I didn't know in college.

     There are times when I feel I never spent a year essentially living the life of a summer camper (but with more medical training) and I fit in effortlessly. But there are other times that I feel like I'm looking at everyone through a pane of glass. Everything is curiously flattened, or hollowed. There are good things about this sort of life. I can get Starbucks (assuming I ever have enough money). I can watch T.V. at night. I can sleep and not have to plan my hours out to see whether I will wake up before the morning's rainstorm, or if I need to secure the flaps to keep the rain out. Breakfast is a two second walk through my warm, dry house, that can be accomplished in pajamas and guided by warm, electric lighting.

     When I worked my old job I often said "It is really hard, but I'm glad I am doing it." I said this to people I didn't know well. To my friends I was more honest, that there were good things, but that I spent a great deal of time being very lonely.  I couldn't understand the open joy that the people I worked with seemed to feel in their place, and their job. Partly this was because the people I loved were far away, literally or metaphorically. My parents were back home in the city, my best friends had gone their own ways to their own cities. And the man I loved was within a 15 minute drive...but I couldn't leave. There were days that I drove past his dorm, but couldn't see him because I was leading a class. Not that I had to see him every second, but that sort of closeness without being close broke my heart every time.

     Now where I am, farther away from my family and friends, but oddly more connected. Only now I know what I have lost. I used to wake up nearly every morning to the dawn chorus of the birds, and fall back asleep assured that, really, everything was right in the world, despite any evidence to the contrary. If I woke while it was still dark, there were the solemn songs of the owls, the trills of the frogs, and the general hum of a living forest at night to reassure me.

     I have learned over the past year or so, that you are only lost in the woods if you feel you are alone in them. When you know the faces of the trees and the flowers, the creeping vines and bushes, you start to feel that no matter where you are, you are in the right place. I still feel that way. I run or walk by the river most every day and I see new faces and old faces crowded together every where I look. Tall sycamores hold out their velvet leaves. Broad leafed paw-paws give off their green bell pepper smell. Poke berry bushes shake their fuchsia arms.  There are new trees and flowers too, and I notice the differences, but am not alarmed by them. I am starting to learn their names and in the mean time I will let them make themselves familiar.

     Without that, and much of my day is spent without that, the world is more confusing. You could be anywhere or nowhere. You might be lost and not even know it. I know why I chose to do this job, and it is the right decision. I'm happy too. But I feel like most happiness seems to have something sad in it. The future seems so uncertain that when I live the present it's hard to enjoy it. But when I have secured my next place, then I can look back and see how good I had it all along.

     The trick now is to know that I am not lost. I shouldn't forget what I've learned, but I should idealize it either. I can't worry too much about looking forward, but I can't avoid doing so by simply looking back. I've spent so much time moving that it feel strange to stay in one place, but I am here for a full year. I can take the time to look around. To look here and now, and not in any direction. In a year I will be somewhere else, maybe back in the woods. But that's what being twenty is, being pulled backwards and forwards, but only being able to live within this one span of time.  We don't know where we are going, we're making up our own road map. But we are not lost. Despite any evidence to the contrary.


  1. This post really made me think of the documentary Koyaanisqatsi.

    BUT. We've talked about this before, of course you're (we're) going to feel lost now, it's so hard to know where we're going or be certain we're on the right path. Just have to have faith and keep doing what makes the most/best sense at the time. And where we end up may just have to be a fun surprise.

    You're not lost if you have some sense of where you want to go and some sense of where you are now, even if the specifics are murky.

  2. From my different perspective of being 54, I will say this: Rather than seeing yourself as a bit lost, can you step back and see your life unfolding? Life for your generation was so "scheduled". All of you kids were always "on track" for the next thing. I think we (parents, teachers, school systems) did you a great disservice.

  3. I cannot tell you how profoundly resonant this is. youve struck the nail on the head. you verbalized all the anxiety I have felt after leaving echo hill and other things and settling down for the year. your words are beautiful and effortless. keep it up bess! love you.