“I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child — What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”
–Michelle Obama, Becoming
Thank you, Michelle, for this beautiful observation, and for reminding us of our infinite potential. This Friday I am thinking about growing up, growing older, and what it means to “be” something when you grow up. We are not our professions. We are not only defined by the work we do. And we are always evolving, changing, growing, becoming something new. We are more than the sum of our parts.
Myself, I am striving to find a happy middle ground between becoming and being, moving forward vs. holding myself in the present moment. But it is a real comfort to know that no matter where I am now or who I feel like I “am” at present, I always have the opportunity to become something else — to become something more.
Apologies for my absence this week, but I have had a terrible cold. I’m hoping to be back in action fully next week, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a resonant piece about beauty that I stumbled across this morning:
“… Here are some activities where I feel intuitively beautiful and feminine – Walking through the Minneapolis Institute of Art alone. Writing and creating in an afternoon coffee shop. Talking with my girlfriends late at night, long after the persuasion of sleep has crept in. I feel most beautiful when interacting with this life that surrounds us. So I’m trying to do more of that. Because the image I keep hoping to see in the mirror? She’s never going to show up. But still, without fail, I greet her within me every single day – she is the way I respond to art and humanity. She is the rare and precious awareness that comes only when studying something that is distinctly outside of myself. I want to learn more of her. And it’s not going to happen while looking into the empty reflection of my bathroom mirror. So why would I bother to look there at all?”
“The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a book signing with the delightful Mari Andrew for her first book, Am I There Yet?: The Loop-de-loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood. I’ve enjoyed Mari’s insights on her Instagram and on the blog Cup of Jo for some time, but fell for her even more after hearing her speak at Vroman’s Bookstore on Thursday night. She’s been a real inspiration for me: not only did she transition to illustrating full time only a couple of years ago (and already has a book that made the New York Times bestseller list? Amazing!), but she manages to say the things we all are thinking but afraid to articulate in a way that is fresh, disarming, candid, and compassionate — often all at the same time.
In her talk, Andrew held forth on things she thinks are valuable “wastes of time,” including making your own happiness reliable, working towards the person you want to be, pursuing fun, and sometimes having no goal at all. “I am a person who is loved. And I am a person who loves.” These words resonated with me long after I walked out of the bookstore, signed book in hand. In a culture that seems to privilege self-sacrifice to an impossible degree, sometimes these small reminders that fun is a good thing, and that prioritizing your own happiness is an even better thing, are exactly what is needed — especially when they are offered with a smile as genuine as Mari Andrew’s.
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“238. I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.
239. But now you are talking as if love were a consolation. Simone Weil warned otherwise. ‘Love is not consolation,’ she wrote. ‘It is light.’
240. All right then, let me try to rephrase. When I was alive, I aimed to be a student not of longing but of light.”
― Maggie Nelson, Bluets
It is difficult, but I am trying to be a student of light. I find I get caught up in longings, in the ways I wish things could be different. It is a challenge to be content in the present moment, but I am working at it — every day.