Ownership

tumblr_mrwbfiAv5K1qeeyjso1_500I remember camping in a particularly rocky area, with dry vegetation beneath our trailers and a tan, pebble-strewn dirt road next to us. I couldn’t tell you where this place was, or why my parents chose to camp there, but I do remember humps of dirt and hidden rocks threatening to trip my sister and I as we played.

My grandma took me on a walk down the road, which would have sent a tidal wave of dust over our campsite had a truck whizzed by. She corralled me close to the safe, weedy edge of the path, and because of this, I spotted the waterfall.

I made everyone stop. Fresh, clear water trickled over a small construction of jagged rock edges, pooling in a cricket-sized pond fringed with the only lush foliage I could see from where I stood.

There was something so charming, so picturesque, about this single, small thing that continued to live in this dead wasteland that my seven-year-old self wanted to take it home.

I know. It was a silly thought, and even then I was aware of that. But then again, I was the girl who built a paper bathtub in my closet because I wanted my own bathroom like the teenagers on Disney Channel. I was the girl who was so infatuated with the red flowers outside the White House that I took my mother’s fake flowers from Michael’s and ‘planted’ them in the carpet outside my bedroom.

I went to the waterfall and let the pitcher-like stream patter over my hand. The water was cold, selfish for keeping to itself when the parched surrounding land needed it desperately.

It was so beautiful, and I couldn’t take it with me.

I recalled this memory yesterday because I felt a similar yearning, and realized that this want–and the almost-shock that comes with not being able to have that which I desire–is not unfamiliar, I think, to any of us. And it made me reflect on the way third-world society has formed our ideals, affects our desires, and influences our reactions to that which doesn’t belong to us.

We are obsessed with ownership.

That water, those rocks, that scene…none of it belonged to me. In truth, none of that belongs to anyone. And yet, I’m sure that in a natural resources office somewhere, a paper with typed words and a couple signatures would prove me wrong.

Yep. It’s not uncommon in America that a piece of paper dictates possession.

I understand that the piece of paper is symbolic of given word, promises, agreements. But it’s also just equal to covetousness and financial status…more slips of paper that people kill over.

I walked away from that itty bitty waterfall, small hand flicking the last of the water from my skin, resolving that the closest to keeping it would be to draw what I had seen.

I find my appreciation of the waterfall endearing. I think that quality, the quality of falling in love with the most happenstance things, is what made me into a writer. Putting images into words, loving even the way letters curve and angle like bodies, is the closest I’ll get to everlasting.

Through words, I do own that waterfall. And now you do, too.

But even then…this is just more paper.

Paper is like a person. It can be stained, shaped, crumpled, flattened, shredded, marked, and changed by words, just like us. It is temporary. We are temporary.

I think in an ignorant way, ownership is the human manner of dealing with mortality. It is as if subconsciously, we are convinced that if we have more, we become more permanent. That by being satisfied with what we have on earth will make us, in all aspects, better.

In truth, we are not entitled. Everything you can see from where you’re sitting and beyond–the walls of your home, the multicolored cars in the lot, the land and the water, all that is material and all that is natural–are gifts. That which you buy is not really yours. That which you buy things with is not really yours. It is ours to use, but not ours to keep.

The next time someone breaches on my ‘property,’ whether on purpose or by accident, I’m choosing to let go and accept the fluctuation of life and its temporary belongings. Even the things and the people I hold dear will dissolve. And if I can learn how to find that perfect, rarely achieved balance that allows me to care deeply without claiming ownership, then I will become more like that waterfall I treasured so many years ago: fluid, wild, and tranquil.

LOOK UP.

I get it. Trust me, I do.

I am a university student crunched for time, bored by core classes that don’t apply to my major in the slightest, rushing in and out of rooms that facilitate a wide range of activities. This world, my life, is a constant buzz, flat-lining only upon escape.

A large portion of my life managed with my Smart Phone. it is how I keep contact with friends and family. It is how I share myself with others through social media. It is a weather-checking source, an email correspondence, an update-spewing machine. It is the alarm clock I rely on to wake up in the morning and a timer that keeps me accountable for holding my plank long enough. When stranded for money, it allows me to make transfers, and I pull it out when in need of information, a GPS, a camera, music, or source of entertainment.

This doesn’t mean I couldn’t live without my phone. In fact, I would absolutely love to take a hiatus from the ever-glowing screen and keypad that will soon fade from overuse; but that would require the rest of the world to take a hiatus, and that is a rare occasion.

So, I take mini-breaks when it counts. I used to pull out my phone upon leaving class to check it before moving onto the next thing on my schedule, but once the sun started breaking through the trees and the cold wasn’t around to make me crave distraction, I kept it stowed in my bag.

And guess what I saw?

There was the golden light spilling down the concrete steps, a runway to rustic university buildings semi-curtained in ivy. There was a yawning green lawn to admire, a cerulean sky. There were girls for boys to look at and boys for girls to look at, but no one was looking at each other.

Instead, everyone was looking at their phones. They were logged into their own virtual worlds, gazing at words and images that took place elsewhere.

 

Today at work, I asked a woman what time would work best for her to reschedule an appointment. She looked at me for a moment before rummaging through her purse and saying, “Hold on a second, I need my brain.”

By ‘brain,’ she meant ‘phone.’

I couldn’t help it. My eyebrows raised and my head shook a little, because though I know she doesn’t credit her phone to being her only source of intelligence, the mindless, harried reference frightened me a little. She didn’t notice my reaction, however; she was too busy scrolling with her thumb, eyes searching for an ideal break in her schedule.

As for me, I resolved right then and there to not let it get that far. Technology holds a place in my life, but I understand there is a fine line between using it, owning it, and letting it use and own me.

That beautiful day on campus? I began to count how many things I would never have noticed had my eyes been averted downward. There was the aesthetic grace of the day, yes, but there were also other things: a car, that I could have wandered in front of. A kid’s contagious smile. Writing on a wall. A lovely face. Tufts of daisies growing out a crack in the sidewalk. General observations that belonged to me because I looked up.

And most of the people around me saw none of it.

So, try it. Look up. Pay attention to how many times a day you grab for your phone out of habit; it may surprise you. Though the virtual world holds much, there is nothing like isolating yourself to the world that sits right in front of you, and becoming a part of it.

I promise–you have a lot less missed calls than you do missed moments.

 

Unbroken

I figure I might as well kill two birds with one stone.

In lieu to my life suddenly spiraling into absolute busyness that will not cease until exactly two weeks and one day are through (but, hey…who is counting?) I decided to tackle one of my homework assignments for my Narrative Writing class.

The assignment was to read and write a book review on a narrative novel. I read Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption at the tail end of my junior year of high school, and fell in love with the incredible story of Louis Zamperini, and the undeniable talent of author Laura Hillenbrand.

Because I feel so passionately about this story, I immediately claimed Unbroken as the book I would (re) read and review. And because I believe every reader will be awestruck and inspired by Louie’s story, the following is the book review I just turned in (early!) for my narrative writing class, to promote it in hopes it will convince you to pick up a copy and begin reading.

 

            Death had many an opportunity to wrangle Louis Zamperini’s life from his restless body.

            Death could have taken him in the early days, when Zamperini wandered the neighborhood, searching for the next dangerous expedition or fistfight to win.

            Death could’ve collected him alongside the three thousand Americans who died from health compromises during 1936’s sweltering heat weave, especially considering the intense exertion Louie applied to prosper in the long-distance race that would make him a competitor in the 1936 Olympics, held in Berlin, Germany where he would shake Hitler’s hand.

           He could’ve died with most of his fellow Air Force enlisters when their B-24 smashed into the sea, or during the 47 days him and his comrade spent bobbing on the ocean in a flimsy life raft, wasting away, blistering in the day and trembling with cold by night, the edge of shark fins scraping the floor of the raft a constant reminder of their nautical prison.

            Death probably even held his hand, like a cold friend with good intentions, in the Ofuna POW camp where he picked at rice balls while dreaming of his mother’s Italian cooking, endured excruciating physical labor, digestive and other health issues, and unprecedented beatings from prison guard Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe, whose pleasure in inflicting pain put him on General Douglas MacArthur’s list of top 40 most wanted Japanese war criminals.

            But, similar to any mischievous scrape Zamperini got himself into, he managed to get away.

            Zamperini, Italian-American World War II Prisoner-of-War survivor and veteran, 1936 Berlin Olympic competitor, published author, Billy Graham-inspired Christian and inspirational speaker, is now 97 years old. Unlike many of his comrades, who faded before him, beside him, away from him, he survived, and in 2014, continues to do so.

            And the story of how he did bleeds through the pages of Laura Hillenbrand’s stunning second novel, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, proving Zamperini nothing short of a hero.

            Hillenbrand is, understatedly, thorough. Her knack for capturing even the smallest details is evidence of her expert insight and questioning. Though the details be small, their importance to the story—much like the meat on the bones that melted from Louie when lost at sea, leaving his 5’10” frame between 67-89 pounds—is essential. It is what makes the story authentic, accountable for accuracy, and a sentence-by-sentence wallop of power.

            Hillenbrand’s passion for her subject and the characters involved is obvious. Her fascination with the strength of the human spirit resonates in added observation:

            “Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.”

            And though she does not hesitate to include these observations, Hillenbrand does not let their intervention muddle Louie’s tale. She stands beside the values define narrative journalism, by adding informative pillars without abandoning craft:

            “Flat-faced, rectangular, and brooding, the B-24 had looks only a myopic mother could love….The Liberator was one of the heaviest planes in the world; the D model then in production weighed 71,200 pounds loaded. Flying it was like wrestling a bear, leaving pilots weary and sore. Because pilots usually manned the yoke with their left hands while their right hands worked the other controls, B-24 pilots were instantly recognizable when shirtless, because the muscles on their left arms dwarfed those on their right arms….A squiggle of turbulence, or a crewman walking inside the fuselage, would tip the plane off its axis.”

            The material that patterns the 398 pages of Unbroken is so intoxicating that the reader can’t help but continue to read drunkenly into the acknowledgements.

            Though Louie is detailed as a jaw-dropping example of willpower and hope, he humbly credits his survival to divine will. He also claims that had he have to undergo the same experience a second time, he would prefer death.

            Death, the second time around, might favor Louie as well.

            But, for the time being, Louie’s soul remains attached to his body, healed by the forgiveness he was finally able to release upon accepting the Christian faith. However, it is safe to argue that Hillenbrand managed to coax a piece of it out of him, so that he may forever live, splashed on the walls of each page.

            Not even death can kill him.

 

photograph of Louis Zamperini, circa 1938, retrieved from laurahillenbrandbooks.com

photograph of Louis Zamperini, circa 1938, retrieved from laurahillenbrandbooks.com

 

As overwhelming as it sounds, my review is only a glimpse at what Louie went through. His story is so gripping, there is little chance of any reader finishing the story unchanged.

Angelina Jolie is rendering a movie version of Louie’s story, rumored to release December of 2014, starring Garrett Hedlund. I honestly can not think of a better-equipped actor to be honored with the role, and anxiously await to see it in theatres.

So, before the film comes out, purchase a copy of the book and read it. There is always so much more meat to stories than even the best films can provide, and I guarantee this is a tale you’ll want to know, cover-to-cover.

 

 

 

 

A Wonderful Lack of Belonging

artwork via tumblr_mso1gcCoUS1rqnd77o1_250

artwork via tumblr_mso1gcCoUS1rqnd77o1_250

 

“I grew up moving around so much,” my mother once said, “that I forget it’s different for you.”

Different, indeed.

For me, it isn’t necessarily a bad different. I get itchy when life becomes stale, and I try to induce change if it doesn’t seem to want to come on its own. And, upon entering college, I realized I possessed an insistent restlessness that could only be temporarily consoled by not staying in the same situation or place for an extended period of time.

But, my mom is right; it’s different. I think that my rooted upbringing implanted an unshakable sentimentality inside of me that will always make me crave a fixed place to call home.

It’s my double-standard: I can leave my home, but my home is forbidden to leave me.

 

Springtime is here. For university-age students, this usually means an upheaval of shift in living situations. I know this applies to me, as well as a countless number of my friends. And though I know now where I plan on camping out (four different places in a year), there was that in-between period of mild panic when I realized that, not only did I not know where to go, but in a way, I don’t really belong anywhere.

And instead of feeling crestfallen, I felt liberated.

This realization uncovered a freedom I had never identified before. Nothing owns me. I am young and caught in the unpredictable throes of a particularly exciting decade: my twenties. And for this tumbling, flexible, slow, hasty period of my life, I am not committed to anything permanent and have no promises to break. I am boundless. I am a vagabond, a wandering vessel of potential, attracted toward all means of escape in hopes that my temperamental compass and various unforeseen expeditions will lead me, when the time is right, to the people, place, and pastimes I can call home.

Finding one’s home is an individual adventure, one that must be traveled solo. I remember my mother anxiously relaying a phase my father was experiencing, only to be calmed by her aunt Casey’s words:

“That’s his journey.”

We want, so often, to be able to fix things in believing that doing so will fix us. However, it’s just as much about the journey as it is the destination, because without the journey, there is no destination. This mental, emotional, and physical homelessness experienced during our youth is vital, a non-skippable step.

These are the days I am allowed to have that double-standard of home, because I am young and energetic and unclaimed. I can say proudly that I have been forced from my comfort zone enough that I have become adaptable.

And, I love a challenge.

I am at home on a ratty couch. I am at home on someone’s carpet. I am at home in my own bed, in a guest bed, in a hotel room, in an airplane or a car. I learned to be at home in the dorms, in my apartment, and I will learn how to be at home in sunny La Jolla, in the yellow confines of my parents’ guest bedroom, in the narrow dormitories of God-Knows-Which-Town England, and in a new apartment that will be found upon my return.

am my own home. As long as I take care of myself, I am taking care of my home.

So, go forward with energy and zero expectations, knowing that you will work it out–whatever ‘it’ might be. Embrace the title of the traveler. Remember that your body, mind, and spirit require upkeep, just like the boards, bolts, brush, and grounds that make a house livable. Know that there is no point in comparing your journey to another’s, and enjoy moving from one thing, one place, to the next. Feed your mind, stretch your limits, problem-solve, and learn to adapt.

Only time will tell what kind of culture you have created for yourself.

Make it a good one.

Glory of the West

The view in Missoula,, Montana while making a quick coffee break. Photograph by Miranda Rae Carter, 2012.

The view in Missoula,, Montana while making a quick coffee break.

The best of friends are the ones you can not see for a very, very long time, and yet manage to pick up right where you left off once you finally reunite.

On Friday morning, my mother, sister, and I hit the freeway, bound for Missoula, Montana. I took control of the wheel and my sister deejayed from the passenger seat while my mom napped in the back. It’s funny, how vessels of metal hurtling down a weather-worn road can make you feel safe. But it does.

We may have been headed to the same place, but we each had different reasons for going. My sister was interested in checking out the university there, just as I had two years previously. My mom was there for support. I, on the other hand, was excited to spend time with my friend, Chloe.

Chloe was my roommate freshman year of college. She wasn’t supposed to be. I wasn’t even supposed to be in the same building as her. But, the building I requested had filled up, and I was assigned to live in a different dorm.

Things work out the way they’re supposed to.

 

Chloe and I became instant friends. We were the right amount of the same and the right amount of different for us to mesh and develop a friendship that we knew had the potential to be lifelong.

She transferred to University of Montana second semester of our freshman year. She came back once, and now it was my turn to come see her.

Slipping back into our relationship with one another was seamless. Too easy.

Chloe and I this past weekend at Ciao Mambo, downtown Missoula.

Chloe and I this past weekend at Ciao Mambo, located in downtown Missoula.

I have another friend named Alex, who I became close with in elementary school. When fifth grade rolled around, Alex’s family moved away. I didn’t know where she was headed, or if I would ever see her again.

We talked on the phone once, to detail what we received for Christmas. We must have lost the slips of notebook paper with one another’s phone numbers scrawled in pencil, because we didn’t speak again until last year.

I became friends with my hallmates, who, much to my surprise, mentioned an Alex. A blonde Alex, who used to go to school around here. An Alex they were friends with.

The same Alex I had been friends with.

Alex lives across the street from me now. We see one another often, and though we have a lot of catching up to do, I am stunned at the way we relate to one another. It is as if we had continued to grow up together.

 

I believe friendships like this continue to live because we never stop learning from one another. In the past few days, I have learned much from these friends, treasures I want to share with you.

 

Chloe made me remember what it means to be ambitious. Chloe says that though the recent passing of her brother this past autumn does not make sense, it is clear he is playing a vital role in her life, and therefore in the lives around her.

Lives like mine.

Chloe is kicking. That’s the only way I can describe her disposition. She drives into and away from the silver Montana sun with purpose. When she laughs, it is never forced. Tragedy has not had enough power to drain color from the world around her; if anything, it has saturated the places she has and hasn’t been, making her hungry to see and feel, hear and smell, taste and touch all that is authentic and pure and fulfilling. I can sense her spirit trembling from within, ready to jump on boxcars of opportunity and feel everything wholeheartedly.

I love her for this. I loved seeing her vibrancy. The itch she had to seize life by the lapels was contagious, and it reminded me to live life slowly so that I may be proud of the way I used my time.

 

Alex owns who she is, quietly. She is genuinely interested in the lives of people around her, and is willing to take on responsible roles without complaint or fear of failure. I remember her saying once that despite shifts in situation or influence, she is simply disinterested in giving up what makes her happy.

Yesterday, Alex and I drove to Uniontown and explored. I had been there a few times before, but any time you are in search of something new, you will find it.

We hit up three antique shops and took the time to make conversation with each owner. After gazing in awe at the ornate church postured austerely at the top of the hill (and curiously peeping into Confessional booths, which neither of us were familiar with), we set our backpacks down at an empty diner and paid for ice cream, $0.99 per scoop. As we chatted with the owner about how difficult it was to get a small town business off the ground, I realized just how many lives we had become a part of that day, just by stepping away from the familiar.

I studied Alex’s profile as she related to the business owner, snapped up an image of the two of us walking alongside Uniontown’s drawling main street moments before, and knew that though Alex’s soul was as mild and soothing as milk and honey, she would never settle for less than contentment. And, she is willing to accept the challenge of her journey and appreciate each step for what it’s worth, with absolutely no expectation of perfection or simplicity. She simply seems to know that the goal is out there somewhere, and it will be the most exciting adventure of all to identify it and call it her own.

Alex and I eating ice cream at a main street diner in Uniontown yesterday after exploring.

Alex and I eating ice cream at a main street diner in Uniontown yesterday after exploring.

 

I may not be spending my spring break cooling off from blistering heat in a glittering blue ocean, or posting pictures on social media accounts of grand hotel rooms and glamorous courtyards in the heart of an ideal destination where the language is different and the streets are crooked. But, that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, because I am watching the morning sun rise over the infamous “M” blocked into the brown hills of Missoula. I am watching my sister, close-mouthed and saucer-eyed, weigh her options for a future that isn’t promised to her. I am flying down a freeway and pulling over at dumpy general stores where old men gather around a plastic table to gruffly sort through all the problems this world faces. I am dreaming vividly while sleeping in my own bed, reading in bubble baths and teaching myself how to cook salmon. I am managing my technological life from the warm confines of a coffee shop, simplifying my life by committing myself to ‘spring cleaning,’ riding my vintage bike and taking my time. I am testing doors in an empty church, picking up items in antique stores that belonged to people I want to hear stories from, and letting a rare treat of creamy huckleberry ice cream wash over my tongue.

Most importantly, I am surrounding myself with people I can learn from. I am keeping friendships burning. I am counting my blessings. I am not squandering precious time.

I am living.

Free People

It started with Free People.

For those of you who don’t know Free People, it’s a clothing brand that puts forth intricate, fresh-faced pieces fit for free spirits. The designers’ handiwork breathes through each garment, which speak of all that is honest, natural, and shameless.

Photo: Refresh your palate for spring. #recipe  http://freep.pl/umIFK

Photo: Nothing says SPRING like… #decor http://freep.pl/uf3TB

The Free People line tells stories not only through each stitch, but also by expanding upon their original inspirations by filming short stories and releasing them online alongside their catalogs. A link on their website brings viewers to a blog that covers trends and offers makeup tips, decor inspiration, music submissions, several healthy recipes, and more.

When I picture admin meetings at Free People, I imagine artists with elaborately constructed minds, bent over the table with passion for what they do, feeding off of the ideas of one another to build upon their craft. And it made me wonder why I, as an artist and writer, do what I love so little.

I called on my friend, Kira.

Kira and I are like-minded in the way that nothing enraptures us like making something beautiful does, and is one of the few people I know who are truly spontaneous. I asked if she wanted to take photographs, and she agreed.

An hour later, we were rattling over a pot-hole riddled road on the way to Moscow Mountain. The following are a few shots from the day.

Photograph by Miranda Rae Carter, Copyright 2014

Credit to Kira Langworthy, 2014

Photograph by Miranda Rae Carter, Copyright 2014

Credit Kira Langworthy, 2014

Photograph by Miranda Rae Carter, Copyright 2014

Credit Kira Langworthy, 2014

Photograph by Miranda Rae Carter, Copyright 2014

Credit Kira Langworthy, 2014

Photograph by Miranda Rae Carter, Copyright 2014

Credit Kira Langworthy, 2014

Photograph by Miranda Rae Carter, Copyright 2014

Credit Kira Langworthy, 2014

Australian-American author Jill Ken Conway once acknowledged, “Your biggest debt is to your talents.”

Have you ever been so convicted by a statement before?

When people ask me what I like to do, I have a list approximately 7 phrases long. When I review this list and factor in how long I spend doing them a week, the results are sad and appalling.

I believe the same may be true for you.

Yes, I am busy with “real life.” “Real life” consists of several outfit changes in a day, pre-planned meals, locking and unlocking my apartment door so that I can run in and out of it again, attending classes, going to work, sweating at the gym, maintaining the relationships I have with others, and in between all of this, trying to recoup.

I decided it’s time for a priority change.

It’s time to push aside some of the “real life” obligations in favor of the things that fill me up. I have no excuse not to.

What could you have accomplished, had you evened out the playing field and spent more time doing what you love, the things you’re good at? How might things be different? How might you be different?

Writing. Reading. Travel. Quality time with friends and family. Meeting new people and trying new things. Making something beautiful. Managing my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health.

These are the things I value. One step towards action oftentimes creates a snowball effect, similar to the tumble of ideas spilling from Free People. If I nurture one area of my life, the benefits will seep into the other areas as well, and I will be better for it.

Start paying that debt. Pay back your talents by spending more time with them. Paying back that debt will unleash a league of free people, rich with contentment and light in spirit.

Tuesday, I’m in Love

retrieved from tumbrl.com via simply-divine-creation; indicates credit to Carrie King

retrieved from tumlbr.com via simply-divine-creation; indicates credit to Carrie King

 

The light was the first thing my eyes touched on this past Tuesday morning. It pushed me against my pillow with its humming fingertips and kept me there until I had peace.

The light…it was everywhere, like the presence of a spirit or smoke in a closed-off room. My slatted blinds, though closed, simply blunted the bright cast that softened the white of my walls and emphasized the plushness of my cream comforter. It highlighted the quotes tacked to one of my three bulletin boards and circled around the rosebud-shaped whorls of my softest pillow, bounced off the mirror and added clarity to the bottle choked with fake daisies bought at Michael’s, meant to stand in for the real thing while waiting on warmer weather.

It took those few seconds of sleepy-eyed bliss to fall in love with the world all over again.

 

Sometimes, I forget that there is anything to love. In fact, there are times where I hate it.

Being real, there’s a lot to hate.

I hate tragedies splayed in black print over tissue-thin, grim-colored newspapers that my father purchases at kiosks. I hate that the money he uses to pay for these newspapers comes from a job he can barely stomach anymore after working within the vicinity of the same work space since he was ten years old. I hate that I can’t help or save everyone, and I hate that at times, I am lazy enough to squander time, money, and other people’s efforts because it’s easy to take things for granted. I hate that imperfection is unattainable.I hate that as a society it is common for most of us to spend 85% of our days, if not more, doing things we’d rather not do, and that most of the time, this cannot be avoided.

There are days where I literally feel as if I am dragging my body through on the verge of exhaustion, and that if only I had the ability to break from it, I would own enough energy to feed starving souls, manage my chaotic life with grace, and be productive enough to receive the You did it that I strive so intently to hear from myself.

You did it. With a period at the end.

But it’s amazing how three seconds–three seconds of white walls glowing that Tuesday morning–obliterated all scraps of dark, toxic-infused negativity that try to wrap itself around my limbs and settle low in my belly. Because those three seconds…those three seconds sent me somersaulting after memories presented in clips and provided a citrus-like burst of hunger for the future.

Sweet hot chocolate from my grandmother on a silver-turning-gold summer morning, where the dewy weeds bowing down in our camping site are blocked from itching our ankles by flare jeans brushing over athletic shoes. My first bite of brownie in the triangle shadow of my house, the rose bush blushing. Recess basketball on a rain-pelted court. Four pairs of tanned legs dangling over the  edge of the bed of a dust-colored Chevrolet. Clipped pounding sounds belting from my typewriter. Rain at the edge of my bed, trailing down my window, saluting the circle of trees that belonged to four young girls with muddy hands and stubborn resolve. Sweet, peppered corn on a sliver-trap porch. The unsteady sway of a cruise boat, the words of a play, the tired eyes of a reader and flowing ’70s tops racked tightly against one another, waiting for adoption. Guava juice paired with crisp rolls in Paris, blank pages waiting to be named, stacks of books and the massive courtyard at UW, disorganized dress-up clothes stuffed in giant Tupperware, a roughly-textured yellow room, windows thrown open in every room of Willey Wing and the flickering of a fire underneath scores of stars in the company of life-hungry youths.

As usual, these images were not chosen. They simply presented themselves. As I laid there, experiencing this bombardment of scenes speeding through my mind faster and more disorganized than a film strip, for the first time in my adult life, I realized just how full my life has been.

Yes, there is so much more I want to do. I want to publish books. I want to find that one person I won’t be able to keep myself from falling madly in love with, over and over again. I want to travel to as many places as I possible. I want to be middle-aged with my best of friends, and honor those who gave to me by giving back. I want to reach a point or two where I can say to myself, You did it (period), because there is nothing like a job well-done, a goal achieved, physical proof as to why you should be proud of yourself.

But on Tuesday morning, I came to the conclusion that even without these things, I would be content. If I were to have died that afternoon, and been able to review the 20 years of my life thus far, it would’ve sufficed. And that is a conclusion I never thought I would reach without “having it all.”

“All” doesn’t even exist yet.

The stuff leading up to it, however, does.

I think one of the leading causes of fear of mortality has less to do with what happens after death and more to do with what we don’t complete before it comes. Everyone is always advising that each of us live in the moment, live every day like it’s our last, and it’s discouraging to realize that the way this world is structured does not allow for that.

Thus, the heavy days.

But, it was reassuring for me to reflect and have a clear picture of how I don’t need to “do it (period)” or “have it all,” simply because there are a lot of things I have done and a lot of things that I have.

I am in love with my story, and for that I am so thankful. I am relieved.

I am in love with my story and the world it is told in, but not in an attached, don’t-take-this-from-me way, because each section of my life, though very different, was of the finest quality.

Quality doesn’t have to mean good. I can definitely pinpoint several incidences where everything was less than okay. Nevertheless, I find them quality because like crayons, they colored my life and taught me that the first draft will not always be perfect, and that I am forgiven for that.

I need to try. I need to keep trying, to keep practicing what I love and attempting to achieve and experience that of which I dream of. But after Tuesday, I realize that my life is not without substance if I don’t make everything happen the way I hope or plan.

I’ve done the best with what I’ve had. And that is enough.

I am enough.

And I am so excited to see what is in store.

 

The light stayed for a bit. It warmed the air long enough for me to lock my apartment, hop into my car, and dart to class. When I emerged, the light had sidestepped and was replaced with yet another shade of grey.

What the light didn’t do was fold into the grey, like a paper napkin on a picnic table that will cave after a few drops of rain.

No. The light just let the grey take place, and accepted it, knowing that it would be back soon.