(Note: A song I listen to when I’m standing alone on a crowded train)
Every few months, I feel like I need to sit down and ask myself, how are you? And then I make notes of my own response. As a child, I always thought that this was supposed to be private, that matters of the self concern no one but me, my heart, my being. But I think I mostly feel the need to become aware of myself when I’m surrounded by other people. I think I realise aspects of myself in relation to strangers.
Where to start? I’m studying again, and it’s a home for me, it always has been. Books, linguistics, philosophy, language – where my heart lives. The people here are so hopeful, too. Everyone I meet is rich, young and pretty. We want to be actors, writers, artists. The future is real and tangible and good. But the city fizzles into something distant when I take the long train ride home, back to the streets where everything is quiet again. How can I be in-between places like this? I just keep myself busy so I don’t have to do too much thinking. Maybe all these people are just distractions. There’s this lovely poem by Mary Oliver that goes, “I was so full of energy. I was always running around, looking at this and that. If I stopped the pain was unbearable. If I stopped and thought, maybe the world can’t be saved, the pain was unbearable.” I’m not sure what to make of this sometimes. I worry that something is sleeping inside of me, and I will never know. I worry for my worrying.
Anyway, it’s been cold in Sydney lately. I always lose my voice in this weather. I have coffee with other dreamy souls; soft boys and kind girls who are so confident in their own thoughts and their beliefs. We sit in our tutorial rooms and start every sentence with, I feel, I think, I believe. I don’t know what I know anymore, and there is some sort of a beauty in that. I have realised that I care about what other people think. I like it when they tell me about their lives, where they come from. When they ask me what it’s like in my little suburban town, I tell them it is peaceful. I’m not sure if it really is, or if I’ve just started to find peace in it. The gentle rumble, the white noise. It’s all a blur; my home, my friends, everything. I come home in the late afternoons, and tumble into sleep. What else can I do with myself? I feel like I’m in the middle of some-great-happening, like these moments are all building up towards something that I can’t see yet.
These days, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of illness and sadness and talk of death, and it hurts me in ways that I cannot even comprehend. Oddly, it makes me feel even more grateful for this quiet living. I am thankful that I feel things so deeply. Sad that my sadness will kill me one day. Blessed to know I can read poetry, and weep for beauty. Someone from here wrote me an email a long time ago, and it ended with “good luck to you and your lovely struggle”. I think of that message often. I think of strangers sharing my thoughts, like little window lights in an apartment we all live in. I can’t see you, but I know that you’re there. Washing the dishes. Putting your children to sleep. Carrying on, through this lovely struggle. A weighted gift.