I have not written in an eternity. For a while, I knew it was the right decision. Life was overwhelming, so much so, that keeping up a blog was becoming more of a guilty burden than an outlet for self-expression and the exchange of ideas. However, the last few months revealed an interesting symptom: my facebook and twitter status updates became longer, more complex, resembling compositions, carefully, artfully, lovingly crafted. Word art in 140 characters or less. A clear sign I needed to actually do some real writing. The potential subject matters have also become overwhelming – what to write about? Where should I start? So I’m going to jump. Bear with me, dear reader.
I took myself on vacation to Spain in September. I won’t go into details except to say – visit Basque Country. The best food, gorgeous landscape, and the kindest people you’d ever want to meet. You wouldn’t think it – it’s not a sexy place – but there is a subtle grandeur, an old world Europe elegance, with a fascinating and often sad history, that doesn’t want to draw attention to itself. Besides, Riojan wine country is literally next door (and culturally related), there are Europe’s loveliest beaches, and you can even go surfing if you dare to face those cold waters.
I always keep a journal when I travel extensively. I buy a leather bound volume or two and invest in a good pen. As I travel alone, it keeps me sane, gives me purpose, gives me distraction when needed. It’s not easy just being with yourself and only with yourself without a routine – travel for me is a kind of meditation – extremely difficult at first, but when you get into the rhythm, the benefits are infinite. By the end of the trip, I felt more like myself in years.
My main revelation: who I am. I never had a calling, never knew I had to be a surgeon or a ballerina. And that practicality in college or slightly after never kicked in – I didn’t enlist in law school or business school or find an interesting sector to devote my life to some sort of desk. I am not unique in this. Whatever the decisions of the people in my generation, there is an clear sense of ennui. Books and research and articles about “the quarterlife crisis” and the downfalls of having too many choices leading to major anxiety and crippling indecision, abounded. In many ways, I have been a leaf. That image of Forrest Gump’s leaf has remained ingrained in my memory. Though I’ve had a stable job for a year and a half, in a sector I devoted 4 years to in some semblance or another, my mind, heart, “soul,” self, is not that professional person. I love so much of what I do. I threw all of my energy, sacrificing my health sometimes, to the company, to the mission, for the benefit of wine culture in Israel. I’m very lucky to have this in my life. But this is not my raison d’etre. This is not my life. It is not worth my health or the majority of hours in the week. The time has come to go back to “me.” It probably won’t make me money. But I’m dying inside sometimes from the lack of time and attention to who it really is that I am.
(Goodness doesn’t this sound like the introduction to some sappy self-help novel! Don’t worry, I’m not selling anything, and I don’t think I’ll ever be a happy-go-luck person…)
This will sound stupid, and I even felt it to be so stupid as I wrote in my journal on my last day in San Sebastian while drinking a too-sweet cafe con leche and nibbling on a tortilla pintxo (a Spanish omelet placed on top of a too-small slice of baguette, speared with a toothpick), that I wrote down that this was embarrassingly stupid to be writing. It’s so far-fetched. It’s such a grandiose word, that I feel I’m being an arrogant sophist for thinking such a thought. But the word felt right, and it wouldn’t go away. Words are powerful. Now I’ve always felt kind of OK calling myself a thinker, or a person who likes to think, who often (or at best occasionally these days) wrote. What I am, what I have always been, is a philosopher. When I wrote that down, I felt good. I am in such awe at that word – pictures of brilliant pipe-smoking tweed-clad professors and long-dead robe-wrapped Greeks come to mind. So you can understand how silly I feel calling myself such a word.
On a daily basis, I have all-encompassing “thinking spells.” I am an incurable daydreamer. When seen in children it seems sweet and creative and fanciful until or unless it interrupts schoolwork or other such responsible tasks. In adults, it’s perceived as a wishy-washy hippie impractical waste of a thing to do. I can’t help it. Overpowering ideas flow, and I stop, and I let them wash into me. For minutes, for hours, on and off over the course of days sometimes. It gives me great pleasure to think. To roll thoughts and facts and theories over and over in my mind, connecting the dots, creating fascinating conclusions. For example, yesterday, I entertained an imaginary conversation with an old acquaintance from college about the earliest origins of marriage, land-ownership, violence and the current socioeconomic state. My greatest pain – that I don’t have anyone to talk to about these things. Perhaps it’s why so many of my mental wanderings take the form of dialogues, either with people I have known, or people I respect, whether they be perfect strangers or even long-dead. I’ve been labeled strange, an oddity, and I don’t mind that. But not to be listened to. Not fun. And I fear that my wits have dulled without this practice. I feel that I sometimes reject the thought pattern building up, and distract myself with television, games, food, alcohol, cleaning, gardening, and most of all – work – not entirely unhealthy, but it borders on it. It’s why it was particularly heartbreaking not to have been accepted into a doctoral program a couple years ago. I knew my application was hurried and weakly presented, but I still had hoped it would be enough.
My conclusion in Spain: let it be. It’s more difficult than it sounds. Like meditating. Like anything worth doing in life – it takes discipline in order to build a healthy habit. My goal is to begin writing these thoughts down, as I have in the past. Beyond that, I feel I need to at least try to publish something formally. It won’t take the place of a regular discourse, but it will affirm I’m not crazy. There’s a particular treatise on ecology, the environment, and economics that I’ve been meaning to get out of my system for over three years. Perhaps sending these ideas into the world will negate my new self-identity – there is a danger that I will discover I’ve never had an even slightly original idea in my life. But I need to take that chance. Exploring the writing of others, extensively, in order to better informed, is never bad. It’s always fruitful. Thinking is always better than not thinking. I need not be ashamed of that. I need to embrace it, whether or not anyone understands me or cares.
I will leave you with a treat! Photos of some incredible home-libraries that have been popping up on my facebook stream all week. I am desperate for something like this in my home. A respite for the soul. It’s ever so much easier to be productive and comfortable in one’s own skin when surrounded by a beautiful, functional environment. Squishy armchair required. Fireplace optional. Thank you for reading.