Seeing the Stars Through the Leaves

Like the elements of an unintended chemical reaction, things lately have been building toward an inevitable explosion–or worse, an irreversible meltdown. Between classes, uncertainties, and life changes, “chaos” even seems a kind descriptor of recent events.

Then, between today and yesterday, but mostly today, things were pulled back into perspective and I’ve had the power–the courage perhaps–to do what I haven’t in a long while: Write.

The details are unimportant, but I can start the story where it’s meant to begin: outside of class this morning, talking casually with a few friends. The conversation began on the note of a poor paper grade and the meeting its writer had with our teacher. She told us (three were present) that he asked her how many hours she worked and then how many hours she did campaign work and then finally how many hours she had left to study.

“It was a ‘What are you doing with your life?’ talk,” she told us. “It helped put everything in perspective.”

After a few remarks, the conversation shifted to what we we would each cut out if we had to do more, and here my other friend said he’d stop fencing, even though he loves it.

That’s when it hit me–and it hit me so hard, my lips made sounds before I could think what I was saying: “Doesn’t it suck how we always stop first what we love most, because usually it’s just something we love and not something that’ll help us professionally?”

It was off the cuff, still only casual conversation–but something about putting that reality into words made me realize I’ve been doing this all semester: choosing to do what’s most desired, and what’s most necessary, in the world we live in–but not always choosing what I love most.

It’s hard to decide what I love most. It’s hard for me to be certain about anything–even my own feelings–at this point in life when so many things are still transforming around me in ways I cannot predict or prevent. All the way back as far as March this year, my dreams, my friends and family, even my body have all betrayed me–and in this situation, as I told my best friend a few weeks ago, it’s become so slippery a slope it’s hard to trust myself sometimes.

If you can imagine how hard it is to re-earn the trust of another, you can begin to imagine how hard it is to regain your own trust.

“But, Darren, you do know what you want,” my friend told me–and on many levels I agree with her–but believing and knowing are two different things. We all know this. I’d go so far as to say most of us even believe this. But that doesn’t make understanding it any simpler.

But I digress. There are other things to discuss.

Last week I went to a seminar on the galaxy–and, yes, I am making an intergalactic analogy. Deal with it. So the discussion was mainly focused on how do we know what the galaxy looks like. Our presenter gave us an example similar to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: If we spend our entire lives in this building, how would we ever know what the building looks like from the outside?

Similarly, how will we ever know what our galaxy looks like when all we can see is what’s on the inside?

He expanded our view a little further and made the declaration that, in other galaxies, we can only see the forest, but here in the Milky Way, we lose the forest for the trees. This is wonderful if you like studying trees–in this case, stars–but it doesn’t do any good in discovering what makes a forest grow.

Lowering our orbits to more familiar goods, I could argue that lately I’ve been focusing on the trees and forgetting they’re still part of a forest. Yes, I can look at my career goals or my personal goals, the classes I’m taking and the classes I’m waiting to register for, the changes I’m going through and the changes my school and even my country are all undergoing–and I can look at them and measure their height and their rings and know them intimately, but it doesn’t help me bring them all into a focus for what they are–elements of a whole, not separate wholes vying for gravitational dominance.

I got to thinking further that I haven’t yet reevaluated my goals this month, although at this point, my main task is to keep forming habits to ingrain these actions more deeply into my life. Healthy eating, exercise, better sleeping practices and staying current with my journalling–all of these things, despite how much (or in some cases these last few weeks, how little) I do them, they’re still somehow forsaking the forest for the trees.

All of this can essentially be traced back to the conversation I had this morning and in particular to two questions: What am I doing with my life? And what do I love to do?

By conjecture, a third: Why am I not doing what I love to do?

If these questions had easy answers, they wouldn’t need asking. Of course, finding these answers isn’t going to be easy or quick, and certainly it’s impractical to think I could answer them before concluding this post. However, I can at least conclude with something substantial, if still small: Consider, for a moment, what you would do if nothing else in the world were there to stop you, and then answer this: Why don’t you do it? Try to list twenty reasons why you shouldn’t–and then see how many more reasons you can list why you should.

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One thought on “Seeing the Stars Through the Leaves

  1. I think you _are_ doing what you love to do, which often comes down to _trying to do what you think you love, even if failing at it_. I’ve had a letter to you about this drafted for quite some time, and who knows — it might very well bring your search for answers some advancements. You’ll be hearing from me soon — or so I hope.

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