When I haven’t written in awhile, I like to begin a post with where I am, and what I’m doing. It centers me, it gives me a place to start. It sets the scene.
And while I wish I could be reporting in from some exotic place (or, Europe, which is still quite exotic in my mind), I’m where I usually am at this time of the year. Sitting at my kitchen table, the one that’s covered with a bright yellow table cloth. There’s a dill plant on the table that my mom gave me this past weekend (so if any of you have recipes you love that feature dill, I’d love for you to share them!). Playing on Spotify is Phoebe Bridgers’s album, Stranger in the Alps, and I’m eating some crackers and cheese and drinking a glass of seltzer with lime.
What else can I tell you? It’s 6:15pm and the sun is shining and it’s so nice to have these longer hours of daylight, and the approach of a warm spring. It’s been a slow approach, and not consistently warm yet, but I think those days are right around the corner.
It feels as though so much is right around the corner, and that’s a good feeling. Two weeks ago I took a small trip to the mountains of Virginia, where I hiked and explored and did a little writing and took stock of the first three months of the year. And then I thought about what the focus of the next few months would be about, and all of a sudden it felt like time was moving quickly. Even though work is busy and my days feel full and I can’t wait until I head off to Europe in mid-June, I also want to slow time. Not the days, necessarily, but the years. I want to slow down the years.
Where am I heading with this? I don’t know. Today, a student I work with was telling me how much trouble she’s having about choosing between two colleges. “Why can’t someone just decide for me?” she said.
I looked at her. “Because it’s the first really big decision that you have to make on your own. It’s practice for life, in a way. Because actually, besides loss, I think that’s one of the hardest things about life. You have your one life, and you have to figure out what you’re going to do with it. You’ve got to make decisions about which direction to take and no one does it for you.”
She buried her head on the couch and I heard her muffled voice from under the pillow. “Why if I choose wrong? It’s so hard because I don’t get this time back. And I don’t want to waste it.”
We don’t get time back. Maybe this is one of the hardest things about life, too. I think about this a lot, with where I am in my life, with the things I want to do, with what I want for myself. I want to be doing exactly what I’m doing now: working with kids and living in my beautiful neighborhood and visiting my friends and family and traveling in the summers and writing in the evenings at my kitchen table. And, also, I want to live in a tiny attic apartment in Paris and buy a baguette every day from the corner boulangerie and write a novel. And, also, I want to be married and raise a child and buy a small home somewhere close to the woods and a lake.
And I want to hike the Appalachian Trail (maybe). And I want to see a giant panda in China. And I want to live in Maine. And I want to set up a darkroom and develop pictures and have exhibits in local cafes and galleries. And I want to have dinner parties and children’s birthday parties. And I want a garden. And I want a yard with a magnolia tree.
Sometimes it feels like to chose any one of these things means to give up another. Sometimes I think I have the time to do everything. Sometimes I worry that it’s already too late.
I don’t have much regret with the choices I’ve made so far in my life, but what does sometimes keep me up at night is the thought that my time is so precious. It’s so, so precious. I like what I’m doing and how I’m living but there is always a voice whispering, “And what else? And what else? And when? And when?”
I don’t have any big changes just on the horizon, but I also know that time does not wait for me. I have to make my choices even if it means that one choice might eliminate another. I have to make my choices because one choice might lead to another. I have to make my choices because time marches on, and the years in my one life slide by, and slide by, and slide by.
The years slide by, but to have this time at all is such a gift. What a beautiful thing, to get to make choices in my life. To be free, to have an education, a roof over my head and crackers and cheese on the table before me. To get to choose my direction, to have so many choices.
So, happy spring my friends, here’s to another season, the one that ushers in new life and growth. Let’s make our choices, and see where they take us.
Christian Meermann says
I think it was Miles Davies who once said that when improvising, whether the current note is a wrong is decided by the following note. I believe this is true for life as well. This means that we can determine the “correctness” of our current decisions with our future decisions – which is why there absolutely no need to fear making decisions at all.
Miles Davis said much more eloquently, but I hope I could bring the point across.
Argh… I so suck at proofreading my own texts… please add the word “is” wherever you feel it is appropriate – twice. 🤦🏻♂️
Christian I really love this sentiment, and thinking in this way might help me feel less fear about making choices and decisions… I’m still turning this all over in my head, but I really love it, thank you.
I love this post 🙂
I’m so happy that you do, and to be honest I wrote the post and then for some reason hesitated to publish it (when I wrote it, I kind of felt like I was rambling and talking about the same sorts of things that I always do). But then, as always, I said to myself- “Maybe others can relate” which is almost the entire reason that I publish anything I write. Thank you 🙂
So glad you ended up publishing it 🙂
Scott Robinette says
This is beautiful.
Nicole Nicky Pitman says
“The years slide by, but to have this time at all is such a gift. What a beautiful thing, to get to make choices in my life. To be free, to have an education, a roof over my head and crackers and cheese on the table before me. To get to choose my direction, to have so many choices.” Yes!!!
Thanks Nicky… I need to remember this, whenever I’m feeling weighed down or sad or uncertain about life. That- truly- I’m in an incredible and wonderful position to have any choice at all. I never want to take that for granted!
One of my favourite poets, Mary Oliver, writes: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?”
Your post made me think of that!
I really love this poem, and others by her. Thank you for reminding me of these beautiful words!
The day's work says
Love this, thanks for sharing and beautiful photos too 💛
What Christian Meermann says about Miles Davis makes perfect sense to me. Our improvisation teacher used to say (referring to the piano keys): “We have far more friends than we think!” I.e. you may think for an instant you have hit the “wrong” key because it sounds dissonant, but it depends on how you continue whether this will feel like a mistake or whether you can integrate it into an overall musical pattern that makes sense.
beth jusino says
“You have your one life, and you have to figure out what you’re going to do with it. You’ve got to make decisions about which direction to take and no one does it for you.” Yep. And if you’re lucky, even though you may wonder about the road not taken, you’ll spend more time savoring the magical moments in the road you chose. Well said,