An old analog relationship washed up on my digital shores a few weeks back in the form of an old college professor reconnecting via email.
We’d exchanged letters just once, shortly after I made an abrupt decision to leave upstate New York earlier than I’d planned and strike out for New York and whatever came next. My own memory of that time is hazy, it was, after all, over 25 years ago, but if you’d asked me how things were in that space between leaving one place (college, or at least, the town that it was based in) and finding another (my first job-job, and hence, to me, my next potential identity), I would have summarized it as “Hot. Dull? Mostly hot.” (It was, after all, New York City in summer, and the boroughs, and a tumble-down, non-air-conditioned portion of one, at that.)
What a shock, then, to read this letter from my former self, this barely-22-year-old girl who had so much and so little going on at the same time. How had I forgotten how lonely I was, and how scared? And over what? Not having a job for a whole three weeks? Some mishegoss with Citibank? Having to tough it out in a sublet with a friend’s sister that had been pre-arranged before my friend, Dave, drove me from my door in Ithaca to my (temporary) door in Park Slope?
I was scared, though; it’s all there in the letter, between the bravado, heavily shaded in purple. I was, and am, scared to leave one place for another, one perceived harbor for another, with all that scary water in between. I was scared of not succeeding and even more so of “succeeding”, there’s a hilarious line in there about my fear of “the pursuit of money becom(ing) the be-all, end-all of my existence.” As if. (Or even better, “You wish.” I’m just grateful that my smarter, capitalist friend, Vic, explained the Magic of Compound Interest while I was still young enough to benefit somewhat.)
Mostly, though, it was clear that what I was scared of was not fulfilling my potential. I was scared that my writing would deteriorate, or deteriorate further, a re-read of old college essays (yes, I keep them) had proven that my discipline and clarity of thought were already on the decline. Who knows if it that was true? I leave it to my biographers to sort out.
What is clear, clearer now than ever, is that The Resistor, that rat bastard, that cocksucking-boulder-heaver who didn’t have the goddamn courtesy to make himself known until a few years ago, has been shadowing me my entire life, and it’s unlikely he’ll decide to knock off anytime soon. With such an investment? Pfft. Fugeddaboutit. He knows from compound interest, too.
So I will write, I will doubt what I write, and I will continue to write anyway.
I will wish for the next scary thing to appear, and it will, and I will put it in my calendar, prepare as best I can, and show up on the date I’m supposed to with my teeth brushed, my nametag on and my hand outstretched.
I cannot begin to guess what forms change will take, only that it will likely be, as I explained to young Mr. Guillebeau down in Austin, more than I’d bargained for. You prepare by accepting it may be difficult, and you will likely make mistakes, and you will likely learn from them if you survive. (Which, in many cases, is also likely.)
In the meantime, shore up your resources. Preparing for me has been a long, slow, as in “20+ years’ worth of slow”, process of reading, studying, stretching, discarding. I hadn’t realized how big a role the discarding was playing until I stopped: regular upkeep is as much about learning to let go of what no longer serves as it is seeking out what will.
For some, old papers don’t make the cut. They’re not illuminating beyond the realization of how in the dark we once were; they’re artifacts that can be released. (For more on helpful processes of discernment where artifacts are concerned, visit my friend and clutter-busting mentor, Brooks Palmer.)
For me, for now, there are still answers in those papers. Being able to visit my long-ago brain helps me to gain perspective on the journey to date, which provides some direction on the journey ongoing.
As does The Resistor. Because whenever he shows up, I know I’m headed in the right direction…