If you need a reminder that there is good in the world, here it is.
You are alive. You are breathing. Inhale. Exhale. The world is moving, changing, transforming – and so are you.
This moment, right now, is the present. This is a moment you will forget in less than a minute. This is a moment you will never have again.
Yet we don’t miss these moments until they start adding up. And then we remember those days that we’ve begun calling “the past”. The past is a beautiful place to visit. It reminds you of the mistakes you’ve made and the suffering you’ve endured, but it is also a testimony to your strength and endurance. The cuts and bruises have healed, and you have risen up from the dust even mightier than before, eyes clear and bright. Your old friend Nostalgia comes for a visit and knocks on your front door. You answer with welcoming arms.
By this time, you’ve probably forgotten that moment. Well, that’s okay, because you have many more ahead of you. Moments when you will feel complete bliss, absolute tranquility, and unadulterated happiness. Moments when you think about how wonderful life has been to you and how your search for purpose never really ends but continues to grow, higher and higher and higher. This is your future. This is what lies ahead. It’s waiting for you. You just have to reach out and grab it.
I sift through the words as if mining for gold,
watching the coarse sand slip between my fingertips
and concentrating on the continuous flow of grainy letters.
The occasional precious stone grazes past, leaving
a light mark on my knuckle as if to proudly proclaim
“I was here.”
Closing my fist before it has a chance to escape,
I hold on so tightly that I am numb to the red rivers
flowing down the lifelines of my palm in tortuous streaks.
Each rock, sharp and uncut, falls beneath my skilled fingers
and I chip away at the edges, one atom at a time,
until an iridescent shine gleams from its smooth surface,
a labor of lucent love cradled in my calloused hands.
I did it. I wrote a 50,000 word novel in less than 30 days.
After attempting NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2012 and failing, I wasn’t hoping for much better this year. But excuses are lethal, so I banished them from my mind. From now until the last day of the month, I will write everyday, I told myself on the first of November. And I did. Some days were terrible – coming home exhausted from school and hours of homework later, the last thing I wanted to do was rack my brain for the right words. On those days, my writing was less than adequate, and I had strong desires to press the backspace key and watch those hideous words disappear from the screen. Delete and start over again. But I knew I had already lost control of my story about five chapters in.
That turned out to be a good thing. I’m the kind of writer who can spend hours on one page, perfecting it down to the smallest details. The elusive adjective that seems just out of grasp will be mine. But NaNoWriMo doesn’t operate with that kind of writing pace. In November, I had to toss out all my preconceived notions about writing to compete in the race against time. Don’t like that line of dialogue? Improvise and move on. Using that verb way too often in one section? Come back and change it after you’ve finished your novel.
I found out that quality and quantity are not exclusive. There were also days when I pounded out words at the speed of light, producing a chapter in the time it usually took me to write one paragraph. The sentences flowed smoothly, the characters came alive, and I wanted to keep going to see where the story would take me next, perpetuated by the continuous clacking of my fingers on the keyboard. Sure, these moments only accounted for about 10% of the time I spent on my novel-writing spree, but they were moments that I most likely wouldn’t have experienced if I hadn’t trudged through that other 90%.
It is now December and my novel is nowhere near its finished state. But I’m more than okay with that – I haven’t spent enough time with this new world of mine yet.
Here we are again, lying on the ground in the center of Times Square. We stare up at the lights circling above our heads, the illumination of flashing images flushing our cheeks with resplendent color. Footsteps trace the silhouette of our bodies on the asphalt as people walk around us, immersed in the wonder of the city. We marvel at their faces as they pass by, each filled with the same awestruck sensation that we have experienced time and time again. It’s a comforting peace, this unquiet murmur of a million hearts. It’s a resounding thunder that spreads through the city, beating to the rhythm of the perpetual golden hands in Grand Central Station. The marquees light up with your name, and it’s all I can see, the outline of those letters glowing warmly in the fading twilight. They tell a story that has been around since the dawn of the earth, but for some reason, its beauty still overwhelms me every time. An electric current travels through me, flowing from my hand into yours, curling up your spine, and finding a home in the niche between your neck and shoulder. Maybe here is where we will find what we have been searching for all along.
“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
― Kurt Vonnegut
It’s nearing the end of October and the mix of autumn and winter is beginning to emerge in Southern California. My front yard is littered with an array of grungy leaves on patches of slightly yellowing grass and the chilly winds stain my cheeks with red. The gift of each dawn comes wrapped in a light coating of fog, and I can sometimes feel the moisture tickling my skin. Living in a place where the weather is bright and sunny 75% of the year, I’ve learned to welcome the onset of cold, gray mornings and light blue afternoons.
For me, the atmosphere won’t be the only changes in these coming months. November will bring a bundle of little wonders, from the new album releases from my two of my favorite bands, to the premiere of Catching Fire, to my 18th birthday, to the week off school for Thanksgiving. There will be family moments to be treasured and more time to spend with friends after an exhausting week of finals. We’ll be stuffed with food and warm from the inside out. Soon, December will arrive, along with the results from my first college application submission, and I will be crying from joy or disappointment, and everything will be okay either way. We’ll go shopping in the mall and get Christmas songs stuck in our heads for weeks. And on Christmas morning, my little brother’s eyes will light up with excitement as he opens his present, even though he picked it out himself just a few days earlier. On the last day of December, we’ll watch the ball drop in NYC from the screen of our TV and three hours later the clock will strike midnight in California, signaling the beginning of a new year, a catharsis of sorts.
Two months from now, things will have changed, just as they always do.