I don’t know how many stressed and caffeine-pumped college students have lived within these walls, on the third story overlooking the development and the river, but for these four months, they’re mine.
Encased in brick, howling when the winds weave themselves through the cracks and gaps and under the door. In through the windowpanes. Seeping into the vents. There’s no shortage of fresh air in this old apartment building. Surprisingly, the door to the balcony remains on its hinges and the screens are still in the windows.
The matted tan carpet speaks of ages of feet pounding down little tufts of once-soft raggedy yarn. A sloppy paint job tries to freshen up old drywall. Bugs keep me company. Stinkbugs. House centipedes. House flies, only a couple of those.
When the wind is still, the laundry machines aren’t shrieking in their nest down the hall (as they are now – with my laundry), the neighbors aren’t laughing or screaming or vacuuming, and no planes are roaring by in the sky… it’s silent here.
So I turn on the bathroom fan and listen to it whir in the background.
Through the night. And the day. Sometimes I play music to fill the silence. But eventually music loses its touch.
These walls held me when no one else could. They were the place I came home to. The place I wanted to be.
Remember starting a class or even a whole college career deeply excited about your area of interest? Some kids know where they want to go in life and what makes them tick before they even step into a post-secondary classroom. They’re ready to wrestle knowledge into submission and give their all to their chosen subject. Then, invariably, structured education gets in their way.
I started college knowing what I wanted to do. “Video and writing,” I told my advisor, every semester. I finished college with an increased appreciation for how much I disliked all the things I never got into because—surprise surprise—I really wasn’t interested in them. Undergraduate college is designed to give students a “broad educational foundation,” which it does. But by the time they begin college, a good number of students are mature enough to specialize.
“Education is about readiness for life, or to put it differently, education is about knowing what you need to know to live how you want to live.” – Joshua Spell
Real education is revelation. It’s uplifting, enchanting, fulfilling. It’s not a list of assignments, not motivated by a desire to please, not a burden. Real education is driven by curiosity. In the long term, self-driven education is the only kind there is.
As an undergraduate, I commuted to college and was able to maintain some distance between work and home. Now that I live on campus, these two worlds are increasingly intertwined. Emails flow in at all hours on a multitude of projects. Peers must be communicated with or progress stalls. Some people really never turn their phone off. They allow themselves to be interrupted constantly from whatever it is they’re doing, thinking, even saying. This kills writing.
To write, one must be solitary. Alone with a pen and a story, and alone with nothing to do but wonder about your characters and think of the tales you have to tell. Social media and other phone-based gadgets have become space-fillers. Once upon a time (15 years ago), people had blank space in their lives. Waiting in line. Riding a bus. Watching a pot that won’t boil. Those blank spaces are when the mind gets back in touch with itself, and starts wandering through stories. They’re important for writing.
Writers shouldn’t be alone all the time or even most of the time, but they need to have time to process ideas. If you don’t have it, make it. Take a moment to unhook and unwind, and consider what’s important to you. Then, write about it!
College has a way of messing with your writing life. Classes and encounters with people of differing opinions give writers a rich palette to draw from, while homework encroaching on all sides makes it difficult to sit down and put words on the page of a non-required document.
Writers need to be up and about, among people, interacting with the world. But to really be too busy is death to a writer. Too much stimulus and no time to process results in many good ideas that are never allowed to develop into stories. There’s a balance somewhere between being a hermit who writes all day every day (could anyone manage that without going insane?) and being so busy all the time that to write is to choose to let something important fall by the wayside.
We all have time for what we really want to do. Make writing a part of your day, and let something else go, if it’s that important to you. If it’s not, get out there and enjoy life! Maybe a memoir is more up your alley.
I once read that the terror of stage fright doesn’t go away with practice. You just get very comfortable with being terrified. Butterflies, sweaty palms, all of it. Practice makes you able to function despite fear.
Loneliness is like that.
Move away for the first time and live alone. Wake up alone. Go to sleep alone. Experience chronic loneliness like never before. And you do get used to it. Eventually you don’t notice it so much. You function despite it. Until, one day, you find your way home, and that’s when you realize how you’ve been aching all along.
Lonely becomes normal. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
They say travel changes you. Maybe it does, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it just puts the same old you in a different light.
Some people travel to chase their dreams. Some stay put and do the same. Some are just running, and they don’t realize it for a long, long time.
Dreams aren’t for chasing. They’re for living. They’re not big nebulous things like clouds, up in the sky and floating around with rainbows and sunshine. They’re daisies you pick one at a time, in manageable little steps, to make a bouquet.
Dream chasers have the right idea, but they’re always running. Dream catchers are doers who take the small steps, building castles one brick at a time. They get where they’re going.