the stark light of day
pales in comparison
to the warm glow
of the past
where i can get lost
in the alcoves of memory
and drunk off of
retold stories and oral histories
fading to purity over time –
by a powerful river
the stark light of day
i was told i’d yearn
for the purple shadows
melting onto the lawn
i was told that four years
would go by in four minutes
unless i hold on
clutching the reigns of time
dragged along at its heels
i yelp to slow down – unanswered
as i sit under the elms
bathed in moonlit grey
four is not enough
each little infinity
a piecemeal heaven
“oh thomas, please let me stay here”
we beg to Your many shrines
and to Your geometric altar of brick
Your greatest legacy –
a rectangle of grass –
penned in by america’s future
in the eye of the hurricane
the silence is deafening
In those sacred rides —
Myself and the universe
Packed in one tiny car
I beg to get hit
By a truck
And die quickly
So I could write
Cracking on the windshield
A defenseless insect
Left to be devoured”
But that truck never comes
And I go on
Fluttering down the highway
In certain half-deserted lots
A yellow beacon shines
Yearning for rest
Filling their gaping maws
With oiled substitutes
Smothered covered and capped
Birds with broken wings
Roost on the pews
Of the greasy altar
Seek the lighthouse
Tossed and battered onto the rocks
“Bring me your tired huddled masses”
And they come to her syrupy call
What will the future look like? Judging from my own research, the future will allow for more freedom while also forcing people to define themselves independently of their roots. The trends suggest that humanity will grow increasingly connected through loose ties. People look to become more individualistic and more mobile while many of the Western world’s foundational structures will be drastically altered.
My generation, the oft-hated Millenials, has grown up in a time of constant change. America has seen a drastic shift towards free-agent work as well as a cultural shift towards a society rooted in creativity. Our economy is moving “from an older corporate-centered system defined by large companies to a more people-driven one”. As our economy shifts towards the individual, society grows increasingly mobile. Shigehiro Oishi, one of my proffesors, has explored this growing residential mobility and has found that increasingly mobile, “rootless” people are more ego-centric and that in a residentially mobile, modern society “individuals come first and… society comes second”. On the extreme end of the “rootlessness” spectrum, extremely mobile people whose lives are “in the transit lounge” such as Pico Iyer find difficulty without a set societal hierarchy. They may find that their constantly shifting environment makes it difficult to tell who their true self is when they’re constantly performing the role of ‘foreigner’. Iyer encapsulates this problem when he writes “I have a wardrobe of selves from which to choose”.
I often run into the same problem as Iyer. In an effort to fit in, I put on a different identity depending on the situation. The downside of being a sort of social cuttlefish like this is that it becomes difficult to tell which self is actually you and which is just a reflection of your environment. In a way we’re all reflections of our surroundings to an extent, but it becomes even more pronounced when you find yourself acting in a way that the real me would never act. I was partly drawn to fashion because my physical wardrobe became a lab in which I could try on different subcultures – preppy, punk, futuristic – and see which ones I was comfortable in.
It seems modern society rejects the supremacy of the past and has begun to critically evaluate itself. First, people have started to shift away from the idea of company loyalty and have begun to evaluate their own career needs and desires. In my lifetime, I’ve seen this self-centric career ideology manifested in the rise of the Passion Hypothesis for finding a career. Countless times I’ve heard speeches given on “following your passion”, “chasing your dreams”, etc. and most of the time the speakers neglect to tell how one should go about finding a job they can be passionate about. The common formula now is “Passion + Desire = Happiness” when the real formula is more like “Passion + Years of cultivating human capital = Happiness.” With the rise in free agency in America, a fundamental characteristic of “life today is that we strive to create our own identities”. I think there will soon be an increased focus on how to create our own identities and finding (or creating) jobs that fit within those renewed selves.
I recently attended a panel that discussed finding careers in the arts sector and each person preached that many jobs today have to be made and not found. The Creative Class in the United States is larger than the traditional working class and has experienced rapid growth recently – in “1980 alone it has more than doubled” (Florida 9). This Class is set to continue its rapid growth to provide many of the jobs for my generation. As we look towards the future, we must begin to prepare now for jobs that may not even exist yet. I believe that finding the “perfect job” for many people requires constant acquisition of human capital as well as being in a place that fosters creative growth.
In my personal life, I’m having difficulty sifting through my feelings on the future. In this era of rapid growth and change, I feel that I’m unable to rely on the same methods employed by people before me to find happiness and job security. I’d like to find a job in the Creative Class, but this class seems to change itself overnight. As the world spins round and round, I feel I’m trapped in the eye of a hurricane trying to prepare myself to weather the storm. I relentlessly pursue human capital and form loose ties in the hopes that they’ll help me in a residentially mobile world. The economic foundations of the Western world are changing shape and I’m trying to find out where I’ll fit in once the new system is in place. While the world changes, I stay rooted here in Charlottesville.
As Iyer writes, “Unfamiliarity, in any form, breeds content.” Looking towards next year when I’ll travel to an unfamiliar land, I already long to be rooted again. So here I sit, not circling around the baggage carousel “waiting to be claimed”, but rather, sitting still while the world seems to spin around me.
A future defined by individuals is both liberating and terrifying. It is liberating in that an individual is defined by his or her own effort and his or her own sense of self. In this type of future, an individual isn’t dependent on a company to be happy or successful, yet, this future is also terrifying because one’s success is dependent on their own effort. In an individualistic future, if you fail then you fail. Without being tied to the safety nets of tradition and rootedness, every accomplishment and every failure is your own. You’re free to take on whatever form you’d like, but you run the risk of not knowing which form is the true one. I look forward to further exploring who I am and how I will continue to define myself in this new society.
I was told I’d grow to long for the growing purple shadows on the Lawn and that I’d find a 2nd family and that by Christmas I’d be calling this place home. As I reach the halfway point of my first semester here I begin to reflect on if these promises would hold true. I’m happy to report that they have. I lay on the perfectly kept grass of the lawn and see that this place is a prism. Thousands of disparate beams follow their trajectory and are refracted through this place and sent out in a new direction. I see a small girl, chasing after dancing leaves as her parents slowly trudge along behind. The mother, her left hand cocked against her hip for support, lilting under the weight held inside her stomach. As the girl grows tired, her father swings her up and places her on her shoulders. She raises her arms and gives a yelp – a battle cry of a tiny warrior riding her chariot.
I see a couple that doesn’t yet know they are. They toss a football under the elms.
I lay in the middle. I sit in the prism watching the beams bounce around me and change shape. A cold wind blows and snaps me out of my musings. Thankfully the wind reminds me to take a trip out of my mind every now and then.
Breathe. Breathe. I live in my mind too much. It’s cozy in there and I can rearrange memories and can pick and choose what version of reality to inhabit.
I think I love this place, but I don’t know if I’m actually in love with it or in love with the idea of it. I’ve always had a problem that. Why do I write this? I’m not sure. I like to think of this musings as mental milestones – relics of how I approached life in a certain time period.
The sun has been stripped of its brilliance
Dismantled, repackaged and sold to the hungry
Gaping maws perched atop lukewarm bodies
Endless winters have found their ends
We bear our flames and hide from the cold
For our gods have abandoned us
Erect statues of dethroned kings
Preside over their own legacies
As they grumble for a new taste of blood
I come from a patchwork quilt
Stitched together by national loyalties
Quartered by concrete veins
Caravans of iron chariots
Smuggling their green gold
To desolate islands of consumption
My home is a cloud of nostalgia
Filled by unconscious ignorance
A crowded stage
Brimming with manufactured authenticism
Yearning for an author to weave them together
Into a cohesive arc.
Red crimson blocks
Furnish a home for which
None live but whom many dream of
An open door
Beckoning the huddled masses
To the bonfire
A public inferno
An altar to knowledge
And the potential of the everyman
How you have left us
Your hope and your home
We are your slaves
Great men creak up
From the grave,
Pass us the torch
Holding ghosts of
VE RI TAS
You untouchable goddess
Hiding from the virginal minds
Craving rest upon your bosom.
Today, along with ~3,200 hopeful students across the world, I wasn’t accepted into Princeton. When looking at other people’s problems, we have a tendency to diminish their effects on the person. While this isn’t the world for me or for the other applicants, it can still be difficult to feel as if your future has been swept out from under you. For me, I’ve had my heart set on Princeton since touring it in June. So for six months I’ve hoped to be able to call it home, but now it seems that I won’t be able to.
A key part of accepting rejection is by approaching it differently. I’m trying to view my rejection not as a lost opportunity, but as a sign that I should look somewhere else. In my mind, I view colleges like travel destinations. Imagine you’re standing in an airport and someone says gives you a free ride ticket to any destination you choose. How do you go about choosing where to go?
While there are certainly travel destinations that are worse than others (I don’t imagine I’ll be taking a family trip to Damascus anytime soon), once you get to the top there really isn’t a way to go wrong. If Princeton was Reykjavik, Georgetown was Paris, Auburn was Vienna, Alabama was London… how do you choose between them?
So, upon reflection, I’ve come to be grateful that my future has been made clearer. While my original flight has been cancelled, I’m now able to pack my bags and get going towards a new destination. Paris here I come.
I notice common themes emerging from my writings. I’ve been putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) more often lately and it has revealed that my mind is not as scattered as I once believed. The most prevalent themes that I’ve noticed are of existential satisfaction, future anxiety, minimalism, and need for specialization. As Camus writes, artist only say one thing in various ways their whole lives. I wonder what my message to the world will end up being. Will it be in the form of photos or words or business or what? I don’t know. Perhaps one’s impact only emerges after their passing. “In order to see the bottom of the pond, you must first let the water settle.”
I read the other day about the diaries of Michael Palin, one of the Monty Python creators. He talked about how time transforms the past and can give meaning to once pointless and scattered entries. Time gives an arc to the stories of our lives and journaling is my way of giving time background info.
|16||L’appel du Vide|
|31||Our Mobile Future|
|19||Living in the Prism|
|7||On Finding a Home|
|5||eating an elephant|
|5||Living a fifth-life crisis|