Monday, April 20, 2009

Sucking, Marrow and Other Musings

Henry David Thoreau, in his near-perfect (and sometimes dull and oftimes perceptive and idealistic and occasionally silly) Walden said:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

I read these words from Walden at 22--an age fraught with idealistic dreams and fantastical notions. (OK, honesty forces me to admit that, like most English majors, I didn't exactly read all of Walden. Now that I've revealed myself for the fraud that I am, please do read on.) At that time in my life I licked every bit of it up. Transcendentalists were my collegiate mind's food. I wanted to suck marrow from life! I wanted to live deliberately! I recall that my primary goal for the entirety of my future was to, "live life authentically."

A college degree, countless hours of teaching, neverending student loan (and other) payments later and I sometimes ask myself this: am I living deliberately any more? Are those aspects of life which matter most to me actually a part of my daily life? And, teacher Rookie, being the assessment master that she is, currently doles out a big fat F for herself.

I am sucking it up. Big time. And I have no idea how to stop (or start) this life I'm living.

In my defense (excuse), every grown up person knows that reality and idealism do not make for good bed fellows. And while it may be fallacious in nature, it seems that either/or really is the only option here. So here I am, left wondering who do I kill off? The liberated idealist? The realistic responsible one? Slowly but surely, a bowl of Cheerios in the morning and a credit score over 750 win out. Is this what happens to everyone? Is this just the way it is-- a natural (albeit bumpy) transition into adulthood? Is it true that each day a little piece of idealism dies in the entirety of the adult human population? Because man does that just *suck!

*Dear reader, please forgive my propensity toward the word "suck" in this particular post.

And while I loved Thoreau in college, his words from a supposed simpler time nearly two centuries ago speak to me more now than they did then. After all, Henry David was in his 30's when he wrote Walden--not mere coincidence. Perhaps the late 20's-early 30's are a time for questioning ourselves, our motives, our lives. Perhaps it is not all bad to let the idealist get a dose of reality and wither into oblivion (or continue on, turning you into a perpetual bachelor (ermm...momma's boy) with a crush on your teacher's wife and nothing to your name but a stupid flute).

Perhaps I need to revisit my life's goals, redefine what an authentic life looks like.

So I'll begin again, John Lennon, in one of many perceptive musical masterpieces, is quoted as saying:

Life is what happens to you when you're making other plans.

And there's nothing inauthentic about that.

This image has very little to do with much of anything, other than it made me laugh and described how I feel most of the time whilst figuring out my life.


Rie Pie said...

YOU QUOTED JOHN LENNON. I'm sorry, but I love him and I just had to make note of that.

Where do we start if we feel as though we are already living, but we want to do it differently...

Jen said...


(As usual, you have hit the nail on the head. Cheerios and credit score! I don't think you can be clearer than that.)

Beeswax said...

I've been thinking about this exact thing since I finished reading MARCH by Geraldine Brooks. Her premise is that even the actual Transcendentalists could become disillusioned by the realities of Civil War. Which makes sense to me. If you spend all your time hanging about ponds, it seems easier to marrow-suck than if you must deal with the old people at Costco. (Or teens in assemblies).