Do you remember when you were in elementary school? Every year when school started your teacher would make you write an essay about what you did over the summer. Mine usually said something like I played and read a lot. My friend usually went to Disneyland, to King’s Island, or to relatives’ houses. I always just played and read and swam in the pond in our front yard.
If I had to write an essay about what I did over spring break, it would say:
For my spring break, I felt alive. I felt more alive than I have in months. Everyday I walked three or four miles with my dogs. I walked in the morning just as the temperature was turning toward spring and just as the sun was coming up above the bridge over Martin Luther King Blvd. I saw the mergansers, wood ducks, blue herons, and Canadian geese as the snow thawed into the lake, as the lake spilled into the river, as the basketball stayed suspended by the pressure of the water just west of the dam. I saw some hawks and an accidental cardinal, too. The fog billowed up from the brown churning water as the train passed overhead on the trestle that groaned and squealed with the weight of its load. Everyday I read a little bit: the newspaper, The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu, The New York Times Book Review, other random books, and the journal of the Pop Culture Association. Everyday I learned more about who I want to be and more about who I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be strapped to this place, this life, this path. I want to move, to breathe, to be carefree and contemplative, not giving a damn whether my ideas pass rank for journals, professors, conferences. I want to just be for the sake of being instead of being for someone else. I don’t want to HAVE to work. I want to be able to be occupied by life instead of being imprisoned by life. I learned that life is about what you make of it, not about what other people of it for you. I feel like I live my life for the sake of others’ expectations and sometimes those expectations are too high. I want to be able to walk around the land and fall in love the idea of being alive, but there is always a deadline. There is always a time when things have to be done. There is always a constraint. I just want to live indefinitely, with no boundaries. For my spring break, I became restless.
Every year, when I was little, I wrote the same essay. Every once in a while I would toss in a variation about playing softball or going to summer school, but my general essay remained the same. I played. I read. I swam. I played some more. I always got an A. Maybe it would have been helpful if someone would have said to me then:
You will never be settled, so don’t settle down. You may be entirely happy, but you will never be settled. When you are in your thirties, you will long to play. You will long to read. You will long to swim. You will be content but never complacent. You will never stop moving in your soul. You will always be restless. Never settle.