living or surviving

Saturday, April 15, 2017

As many of you know, I'm currently penning the first draft of my first novel, entitled In Between. Admittedly, the title was inspired by a Ben Rector song (typical me). One of the lines of the song reads, "Life is not the mountaintops / it's the walking in between." This line has become a mantra of sorts. I hate monotony, and, as you read in my last post, my goal for this year is to carry a sense of wonder with me wherever I go, even in the monotony.

Despite my resolution and an entire novel with the theme of relishing the "in-betweens," most of the time I still can't find it in myself to appreciate them. I think this is mostly because, no matter how hard I try to break them, there are certain societal boundaries that simply can't be overcome. For instance, I can't travel the world for a living or live in a tiny town and never make any contact with the outside world. Instead, I'm expected to go to college, earn a useful degree, and become a productive member of American society. Because I haven't found a way to escape these expectations, I must succumb to them. As a result, the so-called "mountaintops" in life -- college, the publication of my future novel, marriage, children -- don't seem so attractive; and life's "in-betweens" seem all the more monotonous and unattractive because I don't see much use to them. Ideally, I'd like to buy an old VW minibus and roadtrip for the rest of my life, but since I can't, I have to settle for less. It's the idea of my impending settling for less, I think, that makes it so difficult to live out the betweens with vivacity. Because, really, when you're forced to succumb to such expectations, living becomes surviving.

I know that as we get older we have to make ends meet. I know that most things in life are not free, and we have to work to earn money so we can eat and drink and survive But at the same time, I can't help looking at the way things are and thinking to myself, this is not how life is supposed to be.

This is what I've been struggling with for the past three months, and I hope you'll forgive my absence. I just feel like no matter what I do, I'm settling. It's as if the realm of live I'm reaching for is another world entirely, and I can't get there unless I create it myself. I want to discover the art of living. I want to discover new ideas and perspectives and cultures every day, and I want to write down what I find and share it with the world. And maybe, if I say it just the right way, I can make people understand the importance of stepping outside of yourself and discovering what is beyond.

Is it selfish to desire a life that is inherently different than that of every other human being? In the life I'm living, I feel more like a bystander than an active member, and I want more than that. Is that so wrong?

I guess what I'm trying to communicate is that life is still a quest for wonder, but I'm seeing now that wonder is harder to find than I first imagined. We cannot find it in the everyday moments unless those moments are leading up to something greater, something that matters to us. Somewhere during this journey of mine, the mountaintops became flat and flat places became holes, and it is becoming harder and harder to move. My feet are stuck in mud or quicksand or something similar. The things I've been able to find meaning in, like literature and music and meeting new people, are the things that people say you can't make a life out of, and that doesn't seem fair to me.

I guess, ultimately, I'm confused as to when life got packaged into such uniform boxes and sold to the public. When did we stop creating our own lives? When did we decide it was okay to let society dictate what we can and cannot do? When did living become surviving?