There is Always More to Learn (Writing 101, Day 5)

My younger brother recently turned twenty. On his birthday, we jokingly pointed out, “You’re not a teenager anymore, Sam. You no longer know anything.”

It’s amazing how age and study decrease your sense of importance.

Recently, I graduated from college and, if I learned anything in my four years at the University of Minnesota, Morris, it was that I am incredibly small. There is so much, no, too much to know. Even in my area of study, literature and writing, I feel like I know nothing.

If I decided to get a doctorate in literature, accumulating deep knowledge of texts and cultures from times gone by, it would take the majority of my twenties. Even then, my knowledge would be limited to a single subject—Victorian novels, Renaissance drama, Romantic poetry. I could study for years and years and barely scratch the surface… and that is in my field!

There are so many avenues I wish I could have visited in college. If I could go back, I’d up my Communication minor to a major and take as many rhetoric classes as possible. I’d insert a minor in Art History just because I love the subject. I’d delve into more History classes. I’d take another course in Gender, Women, Sexuality Studies, simply because the topic is culturally relevant and fascinating.

But college is over. Maybe I’ll go to graduate school someday, but that’s at least three years down the road.

Education truly is a gift. Through it, you learn how small you are. You learn that your point of view is one of millions. You learn to empathize with those who are different from you.

But academia is only one kind of knowledge. Now that I’m out of school, it’s time to pursue other studies—how to be a responsible adult, how to be good to my family, how to blog well, how to keep strong in my faith, how to take joy in every day. The biggest lesson is learning what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.

The beauty of education is that it really never stops. Inside or out of the classroom, there is still so much to learn.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

The Marrow of Life (Writing 101, Day 4)

Henry David Thoreau once wrote:

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 did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.

I haven’t read beyond the first chapter of Walden, but I’ve been to Walden Pond.  I saw the place Thoreau built his little cabin.  I walked the same paths, put my feet in the same water.  The funny thing about Thoreau’s escape into nature is that he really didn’t go that far.  The pond by which he spent two years is only a couple of miles from Concord.  My friend and I walked there from town.  So, although it made for some beautiful self-reflection, Thoreau wasn’t in any serious danger.  But I digress.

I’m no scholar of Transcendentalism (my focus is actually British literature), but I love what Thoreau gets at here.  He goes to the woods to find what it is to live.  He strips life down to its barest essentials.  He digs deep, gets his hands dirty, and finds what it is to be truly alive.

Have you ever gone to the woods?

When I pose this question, I’m not talking about a stroll through the forest.  Nor am I wondering if you’ve spent two years living as a hermit in the wilderness.

Have you ever, to use Thoreau’s words, sucked the marrow of life?  Have you ever started a journey, forged a relationship, created something with your hands, that made you understand what it feels to be truly alive?

I know that I have tasted the marrow of life.  I have glimpsed life’s bright light.  I have experienced moments of complete wholeness and peace.  But it has always been fleeting.  It is always a taste, always a glimpse, always a moment.

I want to live like Thoreau.  His words aren’t those of someone who is timid.  His words are bold.  He doesn’t want to exist; he wants to thrive.  He wants to cut broadly, shave closely, to drive, to be sturdy, to be strong.

I don’t want to live what is not life.  I want to bask in the simple pleasures of every day.  I want to find work that brings meaning not only to myself, but to others.  Although I wish it to be, I’m starting to realize that life doesn’t have to be large.  It doesn’t have to be filled with excitement and movement to be meaningful.  Thoreau certainly wasn’t having epic adventures as he tended to his garden and walked through the woods.  Richness can be found through simplicity, through solitude, through taking time to be still.

So, dear readers, let’s be like Thoreau.  Let us go to the woods.  Let us suck the marrow of life.  Because what an awful thing it would be to reach the end of our days and discover that we hadn’t lived at all.

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

On blogging and change

It’s time for a haphazard conversation about blogging, life, and change.  I’m not feeling particularly eloquent at the moment, but that’s no reason to not talk with you all.

You know that posting schedule I made at the beginning of the summer?  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t followed it for the past month.  My promised features have completely fallen flat.  Every once in a while, I put out a book review.  But those Thursday posts about my job at an apple orchard?  Those were abandoned by the wayside and I never looked back.

To be fair, I’ve started drafting a couple of book reviews that will hopefully keep me consistent over the next few weeks.  I’ve also been painting a lot lately, which means a new Sketchbook Corner is coming!  Keep an eye out for those over the coming weeks!

You may also remember that, a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I signed up for Blogging 201.  About that… half of the assignment emails remain unread in my inbox.  They just didn’t feel pertinent with my blogging goals.  (Which are relatively nonexistent, despite the fact that the first assignment was to set blogging goals.  But that’s beside the point.)

Still, I’m determined to take advantage of the Blogging University classes and have registered for the BRAND NEW Writing 101.  It starts next week and, from the looks of it, is aimed at helping with posting consistently.  I’m excited to start getting the assignments and engaging more in the WordPress community.  (Which I’ve been pretty dismal at lately.)

I have, however, been tweaking my site’s theme.  I’ve rearranged the widgets–check out the footer at the bottom of the page for some site navigational tools and a glimpse into my Goodreads page.  I also designed a new header, which I’m kind of in love with.  It conveys what I hope this blog is/will become much better than the old one.  It’s easy on the eyes, simple, and hints of possibilities and adventure.

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On a personal note, I’ve started seriously thinking about what adventure to pursue once my orchard job ends in December.  I’m not exactly sure what I want to do (does anyone?), but poking around job listings have started giving me ideas.  I had a conversation with my mom yesterday about a potential local opportunity that got me excited just thinking about.  I’ve also started fantasizing about furniture arrangements and having a kitchen of my own.  I take these as signs that, when the time comes to move out on my own, I’ll be more than ready.

So far, my post-grad life hasn’t been the daring adventure I hoped it would be.  But I’m definitely enjoying the fact that, in a few weeks, I won’t be going back to school for the first time in my life.  And, although my current job isn’t the most thrilling thing in the world, I actually enjoy it a great deal.  When the time comes to do something different, I’m excited to see what adventures crop up–small or big scale.

What changes are going on in your corner of the universe?  (This can be blog or life related.)