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.

Love is All You Need… Or is It? (Writing 101, Day 3)

I have never been in love.

Some days, this fact about myself makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. In a consumer society where the movies we watch and books we read tell us the most desirable thing a woman can strive for is romance, not having it sometimes makes me feel weak. Open. Insecure.

Singleness is often portrayed as a dreadful thing that women need to get rid of. I love romantic comedies, but how many center on women who are dissatisfied with their relationship status? To be single is to be a failure. If you’re not in a relationship, you’re not desirable enough. You’re not beautiful enough. You’re not smart enough. You are not enough.

What a bunch of crap.

Most days, romantic inexperience doesn’t bother me much. I’ve never felt the desire to date for the sake of dating. When I enter a relationship someday, I want it to be something that lasts. I don’t want to be with someone for the sake of not being alone. I want to be with someone because they fascinate and inspire me.  I want to be with someone who loves me for who I am. In reality, I’ve never actually met anyone I seriously wanted to date. Oh I’ve had crushes.  Lots of them.  But only one person has ever seriously caught my eye and that didn’t even start to go anywhere. That, however, is a story for another day.

When it comes down to it, I love being single. I love making life decisions without needing someone else’s input, worrying about distance, or providing for children. For me, there is a whole world of possibilities. I could move anywhere, do any job, and pursue whatever adventures come my way. Singleness is a unique time in life and I don’t want to spend it moping around.

I do hope to find love eventually, but why detract from the joys of life by buying into lies that I need a man to make me happy? Everyone says it comes when you least expect it. I figure that if I live without expectations of romance, I can enjoy all the wonderful things in my life now. When love comes, it will take me by surprise and will be so much more exciting.

My philosophy on love and dating may not resonate with everyone. Most of my views stream from my deeply rooted faith and security in God. But to go into all the spiritual aspects of my reasoning would be crossing into waters I tend to avoid in the blogosphere. (Maybe I’ll write about why I don’t talk about my faith much someday. I’ll add that to the list of post ideas.) Anyway, if my words don’t fit your perspective or worldview, that is okay. We’re all different. As the phrase goes, “You do you.”

The truth is, though, culture is wrong. You don’t need romance, dates, or sex to live a fulfilling life.

Falling in love? Maybe someday. Until then, I am enough.

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