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retrospective

Icarus

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Icarus

Isti Mirant Stella (Dec 20)

These people marvel at a star.

Once along this stretch of road an oil truck bucked and rolled and cut a wide broad swath of fire, it left a black trail in the long yellow grass like the jagged scar of a distant surgery or the internal twisting path of a plunging ranula.

We live lives of parallel existences, delineated not by time but by place. Lives that stop and start and continue by geographical location, and when we come back that version of ourselves picks right up where we left off.

Or maybe that’s just me.

This stretch of road is in the center of the American West but this stretch of road looks just like Iceland. It’s only a matter of time before ugly new developments pop up like mushrooms, because I guess there’s nothing more Western than sprawling outward like some kind of unconsidered fungus.

I’ve ridden this stretch of road a hundred times but I’ve never driven it. I’ve never really driven very far at all.

Anyway.

In the mountain valleys the sun sets at noon.

It’s the end of the year and these are days that I spend very carefully. These are the days that time seems to stop, the only time when the in-between space doesn’t feel like both the sentence and the prison, the only time when the in-between space does exactly what it’s supposed to do. I wish I weren't so easily abstracted and distracted by the whole wide wondering world, but I guess there’s a purpose to the manufacture of noise-cancelling headphones and couches hidden in the corner. I want to be left alone in the half-dark where I can sit in interior corners or hide under tables, but I live in a world of 2600 Kelvin light and voices telling me it’s time to come to dinner. Csikszentmihályi hypothesized that the more time you spend in a creative flow state the happier you’ll be, and I too have felt time disappear in obsessive fixation because as I was told once time doesn’t actually exist for creative people.

But time passes, as it always has.

I am perpetually wiped out by emotion. In these twelve months I have had both my highest highs and my lowest lows to a degree I had not thought possible. You always turn into everything you’ve misunderstood and this year was no exception. I miss riding my clunky silver bike on rainy European mornings more than I can express but at least I learned the allure of alliteration and a lot of other things I have not lost yet.

A year ago everything made so much sense, far more sense than I ever could have expected to deserve. And now nothing makes any sense at all. Maybe someday things will make sense again but as Amélie said, “Times are hard for dreamers.” One can only be disappointed so many times before becoming a preemptively disappointed idealist.

Anyway.

I wanted to write this and say that I was hurt. I wanted to write this and say Look At All These Things I’ve Lost. For four months I gained the whole world but within one week in August I was first more and then less than I have ever been. I never could quite get up after being knocked down but that’s what happens when you spend your entire young life getting good grades at school and then all of a sudden you’re not so good anymore.

This year I was delighted. I was elated, I was giddy, I cried at the sky wondering how things were working out so well, I was overcome.

This year I was broken. I was choking, I was crushed, I cried at the sky wondering how things had gone so very very wrong, I was overcome.

But right now I am none of those things. The sun is down and the air is blue and I am standing at the counter putting the dishes away and for once in my life I feel quiet, I feel quiet, it is the end of the year and I can see things as they are.

I am sad and I may be for a long long time. But I have always said I do not regret a single thing that has happened to me. It’s impossible to feel in the moment but tonight I am full of an undeniable sense of faith and I do not know why. I believe in God and I believe that things make sense to Him even when they do not make sense to me. In these days at the end of the year the air clears and I know I was immeasurably blessed so I will take from it what I can.

My dad stood at the sink tonight holding a bouquet of roses tightly in his fist. He laughed to himself as he cut the stems but did not loosen his grip on the thorns. "Makes me appreciate someone else who dealt with thorns,” he said.

This year I have often thought of the myth of Icarus. Of the dangers of both ambition and mediocrity. Because it never was the sun that killed Icarus. Daedalus warned him of the waves just as much as he warned him of flying too close to the sun. And in the end it was the waves that did him in—

This year I had the chance to fly very high but the waves do not have me yet.

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Everything Fits Together

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Everything Fits Together

I'm sitting on the wood steps of my new house. It's been almost a week now since I've come home. Yes I can talk about it and I can tell stories but as I discussed with Josh last night nothing in my mind is settled. I hope it's still processing there in my subconscious behind the scenes cause when I had that FaceTime call with Tammy all I could do was stare at the ceiling and I couldn't say anything, I could hardly even say the words "I Don't Know."

 

 (What can you say after an experience like that?)

 

I came, I saw, I conquered, I freaked out, I conquered again.


I came home.


The reason I'm out here is because the more I tried to put my stuff away in my room, the more I wanted to take a flamethrower to all of it. Who I am now is not who I was in April when I packed up all that stuff. Yes this is my town but I would rather have gone on far far away with a brand new place and brand new things so I could keep moving forward, cause today when I sat in the computer lab the dusty electric scent of the air and the familiar dimmed quality of light felt like whiplash, like I had gone back in time. Not that there was anything wrong with who I was before but you can't have traveled and lived and worked like that and not have become a different person afterwards, and I want to go forward.

 

This summer everything I owned fit in one and a half suitcases and I liked living like that quite a bit. When I carried a shameful amount of stuff out of my storage unit yesterday I vowed to get rid of a third of it. There is no reason one person essentially without a fixed abode should have that much stuff. But as I stand in my whirlwind disaster of a room, throwing clothes and books and paper into the sacrificial pile—should I be getting rid of all that? should I be getting rid of more? Like I said I want to take a flamethrower to everything I own but I know it's no good to burn who you used to be in pursuit of who you're trying to be. Every time I've tried to be something I am not, I learned that I can only be who I am.

 

So what do I throw out? And what do I keep?             

 

When I came home the colors were more vibrant than I ever remember seeing. Today I went up to the mountains and everything smelled like sunlight and dust.

 

Yes Germany was beautiful but I was raised on this stuff.

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I woke up this morning from dreams of Europe just like every other day. I can't believe I've been gone for a week now but things always change so fast. I'm amazed at how quickly the mind can adjust to something, how after only a day or a week or a month a place can seem so known and familiar, or so far away.


This isn't what you were expecting from my Post-IDEO Retrospective. Yeah come talk to me if you want to hear the stories, you know I like to tell them well enough. But this is what's happening now, sitting on the wood porch smelling like summer in the air thinking about who I was and who I am and who I'm going to be.


Like most of us I'm often a nostalgic but I tell you there was a moment at the end of this summer where I stood alone in the white light of my room and saw my life for what it was, a series of overlapping experiences that come and go and are allowed to end. Of course like everyone else I cling to the beautiful things that are gone but for those few hours I was able to let go and see everything fit in its perfect frame of What Is, not What Could Have Been or What Could Be.


This summer I found an artist named David Shrigley on the walls of the modern art museum in München. On that evening standing in the white light his piece came into my mind again, because I think that I get it now—

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