Two years ago as I prepared to graduate college, a friend’s parting words to me were pursue your writing and nurture your intellect. In the seasons since, her exhortation has stuck with me, entering my thoughts often, sometimes as a whisper and others as a shout. It seemed fitting, then, as 2018 dawned and I formed my goals for the coming year, that the word I chose to guide me was pursue.
When I christened it my word of the year, “pursue” meant “write.” It meant that every Saturday from January to June, I would get up, pack my bag, and trek downtown to the library where I would park myself at a desk for five or six hours and write. This plan lasted six weeks before collapsing beneath the weight of two jobs and changing schedules. For a while, I tried to salvage things, but by mid-March, I had given up, not just on writing day, but on the whole book. I was too tired, too poor, and too overworked to spend my one day off wrestling the emotional equivalent of a pissed-off tiger onto pages I wasn’t even sure I wanted people to read anymore. And who was I to think I could write a memoir at age twenty-three?
So I quit. I ditched writing like I’d ditched the book and sought solace in self-pity and books. But as I read (and wallowed and read, and wallowed and read some more), I began to gain perspective.
It’s not that I did the wrong thing when I set out to draft a memoir in six months. Sure, it was ambitious, but there’s nothing wrong with a little ambition; it motivates you, gets you out of bed and in front of the laptop. The problem came when I forgot the second half of my friend’s advice; in my rush to prove myself as a writer, I’d neglected to nurture my intellect.
Once I realized my mistake, I felt less guilty about the book. I began to see not only that pursue and nurture went hand-in-hand, but also that pursue pertained to more than just writing. Or, more specifically, I understood that my friend’s charge to pursue my writing meant so much more than “sit in a chair and type.”
Pursue meant applying for that job I probably wouldn’t get. Pursue meant saying yes when friends asked if I wanted to join them. Pursue meant closing my laptop every night before bed and reading instead of refreshing Tumblr. It meant quitting a job and sleeping in; it meant driving somewhere new and spending the whole day outside. It meant making my own pizza and experimenting in the kitchen, cleaning out my closet and showing up for friends. It meant reading and reading and reading some more, then changing locations to read even more.
In short, “pursue” came to mean what it should have meant five months ago: LIVE.
As Rainer Maria Rilke puts it in Letters to a Young Poet:
Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!
So no, I’m not writing a book. On Saturdays, I work in a cubicle instead of sit at a desk and write, and I may have done a very dumb thing by quitting a job right before thousands of college students saturate the summer market. But I’m at peace with all of that, because for the first time in a long time, I’m really living. Everything else will work itself out.
Keep encouraged, friends.