Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Advice to the Bleak-Souled

October is going to be a crazy month.

Some days, I feel completely bleak/desolate, exhausted at every level of being. My creative input and output for September was remarkably low: I finished no books at all last week, though I'm finally getting into Little, Big (John Crowley). I have spent the past month in one very long scene in Orsolya, in which not that much happens under the surface. I need to keep the story moving - but my writing time just keeps dropping...

But I was saying how October is going to be a crazy month. How? Finishing my EA apps is a priority, of course; then there's regular schoolwork, which thankfully is less than it was last year; then various extracurrics (selling raffle tickets for band is going to eat up my weekend afternoons this month); then, finally, my own writing.

I find that I have deficits of both time and energy. Hence the bleakness.


Enough of my complaining.

In Lit we're starting to read Hamlet. ("Starting", I say, because the unit officially started yesterday. In reality I'm already halfway through - our homework for the week is to read the whole play by Friday).

To prepare, my Lit teacher gave us the assignment of getting two people to write us letters of advice, like that which Polonius gave to Laertes:
Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

-Polonius to Laertes, Hamlet I, iii, 55-81

I got letters from my mom and my best friend (Lieutenant Sarcasm). I'm not going to share the actual letters, which are personal, but I'm going to distill the advice here in the hopes that it may help someone else (i.e. EAL later this month, or you [?]).
  • have confidence in yourself - empirical evidence says you don't suck
  • treat yourself well
  • "find beauty and goodness in the simple things" - Mom
  • do fun things - take some risks
  • maintain connections to the people who matter to you

My Lit teacher wrote a letter for the whole class, and I found his words likewise noteworthy:
"[F]ind that problem or question that so entirely engages you that you cannot choose other than to spend the rest of your life trying to answer or solve it."
-Mr. B


What I get out of all this, as it relates to my life at this very moment, is: a lot of stuff is coming at you. You always have ten billion things to do. Everything feels either pointless or overwhelmingly important.

But it's okay. Breathe; the future will keep receding just as you prepare for it. Everything is a liminal moment, everything is a threshold, but you don't have to wait to be happy. The world is a beautiful and fascinating place, you only have to be open to seeing and experiencing that beauty.

I use this image as someone who is not religious:

Lift Up Thine Eyes - Norman Rockwell

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