11 November 2016
Question one: What’s one thing that has happened to you that has made you a stronger person?
It’s no one thing. It’s one fierce ride.
It’s three divorces, two countries, airplanes and suitcases. It’s knowledge of multiple local places, homes that keep shifting and changing until the idea of home doesn’t actually have the same boundaries to the container anymore.
It’s the juxtaposition of age and memory. It’s the flux of interpretation, meaning, and experience. It’s sequential memory, and blocked-out memory. It’s the things I’ll never forget, and the details that evolve and grow up to become more than themselves.
The best part of the question is: what does it mean to have something happen to me? Is it a position I’ve put myself in? Is it the journey of a million deliberate steps? Heidegger has this amazing phrase called “thrownness”. But the only things we are thrown into, against our will, is the relationship with the circumstances surrounding our birth and our death. We don’t control where we are born, and to whom, and where, and what surrounds us. Similarly, we rarely have control over the circumstances of our deaths.
Death has come up in multiple conversations I’ve had recently. Today: death as the only thing we can count on. Last week: the way I say “I’ll try not to die on my trip to the US” instead of “I’ll miss you, and things will happen to both of us while I’m gone. I’m joking, but my jokes are pointing to something deeper that I wish we had the time and space to talk about.”
When I was younger, I was so afraid I would die en route to something, that I wrote letters to my friends and family before every flight I took. New letters each time, to my crushes, to my family, to the people I would leave behind if I died. When the flight was successful, when the trip had finished, when I came back home, I got rid of the letters.
I think there’s only one letter in current existence to be given to someone in the event of my death. It’s in the bottom of someone else’s drawer.
What is one thing that has happened to me that has made me stronger? The confluence of events, in the order and manner in which they have happened. The moment I learned how to understand and articulate my own unique ways of being in the world. The day I found Philosophy. The first day I met failure, and decided it was temporary instead of fatal. The first time I admitted a serious mistake I was ashamed of. The night I stay up later to keep writing, to keep driving, to keep the momentum going, to strengthen the muscles that will collaborate and eventually get me closer to where I’m heading.
The first time I walked out on stage and realised that I was no longer shaking, that I had shaken off all of the stage fright, all of the nerves, set all the butterflies free.
The first time I tried on a new view of my life and it fit like a warm coat.
The moment I realised all of us are more than one thing.
The practice of learning how to bend, not break.
The practice of how to come back from the brink, how to be brought back, how to ask someone else to grab my hand and hold the ground until I can re-gravitate myself back into orbit.