Whatever I say at this point in the pandemic, it is said with the realization that privilege, luck, and some precautionary measures have all played a role in not yet getting Covid. While the psychological effects of isolation have been different for each and every one of us, introversion played a huge role in my resiliency. This time gave me the final push I needed to embrace who I am – someone who likes people in micro-doses and can be content for long stretches of time on my own. It’s not news to me, but in the past I made an effort to do things and spend time with people with whom I’d simply rather not. I have a partner, a kid away at college, and I’m feeling the quiet desperation of time slipping away. This is all to say that there is no compelling argument for me to be out in the world.
I’ll graduate in three months with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, a few months shy of turning 56. It sounds like a made-up degree, like getting a Doctorate in the Folding of Fitted Sheets or a Bachelor’s in Sleeping at Inappropriate Moments (degrees I also have), but the tuition bill was very, very real. In my twenties I dropped out of grad school midway through a Master’s program in Russian Linguistics. I was haunted by that failure, but even then, I knew it was the right thing to do. Now, just as cognitively I might be deteriorating at the edges, I’m reorienting my entire life in the direction of writing and teaching. The heat is on.
In the middle of everything, my brain chose to give me some clarity of vision. Epiphanies come when we can step away from busy lives, quiet our minds, think about what we keep and what we let go. There’s a lot I’ve decided to stop doing, from consumer practices to volunteering. I’m not sure who I’ll be if I’m not compulsively saying Yes, I’ll do it. I’d like to find out. I’d like to find out how much less I’d purchase if I can’t do it from the comfort of my home with a single click. It’s the uninterrupted focus of the empty nester. Oh? This is who I’ve become? Who do I want to be? And on darker days, is this it?
The funny thing about embracing who I am is that I don’t necessarily want to write about it. I’m enjoying just being and not doing a running commentary on my life. This blog is the only place I’ve done that over the years and it seems, that like the current zeitgeist, it’s turning more and more inward, becoming less and less interesting. Hence, the long periods of time without a new post. I’m not particularly enamored of my own opinions, at least not enough to foist them upon you. So what to write about?
Perhaps curiosity will be my guide. I keep thinking about Socrates’ description of the mind being like an aviary full of birds, with each bird representing some piece of knowledge that we snatch out of the air as we need it. The thing about birds though is that they flourish best when outside of a cage or else the only knowledge one will have is that which is in the cage – in current parlance, an echo chamber. It is maybe the reason why writing is sporadic. I need to set the birds free to see where they take me.
Outside the chickadees have started calling to one another – an early sign of spring even as the next snow storm moves in. I’m daydreaming about gardening, flipping through seed catalogs, and imagining the freedom of no more grad school, no more nonprofit board meetings, fewer distractions. Maybe it’s not the birds I’ll be following. Maybe I am the bird.