“Wow, that Walt Whitman guy, he really saw the world differently… That’s the way I’d want to see it. The way I do see it. He’s right, there’s so much about the common man that we don’t appreciate. So much about our lives that we take for granted, that we don’t see the beauty in. I wish I could embrace the beauty in my life. Hell, I wish my life was beautiful.
Wait. Maybe it is.”
This was the thought process of a restless 20-year-old Public Communications Major as she suffered through her “Art, Literature, and Film in New York City” class – that’s me. For all the reading I’d done, I’d never came across a true Walt Whitman poem until that day. The Transcendentalism, the Romanticism, the fact that he lived three miles from the campus I wasted away in – all of it blew my mind! How could a man living on plain old Long Island find such wonder in his surroundings? How could these beautiful poems,words surging off the pages and flowing through my ears with all the power of the Atlantic Ocean, be inspired by our very own beaches?
Because he was an artist, I reminded myself with a sigh, He was an artist, and a talented one at that. It must be invigorating to construct odes that can make people feel as I do right now. His writing makes you believe that there’s a purpose in everything humans do. For the first time in months, I feel… well, enlightened. I feel like I can do anything.
Ever since that Tuesday afternoon I’ve been feeling… well, different.
I want to share that with you.
I remember listening to a coworker and good friend of mine – also a college student – vent to me about her struggles in life. “Sometimes I just feel like I’m losing my mind, you know? Like, how am I ever going to get over this point in my life? It’s been so bad for so long. Things are starting to look up, but… I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever feel normal again.”
“I have this theory,” I began, and it was true – I’d come up with this theory quite recently after assessing my own life struggles, “Every fifteen to twenty years, everyone goes through a mental breakdown of sorts. And you know what? It’s completely normal. It’s called growing. Think about it – we all have these moments where we freak out, and we start wondering, ‘Who am I? Am I doing the right thing? Do I even like myself anymore?’ You know, those times when you just can’t even predict what’s going to happen tomorrow because everything’s already so messed up. But then you have to wonder – what options do I have? You just have to… live through it. And then in two years you’ll wake up one morning and be like, ‘Holy crap, I remember that time when I felt like the world was over. I guess I was really, really wrong – because here I am. I’m not that person anymore, either… and thank God for that.”
She looked at me thoughtfully. “You know what… that’s kind of true. But what do I do for now?”
“You change,” I answered with a grin, “Whether you like it or not.”
I sincerely believe in this theory. We all grow, no matter the age and no matter the circumstance. In the 21st century, a lot of us young adults are looking at the world with a grimace. How are we supposed to make ourselves in an environment like this, we cry out in frustration, How are we supposed to make a living? Find love? Find our purpose in life?
The answer: you figure it out, one day at a time!
I had lost sight of this truth the minute I started college. Everyone was so far away. I was still living at home. My job wasn’t great and my house was all messed up and my family was scattered and I’d fallen in love – really, really hard – with a guy that got shot at for a living. How am I supposed to live like this? I asked no one in particular. What do I do? Just self destruct? So much for being young and ready to take on the world. I’m young and ready to lay on the floor and give up.
This blog is here to convince you – and myself – that giving up is not the answer. In fact, it isn’t even an option. Let’s all agree to be Walt Whitman for a while: to enjoy the little things in life, to assess the situations we’re in and figure out how to adapt to our big, scary new worlds until we own that world. Let’s do it, and in two years look back, chuckle, and say, “Now, what was I so afraid of? I’m still here, and I’m better than ever.” That is this blog’s mission.
Let’s cross the Brooklyn Ferry together.