S A R I S H A K U R U P
The evening is spilling into night right now and my feet are feeling that acute and satisfying ache from tromping around all day. I like it because it means over done something, covered space. Not that I did much today, It was mostly drifting in and out of stores, wanting to buy things but not wanting to accumulate even more clothing. The amount of clothing I own has risen to an alarming number and I'm acutely aware that I do not need all of this, but parting with dresses and things that have so much history is just so hard for me. I'm aware of how ridiculous it all sounds, and I'm always oscillating between the idea that fashion is a luxury that should not be indulged so often, or that it is an art and thus it is justified. Sometimes I'm just Daisy Buchanan, crying over Gatsby's shirts because they're just so beautiful. And sometimes, I'm horrified at myself in equal measure, for collecting things that don't matter when so many people need so much more than I am willing to give. Sometimes I feel I do not know how to reconcile all that I have been given with all that other people lack, how I can exist in one world and watch others crumble. I watched coverage of the chemical attack in Syria this evening and suddenly my entire day, my entire week seems ridiculous.
I've always found it hard to be grateful. It's one of those whims that seizes me every once in awhile, but give it half a day, and it will leave just as quickly as it came. I've always existed in a state of anticipation, anticipation for the future, for what I might do next, have next, see next. I've always thought of it as a tremendously positive quality. Jack Kerouac wrote in Dharma Bums: “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted." It's that space, that blank canvas of time that stretches out before me that has always thrilled me. It keeps me going in the hardest of times, and always gives me something to fight for. Lately, however, I have begun to wonder if this anticipation has left me unable to appreciate what I have. With anticipation comes wanting, and wanting implies a lack of fulfillment. Living forever in a state of anticipation, then, must mean a perpetual lack of fulfillment.
Perhaps fulfillment in of itself is a man-made concept. It's not physical, its not something they exists without us. To be fulfilled can only be defined by language, and perhaps trying to reach something so nebulous is futile anyway. But I don't like the idea of always being so restless, so ready to seize the baton and race forward. It's exciting for awhile, but I wonder if it must be exhausting, to carry on that way throughout life. One day I want to be able to sit in the spaces between, in the silence, and be content there.
I'd even be happy with just being able to fully comprehend and appreciate what I have now. For most of my life, I grew up in a loving, supportive family with both a mother and a father. I've been born into one of the most affluent communities in the world, attended one of the best schools in the country, have traveled to more countries than I remember, have been able to dress as I wish and eat as I wish without much thought to monetary constraints. My parents have always been able to pay for my gym memberships and guitar and piano lessons and anything else that might add color to my life.
I used to be better at acknowledging this. Being grateful for it. But the moment that something went wrong, when it wasn't so easy to just say "thank you," I wasn't so sure anymore. In Autumn of 2016, my father passed away. In the two years before, he had been very sick, to the point where his illness was an acute part of my every day. During that time, when he was sick and when he was gone, I didn't feel like I had anything to be thankful for.
It's funny how in moments of hardship, everything that's good can become so difficult to find. Certainly things were worse for other people, but there were people for whom things were infinitely better, and the moment my situation developed a gray area, I kicked into a kind of anticipational, aspirational high-gear. I began this game with myself, where I would mentally count everything that I could see in my life that was wrong, and began listing solutions--how I would make sure the same things could not happen to me when I was older, or to my children after that. It didn't matter what I had now, I just wanted something less sad, more perfect.
I guess it takes the most strength to be able to look around at your world right now, despite hardship, and smile. Perhaps it's too hard to exist in a state of not wanting anything more, but what I want, at least, is simply to be able to remember what a miracle my life is right now, and has been for eighteen years. I want to remember, at every moment, how objectively peaceful and pristine my history has been. I do not want to live always comparing my life to how much worse it could be, but I feel a need to acknowledge how little I have truly suffered.
Jack Kerouac also wrote, "Happiness consists in realizing that it is all a great strange dream.” I always thought the sign of true happiness was excitement about the future, an evident will to live. But I think I get it now, a little bit. To be happy, to be grateful, we must step back and smile at how brilliant it is that we are where we are.
Things I am grateful for:
my mother, who cannot possibly know how much i love her for being a rock in the tumultuous ocean that has been the last three years of my life, who has given me more full of a life than i deserve/being born in the sun-dappled desert of northern california, where i have always felt different but unequivocally accepted/my school, which is so full of great minds that I so often awestruck/my clothing, and the privilege it has been to develop a love of fashion/every vacation i have ever been on, and my upcoming european trip which is beyond anything i ever could have wanted/my brother, who challenges me in ways i never knew i needed/my friends who pull me out at midnight on my birthday to celebrate my life, who fold me into their embraces in times of hardship when words are not enough/my body, which i have not loved nearly enough and which has carried me through so much/my art, my ability to both create it and consume it, for it has carried me through some of the hardest times/ my security, which i have always taken for granted and which i cannot imagine a life without/ my father, who in 17 years taught me to unabashedly care, about politics, about people, and who will always be one of the reasons for everything i do.