Originally published April 28, 2014 on Isolated Pixels
I’d like to think that I look up more than most people. My eyes have always been naturally inclined towards the skies. That’s why I’m pursuing meteorology as a career. Whether it’s between classes or on my usual daily walk around campus, whether cloudy, sunny, or somewhere in between, my eyes are peeled to the clouds, the sun, the shadows, the glare.
It beats the alternative. Looking around all I see is people. People and the man-made portraits of civilization. People and the things people make and are so proud of. Most of the time they block what I really want to see. They’re not all bad — massive blocks of glass reflect what occurs around them, the glint leading me on.
When I look up I see the greater truths. Towering clouds and distant stars put me in my place. Yet the blue sky and the puffy fair-weather clouds and the mares-tail cirrus all beckon out to me and encourages me to be bigger, reaffirming my vast potential. The sky and I have an intimate relationship. And when no one else is around, the moon becomes my best friend. He’ll always be there for me. On this particular evening, the contrails criss-cross in mid-air, diffusing and spraying the sun beams in every direction, redirecting them into every color.
And as I walk, one foot in front of the next, a luxury I’ve learned to appreciate, while watching the sky burn with the sun’s last embrace, as Chris Martin’s heavily distorted voice floods my brainwaves and I am awash in wave after wave of pure beauty, I am living. I’m where I’m supposed to be. Every worry about what will be and what has been fades into obscurity, blinded by my singular focus on what is happening right then and there. I don’t think about homework. I don’t think about repairing myself, about my counseling session the next morning. I don’t think about the friend or former friend that I don’t know what to do with. I don’t think about having to deal with my pretentious, privileged roommate. I don’t think about all the opportunities I’ve missed or all the times I’ve fucked up. I don’t think about where home is or what life is all about, the thoughts that dog me constantly displaced somewhere else if only for a few minutes.
Soon I come back to my senses and I’m left with the burning question: Ambition versus complacency. I don’t know how to find the balance between the two. Everyone’s been telling me for years that I have to fight for what I want in the world, that I have to assert myself and take what’s rightfully mine. I have to step over people and I have to work harder and I have to be confident. That’s how you’ll do well in the business world. That’s how you’ll impress people. Is that what I want? What do I even want? I”m perfectly happy with what I have right now. When I wake up tomorrow I will have music and I will have the sky to watch and maybe that’s all I need. Maybe I should become a wandering vagrant and learn guitar and travel the world. Then the ambitious side of me tells me everything wrong with that possibility, about how I need to get a job and I need to do well in college and how I’ll be letting people down if I don’t. I try to weigh the two and I always end up stuck somewhere in between, not satisfying any part of me. Instead of working to get something done I dwell and bog myself down and dig myself holes that I later struggle to climb out of. I ask myself questions and I don’t know the answers. Eventually I block out the questions and move along and do as I’m told until something inevitably brings them back in to my consciousness.
At least I have these moments where I know everything’s going to be okay. Looking out at the brilliant oranges and reds of the setting sun, the music playing in my head, the mountains framing the moment and here I am experiencing it. Every now and then you become aware of everything happening around you and you become above the moment, like you’re looking down on it from above. You separate yourself mentally from your physical body and you gain a new understanding of everything that’s happening because you know something monumental, life-changing, is going to occur. Sometimes a song becomes so enrapturing, or the silences in a conversation become so poignant, or the sky paints a spacious landscape for you to behold and you know that you will never be able to look at things the same way again. These experiences have been happening to me a lot lately. Maybe my life is changing a whole awful lot or maybe I’m just more observant than I was before. I don’t know the answers. But I don’t need to.