“We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.”
With the students back, I’m reminded how much I care. I’m brain dead at the end of the work day, not because I really stress my thinking capacity that much, but because I’m so invested in the student sitting across the desk. I spent 20 minutes looking for a Chem 2 class at an Australian university today; I spent another 20 looking for organic chem classes at both Australian and English schools. I calculate their budgets and introduce them to other students and schedule them in back to back because I care. I shake their hands and connect names to faces and majors to goals and struggles to personalities because I care.
Talking with T, I was reminded, what do these moments matter if I don’t care? What worth does my life have, for me, if I don’t care? I know we all think it’s ideal to care less, to have a distance, to push off, and I agree with every bone in my introverted body that we should not care some times. We do need those moments of solitude and disengagement to maintain our sanity and our perspective, but I still flip the switch when the isolation passes and go right on caring. And I’m not afraid to show it. I’m not afraid to smile at the recipient of my attention. I’m not afraid to bump their arm with mine or compliment them or remember a detail of their life. I’m not afraid to empathize with their failure and tell them I don’t know. Because I care.
The moments I stockpile are what make it so worthwhile to care. If I don’t care, then I won’t invest in the moment. And if I don’t invest in the moment, then there is no memory. And if there is no memory, there is no story. And if there is no story…then what’s the point?
I’ve had so many moments. I feel like I haven’t lived that long, but when I count out the years on my fingers, it suddenly seems like too long. Too long and what have I got to show for it? But then I remember some of those moments.
What moments do I want to recount? What kind of story do I want this to be?
I smoked a joint on a friend’s porch in the summertime with that perfect summer air touching my skin and the sky that perfect sunset color of orange and gray blue. I rocked in the rocking chair on the wooden porch and breathed in that sweet smell of grass and dirt and sun and couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else in that moment. Even as the moment passed through my fingertips like the fucking summer breeze.
I’ve run miles without stopping. Without missing a breath.
I carried my cousin up from a dusty forgotten shed to the front yard of the farm after he was stung by the wasps to which he was allergic.
I’ve flown in an airplane, over an ocean, and watched the clouds swallow us up whole like a vitamin. I’ve been spoken to in a language, a dialect, I could not understand. I’ve gotten turned around in towns that I barely knew existed.
I’ve gotten lost in my own head. Distracted by the potentials I make up, that I will into existence, that I allow to block me from the reality happening from my gut to my eyes. From my consciousness to my dreams. There is always this.
I’ve climbed trees with the wind bending the limbs and eaten entire pints of ice cream in one sitting.
I’ve written 30 page research papers, and quoted scholars, and even quoted myself.
I’ve spent an entire day in bed. Lost in the folds of my blankets.
I’ve made friends and lost friends and fallen in love with strangers.
I was in a car wreck in Ireland, and stood out in the rain on the road waiting for the ambulance. I held a dog wrapped in a jacket and stared at the cows. My knees were blue for days.
I’ve been chased by dogs and horses and bees of all sizes.
I’ve cried myself to sleep and laughed myself awake. I’ve had nightmares that have stayed with me all day.
I’ve hidden from tornadoes and run through cemeteries and driven my car until it was out of gas and I had to walk the rest of the way.
One Friday night, in the early spring, I left the library at 10pm, planning to go to the gym, not knowing the gym also closed at 10pm and that I had missed my chance. My only option was to then walk up to the bus stop, several blocks away, but turned around when my friend called and asked me to come to the Stock Pavilion, where he was setting up for the Mom’s Weekend Flower Show for Horticulture Club. I turned around and walked down, right back to where I had come, the South Quad. Everything was beautiful in the dark, I remember. The lights were glowing and the quad was serene, quiet. I walked over to and around the Stock Pavilion, unable to get in because the doors were locked. I turned and stood on the stairs and looked up at the Bell Tower and out onto UGL and Foellinger and tried to capture the moment in my mind, with my iPhone, any way I could. I guess I did, since I’m recounting it here. I just remember being happy with the beauty, and the thought that “I have a life.” I am a life and this is it. These are the people in my life and these are the events I busy myself with.
I just want to be here in the world with myself and the people I come across that I fall so in love with. I want to keep them near me, and I want to be me despite their influence.