I contributed recently to an effort to have a poem a day on the NCTE/TYCA site; I recorded myself reading original poems. To do so, I went back through my thesis and chapbooks as well as my files. Most of the poems were from my Master's program. Reading them was like going back in time. It was enlightening to read the poems from this distance. I was struck by the longing in the poems, and the fear of letting go, particularly in the poems about love, or relationships. I think about how much my life has changed in the 5-6 years since I wrote these poems. And I think about what hasn't. On our road trip, M and I were talking about defining moments and how sometimes they aren't necessarily positive. Sometimes a bad experience shapes you in ways that you can't imagine. A break-up becomes a turning point; a tragedy makes you reconsider your life, etc. At the time, of course, you wonder why things are bad or difficult or tragic. I don't know if I believe that everything happens for a reason but I do believe that what you make of situations is what defines you.
I have said before that I struggle with the fact that I made not so great decisions in the past, that I don't like the fact that I can be cruel and reckless and selfish. It's difficult to see those pieces of myself. But it's also what makes the better parts of me, as well. M reminds me that even if I could go back in time and make some different decisions, it would change so much, not only in my life but those around me. I've always been fascinated with time travel and alternate realities because in making mistakes, I think it's natural to wonder what if I didn't? What would have changed; how different would my life be. M says there's nothing productive in wondering what might have been because it takes you out of the moment of what is. And I think she has a point. But in a philosophical way, don't you wonder?
I don't necessarily want to undo my life. I think I'm in a place now where I'm coming to terms with my past self that wasn't always nice but she was honest and sometimes she used honesty as a weapon. And maybe I did hurt people, use them, or make them feel small but it doesn't mean I didn't care, or that I didn't love. I realize some of this may sound like justification but I'm truly trying to work through how I think of my own evolution.
I've been watching re-runs of One Tree Hill and what's interesting is to pay attention to how the characters have evolved, how the pieces of who they are now were present in early episodes. I first started watching the show with my friend, Brianne and was instantly hooked. I can't say by what, exactly. Sure, there's the teen angst factor and what my friend, Joe calls "pretty people with problems." But there's an intangible element, something that goes beyond the cliché that truly endears it to me. In watching its beginnings, I was struck by the same feeling as reading my old poems. And I think that maybe that's how I can think of my past and present selves, not as completely separate people but as beginnings of who I would become and will become in the future.
If evolving is about reaching a point of understanding, acquiring some sense of the world through experience, then there's an assumption of change there, of moving past one experience and being able to look back at it, reflectively. I feel like that's what I've been doing this year, trying to see things from different perspectives. There's been a lot going on in my professional life, not directly involving me, but some of my colleagues and tenure decisions. It's sent my head spinning a bit and had me questioning how the decisions might impact me and the department. I feel kind of removed from the whole thing and yet implicated as part of the department so I've spent many days confused and trying to do something else besides think about it.
In the spirit of evolution, I re-worked the blog design. I've been working on it about a week because I needed the distraction. I wanted to do more in the sidebar and play a bit with colors. I'm afraid it might a bit dark with the black but I might experiment with other colors for it if Spring ever arrives. However, I'm really into contrast these days so maybe I'll just play with backgrounds. I have a lot of ideas for my professional website that I need to work on and I'm also helping some friends integrate a WP blog into their website, so I'm busy but happy.