We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—even of silence—by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn’t “attack” anything; a weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity.
I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.
From Live Like Weasels by Annie Dillard
I'm trying a new approach in freshmen writing this semester. We're starting small, building the pieces of our essays in increments. We are paying attention to each step, experience the process in minute slow motion. Instead of saying, "write an essay on an experience you had that made you think differently about x," we're beginning with observing the world around us for inspiration, the way Dillard does in Live Like Weasels. So we read Dillard's essay and though I read it a year ago, I was in a different mindset then, I guess. Because reading the above passage practically knocked me over.
I participated in Mondo Beyondo and the Dream Lab this summer and one thing became very clear: we give up on our dreams, too easily. When we're young the world seems so huge, so full of possibilities. We say we want to be astronauts and firemen, writers and actresses. Somewhere along the way, we realize not everyone can go into space and somehow we let other dreams die, too. We forget what it's like to just imagine. I spent a lot of time this summer imagining my success, asking questions about what sacrifices I'm willing to make, where my dealbreakers and takeaways are. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what it is I want for my life but I know pieces and it's those pieces I want to stalk. So perhaps you ARE living in a fantasy world where maybe you're not really talented at singing but you want to be the next American Idol and maybe you're a bit delusional but passion, you've got it in spades. I think there's a difference between that level of fantasy and what Dillard means by "stalking your calling." I cannot get this phrase out of my mind. Imagine, giving yourself permission to go after whatever it is you want as though it were a necessity, like air, like food, like shelter instead of making excuses: it's too expensive; I probably won't get it; I have too many responsibilities.
I do not know if Dillard's words resonate so deeply with 18-year-old college freshmen because they're still young enough to believe that anything is possible, that one moment can change your whole day, your whole life. I envy them. And yet, at the same time, I am so happy not to be them because as much as they believe in possibilities, they're also terrified of being wrong about it. I remember what that is like.
For now, I'm open to yielding, to living like weasels only without the blood and rotting carcasses. I'm open to stalking my calling and to believing the effort is worth it, no matter the outcome. I am not sure yet what this looks like for me, this "grasping my one necessity" but I like the purpose in it, the permission to be intentional.