So another year’s gone by…

David Copperfield and Co. celebrate the New Year
David Copperfield and Co. celebrate the New Year

Two summers ago, my high school friends and I hit the road through New Hampshire, climbing a mountain, going to a theme park, ghost hunting, and staying in sketchy hotels and campsites in the White Mountains.

The state motto for New Hampshire is “Live free or die,” taken from a toast Revolutionary War hero John Stark wrote for the 1809 anniversary to the Battle of Bennington. Poor health prevented his attendance to the anniversary, but his words penned and mailed have endured:

Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.

I saw the words on the roads in front of us, emblazoned on license plates and signs, and they’ve stuck, always on the hazy edge of consciousness. Live free or die. They’ve become my own motto.

I leave this year laden with memories. Despite difficulties, it’s been the best one of my life so far, because it’s the first year when I’ve felt fully alive.

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My brother

Writing my memoir piece, I’ve been reading a lot of my old journals and blog posts, Gemini-astrology-15139447-1753-1274“dredging the self” as I called it in my last post. I found this and thought it quite relevant, considering the season. So I polished it up and posted it below.

I do apologize for the occasional “recycled” post. It’s not that I can’t write another one or that don’t want to, but I find I can’t replicate some sentiments. Writing, I find myself dragging my net through the world, searching for a story, and sometimes particular moments have an eloquence or meaning that only lived during that brief space. Taking my net out again, I know I cannot find it.

So it is with this.

But a brief backstory may help. Last year, as I’ve alluded too, I was battling a depressive episode. I took a four-day stint of solitude, where I did not see a single person. Sometimes I rested, or walked in the forest, or meditated. I did what the hours allowed. The piece below was a reflection I wrote from the period, not anything grand or academic, but my own tangled thoughts about the world.

Thank you.

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Dredging the self

This Monday, I dug up a crate of my old writing from my parent’s cellar. Journals,

Ah yes, my high school self...
Ah yes, my high school self…

poems, old short stories, math notebooks lined with marginal musings. Anything I could find. I fished love letters from my closet and photographs from my mothers’ desk, piling it all up like autumn leaves on my bedroom floor.

For a few days, I dug trough the stack.

OK, so “stack” may be a little exaggerated. But it’s a significant pile. I’m reread it all to revisit those hazy landscapes of my not-too-distant childhood, verifying events and reviving old memories, all in a pointed search of self.

I’m writing a memoir for my Honor’s project. I know I could half-ass most of it. But I’d get nothing from that besides reams of pleasant-sounding pulp. I don’t want that.

I’m after my own self, after all.

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Sunset on the Allegheny River

I went for walk tonight along the river that runs behind the school. The sun was setting

A picture of the trail just after sunset.
A picture of the trail just after sunset.

over the hills, making me think of a piece I wrote four years ago during my freshman year. At the time, I didn’t know anyone, so I would sit by the river often, writing and reading Aldo Leopold, Khrishnamurti, and Thoreau.

The silence and solitude of the path still moves me. I think the piece captures that well:

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Wandering

Gradually I’ve made progress on my to-do list. Today I submitted my thesis for final approval. Once my advisor gives the OK, I defend it. My graduate applications continue in a steady stream. In time, those will be done.

I can finally see the horizon of the next projects: my coming-of-age memoir for an honors project and a short story I’ve had simmering for a few months now. I’ve got some reading piling up as well. From one project to another, I guess.

Last week, I spoke to one of my professors. He had just finished his dissertation and felt an odd sense of freedom. Without the project tugging him along, he didn’t have anything to direct him. It was liberating, but disconcerting. An open horizon. A void.

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