Perspective- noun- a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something. A point of view.
Perspective- noun, adj, verb- the never ending search for something to show you that the way you are looking at life is completely wrong in hopes for a better frame of mind.
The city gets loud. If it's not traffic, it's sirens. If it's not sirens, it's too-close-in-quarters neighbors. If it's not neighbors, it's distant professors sending yet another email to remind you of the third assignment you've been given this week.
Perspective is driving 30 minutes away from the interstate looking for something or somewhere that will spark the revelation inside that changes everything. The feeling you've been looking for for oh so long that you don't even remember if it has a name anymore.
Finding a park you've never heard of and chasing the sunset in hopes that you'll be able to have enough daylight to finally sit down and be alone with your thoughts in a place not crowded with noise, news feed, or needs.
Perspective is trying to put a pin on why everything feels like it's flying past you at 100 miles per hour every day with no signs of stopping.
Life is messy, and perspective tries to tell us that we don't have it so bad. We have our health, we have stability, we have support, but why does that make us all feel worse for sulking in our own lack of personal accountability for some gratitude?
Perspective is peering over bridges and cliff edges trying to measure the significance of your own personal problems compared to the real weight of the rest of the world. Only to realize that in such a comparison the rest of the world feels the same way you do every day as the Earth continues to circumnavigate the sun in a galaxy so vast that will one day refuse to bat an eye when we leave this place.
It's looking in old barns and new cemeteries wondering if a form of solitude will give voice to the reason as to why I'm so far out here in the first place. Sitting in silence and wondering if maybe the answers are in the trees instead of stop lights and parking garages.
Hoping for perspective is like hoping the train on the tracks outside your bedroom window at night will come crashing through your walls to give you the wake up call you've been so desperately hoping for.
It all has meaning.
It all has purpose.
Or so I'm told.
Because finally getting the perspective that you don't have it so bad, that you are feeling this way because of a lack of control is just as bad as that train hitting you head on while the rest of life blindsides you on your way out.
There's nothing to perspective if you can't accept it. Your refusal to let it sink in as the roots of your reality is the same as being handed a million dollar check and ripping it up in the front of the face of the person who so graciously gave it to you in the first place.
It's watching a bat swoop blindly over cold water, hoping that just one bug will appear for a mission accomplished and wondering if you're any different.
I remember the first time my mom let me buy a pair of ripped up jeans.
I loved them in the store. At 18, they made me feel rebellious, youthful and free. But I remember wearing them to Sunday morning church, and spending the entire sermon trying to tie each strand back together. Hoping that somehow it might distract my thoughts from the pastor up front, who was unaware that the words he was saying were not stitching the pieces of a crumbling relationship, a stressful senior year, and an endless amount of questions about the future of my life, into something that might make sense to me. A futile process that only led to further frustration as to why I couldn’t just have my jeans put back together.
I knew the purpose of the jeans was to wear them with holes, and my mom even poked fun at me when she noticed what I was doing. “You can’t tie the strings back together, Alyssa,” she whispered while she rolled her eyes. The holes may have showed character and a story, but dammit if I wasn’t going to tie them back together thread by thread.
I’ve always had the natural desire to put things back together: pieces of me, pieces of other people, trying to make sense of what was once, and why it can’t go back to being the same anymore.
My jeans proved that was near impossible. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t stay put together. Why was it so hard for one string to pull back on the other so that another piece of the puzzle could fall back into place?
And still I wonder, why can’t I keep it together, or keep things organized? A variety of different threads left untethered to something bigger than myself. Why is it so hard for the big picture to just stay in one place?
If graduation was just a concept then why was it so hard to get there. Settling down, finishing school, getting a job, having a family, all pieces that would eventually come together, but for now leaving a gaping hole in life’s big puzzle. Like all of the edge pieces have been found, with an impossible amount of combinations for the middle part to be put together.
I’d get two strands done, then three, four if I was lucky. Then I’d make one wrong move again, and they would all fall back to pieces.
I take this class not another. I turn one job down and take the other. One wrong choice, and I start back at square one, where everything that had already been stacked neatly on a shelf where it belonged. Only to turn around after time, and the arrangement I had made was something I no longer recognized.
It’s when I stopped looking at the strings as forgotten and lonely pieces did I get over my obsession of stitching the holes back together. There’s nothing wrong with the emptiness if you don’t focus on it. Rather on the fact that the holes make a statement, and the strands that stuck around through the wear and tear are the important ones that create the character.
Not everything in this life can or should be put together in such a way that there are no gaping holes to fill. Not every plan has an outline, not every map gives you step by step instructions. You just have to know you will eventually arrive at the destination.
And a life without the search of fulfillment is not one I want to live. It’s what we search for that matters.
Besides, without holes in our jeans who would come around to check and see “Did you buy your jeans like that?” and you can proudly look back and say that yes you did.
So cut up your jeans, sew them back together and wear your story.
There's never enough oxygen in this world.
No I swear to you, for a split second every so often, the world runs out of air. I think this happens more often than we realize, and most times it feels like it’s gone missing for longer than just a second. As if there's not enough space, not enough crispness in the air to make you feel like you’re alive anymore.
And I hold it.
This oxygen-less space that I’m somehow still existing in without breathing. I hold that breath until I am home.
It’s not unusual for life to be crazy, and hectic, and chaotic. It goes by so quickly that sometimes we forget to breath, and to take that moment to feel the air fill our lungs, and remind us that we are in fact existing, and this is the only chance we will be getting.
And there’s something so therapeutic about finding yourself, and that space to breathe, on the forgotten back roads outside of town.
I discovered these back roads, and this mobile style of therapy, my sophomore year of high school. I drive, and I don't know where I'm going, but there's this ache in my gut that says "Don't go home just yet." So I listen. I pride myself in knowing these roads like the back of my hand. It’s like a map of memories that were created on my own terms. My own territory remaining untouched until I skirt closer to the edge, only to discover that the roads I know so well continue, even when I’m not there. That I could go for miles and miles and still find my way back home.
These Columbus-like expeditions have occurred on a multitude of occasions. There was one time during summer before my senior year of high school started, that I can recall specifically. It was warm out, the kind where you don't need air conditioning, only the windows rolled down to be comfortable. I had just gotten back from getting a haircut, and it seemed like such a shame to waste all the oxygen around me. So I drove, all the way as west as I could go without getting to the extreme west, and then back again. Windows down and The Heist playing in the background. My hair was a tangled mess, and my throat was raspy from singing so hard, but it didn't matter, because at least I was breathing.
Another time, when it was grey out. The kind of grey that isn't just heavy in the sky, but the kind that you can feel it in the way the air floats by the wayside of the windows. It matched the mood. I was drowning, and it was one of the moments that I had been holding my breath way too long again. I drove away to find a place where it wasn't so hard to breath and it wasn't so hard to think. It was easy to just drive, and let the oxygen flow to your brain where it could replace the clutter and confusion of vacuum sealed space around you.
It shouldn't be this hard to breath sometimes.
The other time happened the summer after my freshman year of college. My sister and I felt like being reckless and wanted to storm chase. There’s something so completely enthralling about driving into the storm head on, and knowing exactly about what you’re about to get yourself into. You feel the temperature in the air drop, and watch as the lighting and thunder quicken their pace the closer you get, but then at the last second, you’re able to flip the car around and run from the exact situation you put yourself into. You watch the chaos behind you fall into the rear view mirror as you pull into the drive way and wait out the storm in the safety of your home.
If only all life’s predicaments were that easily solved.
"There's nothing a little fresh air won't fix." My grandpa told me this once when he was watching me on a sick day. I had pneumonia and wanted nothing more than to go outside on the first nice day of Nebraska spring. My grandma scolded him when he eventually let me go, but to this day I think it was ultimately the right decision. My sick lungs weren't breathing in the sick air if they were outside.
Have you ever thought about oxygen? I mean really thought about it. It’s a beautiful thing really. It's one of the few things that will never run out us in this lifetime. Everything else does. My grandpa ran out of it one day, and someday I will too, but that won't be because oxygen ran out on me. It will because I ran out on it. So I don't suggest missing the opportunity to ever be surrounded by it.
I find that these moments exist in their purest form late at night, and you won't be able to find them in the city. There are too many cars and people and cement sidewalks for there to be enough oxygen for everyone. Someone is always holding their breath, waiting for test results, exam results, business deals to be made. But the best moments, the moments where you are the only person for miles, and there’s no reason to hold your breath, are out there. They exist in the too far east, and too far west, too far north and too far south. In my moments, I can only see the orange lights of my dash, and if I'm lucky enough to be too far out, somewhere the stars and satellites are the only things blinking away at me. No more streetlights, no more headlights, only star lights, and the occasional gleam from a reflector perpendicular to the road. It's in that moment that the fear kicks in. It's a beautiful kind of fear though. I'm alert, I'm alive. I'm aware of everything around me, I know it exists, but all I can see are the yellow dashes down the middle of the road. I begin to feel lost, like I'm not just too far somewhere, but that I’ve hit the extreme. The blackness swallows the road map in my head, and I think about how small I am, and how I think that I know so much of the world, but the map in my head of the "too far roads" only go for so long, and there still a lot out that that's uncharted to me. It's me and the satellites and the oxygen flowing in my head, and, if I can be patient enough to wait out the fear, I am greeted with a few moments of complete clarity. You can learn a lot when you feel small. When it's just you and oxygen, and everything else that you can't see, but you keep breathing anyways. and I keep driving; hitting the almost too extreme, before turning back.
Inhale, exhale, repeat.
It's here. I find my oxygen.
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