the river, the woods, and the meandering chase (also: say yes).

“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” –Rumi

In Chase, Chance, and Creativity, Austin discusses the idea of the meandering chase, which resonates for my own experiences. As a child, I saw the lives of adults as linear processes that went from event to another, always in a clear, well thought out succession. I have quickly learned, however, that adulthood is not quite so neat and tidy. In my life there have been a number of times when I could have continued on the path I was on, but I instead chose to change direction. In the four years since I have graduated from college, I have lived in 4 cites, had 5 bedrooms, lived with 13 different housemates, and held 4 different jobs. While this meandering route does not always make sense on the surface, I have come to see my path as a broad river, where I occasionally deviate to smaller branches and tributaries along the way, but it all remains part of the same stream.

I have been keeping journals regularly since 2003 when I was 14. Most of these journals now live a box underneath my childhood bed at my parent’s house, but when I was home over Christmas, I went through some of them. Some hadn’t been touched in years and were mildly embarrassing (8th grade and sophomore year of high school, I’m looking at you), while others were much more recent, like from when I participated a service program right after undergrad. As cringeworthy as it may be, I make a regular practice of rereading my own writing. Upon my most recent journey through the past, I came a particular comment someone had made that struck a nerve in me. I didn’t understand it in the moment, and six months later, I scribbled a note in a margin saying that I still didn’t understand; two years later, I still feel the same way.

While distance makes it easier to see where the meandering chase takes us, I wonder if it is possible to ever truly make it out of the woods and in the moment see where the path is leading. Is that a place we should even aspire to? I strongly believe that to create there are things in life we must do, whether or not we can explain our reasoning for these actions at the time. We must trust the process, the meandering journey through the woods, and where it will lead us.

Over these past few years in particular, if I have learned anything about how to cultivate this process and thus serendipity, it is this: just say Yes. Say Yes to travel, to impulsive plans and last minute bus tickets, to being open, and to talking to strangers. Say Yes to learning, to curiosity, to new books and ideas, and to not being afraid to fail and fall flat on your face. Say Yes to saying what you feel, to putting yourself out there, to taking a new road, but mostly, say Yes to people. The people that have changed my life the most have not always been who I have expected, and I am continually grateful for that and for the individuals that make up my own network on this meandering chase.

[This was written for a class I’m in this semester on Networks and the Creative Process.]

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