+ weekly recs
For the longest time I compulsively read narratives about whatever I was going through. Like, if I was in the early stages of dating someone, I would read books about dating. If I was moving to New York, I would read books about young women moving to New York. They were usually novels or memoirs—the specific thing I wanted to understands was the thoughts, the interior experience of the person or character who was going through the same thing I was, so I could know what to expect. Last week I realized that I don’t do that anymore.
Part of it is because I’m more confident. Now I trust in my own decision-making ability, in the validity of my experience. If I feel a connection with someone, I no longer have to look around for context clues—I know that they feel it too. If I’m feeling something about writing or work or my friendships, I know that my observations are correct. But part of it is also because I don’t believe in straightforward narratives anymore: I feel that life has stopped making sense, that I have lost the thread. And this is a comfort and it isn’t.
When I was a child, I used to believe that life was like a conveyor belt—that if you made one misstep you were left behind forever. Now I understand that you can be meander, explore, pick things up and put them down. Life is more open. But it also makes less sense. I have very few constraints, and sometimes I wish I had more.
When you don’t have constraints you’re supposed to be guided by your values. And to some extent I am—I have values, desires, goals, a five-year plan, all the things you’re supposed to have. But I don’t think that choosing to do something is the same as feeling like you have to do it. When you perceive life as a straightforward linear narrative, it’s like you’re in a tunnel—you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. But what if you perceive life as an open field? Then you have to fix your eyes on an object in the horizon and say There. I’m going there. I don’t have to go there, in fact there’s relatively little evidence that I should, but I trust my intuition. Agency is scary, because you’re fully admitting to yourself that you’re the one making choices, and you might choose wrong.