Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

This Is Not A Choice

There seem to be a thousand pent-up dreams crushing me, twisted and muddied like the thick strands of old thatch, and for the first time today I rip a hole in it and see the sky.  I find a January of strange weather. It perspires with the scent of early spring and kisses my skin with a warmth I do not recognize.

Already I am so thick in the warp and weft of these days that I have forgotten the landscape I was weaving. New York, only a week and a half past, tatters in my mind with the dusk of memory. I fly it still, like an old pennant, along with the week spent skiing in Salt Lake City and the days working on my business plan at home. 

It feels like months since I woke up to see the sunshine on the tree trunks outside my window and thought, "this is the only day I want." I can't remember the last time I saw the texture of a thing and hungered for its perfection. 

Every day is a sprint from the morning to the night; I try to do right by everyone and everything but instead I am forgetful and unrequited. There is little satisfaction yet. 
And yet, there is.
Finance becomes more than just an academic exercise. Accounting, classes on raising capital, all these things are real and before me and I revel in them. I feel the familiar thrill of courses that ask me to think in new ways.. for the first time I look forward to the quantitative aspects. NPV, IRR, WACC and CAPM. Income statements, valuations, the incentives of equity versus debt. It isn't comfort, not yet, but it is at least not-fear.
And so as I fail on some fronts, as I forget appointments and steamroll through others, I am stretching and growing in others. Do trees, killing off unproductive branches and letting them shatter earthward, simply grow onward unfeeling? Or do they always feel the pain of a limb lost to the energetic demands of those closer to the sunshine?
Or perhaps, as one inspiring contact told me in an informational interview, I ought to simply embrace my life of "chronic overextension" and be who I am.

Sometimes when I dance, I feel free, and I see the satisfaction on my coach's face. Put aside judgment, he reminds me. Want this dance. Own this dance. Demand everything from your partner. My mother once told me that she taught Chinese to my brother and I because she wanted to give us a gift that "no one can ever take away from you."  Dance is also that gift. Like any language, it relies on the strictest discipline of technique and long hours of training. And then, above that, the lightness of artistry. Poetry, to own the words and rules so thoroughly that one may bend them to create new meaning, a style wholly one's own. I've been reading the poems of Jonathan Galassi today. How painful, and how liberating, a single poem can be! First you define it, driven in equal parts by instinct, desire and purposeful effort, and then it comes to define you. The gifts that have become a part of me - Chinese, ballroom dance, and perhaps every topic I have pursued assiduously - also carry the duality of invention and reflection. 

I don't think this is a choice. It does not come down to being a poet or a racer. I cannot only be a woman who single-minded pursues the growth of self, nor a woman who promised herself entirely to a life of giving back. There is only one me. 

I like to think that after many weeks of not writing, that this entry begins the process of rebuilding my shelter.  Fresh bales of reeds will be required. New dreams for the old ones. The shape will not change, only how they are made, the scent and grain of them. I like to think that this entry gives me a chance to pull my fingers out of my life and look carefully at what I am crafting. That after this moment, I will be clear-eyed and capable. That by writing, I have allowed myself reflection and that only invention comes next.

Of course, I know better than that. Things will muddle. Entire precious days, like this one, will pass and I will find myself at the tail of a month questioning where it went. Sometimes I ask Ben, "what did you learn today?" and envy the moments in which he considers the hours that have passed. I should quietly ask myself, What did YOU learn today? What did today tell you, so that you will be better tomorrow?  Will you allow this day to reflect only the ones that came before, carrying on in sullen resistance to the directive, "change!" or, or, will you hold with both hands the power to reinvent, and be yourself for tomorrow as you were not today? 
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