Future Musings

In a world of doubting and questioning and fielding the “what are you doing after graduation?” questions, I’m beginning to feel small. Swallowed up by the potential I hold, buried underneath the mountain of possibilities that lay before me. I hear a lot of “ooh”s and “ahh”s from others when I clumsily list off careers I feel highly unqualified for, yet keep applying to. And I’m positive we’ve all become better liars by talking on the phone with family or meeting someone new and grimacing through the pain of appearing put-together. I’ve learned how to articulate myself so well that I can painstakingly describe how exactly inarticulate I feel when it comes to my future plans. I’ve been swallowed whole by the magnitude of the decisions before me. If I can reference Finding Nemo for a second, I’m convincingly playing the role of Marlin when he and Dory are swallowed by the whale, and I’m floundering at the task of escaping the mouth that is “the future.”

But I’m feeling wholly excited by it all? Perhaps it’s all a little like the pre-show jitters we get before we put on a play, or sing a song at karaoke, or present in class on a topic we are drastically unprepared to discuss. We know we are putting ourselves on the line and we know that we will experience both the rush and the fear that comes with putting ourselves out there. I’ve found myself countering my conversations lately with the added “but maybe that’s naive of me.” I’m beating myself up over that phrase, and I am tired of letting my optimism off the hook. It’s like I’ve given myself an F on that presentation before I even get up to speak.

“Maybe it’s naive of me to think I will do well.”
“Maybe it’s naive of me to hope for the best.”

Or maybe it’s important to think I will do well. Maybe it’s important to hope for the best. Maybe I need to be a little less Marlin and a whole lot more of Dory in this whale’s-mouth-of-a-world.  Perhaps I should start believing there is importance in fear and nerves and worry, because they remind me there is something at stake. There is something to care for. There is a life planned out for me that I will discover with each new step I take, and I may not be able to articulate what the next three steps look like but I can very well articulate the space my feet occupy now. And for now, that space is “awe.”

I find myself in awe that I have made it this far. That I have lived more days than I care to calculate, and I have collected enough bad days to know life’s struggles are real but in the other hand I’ve gathered enough good days to know those struggles birth beauty.

I find myself in awe that I write. That I sit down with the keys at my fingertips and words flow from my brain. I accumulate thoughts and memories and ideas and I release them into the world in a catharsis that enables me to inspire myself as well as others.

I find myself in awe that I have a future. Regardless of those next few steps, I know that my story will play out. And that, my friends, is not naive. I will live. I will feel. I will forever balance the spinning plates of family, friends, career, and aspirations. I will drop plates and see them shatter at my feet but I will see others spin with ease and reach heights I never imagined.

I may be feeling small right now. And perhaps I will continue feeling small for some time as I venture into the near future. But I suppose feeling small is not synonymous with feeling insignificant. What I continue to be in awe about is how nuanced this life is and how connected we all are in this human experience. We are small, yes, but we are vastly significant. I see it in the slightest of things. I feel it in my bones. We are significant and we matter. We may be small, we may be naive, and we may fail to see clearly at times. But we have a grand significance in this world and with that knowledge I’m hoping we can avoid feeling swallowed up. I’m hoping we work diligently. I’m hoping we venture forward with that continued concoction of excitement and fear that pushes us to dare, to dream, to achieve, and to be filled with awe at what we accomplish. And we will accomplish great things. I see it everyday in myself, in you, and in the world around me. And that is not naive of me to say.

Mortality

A sharp inhale reminds me I am alive.
I rub the remains of sleep from my eyes––sensory overload.
Lights streaming from the open blinds.
Sounds echoing from the whizzing fan.
Tingles shooting from my sleep-ridden limbs.
I am alive to a degree I cannot comprehend.

I am aware of my breathing.
Inhale.
Exhale.
A pattern. A rhythm.
Life––at a beat. A pulse.

I am aware that I am beating.
Synchronizing.
Harmonizing.
I am the rock that disturbs the waters and yet I am the ripple.
A product of my own design
I serve the purpose of giving purpose
to my actions.

I am acting. Reacting.
Reactionary––to the world around me, to the thoughts inside me.
The thoughts I create are the ripples I make.
Synapses fire in my brain. Actions I cannot sweep away.
“It is very, very dangerous to live even one day,” I say.
A mantra I borrow from Mrs. Dalloway.

I am volatile.
I am combustible.
I am self-destructible and my bones, they feel it.
Mortality is a whore
and we all get our fill.
So I will keep exhaling until I am empty
of the lies I’ve swallowed, and the dreams I kill.

No, I regress. Life is too jolting.
My bones are revolting.
My heart is convulsing.
Mortality is a virgin, untouched till I die.
So with all of my life I shall woo her.
I will keep inhaling until I have breath enough to say,
“I love you. You are mine.”

My bones are pleading.
My heart is conceiving
a plan to take none of life
for granted.
Every beat. Every pulse. Every pause in between.
With foot taps and finger snaps
I will keep in time
and this world and I will
Harmonize.
Fantasize.
Optimize.

I will propose to Mortality
and say my vows––

“Till death do us part
I will be there for
the early morning inhales
and the late night exhales.
I will be aware of our breathing.
Our beating.
Our greeting and meeting and fleeting
moments.
I will cherish you while I have breath,
so that when our consummation comes,
a sharp inhale reminds me of the life that I lived.”

 

 

 

Shadows

First off, I wish I could personally thank every person who made this show possible, and all of those who came out to support me in my senior exhibit. Shadows would never have been possible without the love and support and encouragement I experienced throughout this process. That being said, I want to continue sharing this show with you, and have decided to place all of my pieces on sale! I am listing all my pieces below with the price I am asking, however if you contact me personally I am open to negotiations for particular situations. I hope you enjoyed my show, and maybe now you can continue enjoying it for years to come! Each purchased piece will come with a handwritten letter from myself as to why this character has impacted me in my literary and artistic journey, and a little insight into the process itself!

**these photos are all in different stages of the drawing/editing process…I apologize for the unprofessionalism but I haven’t gotten around to editing everything. Give a guy a break — inquire with any further questions about product at: evanblack01@gmail.com**

Hester Prynne

Hester Prynne 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Edna Pontellier

Edna Pontellier 12″x 12″, framed — SOLD

Myrtle Wilson

Myrtle Wilson 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Brett Ashley

Brett Ashley 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Sybil Vane

Sybil Vane 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Lily Bart

Lily Bart 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina 12″x 12″, framed — SOLD

Fantine

Fantine 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Dido

Dido 24″x 24″, framed — $100

Lady of Shalott

Lady of Shalott 24″x 24″, framed — $100

Blanche

Blanche DuBois 24″x 24″, framed — $100

Eponine

Eponine 24″x 24″, framed — $100

Eve

Eve 24″x 24″, framed — $100

Linda Loman

Linda Loman 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Clarissa Dalloway

Clarissa Dalloway 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Antigone

Antigone 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Jocasta

Jocasta 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Pesephone

Persephone 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Eurydice

Eurydice 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Laura Wingfield

Laura Wingfield 36″x 60″, unframed — $200

Ophelia

Ophelia 36″x 60″, unframed — $200

**if the photography above doesn’t sell you on my artistry, here are some snapshots of my show to prove I’m not a fraud**

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Borders: a Poetic Response

It seems ours hands have done a bit less holding these days,

our arms a bit less hugging.

It seems our feet have forgotten the familiarity of another’s shoes.

 

With bricks and mortar,

laws and orders

we’ve turned our hands to simpler tasks:

“Secure our borders,” we hear exclaimed.

“Great again,” the jargon spins.

All along the way we have swooned and swayed

to our self-righteous siren song.

 

Gaze upon us now,

this nation of pride.

See us for what we’ve accomplished and

don’t dare glance aside.

We’ve left multitudes reeling

at our borders,

countless pleading on their knees.

How powerful we must be to have this choice:

Christian? Enter.

Other? Denied.

 

It seems our eyes have done a bit less watching these days,

0ur ears a bit less hearing.

It seems our mouths have forgotten how to build up our brother.

 

But build the walls. Build them high.

Our hands have work, but our hearts are dry.

Let the American people work American jobs.

“Me,” “We,” “Us,” before others.

We will reap what we have sown with the tears of our neighbor.

But look never back, we are a forward people.

Let those less capable trail behind.

 

So board up your doors,

board your windows too.

If we try hard enough we may just pull through.

Borders are borders

and our safety is paramount.

So we will build a wall.

Hell, let’s throw in a moat.

May the wall tower so high that its cast shadows

bring sweet relief from the light of reason,

may the moat water our indifference.

 

It seems our minds have done a bit less thinking these days,

our hearts a bit less beating.

It seems our humanity is crumbling before the walls we erect.

 

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Let us begin this chant, tried and true,

until that desert sand delivers us ruin too.

Have we shelved our books, packed away our reason?

As we are deaf to the cries of those who seek refuge,

We must also be blind to the lessons of history.

 

So detain those we distrust,

hold at arm’s length those who seek comfort.

Let our empathies flow to the extent

of our borders.

For the love of God, soundproof that wall,

Let us not busy ourselves with foreign screams.

We have no room for competing voices

in this shouting match of democracy.

Give us autocracy, give us monocracy,

Anything to coo us into complacency.

 

It seems ours hands have done no holding today,

Our arms, no hugging.

It seems our feet have never touched the other’s shoes.

More Than a Vote

A decision will be made. No one is naive about that. Every one of us knows that in a couple of days, we will collectively elect a new president. The candidates are rather morally emaciated for most of our tastes, and the general groupthink of the political parties have caused quite the rift in the nation. But this is not a political stance, this is a moral stance. I am not here to sway your vote and therefore I will refrain from mentioning either candidate’s names. Because we as the average American people often forget that we hold sway in this country as well. Maybe we do not directly make the laws, but our fathers and mothers and neighbors enforce them. Maybe we do not directly insult, attack, and discriminate against others, yet they still receive the brute force of prejudice. Maybe we refrain from acting and speaking out against injustice, stay out of political discourse, remain safe and comfortable at home living day to day, but maybe it’s time to get our hands dirty and realize that we too can make a difference. We may not be the next president, but we have more direct impact on those we see each day than many of the laws about to undergo creation.

So with that being said, regardless of the majority decision, I pledge:

To my friends/family who vote adversely to me: You are tangible reasons for my own existence, and to throw away relationships for politics is to serve you and myself a great injustice. But know this, we disagree. We disagree on magnificent issues, and in ways, your vote has hurt me. I’ll propose that I have probably hurt you as well with my own vote. But I am open and willing to hear you out. I will be vulnerable, I will be receptive. I would rather work through the muck and the mire of this election with those I trust to love me despite my beliefs, and I hope that consensus can be found. If not, know that I try daily to love you and treat you as I would want myself to be treated.

To my African-American friends and the Black communities around me: There is no measure of the grievances you have faced and will continue facing for years to come. My voice might be faint and at times I may be drowned out by the noise of the world, but I am yelling with you. I am outraged with you. I am dejected with you. I affirm your struggles, I attest to your pain. Yes, people will say all lives matter. Yes, people will say blue lives matter. And yes, everyone matters. But I will continue to uphold your battle, I will in unison shout, “black lives matter.” It’s a fearful time and though I may never dispel the hate that surrounds you, I hope to be a safe haven for you, a place to turn when the world has seemingly forgotten you.

To my LGBTQIA+ friends and peers: So much progress has been made, and it pains me to see that progress in jeopardy. Regardless of the decisions, of the bills proposed and passed, you will always be equal in my eyes. I would bake you a cake, hell, I would bake you a thousand cakes if I knew it would assuage the wounds that society has maimed you with. The struggle of the LGBTQIA+ community is an all-encompassing struggle. It affects personhood and livelihood alike. There is hate, fear, uncertainty and misunderstanding surrounding what it is to be gay, queer, asexual, trans…the list goes on and on. But I am here to hear. I am here to empathize. I am here to dole out love where you have met hate; offer absolution where you have been dealt damnation; sit with you when the world has up and walked out.

To my immigrant friends: I have never known you differently than any American. You are not here to mooch, to steal, to cheat. You are human, and you are humane. Your lives are meaningful, enriching, and cultivating to my own community. I hurt for the families that live day to day in fear of separation. For the men and women unable to live well, to live fully, and for those who feel debased and dehumanized. The America I know is an America that should welcome you, and I am deeply apologetic if you have known anything less.

And finally, to myself: I am fearful, myself, of the next four years. I am entering into the world as my own entity, someone with the cognitive reasoning abilities to do great things—but someone with the potential apathy to sit complacently. The election affects us all. But beyond that, I live a life that daily affects those around me. I pour into others as others pour into me. I make my voice heard, sometimes too much so, and I make my presence known. Why have I succumb to the comfort of acting the humorous cynic? The sassy, “poo-poo-politics” guy? The election made a farce of itself, that is for sure. But I live in a country with deep strife, unimaginable pain, and horrific, engrossing injustices, and I think the world requires more of me than cynicism and satire. I think our country demands affection, attention. I think we are asked more of ourselves now than ever before, and I think it’s time to reach out, to shout out, and to face the political tension with kindness and empathetic resolution. The line, “it’s all fun and games until…” applies now. How dare we have fun and play games while our brothers get gunned down in the streets? How dare we laugh and mock, safe in our homes, while our neighbors and communities are deported? How dare we raise a glass to progress and modernity when we fail to compromise on the humanity of certain people groups? So vote your conscious, vote your party. Vote however you will. But do not for a second believe that your vote is all you have to cast. Cast your love. Cast your comfort. Cast your house and your belongings, your money and your time. Cast a hug onto the next person you see regardless of color, sexuality, or political alignment. You are more than a vote, and we are more than helpless in the wake of this election.

 

Color of the Wheat Fields

 

“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

It’s no secret that the idea of finality has been on my mind. With college coming to an end and daunting life decisions lurking in the distance, a lot of questions materialize and anxieties are realized as I try and sift through what is “good enough” for my future. Adding to this, my rebel heart continues to deny that my time in Oxford is done and I am coming up on the halfway mark of my fall semester. In the vulnerability of my cynicism, I can spiral into thoughts of “why does this even matter? It will all be gone so soon.”

Truthfully, my heart tires from saying goodbye to people and places. From those who have made an impact on me, shaped and challenged me, loved and supported me, and the places that paint my hopes and dreams with everything from bold cathedrals to infinitesimal cracks in the cobblestone pavement, I so easily can succumb to feelings of surrender. Why care anymore? Why give so much when I may receive nothing in return? Why is life so mobile, so haphazard and erratic? Why is my heart so vulnerable, so brash and reckless to a fault?

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry authored the fabulous tale The Little Prince. This little prince is not much different than most of us. Young and naive, yet gentle and wise, he embarks on a journey to right a past wrong, and finds such elegant and beautiful lessons along the way. When crossing paths with a fox, the prince and the fox end up “taming” each other, that is, establishing ties so as to make the other “unique in all the world” compared to the multitude of boys and foxes. They are unique to one another as I am unique to the faces and places my travels have given me. The characteristic smiles, the life shining behind the eyes, the laughs I can’t get out of my head—each person I met is unique to me. I have tamed them, and they have tamed me. But then I left.

As the prince’s time drew near, so did mine, and I was forced to leave a newfound home. I was obstinate. I was stubborn. I was angry and rebellious and fought the entire time, although I knew in the end it had to be. But in my frustration I learned something so powerful and so benign in the very same smiles and eyes I was saying farewell to. I learned the lesson of the fox.

Tears falling, hearts breaking; all of these things are bad on the surface. And even though I knew my tears came from a source of joy and life, I could not mask my annoyance with the circumstance. “Then it has done us no good at all,” I might have said. (I did say). Might it have been better to save the heartache and forgo the experiences? Perhaps. Might I have remained more whole by not giving a piece of me to Oxford? Sure. But as the fox remembers his time with the little prince, a time whereupon the prince’s blonde hair was paralleled to the wheat fields by the fox’s home, the fox revealed the beauty in loss; memory. As he gazes upon the wheat fields, he will always hold dear the memory of the little prince and all they shared.

“It has done me good,”said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

Oxford is my wheat field. College is my wheat field. Every experience I have holds inklings of perfect moments, the moments that give you chills to remember and goosebumps to share. I am sad to be back home, but Oxford has done me good. Because of the memories I cherish and the people who continue on this journey with me 5000 miles away, I will smile through the tears. And I know that it will be hard. Saying goodbye will never get easier and as this softie heart in me wears in with each passing day, I know that I will continue loving people I will struggle to leave, meeting people I plan to keep, and moving ever forward grasping at those moments of happiness scattered around me. I have had a strikingly beautiful life. Not for absence of pain, but for remarkable clarity in perspective. I live each day not dwelling on the loss, the sadness, the hurt of the world around me, but on those who have made it all bearable. It’s the giant wheat field of life that keeps me repeatedly loving and encouraging. For the moments in life that make me stop and ponder, the people who bring smiles to my face on the darkest of days, and for the places that make my heart skip a beat, I could never devalue your worth to me by mourning over our parting. I may cry at times. I may weep and scream and throw a fit, but you have done me good. You have done me infinite good.

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Intact.

I am broken down. I am tired. I am exhausted by the violence and terror.

I am cautious. I am wary. I am conditioned to fear.

I am twenty-one years old, and I grew up with the notion that I could rule the world. I have lived countless days with that optimism. Life is never easy, yet the challenge was always sweet. The reward, satisfying. I am twenty-one years old, and I have my whole life ahead of me.

But something is different today than it was yesterday. Something is different today than it was a year ago. My eyes are peeled back, my heart stripped to the core. I am no longer naive. I am simultaneously softened and hardened by this world. My body aches for the pain this world feels tonight, yet my heart grows cold as another senseless act of violence dominates the headlines. I am broken down. I am tired. I am exhausted.

I am cautious. I am wary. I am conditioned to fear those around me, the innocuous event that turns to tragedy in a heartbeat. In a world of bombings and terror, guns and gore, where do I stand? Where do I shout? How much easier to lie down, to forget the night and brush aside that which doesn’t concern me? I am twenty-one years old, this is too large for me. I am broken down. I am tired. I am exhausted.

But I am intact. I am awake. I am fighting. I am twenty-one years old and this is my world. This is my life. I choose not complacency. I choose not denial. I choose love. I choose hope. I choose each morning to wake with tear-stained eyes to the rising of the sun. I choose to remember, to honor, to respect those who have died senselessly. I choose to love recklessly those who are shunned by society. I am intact. I am awake. I am fighting.

I am twenty-one years old, and I grew up with the notion that I could rule the world. Today, that notion changes. Today, the world is not mine to have. It is mine to share. Today, the world is mine to give. To nurture. To care for. I am cautious. I am wary. I am conditioned to fear for those who are my equal. I am equal. I am equivalent to you. To him. To her. And I will not raise a hand to strike, but rather to hold. I am cautious of violence. I am wary of destruction. I am conditioned to fear for my brother of color, my sister of sexuality. Because they are me. I am them. We are one, and we are hurting. Today, the world has attacked us. Today, the world has waged war. But I am twenty-one years old, and I will not stop fighting for justice. I am twenty-one years old and my life will be lived in constant pursuit of love.

To those who have inspired me and continued fighting against all the odds, I am in debt to you. To those who have held me up when I have fallen, allow me to hold you. To those who have fallen prey to the hatred of the world, I offer my condolences. And to those who are reading my words, stand with me against hate. Against violence. Against oppression. Against injustice. Against death.

We are intact. We are awake. We are fighting.

I Vote Hilary ’16

A cohort is defined as “a group of people with a shared characteristic.”  Other than the shared characteristic of being extremely photogenic, this group of 16 shared the gamut of emotions in Oxford, and I count myself blessed to have offered my 1 part to the 16 whole. Oxford’s Hilary Term 2016 was one for the books. The laughs, the cries, the pub crawls and black ties, the early [broken] mornings and the late {substantially more broken] nights, the rants, and the memories have me more than nostalgic for the three months we got to share together.

I’m not one to overhype the group-bonding (and I don’t even think we played one get-to-know-you game) and I won’t be so naive as to believe we weren’t all a little testy with one another at times. But I will definitively say that this was the best dang cohort I could have asked for. Within these 16, I rebuilt friendships that had weakened over the years, built the foundations for new friendships that will last many more years, and gained insight into who I am, who I want to be, and who I need to be. Beyond the more trivial things such as life-lessons, I conquered grocery shopping, chicken cooking, and vegetable steaming. I’ve used utensils I never knew existed. I’ve rallied around things so nonessential yet life-giving in times of essay writing that I cheered for ice cream, cried at new additions to Netflix, and danced throughout the house for delivery pizza. I boldly faced down the challenge of a co-ed house occupied by eight (and maybe once or twice abused the fully-stocked fridge). It was with you wonderful people that I tasted the waters of Bath (and consequently spit it out), endured “The Hoff,” found Narnia (and Toot Butts Hill), experienced London (Ben there, done that), and even met Shia LaBeouf.

The 16 faces pictured above were the unexpected smiles in the same cafe when you hadn’t recognized a soul in days. The screams and laughs of the above 16 were the music that filled the Oxonian streets (and alerted everyone to our American delicacies). And the hugs and touches of those 16 friends were the non-verbal communications that reminded me “you’re far from home, but not without family.” 32 arms have embraced each other as we shouldered the freezing temperatures. 32 legs have undergone impressive transformations as they walked miles upon miles each day. 32 eyeballs have scoured the pages of books researching to no end, all for an essay that was most likely more trouble than good. and 16 mouths contorted to that ugly “sad smile” you get when you’re leaving someone you love for a significant amount of time.

So, maybe for this cohort we don’t have the run-of-the-mill study abroad experiences. Maybe our shared characteristic isn’t bungee-jumping off a bridge together or going on safaris (yes, I’ve seen your South Africa photos, APU). But what we do share is an unforgettable, culturally-shocking, educationally-challenging, cerebrally-stimulating, expectation-shattering, bone-chilling, independence-building Oxford experience. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. So, Joey, Angele, Marissa, Justin, Alex, Katy, Delaney, Chrissy, Gianna, Julie, Annie, Ashley, Mika, Jessica, and Alyson…I miss you. And that’s why I’d vote for Hilary ’16 any day.

Backwards Train

A little-known “favorite” of mine is to travel backwards. Whether it be a bus or train or car, I prefer watching things whiz by me and fade off into the distance. I’ve always loved this. I’m definitely unhindered by motion sickness (a blessing I do not take lightly), and the idea of being transported from point A to point B completely unaware of what’s to come is a secret comfort. Beyond that, I love leaning my head on the window and trying to grasp the entire visual picture of the surroundings before they slip out of view. Maybe it’s a clarity thing– I would rather see clearly right away and then choose what to watch as it quickly retreats from sight instead of having things bombard me from the front and quickly escape behind me. It seems better than the alternative (mainly because of my bad vision) but I always find myself annoyed as I wait for things to come into focus. As I’ve reflected on this little quirk of mine, I can’t help but to imbue this simple appreciation with a deeper metaphor for life. Because it seems to me that this life flies by, and all we get is the choice to focus on what has passed. Of course, we always seem to be sitting backwards, eagerly anticipating what will fly by our windows. And as much as we would like, it’s near impossible to crane your head enough to get a good view of what is to come. Instead, you have to wait for the reality of it all to hit; the intense clarity of life hurtling a hundred miles per hour by your window.

There seem to be two types of people: those who sit facing forward, and then me. However, to me, sitting backward is exciting. It’s a bit exhilarating. It’s naive, perhaps, to face behind me and wait to see what comes along. But as I spend more time abroad (and traveling backwards most of my transits), I’m understanding that even the best forward-facing intentions leave me reflecting on what has passed. It’s April 27th. I arrived in England on January 6th. I still have two more months, two tutorials, a handful of essays, and yet, it all comes down to days. One day at a time until all the days are done. And that will hit me faster than I imagine it will. So maybe I’m choosing to sit backwards because I can’t shake the feeling that half the beauty of life is found in the reflection. The joys of living and studying abroad, of traveling and forgoing sleep to live in the present day, is magnified when I watch it slip into the past. The present is fleeting, and present becomes past in the most innocuous of ways. I’m learning each day that the previous day has so much to continue teaching me, and that looking behind and reflecting on the days I can barely keep up with as I live them is a beautiful thing. I’m under no impression that I will ever forget this time of my life. So, I figured, if these days and these memories are going to remain as little specks through the window of life, I’m going to keep looking back and remembering where I’ve been. I will reminisce and cherish the memories, and every day I will be able to add to that collection with the new images fluttering by. Forward facing is nice, and refreshing at times! But there’s so much that yesterday can teach us, and I intend to continue finding beauty in the places I’ve traveled.

So, for the time I have left on this train, you better believe I will be sitting backwards and thoroughly enjoying the moments, however brief, until they fade from view. And I’ll never know what is coming. I might know where this train is carrying me, but it’s all in the journey, not the destination, right?

Here and Now

The doors of the Paris metro (direction: Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel) open up and I walk in and take a seat. I’m just one of thousands of tourists visiting the sites on my vacation in Paris. I look across the train and see another young man waiting for the stop. Around my height, French, probably. Just one of thousands of residents in the “City of Love.”

Fast forward two weeks. I’m halfway through a ping-pong match in my hostel in Malta. A group of Belgians begin to chat with “the Americans.” We chat about Malta, the beach, etc. The election comes up (the election always comes up). These particular Belgians are studying English while interning in Malta and love the speaking practice they get with us. And then it hits me.

What is the real difference between me and these people? Same age. Similar characteristics, both physically and personality-based. However, vastly different experiences. And as I sit in a cafe back in Oxford, feeling comfortable and at home after weeks of traveling, I wonder why I am here and now. Why was I born into a loving family in a well-off area of Northern Texas and not born in Paris? Or Belgium? Or anywhere? What is it about me that is important enough to…well, to be me? This wondering is inconclusive, as it will always be. But it gives me hope. Hope that there is something out there that I was meant to do, that only I can do. Yes, my birthplace could be completely random. And we can go into a whole conversation about consciousness and science and theology and get into the nitty-gritty of life itself. But I look around at all the people I’ve met– from those I befriended in Kenya, Africa a short four years ago to the Californians I’ve come to call my best friends and all the way to today, with the Parisians and the Belgians and the Oxonians– and I know that this life is expansive. And to think that each of these has a life as intricate and challenging as my own is perhaps one of the most beautiful lessons to continue learning.

With all of this in mind, I can’t stop thinking about being here and now. Because that’s quite a big calling. I am somewhat obligated to be me unashamedly and continuously, because who else can do that job? I wasn’t born as you or him or her or anyone else. I’m Evan. Just Evan. And when the world gets to feeling too large for me to make any tangible difference, I have to remember that I am here and now, and I am doing my best.

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