A Reading from Uncle John’s Farm: On the Mandate of Turkeys
November 22, 2006
Restaurant Review: Parallel 17
November 26, 2006

How much more can I say that experience breeds knowledge?

How many years have I spent with my nose in books, enlightened by ideas that have been spent, tried, played, seen majestic on every possible stage of life? And how much of the staging have I seen? Little. None.

I have not spent much time of late reading. I regret this, if only because it is a powerful way for anyone and everyone to share their piece of living. Experience cannot be transmuted through words, but it certainly can be inspired. Go out and live because of the beautiful arrangement of words? It has happened to me, and I don’t doubt that it will continue to.

Instead of reading, then, I have spent my time experiencing and articulating. Poor writing often comes from a lack of familiarity with the written word; I cannot deny that I fear this will happen because of my falling out with books. Nonetheless, I am compelled to write, and to write the insignificant details alongside the monumental events. And I have found, in my slow and often ugly relation of them, that experience is not always pretty. It is not always its own reward; it does not carry with it the redemption of knowledge. Frequently and painfully, it stirs confusion and anxiety. It begs the reasons for living and survival, upsetting the luxuries of study that left me to think and think without worry. What ifs are no longer; what must bes are everything I consider.

Part of me doubts that the survival urge must be all-consuming. When, after all, stability is found and I am financially solvent, I can pursue the finer parts of life. Even when, however, this is happily accepted, I instantly think of a time when pursuing more education, advanced degrees, and a different career are virtually impossible. How could I possibly suspend the cycle of job-paycheck-schedule-bills-social life to anxiously follow a new career path so different from the one I am currently solidifying?

My father, when and if he reads this, might be muttering the words “I told you so.” And he would be right. Stubborn in my own way, I refused to ground my life as society makes necessary. I want to follow to many ideas, feelings, subjects, dreams; I cannot stay in one place for too long. As I have often been told, however, and firmly agree with, to know something intellectually is only a small piece of truly knowing it. To know it, it must be experienced. Hence the reason for my wild pursuits, despite “knowing” better. Even in failure and pain, I can say I KNOW what I know… it is not education in the traditional sense. It is praxis; it is living.

Now, I am torn between so many people, ideas, wishes, and desires. What does God want of me? What would my family want of me? What do I want of myself? I can say this much: I want to be in a place where I am actively, continuously, and unabatedly making a difference. I could write, yes, but unless it is coupled with teaching and experiencing (in some form), then it is empty. My writing needs to make experience necessary; it needs to move people to act.

Such being said, am I born to write? I believe it must be a piece of action – a large and influential piece. Still, what should the action be? Teaching seems to be only a means to an end, a financial necessity that would allow me to write. True, I’d have plenty of inspiration and subject, but wouldn’t I want to broaden my horizons? Would teaching let me? I cannot say.

Another idea has recently occurred to me: university development, particularly in the area of curriculum and instruction. I would like to be involved in the shaping of university curricula – watching students in the classroom, talking to them, building a plan, implementing it, analyzing it, and then maintaining and improving it. I have looked at these types of programs at Columbia University (which I looked at earlier for higher education counseling programs). I think I have a real shot of making it in and doing a damn good job. Not only that, I can see myself being inspired to change things. And change is what I need to accomplish; making a difference is too important to compromise it with plans B, C, and D. I’m afraid enough that my current life is a place of settling.

Then, of course, there’s the long-standing desire to be accepted into creative writing programs. To be honest (and to echo the words of a good friend), I’m not sure my writing would fit in with the mold of contemporary styles and subjects. I’ve been told many times that I’m an amazing writer, and yet my style is not one that meshes with creative writing programs. Should I even bother? I can write without the degree. And yet, I feel that acceptance into one of these programs would be affirmation of my talent. Maybe I just need to turn inward and recognize what I so often ignore: my own potential.

As for relationships, my life is going well. Friendships range from pristine to recovering, and all is more or less copasetic. Do I regret things? Do I lie to cover mistakes? Yes. I can’t tell you, though, how nice it is to finally feel free enough to be honest with everyone, knowing that doing so is less likely to hurt things in the long run than pretending for the moment. I really have to shake this “make everybody happy” gene. Is that even possible? Or do I really want to?

Writing this, I down my second piece of quick bread and listen to several new Josh Groban songs. This kind of music inspires me to think, to reflect, and make sense of what is completely scattered. Three jobs, turbulent friendships, and a significant other make me feel somewhat lost at times. I know that my relationship with God has suffered – and I am the only one to blame for this. Getting through the moment, making myself happy, defending myself against perceived hurt has pushed Him to the back over and over. I must try to understand that bringing Him closer is the answer. It’s hard, as anyone would claim. Still, it’s the most important thing to me – and always will be. I believe that my call comes from God, my relationships and potential come from God, and that I am called above all else to be true to Him. What does that mean? Love in relationships, honesty, trust, forgiveness, and magnanimity. I cannot let these be adulterated – these must be the Jeff that people know from now until God says it’s time for me to leave this world.

Do you know how hard it is to need to be inspiring and yet know that the moment carries no inspiration for myself or anyone else? Do you know how pathetic I feel sometimes, having accomplished none of the change I am so passionate about? It burns; it chokes me. It makes it hard to be proud of myself. And maybe, just maybe, I’m blind to what I have accomplished. But maybe my heart is too big to accept what has been as sufficient. I must keep going, stretching, hurting, suffering a bit, celebrating a bit, until I know I am doing what I am called to do.

This is why I find it hard to believe someone loves me; this is why I struggle with loving myself. Any surprise? I suppose my abasement is more apparent to those around me than to me. But I love to love, and to make things better. I love to be passionate; I love the freedom of doing anything in my power to secure what I believe.

Now – friends, boyfriends, education, books, words, experience – how do I live that?

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