On my 16th birthday, Andy Grenier gave me a copy of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.
It was an old edition, a paperback, published some time in the 60s. It's pretty delicate these days, and it's one of the most important things I own.
Someone had given it to Andy, I think, and had inscribed a quote from the book on the inside cover:
Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Looking back, I realize how much this idea has informed the trajectory of my life. Not that I've always done that good a job at taking the advice that it offers. I can be impatient and would prefer clear, concise answers to most problems, delivered in a timely manner. And the older I get, the more the problems multiply, the more I need solutions, and then there's this annoying backlog of both practical and metaphysical questions. It's easy to get overwhelmed.
Where did I put my keys?
Do I love him?
Do I believe in this?
What's the plan, then?
How much do I want this?
Will there be snacks?
Receiving that book, though, and feeling those words resonate activated some mechanism that set all my wheels and cogs in motion towards the series of events that have been this cumulative experience so far. On my best days I remember that there's no other way to do it - that there's no other option for any of us than to go through it and figure it out as we go along.
There is a freedom in not knowing. There is permission to fuck up and try again, and fuck up and try again, and see beautiful things, and meet such interesting people, and to fall like a trust exercise at summer camp into the kaleidoscope of all these years just flashing by, laughing and giving and loving through the hardest parts.
I look at what's now. And I wonder what's next.
Original illustration by Isabella Rotman