Okay so, I’ve been tagged in this three quotes challenge. When I decided to do it I opened my (nerd alert) book of quotes. Yep, I’ve been collecting quotes (the way some people collect…stamps) for roughly half my life. So I plucked three at random and, well, here they are:
“Now goes under, and I watch it go under, the sun
That will not rise again.
Today has seen the setting, in your eyes cold and senseless as the sea,
Of friendship better than bread” – Edna St. Vincent Millay (To a Friend estranged from Me)
I read this bit of verse for the first time in a book called The last of Eden that was a favourite of my teenage self and which, though I haven’t re-read it in the many years since, I still have on my book shelf, still consider an all time favourite. For most people it’s probably another unremarkable, angsty, 80s teen drama but then raised on the Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, and every John Hughes film of that era, I clearly have no problem with angsty, 80s teen drama and, true confession, find them anything but unremarkable. I identified with Mike, the main character in Eden because she was an angsty teenage wanna be writer, like me. The teenage years are some of the most transitional of our lives, rapidly, dizzyingly so (as I was reminded recently when writing my own teen/young adult novel Musical Youth), so when Mike sees her friendships changing and herself changing in the midst of it, and mourns the loss, I could relate; I was going through the same thing. Of course, back when I memorized this bit of verse (without even thinking to check for the source poem until many years later) I thought I did but I didn’t really know what it was to feel the heartbreak of a friendship dying…or fading into nothingness…these things would come later.
Incidentally, The Last of Eden is one of the books in the Cushion Club Wadadli Pen Summer Reading Challenge here in Antigua and Barbuda.
“What happens to a dream deferred
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun
Or fester like a sore and then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it sags like a heavy load
Or does it explode?” – Langston Hughes
This poem takes me back to a couple of places. It takes me back to the remarkable film starring Sydney Poitier and Ruby Dee (two of the best to ever do it) built from a remarkable play by the gone-much-too-soon Lorraine Hansberry. I’m mostly sure I was in college when I first read the play; the film, it feels like it’s always been there in my awareness (I mean, it’s Sydney Poitier, right?). The reason why I associate the play with college days is because we did a production of A Raisin in the Sun in college. I was writing plays by then, soapy melodramas mostly (in retrospect) but we had so much fun doing them and they were well received by the college crowd; considering our usual fare, we were ambitious with A Raisin in the Sun but maybe too young and naïve to appreciate what we were undertaking. We did it though. Yes, we, I was a part of the production too – I don’t think deliberately, pretty sure I was just supposed to understudy but then one of the leads had to miss one of her performances…or something. The lead will correct my sketchy memory of this if she reads this but I remember holding the plant as the family either prepared to leave its humble abode and move on up or settled into its new digs. It’s been a while since I read that one, too. Anyway, what does all of this have to do with the Langston Hughes poem. Well, Langston I discovered in university. I remember wiling hours away in the campus library (such a huge library) reading his Simple stories and his novel Not Without Laughter (Dover Thrift Editions), but the poetry, the poetry man. Oh man. I fell in love with not just the way he used words but the urgency of his words even all those decades later when I discovered them. And of course I fell in love with the whole Harlem Renaissance period – but of that time, my favourites remain Langston and Zora, of course. The poem Harlem spoke to me then as a girl of very limited means with her own big dreams she couldn’t figure out how to make happen much less dare to believe in. Who, frankly, very Walter Lee like, felt trapped by her limited options. Hughes’ Harlem is eternally linked to Hansberry’s tale of Walter Lee Younger because the poem was part of what inspired the man who was the walking definition of the poem’s frustrations and most especially its climactic moment “or does it explode?” !
“Feel the fear, then let it go. Jump in and do it –
Whatever it is
If our instincts and path have led us there
It is where we need to be” – Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go
I’ve actually never read Melody Beattie but I remember when I first heard Feel the Fear… I was sitting at my desk at a job I’d hated before I started it (and it had done nothing to lift my depression) and a co-worker said it, and I grabbed hold of it and let it direct my path away from where I don’t want to be toward where I want to be ever since. I’m not one of those people who blithely declares I never feel fear or who kicks fear to the curb like something of no value. I feel that fear is a part of us, it keys us in to danger. That’s physical fear. It’s a survival instinct. Emotional fear though is trickier, it doesn’t get us out of situations so much as keep us stuck in them; stuck in bad relationships because we’re afraid of being alone, stuck at a job we hate telling ourselves we’re not about to give up our years of service as if when we ‘win’ and get that pension it’s the same as getting those soul sucking years back. I wanted to spend those years doing what I was passionate about, what I loved to do, what I had an instinct for …and that was writing. I didn’t want to lose sight of that, and I didn’t want fear to stop me from pursuing my dreams or doing anything I felt pulled to do really. And so I’ve not only embraced the scary high wire act that is the writing life, the freelance writing life no less, and been blessed with the opportunity to share my stories (read: my books) with people I’ll never meet, I’ve pushed through the fear to many of my life’s adventures – heart pulsing double time but exhilarated on the other side of the ride. I’m not going to lie to myself and say the fear of failure, fear of a hard crash, fear of making the wrong move isn’t there (I’m not going to lie to you and say I ALWAYS dare, always overcome the fear) but I don’t want that fear to make me content with staying stuck, and so I, to put it the way my long ago co-worker did that day, remind myself (and I’m a work in progress on this), to feel the fear, but do it anyway.
Okay, so, who to tag? Nine, right? Pulling at random, much like my selection of quotes …
I’m not sure I’ve actually tagged any of you, but if you see this, here’s what you do:
I – Post your favorite quotes or your own quotes for three (3) posts in a row.
II – Thank the person who nominated you.
III – Pass it on to three (3) other bloggers per quote, each time you post them.
IIIb – Or pass it to nine (9) bloggers if you choose to post all the quotes together, in the same post.