Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Year in Review

(I wrote this a while back, but a variety of computer problems have belated the posting. So without further ado...The Year in Review.)
I think it’s important that I write this before I return to New Orleans. It is better to reflect while on terra firma, before letting minutiae of dealing with life post-hurricane take over. I think people tend to take stock when they’ve hit a low point, rather than when they’re in a good place, or at least in a relatively peaceful one.

There is no doubt that this year has been exceedingly hard. The tragedy of the hurricane goes without saying. There have also been deaths and severe illnesses in my family, unbelievable hardships in the lives of almost all of my friends, and of course, the ever present grind that is law school. I did very little over the holiday break other than complain about these things to my friends and family. I also did very little at my semester “abroad” (i.e. in Austin) other than complain and fret, and ultimately, I am rather ashamed of how I have handled things.

The other day I was thinking about a conversation I had with my friend Eddie, who owns his own art gallery, shortly before I moved away for law school. Eddie always had his hands in something, and I admired that way he seemed to take the bitter and the sweet in stride, even if I sometimes consider his enterprise slightly crazy. We were chatting about the state of our lives and he said, “You know, I wish that I’d dreamed bigger when I was a kid.”

I asked Eddie what he meant by that statement and he said, “Well, if I’d known that I’d have done all the things that I’d wanted to by my age, I would have had bigger dreams.” I considered what Eddie had said, and was surprised to find myself agreeing with him. Taking stock of my life at that moment, I was surprised by the number of things I’d dreamed of doing as a child that I’d actually managed to do. I went on an excavation, I co-wrote a play that was produced, I was in a play, I played in a band, I worked for an art museum, I helped produce a jazz festival, I made films, I judged films, I sold my artwork, I taught myself to cook, and now I was on my way to law school. I admit I didn’t manage to do any of these things because of talent or ambition, I was merely lucky enough to be presented with opportunities.

I was thinking about this conversation the other day and I had to ask myself when I had stopped taking those risks, or more importantly, when did I stop seeking them out? When did I become so afraid of failing? It’s like I came to law school and neglected to apply everything else I learned in life. Robert A. Heinlein once wrote, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Yes, yes, yes! Fuck law school, fuck failure, fuck fear and trepidation. As D said to me over the break, “we do amazing things every day”. And if we don’t, we should.

Eddie and Heinlein and D are all right. This year, we should all dream bigger.

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