No Stars at All

Of all the posts I’ve written on this blog, this one has the highest chance of going completely unread. It isn’t going to pop up anywhere other than right here. It isn’t going to appear on my limited Social Media platforms, nor do I necessarily want it to. I just felt like writing. So, here we are.

I can’t really explain my current state of emotions. It isn’t sadness or loneliness. It’s more of poignant openness that just sort of washed over me. I’m not bored, but nor am I especially content. I’m not anxious or stressed about my life or job. But I’m also not overly excited about anything either. I suppose there needs to be the quiet, in-between times so that you can recognize and learn from the more acute highs and lows. “There would be no bright stars without dim stars, and, without the surrounding darkness, no stars at all,” Alan Watts once wrote.

So, with that, comes the million-dollar question. Are we dim stars, or bright stars, or are we the darkness? And the answer is that it doesn’t matter. No matter how we feel about our place in the universe, it isn’t going to change. And, to be honest, there really aren’t a whole lot of things that matter all that much anyway, other than how you feel about yourself and your life. One way or the other, like it or not, you’re going to be you tomorrow morning, just the same as I will be me. And that is the brilliant part, because if you are you no matter what, and you actually have a tiny fucking clue who that person is, and you actually like that person, you’ve pretty much made it. The world is nearly yours.

Over the past nine months, I’ve finally figured out who I actually am. The experiences of my life, the military, travel, college, and especially the time I spent in Central America, built the person I would ultimately become, but I still didn’t know who that person was. I thought I had to keep moving and changing, pushing and pulling, to eventually get rid of the artificial layers and find my most authentic self. I was wrong. I didn’t need to go back across the country or continue exploring the world, I didn’t even need to go across the street. Everything I was looking for so feverishly was inside of me the whole time. A wealth of experiences, good and bad, just waiting to be tapped into.

In certain moments, it still doesn’t feel real to me. This confidence and authenticity are everything I have spent so much time and risked so much of my soul looking for. I keep waiting for things to fall apart, or my job to overwhelm me, but the ship stays upright and just keeps sailing along. And maybe that’s because I know now that the ship and the sea are indistinguishable. There are no good or bad days for me anymore. No ambitious journey or storm to thwart it. There is just me, growing and trying to become the most authentic version of myself that I can.

Sometimes it feels like a secret that those around me don’t know about. A sense of self and view of the world that swells up within me like a secret power. In an essay about the experience of reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Penny Vlagopoulos describes it as “something like the sensation of suddenly being shocked by the sight of a large, full moon hovering almost too low to notice, and wondering if anyone else sees it. You are a lucky participant receiving privileged information.” Oftentimes, this is the experience I have when looking at the world through the lens of my own eyes. It appears bright and mystical, not something to be understood fully, but something otherworldly that no one else has bothered to take notice of.

Sure, at times, I feel stress and discouragement acutely. But I also have an unshakeable conviction to enjoy my life. “No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along, or that the whole object of playing it is to reach the finale,” Watts wrote, all the way back in 1958. “The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget to live them.”

What Watts is trying to say is that there is essentially no reason for music, it’s just beautiful and we love it. It doesn’t need to be constantly improved upon, it needs to be consistently enjoyed. The same should go for our lives. They aren’t meant to be constructed endlessly, they are meant to be lived authentically. The rat race isn’t real. The things we oftentimes conceive as being the most important — ego, wealth, status, celebrity, etc. — are all not real. I remember that when I get up in the morning and find I am still happy just being me.

I have done my very best to learn what’s real and what isn’t. To be as authentic and unapologetic as the civilized world will allow. The realest thing in my life is the first half an hour of my day. I get up, put in my headphones, mix up my lemon water and sea salt hydration-cocktail, and then drink it while dancing ecstatically in my underwear and watering to my plants. That’s me.

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