It was Career Day. But by the time you reach high school, Career Day doesn’t excite you anymore. Maybe if the firemen still came around and let you climb on their fire engine, it’d be a little more—oh I dunno, robust. And to be clear, I meant that statement the way it sounded.
But yeah, it was Career Day. Looking around at all the different booths, I just get kind of depressed thinking about how I’m going to have to choose something soon. In less than four years, I’ll either be in college or the workforce, earning my daily bread. The thought that life was going to swallow me whole and there was nothing I could do about it…
I wish there was this in-between state where you didn’t have to go to high school but at the same time you didn’t have to work. I guess that would be art school but there’s not much of a future there. Now that thought made me angry. Why shouldn’t there be a future in art school? Without art, people would all be numbers going through a system with no meaning and no purpose. Where was the purpose of human life?
What have I been preparing for all through school? In Kindergarten I prepared for Elementary school. In Elementary school I prepared for Middle school. In Middle school I prepared for High school. In High school I prepared for college. In college I prepare for a job. What is a job preparing me for? Retirement? Then what? I can live out my “Golden Years” in a deep state of depression because I couldn’t do what I dreamed of doing? Was that going to be my life? Where was the friggin’ choice!?
I feel like I don’t have a choice…
I was looking at a single booth now. There was a local artist who had her paintings on display and some New Age music playing from a boom box. She was dressed in what were obviously Wal-Mart brand jeans, and a long-ish shirt with a cheap design on it. I thought again about how suicidal life seemed to be. Here was an artist, devoted to her craft, and life just threw her into the gutter. Life threw someone who wanted more than just a number into this big void that didn’t have a future. Into a life that didn’t matter.
She was talking to a middle schooler who came by with his older sibling. I watched the exchange happen in a kind of stupor. It didn’t make sense to me. Why am I here? What was the point? There had to be a reason. There had to be a reason that this artist was here selling her art—pieces of her own soul—for a mere sum of cash. There had to be some sort of drive, but where was it? Everyone else seemed to have a reason for living, but why did they all sound so unimportant to me?
The artist pointed at one of her works. It was a simple blue impressionist piece that wasn’t even that good. The boy’s older sibling tugged at his shirt and they walked away, the artist waving goodbye to them, a big smile on her face. Her reason was her art. But if her art didn’t get her anywhere where did her drive really come from? What was her reason?
I watched the artist put the painting back, and I took in the different shades of blue. I saw after a minute that it was the ocean. I thought it was swirls of blue arranged haphazardly, but the swirls were really rolling waves in the middle of a big, bright sky.
The piece dragged me in and I was standing with my back to the wind in the middle of the Pacific. Birds flew over my head. I wished I could join them, cursing my inability to fly, another choice that was taken away from me, and before I knew it I was flying along with them on my new streamlined body with powerful wings. I dipped low and dove straight into the water, plucking a fish and racing towards the surface.
Someone shook my shoulder gently. “Hey, it’s time to give your speech.”
Okay, I said.
I followed them up to the stage and adjusted my mike. I kept thinking about how I’d have to choose a job, choose a life I didn’t want in order to survive. That great, big, empty void opening up in front of me threatened to swallow me whole. It felt so open and frightening.
Just like the ocean.
“Everything matters. Everything matters so much to everybody, and everything is so important that it all needs to happen simultaneously. And yet, it is so important that it is impossible for it to happen simultaneously. I am just one person, and everybody is just one person. They are only capable of doing one thing. Maybe two.
But everything matters so immensely. Everything, from the last atom is important. But because everything is important, it is all unimportant. Because we are just one person. Everything cannot be changed all at once and so it is not important because nothing can be done. If it does not happen all at once, then it doesn't really matter.
And that's the beauty of it all.
Nothing matters because everything matters. So they cancel each other out. What's left is nothing. Just nothing. Like a blank canvas or a blank document. Your life is a void because nothing and everything is important. Which means you get to choose what you do. You get to choose what you will make of your life. Just as you get to choose what you paint on that blank canvas. And if you don't like it, paint over it.
Because that is life. Life is nothing until you start painting. And then it's YOUR life. A person can do anything. Anything at all. Even though I have little to no chance making it as an artist, I’m going to try. I’m going to stare down that void. Because I get to choose. And you get to choose.
That's why life is beautiful. Because we have the ability to choose.”