POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.
It wasn’t until I had slipped and crash-landed on my face in the snow that I realized I’d fallen in love with trees. At the time, I was also barely able to pay rent, and single for the first time in years, and, at any given moment, on the verge of panic. The world seemed bleak and I was starved for brightness. In my desperate search, I found it in the most unexpected places: in the curvature of tree branches, in the crowing of birds, in bumping shoulders with strangers on crowded sidewalks.
Everything, all of it, was spectacularly mundane. But at the time, nothing seemed purer, or brighter, or more beautiful than tree bark, than trash buried under snow, than people passing in the street and touching.
Monday afternoon, Megan and I were in a dark mood, and so we met for a drink in a dark bar. “Everything’s been so blah lately,” Megan said.
It had been a hard week, a tiring one, made no less exhausting by relentless rain, snow, wind, and cold. We found seats in a corner booth, propping our feet on its ripped leather banquette. We talked about many things, but mainly we talked about rejection—in work, in friendships, and beyond. We’re both daughters of parents who made us feel special our entire lives - so it’s a harsh blow, even in adulthood, when someone enters and lets you know you aren’t.
What are we supposed to do, we wondered, when the blow knocks us over?
I remembered the trees and the trash and the birds.
“Cling to small happinesses,” I offered. “Anything. A barista at Toby’s gave me a free coffee today. That’s something.”
The next day, Megan sent me a text. I stapled my finger mid-sentence while I was teaching, she wrote. A football player named Dante pulled the staple out and blood ran down my hand. I sent the students on break and got a Band-aid.
Before I could respond in alarm, she continued: Then I taught for another hour and a half. I’m a superhero.
I’m celebrating small triumphs, she wrote, which made me smile. Or maybe, she said, it’s just the loss of blood.--
Yesterday morning, it was forty degrees. The sun shone and the ice in the street softened, and people rode bikes and waited for buses without hats or gloves or thick scarves covering half their faces. A week ago, a blizzard had blown through; not long after, there was rain. Now, finally, here was the sun.
“Spring has arrived!” my roommate Lily announced gleefully, before consulting her iPhone to find below-freezing temperatures in the coming week’s forecast.
With memories of our last restless snow day still fresh in our minds, we wondered aloud what we’d do. “We’ll drink whiskey,” I said. “We’ll paint. We’ll order a pie.”
The moods and rhythms of these days and weeks (and the whole of our twenties, it seems) have been as predictable as the weather—which is to say, both very and not at all. What else is there to do but shiver and slip and sweat our way through them by focusing on joy, even if it’s tiny? Even if it’s shrouded in ice? Even if it comes in the form of a tree, or an hour of sunshine, or a staple through your finger?
It’s possible to get warm, I’ve learned, even on the coldest of days.
Early one drizzly morning last week, I woke up before the sun rose. I lay with my eyes closed for what felt like hours. My room, still without curtains, filled with gray light. The wind blew through the cracks in my window panes. A bus passed. And somewhere in the space between sleeping and not, I mistook the sound of splattering rain for applause.
You can find my previous POV entries, here. Thank you so much for reading! Photo by Emily Johnston.