POV: Clarity.

Friday, June 6, 2014

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. 

 

My roommate Lily and I walked across the Williamsburg Bridge yesterday evening. Someone we knew was DJing at a tiny cafe on the Lower East Side, and we spent an hour and a half communing with friends and meeting a few new ones, drinking wine and very good coffee next to the restaurant’s open windows. 
It was eight o’clock and still light out. It was the start of a perfect New York night, someone said.
Feeling indecisive - and remembering that we both had unfinished work waiting for us at our apartment - Lily and I wandered home. We walked slowly, watching boats. We discussed the night ahead, which, back at the cafe, had seemed full of purpose and possibility.
“I don’t want to go home,” I said. Still, we walked in that direction. We sat on the benches outside our building and watched the restaurant downstairs fill with people. We pondered getting drinks, meeting friends, doing our work.
But a half hour later, we were still there, unsure how best to fill our time. This is one of the most wonderful parts of living in New York, and one of its most debilitating curses: on any given night, the possibilities are endless. 
An hour passed. Through the restaurant windows, we watched tables be seated and then cleared, then filled again. A small crowd gathered around us, waiting to be called.
We decided we’d given decision-making our best shot. We climbed the stairs. We left the group behind us. We promised ourselves we'd wake up early.
--

It occurred to me the other day that nearly half of this year has passed. Someone asked recently what my goals are for the second half. 
I’m better at wishes than goals, I said, and I wished for clarity.  If only for a moment, I’d like just a slightly clearer picture of where this year is headed and if the decisions I’m making are good ones. 
But part of me knows that’s silly. When I was younger, I thought that once I reached a certain age, everything would become clear: what I was supposed to be doing, who I was supposed to be with, where I was supposed to be, and when. 

Now I know that the answers may never be clear. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
When nothing is sure, everything is possible, Margaret Drabble once said. I’ve always felt invigorated by those words. Recently, though, I’ve been exhausted by them. But not defeated - at least, not yet. 
--
interviewed an artist once, who told me that the Williamsburg Bridge was one of her favorite places in the city. “I like going up there and having a comprehensive view of the city,” she said. “I talk to it, ask for signs about what to do next.”
I remembered this as I crossed the bridge last night. But standing there, amidst graffiti and trash and bikers and people pushing strollers, the city’s only comment was traffic noise.
Days earlier, I'd spent an afternoon strolling Bushwick Open Studios, a three-day festival during which the public can walk through artists’ lofts and studios, and meet the people behind the works on display. 
Over the course of several hours, I saw brick walls made of felt, a wooden UFO, a woman wearing a rotting Christmas tree. In one studio, there were large-scale paintings of naked bodies on canvases as tall as the ceiling. 
With artwork that large, it’s hard to tell exactly what you’re looking at. Up close, my favorite painting looked like a mess of green and yellow and blue and brown; a few steps back, though, there was clarity: these were blades of grass, a patch of field, an entire meadow.
That day ended on a seesaw, of all places. I was on a rooftop that had been set up to look like a playground, with giant rocking chairs and bicycles and an Astroturf play area for dogs. Lily was there, too, and we teetered and tottered, went up and down, and laughed because it was ridiculous and surreal - and because what else was there to do?
Evening settled. By our side, the city winked and blinked. 

That's one thing you can always count on: the lights will come on before it gets dark.
--
You can find my previous POV entries, here, and the archive for my personal essay column on the Equals Record, here. Thank you so much, as always, for reading. Photo via my Instagram.

18 comments:

tara said...

I feel the same way about LA: There are so many possibilities of what to do, I hate choosing.

Holy crap, half over?! Where has this year gone?? I would like some clarity, too. Please pass it along :)

Diana said...

Oh my goodness Shoko. Your POVs are always good but this one spoke the most to me.



I love this:


But part of me knows that’s silly. When I was younger, I thought that once I reached a certain age, everything would become clear: what I was supposed to be doing, who I was supposed to be with, where I was supposed to be, and when.


Because I've been there (I guess everyone else has or will) and the reality of the truth slaps me in the face. I'm much older now than what I used to dream of all those years ago and I'm nowhere near close to figuring anything out. I guess that's the breaks.



And this too:

With artwork that large, it’s hard at first to tell exactly what you’re looking at. Up close, my favorite painting looked like a mess of green and yellow and blue and brown; a few steps back, there was clarity: these were blades of grass, a patch of field, an entire meadow.



Talk about the truth. Sometimes it's through the stepping back and looking at the whole picture will we find the clarity we seek. And even then it's sometimes fleeting.

Anonymous said...

So beautiful.

Kim Baise said...

i love this see-saw photo and shoko you have such a wonderful way with bringing fleeting thought into word that's very visual as well. your stories are like short films for me and take me away from what i need to be doing ha! and now to make that decision

girlseeksplace said...

Beautiful, as always. I would wish for some clarity, also. I would love just a tiny speck of a sign that all the work, all the stress, all the tears are not for nothing and that in the end, I will land in exactly the place I am meant to be.

Cory said...

Lovely, and lovely timing. Thank you.

fai o. said...

Lovely and beautiful! I love this quote so much

When nothing is sure, everything is possible, Margaret Drabble

Thank you for sharing your story

x

Loulou said...

I love your writing. Did you and Lily see me there sitting on the bench outside the restaurant? Because I was right there with you. Or at least it felt like I was.

Raquel R. said...

Language of stories.

Tiffany said...

sometimes i take to the city itself for clarity. i like to walk near the flatiron, in central park at noon, or up and down amsterdam avenue and just get lost in the buzz of it all. clarity is in my wishes too, it would be a great relief.

joeycake said...

Shoko, this was just lovely. You made me miss those summer NYC nights I had in my 20s. I love the way you write. xo jolie P.S. Thanks for your sweet comment about losing my Lena girl. I really appreciated that.

Ione said...

Really loved this.

burntfeather said...

lovely read, I'm torn between wanting clarity over everything and then just clarity over the simple things - having the knowledge that I'll have the basics to live tomorrow :) Life can be crazy overwhelming although it is nice to dream big!

Shoko said...

Thank you all so much.

max said...

gah! so so good. by the way, that's the first time i've ever used the word gah. gah!

Rachel said...

Just like Tara, I feel the same way about Los Angeles. The possibilities are often debilitating. But if we had too much clarity, then it would probably be suffocating. Sometimes it helps to remind myself that I can either be walking among the possibilities or be totally trapped underneath one thing... and I think I prefer the former. =]

Pink Ronnie said...

Beautifully written.
Ronnie xo

Kat said...

That the lights will come on before it gets dark - so poignant in its simplicity. You have a way with words that just speaks of humanity.

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