During New Year’s Eve day, my roommate launched her blog Tall Girl Small World into the vast space of the inter webs. At midnight, my best friend published her first post on her new blog, MyCellaneous Thoughts. In between, I read some great posts on Rachel Held Evans’ site (via Facebook) and thought, as our New Year’s Eve selves tend to do, about what I want to be doing and what I have not done in the 365 days previous to get myself there. Like always, December 31st me wished there was more to look back on. I never produce enough. How will I ever become famous if there’s nothing of me to fan over? But upon further inspection–ahem, self-stalking my Instagram account–I realized that it wasn’t that I stopped making things, I just made very short-lived things. Scrolling through post after post of brioche, cookies, Moroccan chicken, I saw that my desires to make got channeled into the very un-permanent business of cooking.
With my first apartment came my first sparkling white kitchen (meant to be dirtied). And I was swept up into it so easily, like the rest of the #foodporn using world, I think because the ultimate eating of the food is quick and painless, but there’s room for a lot of foreplay. You are allowed to put pretty much as much time as you want into the build up. There are hours of research to do just to find a recipe that fits your cravings, and those hours become weeks when you realize the extensive cookbook section of your public library. Or, if the recipe is online, you’ve got to add at least another half hour of painstaking review evaluation: “Has this frustrated reviewer ever cooked before?” “Are they used to using salted or unsalted butter?” “Would it be different in a stand mixer?” Then, you get to cooking, which you know always requires more effort than you imagine, but that doesn’t stop you from squeezing it into the tightest pre-party interval you’ve got that week so that you can force yourself to do it as expediently as possible.
Then boom, you eat it, take a picture to lift it out of its inherently disappearing edible state, post it to Instagram, and it’s over. It will live forever between pictures of your face. In one hundred years, when your house full of worthless plastic crap isn’t worth anything, your grandchildren will be given the rights to your social media accounts, in which they will hold not only your image but your contents in their iPad 50s. They will see exactly what your body and mind were made of and what you looked like and and who liked what you looked like and what you were made of. But, without something more, they will never know how it felt to dream about that beautiful chocolate cake for weeks on the internet while you skipped through recipe after adapted recipe on momtrapaneur’s food blog after momtrapaneur’s food blog. They’ll never know how eagerly you destroyed that plate of dead vegetables. They’ll never know the you that burned off those brie sandwich calories, losing the very parts of you that your Instagram accounts contain, because you can’t take a picture of them.
What I’m saying from my vantage point between lists of resolutions and eagerness for change at the beginning of this new year, the real glory of living isn’t in the documentation but the anticipation. The real glory isn’t the picture, it isn’t the product, it’s the transition between your last meal and your next, when you feel that it’s possible that the very best chocolate cake in the whole world might come from your hands. But all of that preparation disappears into thin air like a soul leaving a body when you freeze it in an amateur picture. And even that has no promises. We’ve created a system that holds us for now, but when we die will our accounts get purged one day like those fake Instagram accounts? Will our inactive voices be thrown away to make room for more? Or will they be buried in some future internet graveyard and visited only by people with the right passwords? With all of our ways to communicate with each other, we seem to be making our lives more permanent, but perhaps we are nothing different than the unrecorded generations.
What I’m also saying is there are only so many posts you can make per day without feeling like you’re overloading someone else’s newsfeed. So you’re forced to keep it to yourself in the way you cannot invite anyone to experience your dreams. They are the food while it’s in the oven. The generations after you might receive the things you’ve finished, but the moments between the screens die with you. The beauty of life, like the opening of the New Year is the promise of infinitely more beginnings.
The day before New Year’s Eve, the day before I read the new blogs and greeted the new year, I pulled out my old journals and sketchbooks from my craft room. I do this every once in awhile, and I always get the sense that I’m missing some. I tell myself there must be all of these projects somewhere, lost in the crawlspace or accidentally thrown away, and I let that be the excuse for my sadness But, for the first time it occurred to me that maybe there aren’t. Maybe these are all I ever had, and they seem small because I am no longer in the process of making them. They’re smaller because they’re finished, I’m no longer the same person and I can’t pick up where I left off. That’s all I’ve got of myself from that time, and it’s not enough. So, that night I was sad. But then came New Year’s Day, the day when I saw the new blogs and inevitably thought about this one, The Perpetual Day, a title which I usually always lament for it’s lack of pithy follow-ability and excessive vocabulary. Prepared for these feelings, I was surprised when, all of a sudden, I found myself determining that rather than scrap it and continue pining away for just the right angle for just the right niche audience, I wanted to keep using it.
The only way to be present and feel connected to life is to embrace perpetual motion. It’s easy as pie: If you never stop, you never finish.Professors in a reading group of mine recently expressed their frustration at not being able to “pin down” Margaret Atwood. Cue: “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?“ I didn’t know how to respond because to me, part of the wonder of her writing is the way the same themes are constantly rewoven into her stories to take on new meanings. To me, her varied body of work is her way of attacking enormously complex ideas with new angles in the hope that maybe one day she’ll find a way to make sense out of them. You can’t pin her down because she’s never finished.
So rather than forget the past, put the journals back on the shelf, and regret not having finished more projects, here I begin to pick up the loose ends of my projects and fill them with my voice. The only way to connect my present and past selves is to let them whisper into each other’s ears from neighboring pages of closed journals. If i’m always using what’s come before, I will have some way of acknowledging the moments of transition that I can’t capture with a camera, the way memory carries you from yesterday into today.
In 2015, let speaking to the past remind me in the that life isn’t composed of endpoints. By taking a picture a day I haven’t immortalized myself, I’ve skipped over the journey. Instead, I’ve got to stop focusing on the product, and start talking through the journey, and I’ll document it. Because, even if it might be unpopular and verbose, maybe someone out there will listen just briefly, and maybe they’ll remember, and just maybe they’ll tell someone else, and I’ll stick around.
Most importantly, I’m writing to make my soul a bigger container by giving it a longer story.
Even if all of my accounts are deleted in a future social media purge to make room for new generations’ #foodporn equivalent and my grandchildren never see any of my pictures.