“Action is character,” our English teacher says. I think it means that if we never did anything, we wouldn’t be anybody.
So much of life is spent in quiet thoughts, in daydreams. Looking out classroom windows or car windows and unspooling a thread of an idea. Zoning out during a lecture and thinking about what I should have said differently that one night. Walking through the hallways of my old high school, wondering about the lives of the kids I didn’t talk to. And so many daydreams are not even our own; they come from inhabiting the lives of people around us. All the time spent with my face craned up to the TV. Time spent paled by the glow of someone’s Snapchat story on my phone.
It’s gotten to the point that these daydreams have defined the landscape of my memory. Memories of old daydreams are kept so close to memories of real-life events that I think they are no longer separate in my mind. I find the phrase ‘high school’ in my mind and see footage of parties I did not attend, after-images of thoughts I chased in history class. I hear someone’s name and think about moments we never got to have together.
I can’t tell you yet what these daydreams and ideas have added up to and if they have left me as quickly as they came. But throughout my life, I’ve tried to keep a record of the most important ones, in a series of diaries. This catalog of my truest thoughts, my most honest daydreams, can be found duct-taped shut, covered in dust, under my bed. Even like this, the diaries seem too accessible. I have this recurring fear that when I die, someone I love will find them in my belongings and read them.
I don’t even think I fear that people would read my diaries and judge me. I think I fear that they would not recognize me. That they would say, “Wow. I never knew she had this in her.” That they would feel lied to. Maybe some people would wish they knew how much I thought about them. How highly they lived in my mind, how important their actions were to me. I don’t want my writing to be more alive and more honest than the person I am around others. I don’t want to live most precisely in the subtleties and hesitancies of my writing. How beautiful it could be, how impossible it seems, to express yourself accurately without art.
Listen, I don’t know what stuff life is made up of and if our daydreams are made of that same stuff. But if we never did anything, we would never be anybody. And I want to be someone. And I want to live. Like, real-life live. Like, wake up and say things I actually mean to people and act with so much conviction that no one can deny I am real. Like, fight through splintered sentences when I’m struggling to tell someone how I feel. Like, be so grounded in the physical world around me that I look at everyday objects as though they’re constellations I’m tracing in the night sky, and not just the bright blue underbelly of a skateboard flying by on Chapel Street.
Our lives should blaze more than anything we write or dream about. I want to cherish my ice skating bruises, the songs I blare, my butchered piano recitals, my wide grins, my moments of selfishness, the shaky pitch when I cry, my homeroom crushes, my failed seductions, all the time wasted on standardized tests, the twitches of my body in my sleep. Note to reader, I imagine that we twitch in our sleep because our limbs are remembering old ways they used to bend. An echo of a past gesture.
Maybe I should stop being so harsh on writing. This is what always draws me back to it: I can pour so much of myself into the words I write and the page never overflows.
KIRAN MASROOR is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.