youth

Words, My Blanket (freewrite)

Really loving something becomes wrapping yourself in it, cloaking or even shrouding. My bedroom’s debris of dog-eared books and library receipts, uncapped pens and torn sheets of paper, surrounds and precedes my physical self nearly as much as the clothing I choose to wear and the food I eat. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been wrapping myself in words, tucking pages into every spare moment and lines into many conversations.

I am done with college, and I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve been able to have an immersive four-year education and a couple short-term jobs in the things that I am so drawn to that I can’t help but surround myself with them: books. I have been exposed to and informed about ways that leverage in the world of media can be used to help foster diverse listening, understanding, and subsequent necessary action in the “real” world, the three-dimensional one simultaneously mimicked and created/predicted in print or screen media. But I’m still trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with words in the long term, or even next, or even now.

A couple months ago, I took drawing back up for the first time since middle school, an era when my near-constant comics production that kept my hands inky and cramped. I hadn’t realized how much I missed drawing—the very process is calming, and it helps me two-dimensionalize and crystalize thoughts that are (hah) longer than a tweet and shorter than a short story or essay, a type of thinking I’d been having trouble processing for awhile. My wrists are happy to be ink-smudged again, and I’ve had the joy of tidying up my own mind by drawing, but also of getting to have a couple friends use my drawings to explain a concept to someone else, or get a small work commissioned as a tattoo or art piece, or bought as an object on Threadless.

I love drawing because I know I can’t draw well, so all I can do is draw as expressively as possible and try to process and convey whatever message I mean to discuss as effectively as I can. I’ve made some friends through drawing, and I watch in awe as they draw a man with five antlers, or a huge woman on a tiny pony, or a beard that becomes a waterfall, or something else that’s arbitrary but based in the layers of an image rather than in the conveyance of a string of words with noun and verb like my two-dimensional, Times New Roman brain chooses to do. Where visual artists draw a picture, I find myself trying to draw a sentence. Even when I try my hand at visual art, I can’t help but keep functioning by the code of words and narrative.

For awhile, I’ve felt like I don’t have much to write. I miss the feeling of scrawling or typing lengthy, careening threads of texts and then finding that bit, the piece worth keeping that helps make sense of some concept or experience previously left hanging unprocessed, but I don’t want to just write and write to fill air, and I don’t expect anyone to value my work inherently, as if just because it’s there it is worth sharing and lauding and discussing and possibly even paying. I just keep a notebook of small thoughts, and tell myself I’m thinking drawing-sized thoughts right now. And it’s okay. And if I have something that needs to be written, I can write it when the time comes.

Never once have I regretted choosing words as my focus in developing a personal skill-set. I want to find long-term work in editing or marketing of books, and I don’t see that as in-conflict to my love of reading or writing at all. Rather, the opposite is the case: reading is an eternal bolster and source of wonderment. I have been happy and honored every time I’ve spent eight hours buried in a savory text, pulling or pushing punctuation, jotting out review lines, or helping writing become more concise and able to better convey its thoughts out on a journey in a world where things are often skim-read and misconstrued. Anytime I start to yearn for career paths that are less competitive for postgrads, or jobs that perhaps pay a bit more at an entry level, I can’t imagine hanging up my plum-colored velvety cloak of words. I can’t see myself being as happy in an environment in which two-dimensional, monochromatic print won’t be expanding and twisting and molding my mind every day, wrestling and merging with old thoughts and adding buttery, flaky layers to the way I look at every mundane thing I encounter in a day, the bristled upholstery on the bus or the milky edges of the clouds, the facial expression of the woman next to me in the checkout line or the wind-burned lines in the face of the man on the street corner.

To wrap yourself in something is to commit to it with the certainty that it will transmit warmth back to you in exchange for your devotion, your body heat. I’ve wrapped myself in words and they’ve showered me in tiny crystalline gifts of understanding, but I am still wondering how tight I need to cling, how much further I have to go and longer I have to wait, until I find an economically sustainable long-term job in words. Until then, I’m taking refuge the only way I know how—pulling the words in closer.