The Curious Art of Learning a Soul

I am understood in many of the circles I frequent as a sort of butterfly. Someone who flits from bloom to bloom, falling in love with this book & then that poem & then this song, easily distracted, largely ephemeral. In other circles, though, I am known as the quiet girl. The one who notices all & changes little. To be quite honest, these labels trouble me more than I would like to admit. I feel as if I am at once everything & nothing like the versions of myself inside of others' heads. The old adage: if a tree falls in a forest with no one to hear it... of course it makes a sound, says physics. But does it really? says philosophy. Yes, insists physics. Trees & the mechanics of sound do not bend to humans' arrogance, nor their ridiculous need for the control of literally everything. Philosophy rolls its eyes. You are missing the point, it says.

Here is the predicament: I am both philosophy & physics. Practicality grounds me, yet wondering has always been what makes me human.

Questions, constantly circling in my restless head: am I as terrible of a human being as my depression claims? Am I the saint that so many kind strangers on the Internet seem to paint me as? Am I made of those who have loved me or those who have hurt me? Am I the sum of the ugliest or the loveliest things I have ever done? I long to know only as much as it is clear I never will. What parts of me have been broken by sadness & what parts shine on still?

My bedroom is the cleanest room in the house. No threads out of place. No book's pages ruffled. I think it reflects more my obsessive-compulsive tendencies than the chaos that thrives in my mind, busy & - I am learning to believe - beautiful. I have no concept of serenity outside of the pristine, yet also I cannot concentrate in any place that feels even slightly too clinical. All of these contradictions. This grand old mess I am learning to wade through. Trying to understand.

I am inordinately preoccupied with first impressions; they dominate the majority of my anxiety, a story of false starts. I am constantly thinking about who I would like to come across as. Is it the version of me which is capable & collected, or the version which is daydreamy & prone to quoting poetry in the middle of conversations? Whichever I choose, I know already I will reinvent myself again & again in even the shortest amount of time I could possibly know a person. Perhaps first impressions do not matter in the slightest, if they exist only to be erased & redrawn into infinity - yet still, all the same, I can't help but obsess over them. I can't help but want to be known as my truest self, & that definition of trueness shifts every time I examine it.

My heart is too flighty, ridiculously optimistic, which I despise & adore in equal measure. I am the sort of overly emotional human being who will cry at commercials featuring small dogs, then turn into a fearless monster capable of mass destruction at the slightest alert that anyone has hurt the feelings of one of my friends. The person I am in one setting is unrecognisable to the one I am a moment later.

Some days I feel I am made entirely of flaws & shattered parts, stitched together by someone who, to put it politely, perhaps should find other hobbies besides stitching... considering what a terrible job she has done with forming all of the pieces into me into something coherent & cohesive.

It's like this, I think:

I am half emotion, half stone. Half ancient, half child. Half daydream, half despair. & the challenge is not in finding which is the realer, but in embracing both halves. In smearing them together, blending them as an artist with her paintbrush, some colour previously unknown & possibly not beautiful upon first glance. But a painting to hang upon one's wall & gaze at until suddenly one day one looks at it at the right angle & realises there is something there, deep in the brushstrokes, that rings realer than any notion of singularity.

& to my fleeting, wandering heart I say: shh. Breathe, my love. There is no need to know. Right now you are becoming who you will be.

& I stop. & I think of the curious art of learning a soul. & then, of course, if only because I cannot bear to stand stagnant as much as I crave stillness, if only to spite myself into understanding the inevitable wonder of these contradictions that make up all of my broken & shining parts, I start all over again.




(p.s. little horoscopes for hopeful souls + assorted thoughts on sadness + love letters for more)