In my introductory post, I mentioned I was poet, activist in training, runner, news junkie, and heart all things environmental social justice related. Also an evaluator, I am a researcher at my day job.
Add “fickle” to that list. On any day of the week, my thoughts jump from my career, to saving the environment, to conflicts in Darfur and the Congo, to politics, to publications I should definitely be reading. I think about taking on new hobbies—tennis, fishing, swimming, gardening—and chide myself for activist foundations I’m not laying.
My mama tells a story of first-grade-me at the kitchen table late one night, trying to memorize spelling words. She tried to convince me I didn’t have to learn them all, only ten for the week. Through tears, I said, “I can’t go to school until I know all these words!” Born with dreams of being a polymath, I’ve always wanted to know it all—NOW.
But can we have/know it all? My attempts have only lead to hopping around with fits and starts in various areas, no concentrated efforts toward one goal. I’ve read that in order to master something, one needs to commit to work on it seriously for five or six years. I began to explore what it was I’d want to channel my energy into for the next five years. American foodways, policy evaluation, environmental social justice—I care about these things certainly, but writing (prose as well as poetry) comprises an overwhelming part of me.
These other pieces, their parts complete the picture by informing who I am as a person. By no means, though, am I an activist in the grassroots, community organizer sense (clue: the introvert factor). My activism comes through the pen. And while I read often about American food politics and have made many lifestyle changes to lessen my impact on the environment, I do not feel compelled to add to the scholarship written in that area.
But I can write (I need to write). It sounds very simple, I’m sure—and the products at times aren’t especially meaningful, certainly not on par with Dostoyevsky, Baldwin, or Didion (but with practice there’s always hope). In my best moments, I translate emotions and life experiences, possibly epiphanies, to relatable, tangible words.
Inadvertently, writing this post provided clarity and a taming to my fickleness. I’ve realized I can visit these other worlds, but I don’t need to master them. For me, there is no need to attend more to exercising or reading about policy or environmental studies than to being a great writer. Time is better spent doing what I can through what I do best. It is a comfort when you know what that is.