something recognized

A one-take write, meaning I wrote this in one sitting (with multiple cups of coffee)

The Swan by Hilma af Klint
The Swan by Hilma af Klint

A needful beauty emerges from identification.

You: someone's child, best friend, lover, writer, thinker, reader, logician. You carry these identities with you as you cross the street, the sun warming your back. You carry them through the year of bruises, the year of small joys. Of course there is deep safety in knowing concretely where you fit in. In your life, you see to it that all your blurry corners become defined. Knowing your place in the world is important as air – because once you put a label on something you know where to safely store it in your heart. You know that when it knocks on a Sunday night you can fling the door open, invite it in like an old friend. You know where its horizon begins and its boundaries end. You know how much to give, and how much to expect in return.

But you are bounded by these definitions. When you become accustomed to seeing yourself through one mirror, it's difficult to validate any other reflection – not on the curved surface of a spoon, not in three dimensions, not through someone else's eyes. Consider all the arbitrary things you have named yourself over the years. Consider the importance you placed on these identities, each as fragile as spider silk. The effort you expended in upkeep, the labor that you felt was worthwhile if only to keep up the facade of who you think you are. The public curation of the self. The album pictures, the playlists, the blog posts. You grasp onto the static, unwavering idea of what you want to be. But at the end of the day, there is nothing that can be named fully and entirely: no tree, cloud, moon, puddle, peninsula, ocean. No natural shape that remains the same as when it started.

If you stare long enough at yourself, you begin to magnify your mistakes; Your eyes are lopsided. You are far more emotional than you want to be, and hold all your fears and obsessions in a small, tight fist. You wish that you didn't overthink everything. You want to know what the other person is thinking – across the dinner table from you, or a hundred miles away. You wish you could feel what it feels like to be someone else. You recognize that this will never be possible, even if every physical body is one and the same. Diastole, systole, a relaxation, a contraction. A body with a mind attached to it. If even your own body still feels alien to you – how could you possibly understand someone else's?

What the truth ends up being is this: at some points in life, you will want to shed your identity as easily as snakes slide coolly out of their old skins, only to find that parts of you are sewn in. Only to find that your preconceptions of yourself are hinted and infused all throughout your life. Why can't I move on from this, you'll wonder, waking up at night in a cold sweat. Your identities superimpose themselves one on top of the other like an endless collage of selves.

As a child, you were given a name and as a consequence grew up acting with the burning desire to name yourself autonomously – through actions and reputation, popularity and acclaim, hobbies, and habits. In spite of this, you are enamored by life. In love with it despite the difficulty and despite not knowing what you want out of it. As you grow older, your labels indefinitely become blurrier and more entangled: they loop together, overlap, take on foreign anatomy. They are like fractals where similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, over and over into snowflake shapes. You pursue things and people as ends in themselves, rather than a means to an end. You write more than the attention economy permits. You slow yourself down, you bask in the heat, you love freely and openly.

To tell you the truth, life is a constant naming exercise. Maybe many, if not all, aspects are arbitrary. And yet, there is a beauty in the fact that the size of your life can expand endlessly and become spacious enough for whatever or whomever you want to include. There is beauty in the possibility of making meaning out of the raw material at hand.

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