“Without even thinking about it, I used to be able to fly. Now I’m trying to look inside myself and find out how I did it.”
-Kiki’s Delivery Service
I wonder if there are some moments we live and relive, until we find how to stand in them. For years and years and years, I had the same recurring nightmare (I’ll try to tell you about it, sometime), and then, finally, I sat down and told someone about the imagery of it, the hurt, the idea. I got my arms all the way around it, and held it, and I haven’t had it since. Perhaps there are other moments in our lives that symbolize some struggle, some transformation, some opportunity; we only live these once, but they teach us something about many other moments. That’s the kind I want to write about today.
I absolutely loved my first year at Amherst. I worked hard, and loved working, and learned and played and made new friends. Then, the summer after my freshman year, I completely freaked out. I was scared and confused. I didn’t want to go back; or rather, I really wanted to go back, but I didn’t think I could work like that again, learn like that again, open my heart to new people again. I didn’t know how I’d done it. I didn’t think I could do it. I feel that way in other situations, too: one day I’ll teach a good class, and the next day I won’t know what we should do. I’ll start a story I like, and then have trouble continuing because I’m worried I’ll mess it up.
At first, looking at that moment poised between the two years, I thought it might be a matter of perspective. I loved my second year as much as I loved my first. That’s not to say I wasn’t scared and confused sometimes, or that I didn’t hurt some of the people I cared about. (I did. I am, deeply, sorry). But I had done that the first year, too. Looking back, I saw what I had done–the friends I’d made, the papers I was proud of, the new ideas I’d started to consider. Looking forward, I saw what I had to do. There’s something in that, but it’s not quite right. Kiki doesn’t fly because she’s looking forward or because she’s looking back. Maybe this is better: once I went back for year two, I saw Professor Sofield’s classroom (instead of seeing the idea of a classroom), I saw Michael sitting across the table (instead of seeing the idea of a new friend). I saw books by Rilke and Weil and I read them. I saw dirt and I played with it.
Kiki flies again. She flies when she needs to. She flies, not because she wants to, not because she somehow understands who she is, but because someone she loves needs her to. In that moment, she can. In the end, she doesn’t do what she wants to do. She doesn’t do what she should do. She looks out at the world. She does what she can for the sake of those she loves.