People love creating metaphors about life, especially involving books. Those metaphors are really misleading.
I’ve been referring to my upcoming sojourn in Korea as “a new chapter” in my life. With that comes the expectation of a blank page, a clean slate. A lot of expectation, actually. And I’ve fallen through this rabbithole before.
In my attic I have a stack of about five dust-covered sketchbooks and notebooks. They’re not packed cover-to-cover with sketches and writings; they are nearly new, only four pages used before they were discarded. I have a habit of starting a sketchbook or journal and never finishing it. Half erased sketches, jaggedly torn out pages, blackened lines of poetry. I’ve become addicted to the idea of “new chapters” and “fresh starts.” But who isn’t enamored with the idea of multiple second chances, or the opportunity to steal closer to perfection?
In life, we don’t often get neat beginnings or clean-cut endings. As far as relationships go, there is seldom a definitive “closing the chapter” with anyone. For me, it has been more of a re-shelving for years later. At times, I read one awful sentence and burned the whole book. Sometimes the book just fell out my hands so many times that I was tired of picking it back up.
The problems arise when one takes a conveniently placed book metaphor and applies it too liberally. In life, most of the time you can’t just “close the book” when you want, “keep reading” when you feel like, or take a break from a difficult “passage.” Life is unbearably messy, disorganized and unpredictable. Unlined. Unbound. Hell, sometimes there isn’t even a place to write at all.
The trick is to consider the whole book as you start the next page. With as much dissatisfaction as I might harbor for my current situation or a difficult past, I have to make it all work; vow to make the next sketch something that I will be proud of. And maybe one day I can look at the shaky lines and smile at the struggle that has made me who I am.
Of course, I type this as I open up a brand new sketchbook that I tell myself I’ll use in Korea. Let’s hope I see this one through, for better or worse.