When I was a kid, I never considered what my life might look like past the age of 16. Not for any morbid reason. I just never considered it. Probably because MTV’s Sweet 16 made it look like by 16 you got it all figured out, right down to the type of interior you want in your Rolls Royce. I knew one day I would be able to buy my own drinks and cigarettes but I didn’t realize that by then I wouldn’t even smoke cigarettes anymore.
Sometimes I say I like to write because it helps me get to answers. “Realizing stuff,” as Kylie Jenner might put it. It’s easy to decide you have an answer without properly considering the question. But even this “writing = answers” claim might be baseless because I’ve found myself reading back on the last 155 words and I still don’t know what the fuck I’m trying to say.
I think I prefer to live in the question. My favourite part of school is doing the assignments and getting lost in them – when you see what you have been trying to put into words on the subway and it suddenly all makes sense. Somethings are only embodied. Nearly impossible to legitimately put into words. But we try anyway. My least favourite part is handing in assignments because that makes me feel like it’s over. Like any further consideration of the question is fruitless. I guess I actually like writing because it keeps me in the question.
Writing has really tried me. I’ve always liked writing and storytelling but I didn’t get my first B in an English class until the 11th grade. In the first grade, I would have been put in a special education class for reading and writing if not for my teacher who made me retake the test a couple times. I rarely ever get things right on the first try anyway. Moving through the educational system has been quite the uphill battle.
I enrolled in professional writing for the same reason you might take a detour on a long road trip – because why not? All my electives were in the program anyways. Pursuing professional writing as a second major gave me a new appreciation of the craft. My humanities major has introducing me to books I would have never gotten my hands on if not for trying out postsecondary. I was just beginning to understand what real independence and collaboration felt like when York’s 143- day strike began.
It was like watching a war that had everything and nothing to do with me. It planted seeds in me that I wouldn’t be aware of until the roots left me waiting and hoping for buds to unravel. Then question is: when will everything bloom? I knew I had to write through the possibilities.
Around day 56 of The Strike, I was feeling really weird. One of my profs
reached out and offered to bump my mark up from a B+ to an A if I
handed in a quick one-page reflection. The thing is, I wasn’t sure how
to enter the question from this kind of a pause. Since then I’ve gotten
pretty used to dormancy. I bought a cyclamen at a corner store in
November and I’m currently waiting for the curious inverted pedals to
return again in the fall. The email from my prof stayed in my inbox until
the fall of 2019. I understood why I should have done it, just wasn’t
ready to endure the written question.
Instead of taking my prof up on his offer, I went on a walk by Old Mills
subway station along the Humber River. I wore a Canadian tuxedo.
Just different shades of blue. My unwashed hair was actually a rat’s
nest on top of my head stuffed into a black beanie. I was sitting on the
edge of the river that was actually a wall that was actually pieces of
concrete held together by rusty metal. Suddenly a salmon shot out of
the water. This salmon was the first question I saw in my pursuit for
answers. How did salmon even get here?
The salmon question led me to a documentary produced by Patagonia called DamNation. It was about the polarizing world of industrial dams in the United States. You know, if people weren’t living in the question – questioning why do we have dams? What are they doing to the environment? – there would be low functioning and straight up useless dams forcing water stagnant and obstructing salmon’s impetus. I get that people needed jobs and building dams is a job. Somewhere along the way, someone came to an answer without properly considering the question. The answer being: a person of a certain class can be completely self-sufficient. As if we can forget the planet and just pay for our food from FreshCo with hours of our lives that equal different amounts of money depending on lots of different factors.
If we think in directions, this makes sense. Building a dam; leads to jobs; leads people to a place we are all journeying towards and want to reach. But we never really arrive, do we? It’s about becoming aware of the possibilities through the question. Maybe the only real direction is up, because of the gravity that weighs us down. We know that answer. I know up is real because writing upstream is hard. But it leads us to kairos. And it’s not about how tall the question can grow but how deep it will go in search of substance. It’s not necessarily about direction, but it is always about dimension.
In a lot of ways living in the question is a good thing because we can think critically. Understanding how to look at an answer and how to read/listen to a story is critical right now. These are learning curves I’ve been spinning out on recently. Too fast and too furious maybe. I have to say this is a learning curve I wouldn’t have even been aware of if not for university. I thought I was paying copious amounts of money to reach answers. Turns out, what I’m really getting is more questions.
Living in the question is really hard sometimes too. Probably most of the time. I’m finding myself believing in less and less. In my heart of hearts, I want to believe in something and say it and never question it again and just live in the answer. But once you’re in the question it’s hard to get out; meanwhile in the answer everything seems so simple. Because it is.
The danger here is that the answer is finite and there is no use in anymore consideration. It’s being stuck in dormancy. There is no collaboration or independence because everything is given and there are no questions asked. What am I even saying how do I end this thing? I think it’s impossible.
To stop questioning things is to think you have arrived. Really, I don’t think we ever arrive. We take detours. Some are for better, others for worse – only really taking up time. The thing with time is that it’s about the way we use it. Our experiences. I don’t know what a lot of things are, or how to name them. But I’m usually pretty certain of what they are not. The more options, more possibilities, and the less we box ourselves in; the more we’re able to add to the truest version of the human experience.