Tabula Rasa

I am always hungry for anything with cilantro on it. I dress like a middle school art teacher at work because I think earrings and patterns are fun. I volunteered for an ‘at-risk youth’ (whatever that means) mentoring program because I think growing up is hard.

Runners do self checks: legs still attached? Shoulders relaxed away from the ears? Feet feel ok? Salt crusting around the eyes? Good, good.

I realized this weekend that I also do an internal self-check every time I run alone. Am I doing ok? Am I a woman that I respect? Remember a few years ago? Remember those cities? Keys to apartments I’ve had. The things that used to be. I am unequivocally washed in gratitude for the present.

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I believe in tabula rasa, or the philosophy of the blank slate. It is the idea that we are all born without mental or emotional content, only potential. An empty canvas. From there, perception and experience make their art upon us.

Growing up is hard because, at a certain point, you realize the world around you. You blink your mind open slowly and start thinking about how things work: families, money, intimacy, trust, injustice, religion, everything. Things you took at face value suddenly have a great many sides to them. You become aware that these things are marking you up, have already marked you up, have been very busy putting ideas into your head, experience into your heart, culture into your hands.

It is at this point that you make a very important decision: to continue to let your interaction with the world make its marks on you, or to snatch the pen from its hand and begin to design yourself.

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Many people postpone this decision. Some people, it seems, never confront it at all. Once I ‘saw it,’ I could not unsee it (that would be electing delusion) and I felt enormous conviction to be the author of myself. It’s not an easy choice, but it a simple one.

Growing up is hard.

Once you claim ownership, you must decide what you want to pen. Who am I then? What do I value, who are my friends, what do I want to do, what can I do…

If you want to author your life, you have to find these answers. Much like covering a bad tattoo, I had to accept and incorporate the designs already on my canvas as well as develop and present my own style. That’s how I am certain that I’m a writer, a trail runner, a sister, a listener, a coffee-drinker, a veggie-lover, a knitted-poncho kind of girl. Bring on the cilantro.pen-and-ink-abstract-michael-snow

“You have to own it,” my friend John advised me yesterday, while running in the woods. “I used to show up to races and feel like I didn’t belong. But I do. I am a runner. I love it. I am in love with it.” He is absolutely right.

Own the mess you woke up to, own your chicken scratches and slips of the hand. I do. It is not easy. It is simple. The art cannot go on if you get stuck on a mistake. You cannot grow as a person if you are belligerent to your reality. You will not create something you love if you are hung up on how it was supposed to be.

Growing up is hard. Keep growing.

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