Writing and Things Like Writing

An essay can be compared to a melting pot. Our experiences, emotions, and beliefs are the main ingredients that are intertwined together and boiled down to create an innovative dish. Each one of us has our own taste buds that are a bit different and we will all find a different dish that we like best. This may sound like a poor excuse for a metaphor, but think about it for a second.

It is impossible for two essays to be the same, as it is impossible for two people to be the same. Some writers prefer a more direct and confrontational approach, similar to the way that some chefs might prefer to cook more sweet or bitter foods. Writing is an experience in the same way that cooking is an experience. In order to cook or write, we must use what we have learned in life. We use what we have been taught from generation to generation in our society, and we become more in touch with our inner selves.

There are endless recipes and pieces of work to create and the two have numerous similarities. Last semester, I took Cooking, Eating, and Dreaming. I was not quite sure how cooking and writing really had anything to do with one another. During the course of the class, we met several guest chefs that taught us about their lives and how food impacted their everyday life. It was fascinating to see the different relationships people had with food and the way they were taught to cook. Some of the guests grew up in Nepal and cooked sitting down next to their clay ovens, while others were raised on farms and developed a soulful relationship with food early on. They shared stories about their families and growing up with traditions that were foreign to me. I had the opportunity to learn about new cultures, and I realized that each person has a unique story. Each person had something new to bring to the table (literally). There really are no limits to how we can express ourselves through any form of expressive art, such as essay writing.

After coming to the understanding that food and writing have such strong similarities, I started to think about what else had similar characteristics to writing. I stumbled across the line by Hillaire Belloc, “Stuff is infinite,” and I really had to ask myself what that even means. I must have read that very sentence five times, in which each separate time I pictured a group of aging

hippies gathered together in a circle, cross legged and singing their life wisdom to one another while passing along a single banjo. I mean, how could I not? But, when I finally got that image out of my head (and the banjo’s tune, too), I was able to think about what it actually means. Ironically, I came to the conclusion that the line “stuff is infinite” has an infinite definition.

Are you thoroughly confused yet? Yes? Okay good. Let’s break it down further. What does “stuff” write where stuff came from so that readers that are not in the class will know what author we are talking about really mean and how does it relate to writing? Right away, my brain wants to define “stuff” as tangible things. I’m thinking of some good ole’ American stuff that we don’t need as much as we think we do, such as: a new car, the latest iphone, those shoes that Courtney at the office was wearing that costs more than your entire bank account balance.

In the term of essays and the writing process, it is never a finished product. There is always more “stuff” to say about any given topic. Yet, sometimes we convince ourselves that our work can be perfect and our opinions will not change over time. Have you ever read your work from a year or two ago? I have and I sure can tell you that I immediately stopped idolizing the pieces that I felt were my best work. Essays are no different. We trick ourselves into thinking that we are content with our “stuff” all of the time. It works for a while until it doesn’t. You put that brand new car on the same pedestal as your best work and they are idolized until we get bored and realize that there is more, there is better, there is an infinity of possibilities to what we can achieve and acquire. The only difference is the fact we must let go of wanting things that are not essential to our true happiness, in order to make room for the things that are.

Each essay we write is an affirmation that we are doing our best to stay true to ourselves and what we love. If we can better define what we need and what we want, we would all spend a lot more time giving ourselves a little more space to reflect and grow.

So, to clarify (in case you forgot) if you bought the car you have always wanted, the latest and greatest phone, and an entire wardrobe that even Courtney couldn’t afford, you still wouldn’t be happy. You wouldn’t be happy in the same way that eating boiled chicken three times a day wouldn’t make you happy. You would always desire more, desire better, and desire endlessly. Writing is no exception.

To be fair, I’m not judging. We have all been there. The “stuff” we desire is infinite, for better or worse, no matter which way you flip it. Sometimes I get bogged down by the negative experiences we all face in life. I know it can greatly affect my writing. Sometimes it fuels me to write more and write from the heart. Sometimes it can really help me get through hard times and help me make sense of my ever-changing environment. But, sometimes the “stuff” can push me away from my writing and leave me uninspired to create a piece of work that is meaningful to me. There’s just too much of it, and I get overwhelmed. In this case, the infinite stuff can really bring us down instead of giving us a goal to work towards.

The stuff is constantly changing and we are constantly forced to adapt to brand new circumstances. While we all think our lives would be 100% better if our circumstances changed, the majority of us would find new things to worry about or desire. We would create new anxieties and expectations that were so unrealistic that we could never fully reach them.

Some people just want “stuff” to fill in the voids they have. We want things help distract us. We want things that soothe our wounds in the moment. Then we get disappointed. Maybe it won’t happen  for a while, but eventually the disappointment is inevitable. The “stuff” is simply things that will never last, or at least their hold on us will never last.

Sometimes we change so much, that we can’t keep track of who we are. It is okay to not know who you are, stuff is always changing and there are infinite versions of yourself. You are not tied to any single version in the process of finding yourself and finding what makes your stuff yours. It takes time to discover your likes and dislikes, to feel a mind and body connection, to feel like a whole person that loves themselves no matter what version they are that day.

It’s really easy to love yourself when you are thriving in life, when you are excelling at work or in school. It feels great to have a high GPA and a well-balanced life. But, what if the stress gets to you? What if you feel your grades slipping? Can you love yourself just as much as before? The “stuff is infinite” and you must be always willing to accept and adapt.

Personally, this has been the hardest lesson in life for me. I am ambitious and I have very high expectations for myself. I blow things up out of proportion in my mind. I don’t want to fail, yet at times failing in life is all that I can think about. All of the numerous ways anything could fail, even if it’s completely out of my control.

Failure is a part of life. It makes us stronger. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, and the things we have, but do not want, we must focus on what we need to feed the soul. As writers, we must focus on discovering what we want to put forth in our pieces of work, in the same way that we must focus on how we can become more grateful for what we have and the journey that we are on. The “stuff” is infinite. And so, we must make our journey infinite too, while we keep ourselves going by doing our best and writing down some stuff along the way.

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