It’s been three months since I’ve written here—three months! I think that’s the longest this space has ever gone between words. Thank you for giving me time to breathe, and for the messages letting me know you missed me (it’s nice to be missed!) And thanks for welcoming me back.
One day, about a month ago, I jumped out of a plane. It was ridiculous how simple it was, really. I scooted my booty over the to open door of the plane, which was rumbling 11,000 feet above the ground. I hung my legs over the edge, letting them dangle like doll legs perched on the edge of a little girl’s shelf—it should not be this easy!—and then, my tandem partner counted to three. Just before he jumped, he lifted my chin toward the sky (keep your chin up!). And then I fell.
And fell and fell and fell. Except it didn’t feel like falling; it felt like flying, like we were birds with feathers, or maybe we were still humans, but we were the only humans who had ever mastered the art of flying. I even understood how Icarus got too high, because I wanted to go higher and higher, though I also understood that was a bad idea (melty brownies are good; melty wings are deadly.) And once I landed (more gracefully than I generally am), I came alive with insistence, pointing the people on the ground upward. All I wanted to do was go back up, and I wanted them to come with me. “It felt like flying! No, it really did, you must do it, you must! You’ve got to try it, so that you’ll know what it feels like to fly. You got to fly…”
// Flying // I’ve been taking time to process (whatever that means) and the messages say, “You haven’t been writing! Where are you?” Sometimes, I’m tempted to tell them I’ve been flying. See, sometimes I come into the office on Saturday afternoon in the spirit of Making it Happen, and while this sounds (perhaps) regrettable, it is not. I let myself in and in the afternoon sun, my desk is aglow in a mesmerizing light. I sit down and let my skin grow warm in the sunlight, combing through the project, making it happen, deliberating over the way it’s put together. And this sense of ownership is transformative—it makes quiet, gentle Saturday afternoons at my desk a privilege—and it also means that when I see the magazine for the first time, my eyes get wet and my eyelashes dance in the stream, and I try to blink it away, but I cannot, because I am on this. There, that comma—I deliberated for two and a half minutes over whether it should stay or go, and in the end, I let it be. And while I know deep down that comma mattered more to me than anyone else, it still feels like it matters, shiny and bound up each month. Seeing it that way, knowing I’ve been a part of making it happen, watching my mom page through it and get the bright glaze of pride in her eyes—this feels like flying.
// Falling // But then, I learn, that falling can be mastered, too…I walk in six minutes late, feeling disheveled. I do not feel put together or with it or savvy like the lot of them seem to be; instead, I feel like they’re all is thisclose to discovering this whole thing I’ve got going is a rouse. I feel certain that I’m but an inch from finding the ground in a hard way. Over lunch, I tell this to my coworkers, being that I’m open about most things; being that they’re older than me (read: much wiser and better-dressed), I wait for them to tell me that soon, I’ll feel like a grown-up. I’ll feel, I’m sure, like I know what’s going on, how to handle it, get a grip, just jump. I’ll feel like the person I seem to be when I stride onto a set and begin interviewing people, instead of an imposter in a blue skirt. I’ll reach the making part that comes after faking it. I look at them expectantly, but they just smile and shrug. “Me too. I feel like that, too, sometimes.” This makes me feel better. Later, I’m sitting at my desk, and I find crumbs in my hair (from my sandwich, I think), and I feel impossibly clumsy again. But then I tell a story and everyone laughs; for a moment, I’m also impossibly clever, and I ever-so-cleverly pick out the crumbs and toss them, returning to the stack of proofs of my desk.
// Flying // We can feel the wind on our faces. I murmur this in the middle of the night. Long after the rest of the world has gone to bed, we are still up. We don’t want to go to sleep, because it feels like flying. What makes flying different from falling is noticing what you can see from up there, instead of where you are and how fast it’s changing. When we’re flying, we can see the way the light lands on all of our dreams and on each other’s faces, and we appear imagined. But I feel the hand in mine, sure and steady; there in my palm is evidence that we are not imagined at all, but real. When you’re flying, your perspective shifts so that you do not merely feel the wind on your face, but you also feel it flapping your cheeks and your bones and your very youness around. We soar on the currents, and we dip with the turbulence, and then, we catch each other’s wide eyes and gesture at the real, imagined lightbeams we are lost in. “Can you believe it?!” we ask with our eyes, and there is a whisper of a smile when we shake our heads. No. No, I cannot believe it at all.
// Falling // But then, just for a moment, I am spinning in the air, reaching for my parachute latch. I can’t catch my breath. My heart is beating too fast, and I need a glass of water. I glance down, and it becomes clear to me how far away the ground is from where we are. I can’t tell if we’re growing closer or not, but that must be the case, right? I catch his eye, and with urgency, I ask over the shrill of the wind, “Can you believe it?” No. No I cannot believe it. I begin to flail as I plummet, bracing myself for the impact of the return to earth. But it never comes. Instead, I catch my breath and steady my limbs; I look down to see if the hand is still in mine, and sure enough, it is. In a gust of realization, I understand that it doesn’t matter if you are sometimes unsure of yourself or your steps or your flight, for that matter. It doesn’t matter if you think maybe you’re not what you seem when someone is believing in you regardless. Suddenly regaining my footing seems like the last thing I want to do, for I remember what it’s like to land, how all of the me I was then ached to return to the wind. “You’ve got to fly,” I tell us both, alive with the certainty of it, and so we do.
// The Art of // Both. It’s both. “You haven’t been writing! Where are you?” Oh, but I have been writing, creating seating arrangements for words that both sing and hide all of it, that rein me in and spin me around, all at the same time. I have been flying, learning the art of soaring, which is worth writing home about. And I have been falling, letting myself catch sight of the ground below me, until, on a wisp of wind and a decision, I choose again to fly, fly, You’ve got to fly! It goes just like that: flap, flap, fall. Soar, see, squeeze the hand in mine. Look down, look up, catch sight of the light. A change in perspective, and we go on and go on and go on…
Take a deep breath (Keep your chin up!) You’ll learn the art of it.