For International Women's Day, I wrote a letter to my younger self that included the end of Walt Whitman's poem "Oh Me! Oh Life!" While I'm far from a poetry person, I love this poem. It sums up my worldview in a beautifully simply way.
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Whenever I'm feeling lost and anxious about my impending blank future, I turn to this poem. It's a private consultation. Late at night when my mind races through post-college options and the forthcoming adulthood creeping closer, I need something to remind me that this is life. A part of my story isn't ending: it's only extending into another chapter. And yet, knowledge of the cruelties in the world and the helpless of too much information and not enough power surpass a bright outlook and damper the light.
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
But those thoughts are wrong. I am more than a job, a salary, a desk. My future is mine and God's alone to control. Where I go and what I do matters. It is the last three lines of Whitman's poem that fight the negative feelings and bury them deep into obscurity where a sleeping mind dare not go:
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
As Robin Williams famously said, "what will your verse be?" It is in molding, creating, shaping, searching, forming, scratching, erasing, extending, changing, and writing that verse that I find purpose and hope and faith.
And with purpose, and hope, and faith, I get to be a part of the world instead of peering up at it.