One of the first poets I ever really connected with was Robert Frost. His blunt, New England sensibility and keen eye for nature hooked me in, and by the time I was sixteen my copy of “The Poetry of Robert Frost” was heavily highlighted and marked up. I rarely do that to books, but I was super into that collection. (I still have it!)
I remember my mom being seriously worried because I highlighted so many depressing poems… which bewildered me, because I didn’t see them as depressing at all!
For example, Frost’s classic “Nothing Gold Can Stay”:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
It’s depressing as shit, on one level: everything ends, everything dies. To me, it’s the opposite and always has been: you treasure the gold in your hand, you trust that spring will bring it back. I see it through a very Buddhist lens these days as well: don’t try to make beauty stay perfect forever. Let it go. It’s normal, it’s natural, everything is ephemeral. It’s part of a much larger cycle.
And recognize, too, that endings aren’t necessarily a negative thing. I was a massage therapist at one point. I really loved the work. But I wasn’t good enough to freelance, and I wasn’t obedient enough to work for someone else, and I absolutely sucked at body mechanics, so I was constantly in pain. I had to recognize that my time in that career was done, and let it go, let it fade, and walk away. That happened with several other jobs as well.
I think it’s easy to get stuck on “I paid so much for the classes to start this career!” and “I’ve tried so hard to master this job, I don’t want to start all over again with something new!” But in today’s world, the corporations don’t have any loyalty to you. Taking an expensive load of classes doesn’t guarantee you success in that field. There’s an abundance of people offering to tell you The Secret To Success — for only $11.99 a month! (Guess what: their real secret is to put up an ad saying they have the secret for $11.99 a month.)
I’ve found, in the end, that everything you do layers over into the next step. I have degrees in graphic design and drafting; I have training in reiki and as a massage therapist; I’ve begun teaching myself German; I’ve written dozens of books and had a few published, a few self published; I’ve learned how to edit my own and other people’s work; I’ve started and run an independent bookstore; I’ve learned how to network and how to sell like a boss. That, and more, coalesces into the me that gets up every morning.
If I only focused (as I have, on occasion) on the money I spent learning graphic design and the resulting absolute lack of a career in that field, I’d be missing the point entirely. It was a leaf, unfolding, glowing, and gone; the debris left behind has built up into a lovely mulch from which my bookstore unfolded. Massage therapy taught me how the human body works and how to deal with pain; reiki taught me that there are true miracles and, at the same time, that there are a lot of goddamn gullible fools out there.
Each of those lessons added to the fertilizer and nourished me into a healthier, happier person, able to see a project through and avoid the multitude of scams littering the landscape like malodorous cow patties.
Nothing gold can stay, and that is as it should be.