The Prelude

The year was 2000. It was freshman year of college at UCLA. I think it was my second or third week into my first quarter. I remember being homeseick. I was still adjusting to living in the dorms. I missed my mom.

I was overwhelmed. There was so much to do, homework, making friends and exploring the world without parental constraint. I felt free.

But I also felt my identity unravel. I was the valedictorian in high school. I was the superstar. The Michael Jordan of my high school, as my Calculus teacher put it. Here valedictorians were a dime a dozen. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was average. I could read ancillary text and try my best to have some edge over everyone in class, but it felt useless. Just the required material I was trying to cover was dense and beyond me. It felt like it was many levels beyond high school. And for the first time, I wasn’t ahead, but behind.

I had enrolled in a general education cluster. I remember wondering, even after I had enrolled and was in class, if it was a good idea. I only did it because I like the name, Perceptions and Illusions.

Our assignment was to read the introduction and the beginning William Wordsworth’s The Prelude. It was dense and way over my head. And I had no idea how it related to perceptions and illusions.

The class was held in a newish lecture hall. The lights were dim except for that of the powerpoint. It felt like I was in a movie theatre with tables that I can lift and pull out from the side of the seat. I sat in the back, just in case I wanted to leave.

The lecturer was an English grad student, I think. They were lecturing on what we supposedly read.  I remember reading but not fully understanding what I was reading.  We read some passages together as a class. Goethe was mentioned.  Something about the frame or framing? There were certain words that sunk in, but I can’t remember what is was now, but I do remember thinking, even though this is way over my head, there is something very powerful here. Not quite into my head, but into my body.

In that dark hall, staring into the passages that were on the powerpoint, I felt something. I felt the words. I felt myself pulling the words from the passage and lecture and weaving it into something for myself. I was somewhere between half following along and half making meaning out of the words for myself.

It was the strangest thing. To be lost in class but feel amazing because what I did get was what I wanted. If I had to guess, I was probably absorbing 30% of what was being lectured. The rest was all me making sense of it.  But I can’t even tell you what we were discussing or what I was thinking because I can’t remember. All I remember was what I was feeling. It felt like an a-ha moment, even though I didn’t even know what I was a-haing about.

I got up and left before everyone else did. I’m not even sure if class ended or not. I was walking back to the Hedrick Hall, my dorm, or maybe to my next class. The path I took was through the north side of campus. It was a quiet woodsy area with tall eucalyptus trees. I stopped at a tree, stood on its roots, my eyes were glazed, I wasn’t looking far or near. It was still early, about mid morning, the sun was shining through the branches, creating a scatterlight on the ground. And in that moment, I felt something I never felt before. I felt beauty around me. I felt a lightness in my body. Everything about that moment was perfect.

It was the lightest feeling, In my body, in my head. I was in awe of that feeling, that I’m so happy. I’m so grateful for this feeling that I have never felt before.  What is this?  I have never felt this before. It was pure bliss.

And I remember my mind being completely empty except for these words:

The point of life is to write, and leave something behind.

That is how you make meaning out of your life.

.

I remember thinking that this message that’s coming through is the answer to my existential crisis. I’ve been wondering why are we here? We live, work hard and then we die. What’s the point?

And there it was.

Leave something behind. A book.

Oh my god.

The point is to write.

.

I stood there trying to bask in that warm glow for as long as I could.

I wanted that feeling to last forever.  But eventually it waned and I started walking in the direction of the dorm (or my next class).

Only much later (like 5 years later) did I describe the feeling to my boyfriend at the time that I think I felt enlightenment. I didn’t really know what enlightenment was but I was pretty sure that if it had a feeling, then that was how it felt. Because I felt light. Coming through me. I felt complete bliss on the verge of ecstasy. My mind was completely clear.  There was no knowing, just feeling. Or what I knew I was what I felt. And what I felt was that this was it.  Write a book.

.

You would think that from that point on, I started writing. But I didn’t.  I had no desire to write. Writing scared me. It’s too vulnerable. And for the longest time I didn’t have anything worthwhile to share. And if I did, people will just see what a terrible writer I am.

So I just went on with my life.

I was 18 when I had that a-ha moment. I’m 38 now, two decades later,1Filled with good/bad choices and experiences that have brought me here I think I’m finally ready..