the little moments are what we live for
Often I find it exceptionally uncomfortable to inhabit a state of absolutes. Yet in those rare moments when it doesn't feel like that, I feel limitless. Like I am in perfect harmony with the world.
This manifests in my difficulty in feeling completely right about something. The little things especially. Where I want to go eat. What I want to go do. I say I want spontaneity but in reality, my moves are controlled by hidden calculations and the obsessive need to prepare the right kind of environment to enjoy spontaneity. Sure, I talk to strangers on my daily walks, and I'll strike up a conversation to figure out when someone is doing something interesting. But that doesn't mean I don't have a million threads in my head, tensing me for every possible situation, reciting the right words, searching for the right phrases.
I'm in an endless search for the recipe for perfection. I'm seeking a world that goes exactly how I want. In doing so, what I really want is to be stripped of my freedom. I don't want to have to choose anything. My preparations are really sheer substitutes for how I think I should be choosing rather than what I really want. When you give me too long to prepare for things, my should mind gets in the way of my heart. I start hiding my true passions, caveating my true desires, releasing forceful opinions.
Things either feel right or they don't. There is no in-between. Despite knowing this, I struggle with self-doubt. I hem and haw my way out of strong emotions.
The date was fine but maybe I just wasn't feeling it. -> translation: interesting conversation was nowhere to be found.
He's not the best at emotional safety -> translation: I dread their feedback on my work.
I’m good → translation: there are a million open threads in my life right now and I’m trying to find space to find ground.
When this happens, it’s useful to bring myself to a space of play and abundance. I go to my regular sources of wonder and feel for the worn grooves of genuine curiosity.
When everything feels right, I always have to remind myself to sit with the energy for a bit rather than trying to consume it all at once. I want to brand my soul with that emotional state, tattoo it into the fabric of my being, scoop it up into the special shoebox I keep in the corner of my heart's attic for those days when the windows are all dark and the sun is nowhere to be found and it feels like everything you do won't stick, and that ephemerality, the fleeting nature of life, doesn’t evoke beauty; it breaks your heart. For those days, especially, when you're trying, desperately, to put part of yourself into the world, to show that you matter, even if it's just a simple mark on a tree in a forest that no one else will visit or whispering a word that no one else will hear. To know, just for yourself, that you can create change and cause effect, that it will last for a brief moment in this insignificant blip of a life.
a mundane moment of wonder recently in my life. Look at the way these bubbles sit on the cup. It’s like a pattern of ice, like suspended belief made physical. And when you set the cup down firmly, a flock of them takes off, little raindrops moving in reverse.
People spend all their lives stressed about the big decisions in life: where to work, how to identify themselves, who to spend their lives with. We're told to prepare for the Big Questions, that they'll determine the rest of our lives. Ruin them if we aren't careful.
But the moments when I feel most right are the most mundane. I find them in the small windows of blinding sunset through downtown streets. I find them in the whisper of the wind through trees. If I stay long enough, I can see them swaying, a secret dance with the breeze. The moments that matter are when a smile lingers, the cushion of silence in the space between topics, a small touch of the hand or a laugh like a black hole sucking the tension right out of your rigid bones.
How can I experience this and even pretend to believe, let alone act, that the Big Questions are the ones that matter? The feeling inscribed in my bones says that these tiny moments are what we live for, what we're made for. Our purpose is to exist for these moments. To see them and feel them, attend to the world and its inhabitants in all their infinite detail.
I hope we always treasure these small moments. Every time I find myself lost in the search for perfection, this is one thing that always feels right. Always feels resonant and good and necessary. And the world needs us just as much as we need it. So go on and do your duty. The world depends on it.
P.S. A few years ago I aspirationally wanted to do this series of short stories imagining fantastical alternatives to these sorts of mundane moments. I made a few: one about a light in a dark room, another about a snowy car drive, and a final one about a midnight stroll. If you find these interesting, let me know! I have the energy for this sort of thing again, although they might manifest as poems instead...
P.P.S I’m releasing a little net art project in this vein. It’s a window into these tiny moments of my life that stand out to me, at least make enough of an impact that I take a picture of them. I would love to know how it makes you feel! I am testing the waters for making this a more regular practice. You can find it at https://www.spencerchang.me/window/
more life updates
I realize I had a typo in my last email which conveniently omitted the exact place I was saying I was moving to, so no I didn’t move to some blank purgatory, but I’m in Oakland now on a short-term sublease, working out some logistics for an aspirational move to Brooklyn.
I have been pretty casual with updating this newsletter ever since I finished my 100 mini essays, but I want to commit to a more regular post schedule now! I’ll be starting with weekly, so expect to see a post at the end of every week :) Let me know if there’s anything you would find interesting