Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

Put on your thinking caps kids, because Professor Rose is about to take you on an educational journey. Today's post is a little lengthy, but it's worth reading. Fo sho. This especially means YOU, recent (or even not so recent) high school and college grads.

My American Literature class is generally pointless, reading things many of us read (or...didn't read. Ahem) in junior high and high school. The professor does not give any sort of constructive commentary on any essay that is turned in, only seemingly randomly assigns a point value and several weeks later that surprise randomly assigned grade shows up in my "gradebook".

This plight aside, I did find one pearl of wisdom in an otherwise financially draining pile of crap.

Below is the Robert Bly poem, The Resemblance Between Your Life And A Dog from our assigned reading, and my interpretive essay following that.
Not that anyone cares to read my homework assignment, however, I think that I made some important points for those of you feeling the crush of the quarter-life crisis. If you're not snoring yet, read on:

The Resemblance Between Your Life and a Dog

I never intended to have this life, believe me—
It just happened. You know how dogs turn up
At a farm, and they way but can’t explain.

It’s good if you can accept your life—you’ll notice
Your face has become deranged trying to adjust
To it. Your face thought your life would look

Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten.
That was a clear river touched by mountain wind.
Even your parents can’t believe how much you’ve changed.

Sparrows in winter, if you’ve ever held one, all feathers,
Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee.
You see them later in hedges. Teachers praise you,

But you can’t quite get back to the winter sparrow.
Your life is a dog. He’s been hungry for miles,
Doesn’t particularly like you, but gives up, and comes in.

And my response essay:

While I generally try not to make a habit of comparing myself to "man's best friend", if I had to choose a Robert Bly poem to give to a friend (hypothetical or otherwise) I would choose to give to them "The Resemblance Between Your Life and a Dog". I believe this poem really describes the so-called "quarter life crisis" that many young people face in their early twenties. I think it's subconsciously explains the phenomena better than any other way I could describe it myself.

This uniquely titled poem may not necessarily have been intended to be interpreted in this manner, however I found that many of the experiences and emotions portrayed in this poem are similar to those experienced in the college and post-college years of my life. I think many people (especially a few friends I can think of) would relate to the line "I never intended to have this life, believe me—It just happened." Myself and several of my friends would agree that the life they are currently leading is not the life we pictured for ourselves in our younger years. This may be for better or for worse, but many of us do not wind up living the life we originally envisioned.

The line "sparrows in winter, if you've ever held one, all feathers, burst out of your hand with fiery glee" brings to mind images of high school graduation, students like sparrows all proud and puffy and ready to face the world with their "fiery glee" then later on the effect wears off and real life takes hold. This is disillusioning for many twenty-somethings when life isn't playing out the way it was originally thought or intended. As Bly says, "you can't quite get back to the winter sparrow", meaning to me that no matter what, you will never be as hopeful and innocent as you were at the time.

The last lines of the poem describe how eventually we accept our lives for how they are and just go on with it, whether or not it's what we had planned. Bly's ending seems to be one that's disappointing and perhaps even a little depressing or self-loathing. That's not how everyone's story ends however. It is possible to find that your unintended path is actually the one you're meant to be on.

So it is with this poem that I would explain to a friend (or perhaps even reaffirm to myself) that even though the path we currently reside on is maybe not what we intended, it should be taken as positively as possible. It has to do with fate. As Bly says in his poem, you don't know how the dog gets to the farm, it just arrives there unexplained. That many times is effective in describing how we wind up on our given path. Much of it has no explanation other than that which is meant to be will be. I think the twenties are a difficult age of much self-exploration, and even self-loathing, and any comforting words of explanation would be much appreciated.