Discover more from Beagle Voyage with Jane Liaw
Hello there, friends.
We recently showed Beanie “Cool Runnings” for the first time, and she giggled a whole lot. The movie holds up—I hadn’t watched it in over 20 years, and it’s still good stuff. Sanka remains hilarious.
“Cool Runnings” is based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team’s unlikely quest to win a gold medal at the 1988 Winter Olympics. John Candy plays their coach, a former bobsledding Olympics contender who disgraced himself years prior in pursuit of his own gold medal.
I’ve always remembered this hard-won wisdom John Candy’s character imparts to the Jamaican team leader: “Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”
That has rattled around in my head for over 20 years, because I’m the sort of person who needs to hear this. I’ve spent much of my life looking forward, working toward a goal or anticipating a milestone. And putting my hopes into being fulfilled when I get there. Surely this time, I will be happy ever after? When I get into my dream college/move out on my own/get married/have a child?
All those things have created happy moments, sometimes deeply happy moments, but none have been the panacea that meant my anxieties were forever banished. Wherever I went, there I was, and along with me came the feeling of not enough. Not enough without it, not enough with it.
It’s futile to expect anything to fill that “not enough” space exactly to make you whole. And if something fits you exactly today, it won’t fit anymore tomorrow, when “you” are a slightly different person yet again.
Part of growing older is realizing there is no real finish line and no fully formed “you.” The lessons I’ve learned about who I am and my place in the world, I’ve had to relearn over and over again as I evolved. I’ve come to see this learning as a circle rather than a line.
I’m not retracing my steps so much as treading similar territory, with slightly different conclusions each round. I am constantly moving toward a new horizon on my journey, with no final satisfying end to strive toward. There is always another act, until I cease to exist.
As I’ve slowly come to this realization, I’ve felt both unsettled and comforted. “I” can never be perfected, my life can never be perfected. So if I’m working toward something, I should pay more attention to my path than the result. My path had better mean just as much to me.
So instead of “I will finally be happy when…” I’m trying to hold and examine today a little more, to recognize it as enough.
I believe much of my approach regarding Beanie’s learning is a reaction to my own tunnel vision to reach for the next thing. A tunnel vision that was probably reinforced by my learning environments, which were typical goal-oriented progressions through traditional schools, starting with the quite rigid Singapore school system.
Wary of Beanie falling into the trap of focusing on academic end goals only —and already seeing in her the “good student” tendencies and anxieties I had—I’ve guarded her free time and resisted the pull to fill her after-school hours with extracurriculars.
I hope instead that she can cultivate joy. The joy of flow, the joy of learning, the joy of syncing with kindred spirits, the joy of overcoming challenges, the joy of simply being.
As parents know, walking together with a young child is not exercise. Every two minutes there’s a stop to examine a fascinating rock or leaf, or handful of dirt. They see interesting things where we certainly don’t. I recognize this is still a world of wonder to them; when Beanie was that little, I tried to balance giving her time to explore with pulling her along because we had to get somewhere.
At 8 years old, Beanie can now understand the schedules we have to follow if we have to get to the doctor’s or to school. Daily life is no longer as inefficient, which feels good but perhaps shouldn’t. I know something has been lost.
Still, she retains some of that childhood vision for wonderful small things. As we were packing up her room last night, I asked her what we could throw away from her nature table. Nothing, it turns out. She wanted to store the broken acorns, pieces of bark, leathery leaves, and beach sand in her collection. (She did let me throw away one stick.) We packed everything away, for her to find and explore all over again when we return.
For the past few years, she’s expressed her ability to see the small through taking close-up photographs. I hope photography continues to be a link to that side of her; it does make you notice the little things much more.
This week, I got tired of my usual turkey poop hill walk, so I started exploring other walking routes. I found some streets I’d never even been on before, close to home, and I saw a shimmering green hummingbird and a mama deer with two of her fawns. The hummingbird moved too fast for me to get a photo, but I did get a not-too-clear picture of mama deer and one fawn.
For much of my life, it’s been hard for me to focus on what I already have, but I’m practicing seeing more “enough” around me now. I’m taking a page from Beanie’s book and looking out for details to capture with my iPhone camera while I’m out on my strolls.
It’s the little things.
Pretty Good Things
Make Art, Always
During this graduation season, this evergreen Kurt Vonnegut letter pops up here and there. I like the reminder of what makes life worth living.
Letter by Kurt Vonnegut—Make Your Soul Grow
“Practice any art…no matter how well or badly, not to get money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”
Carrot in a Box
RIP to Sean Lock, a British comedian who was always brilliant on panel shows. Best not to say more about these clips, except that the game is “Carrot in a Box,” and the object of the game is to end up with…a carrot in a box.
(Some swears, so maybe don’t watch it with young children. Or do! Whatever you want; I’m not the boss of you.)
Carrot in a box rematch!
Where do your online returns go?
Whether we like it or not, our lives interweave with countless others’ in the world just by going about our daily business. We’re millions of people fluttering our butterfly wings, causing hurricanes far away. The way we drive our cars, the way we throw our garbage, the way we buy—and then return—things online. Our conveniences all have consequences.
What happens to all those items you buy online and then send back? I’d always assumed the undamaged goods would simply be resold to another customer. Spoiler alert: they are not.
Free Returns Are Complicated, Laborious, and Gross - The Atlantic
“But even if mailed-in products come back in pristine, unused condition—say, because you ordered two sizes of the same bra and the first one you tried on fit fine—the odds that things returned to a sorting facility will simply be transferred to that business’s inventory aren’t great, and in some cases, they’re virtually zero.”
The problem is especially bad in the fast fashion sector, where goods go out of fashion…fast, and cannot be resold.
Here’s what actually happens to all your online shopping returns - Rest of World