I wrote this for an admissions essay nearly a year ago. It turned up in the latest iteration of my never-ending attempts to housekeep my laptop, and I thought I’d post it here to remind myself of the wonder and awe I once knew in seasons of clearer sight.
(the essay prompt – describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?)
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Contentment is a funny thing. It lies, I think, less in possessing than in the feeling of enoughness. Contentment comes when it pleases; without warning or fanfare. It simply happens. It catches you sequestered in the upper deck of an open-air bus, munching on an apple with all the crispness of a new spring morning and skin streaked through with the colours of fall. It arrives amidst midday sunlight filtering through window panes; in watching dust particles dance their lazy waltz in the spotlight of warm sunbeams on skin. Or it might descend slowly – in the minutes and hours that sprawl lazily across an afternoon spent tracing the paths of raindrops with your eyes.
It’s the stillness of wonder captivated by the richness of the present moment.
It’s the 2a.m. street wanderings in a new city; in the wild moment you look up from maps and street signs and gloved hands clutching hot coffee to the splendor of the winter night sky and realize that this is the same sky under which you have always lived; when home grows a little wider and grander and you are still lost, but lost at home.
It’s in the moments when I am inexplicably gripped by fascination at the shape of a tablecloth stain – that it is this precise shape; that it is where it is and not a centimeter lower or higher; that there are years upon years of stories of people and creatures and things that have led to it being what it is.
Contentment comes with the realization that I am not so different – that I am, for reasons unknown, me and not someone else; here at this moment and not another (amidst vast oceans of time and space); that I will never be able to comprehend fully even the story of a stain. Perhaps it is part of the wonder in seeing more clearly one’s place in the universe: I did not have to be, but I am.
It’s when I surrender to the moment and am taken out of myself to see something greater – when I’m free of the temptation to have a name and a history; when I may simply exist. It is only then that I may marvel at a tree, a cloud, or a person, and “not ask what they are but simply be glad that they are”. (After all, we may be made of star-stuff, but so is mouldy bread.)
Contentment is the same, whether in wandering the streets of a new city; wondering at the existence of a thing or person; or seeing anew some great truth between the pages of a book. It reminds me of how life is to be lived: that it is better to see the world than to own it; that seeing and hearing and tasting and smelling come before telling. It matters, because it reminds me that there is nothing in the whole of time and space that we can truly and completely possess: no creature or thing, no ephemeral moment in time – yet we are granted the privilege of apprehending reality, and that is enough.