I got an email from The Listserve with the subject “It’s your turn.”

December 29 2013

For those in a rush, I offer just this quote: “If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.” – Andrew Harvey

As an almost-20 year old, I feel like it isn't my place to offer others advice. (Except, maybe, to someone under 20 years old, in which case, two things: First, take education very seriously, not because it will make you wealthy or prominent, but because it will immensely enrich your life. Second, it is very hard to avoid becoming very much like one or both of your parents when you grow up. This isn't a piece of advice but rather an observation.)

Anyways, I was recently thinking about getting a tattoo of the phrase, "This too shall pass," in Hebrew. (I recommend reading the Wikipedia page about this phrase, as it provides some intriguing insight and history.) My best friend texted me some advice, which included the following sentence: "I think you are the type of person who can tell others what in your life has meaning without it being on your body." It was incredibly thought-provoking, and I realized she was right.

I suppose this is my chance to do so, seeing as this email is all I have to show you all what in my life has meaning. Because I don’t think I should be offering advice, and because my best friend’s words have had such a profound effect on me, I hope it won't be too conceited or boring to mention what has made my life good: staying perpetually curious and fascinated.

I have learned as much from an astronomy course taught by Alex Filippenko (Google him!) as I have from a class on English literature from 1300-1650, or from my 13-month-old niece’s laughter, or from travelling all over Europe, or from reading Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Wikipedia page. I think it is nice to be reminded that our lives and our selves are very teeny tiny parts of the vast world (not to mention the universe!). There’s a lot to see, hear, read, and encounter out there; some of it might be momentarily interesting and then get lost somewhere in the depths of your memory, and some of it might be so incredibly powerful and overwhelming that it will stay with you forever. Here are a few things that have fallen in the latter category for me, and I hope they will for you, as well: J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Death Cab for Cutie’s “St. Peter’s Cathedral,” the word “ephemeral,” and the city of Berkeley, California.

(If you’re a fellow UC Berkeley student, and you’ve read this far, let’s be friends! “Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and whatever intimacy a cup of coffee affords.” - Richard Brautigan)

There are three things I would like to do before my time here (in this world, not in this email) is up: be a loving and happy wife and mother (and grandmother and great-grandmother…), write something (be it an essay, a poem, a bunch of poems, a short story, a bunch of short stories, or a novel) (or a mix of all of those) that stirs people’s souls, and get appointed to the United States Supreme Court (it’s a pipe dream, but that’s okay).

In the mean time, I still have a lot to learn. You’re welcome to teach me.

Leah R.
[email protected]
Berkeley, California

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