“Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” is the second chapter in Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden. I have not read the book in its entirety, but I love the title of this chapter. A few years ago I came to the conclusion that everyone should write an essay (or journal entry, poem, song, etc.) with this title. I think I’d like to write a piece with this title every five years or so. Because surely where I lived and what I lived for will change!
My first attempt was made back in 2009. I had completely forgotten about it until I stumbled across some old Word documents hidden deep down in my hard drive. This draft was rough and I didn’t finish it. When I make another attempt I’m sure I’ll start from scratch. For now, however, I share the first version:
Where I Lived, and What I Lived For
I lived in loud rooms and quiet corners. I am a translator. I experience emotions and translate them to the page. I cried. I cursed. I hid from the sun and stood naked in the rain. I lived long enough to know that kindness is the only medicine and I try (I said try) to have some with me wherever I go.
I lived to tell about it. Whatever it was. A night of passion. An afternoon of ennui. I grew determined to describe it.
I lived to experience and study those experiences to find out which ones were given to me and which ones others fought tirelessly for. I lived to experience and do everything in my limited power to make sure that every person is welcome to have the rights and privileges thereof. Even if the only thing I can do is helplessly watch YouTube and pray.
I already know what my last regret will be. It will be not being able to find the right adjectives to describe death. Whether I fade away slowly in my sleep, take a rogue bullet, am smashed between a Prius and a Honda Accord, choke in agony with someone’s angry hands around my neck, or try aimlessly to reach for the surface while my body pulls me down deeper into the water, I won’t know how to describe what I’m experiencing.
And if the glorious words do come like an unexpected comet across the sky and I say “I’ve got it! I know just how to describe it,” there won’t be a pen and paper handy to get it down just in time.