For the past couple of years, I’ve been living with my sister and soon-to-be brother in law – by financial, rather than personal, choice. I have my own room and belongings, yet most of my possessions are in storage. And while I recognize how fortunate I am to have a sister who has a home with enough space and amenities to accommodate me tenfold, I can’t help but feel that my life has somewhat been on hold for as long as I’ve been here.
The other day I took a trip to the storage facility where part of my existence has been tucked away since the end of 2010. Sometimes when I visit and see everything that was once at my fingertips stacked high and packed tightly out of my grasp, I dwell over the fact that I’ve missed the enjoyment of so many things I own – books, photos, plates, pillows, etc. This past Saturday, I was there to store some more stuff I no longer had room for at home. And as I do on most occasions, I opened up a few boxes to both reacquaint my mind with those things I had since forgotten, and to evaluate what if anything is no longer worth holding on to.
I rummaged through a bunch of old papers I had saved from past jobs and schools, happily purging things I felt I wouldn’t even remember existed. My eyes perused everything, quickly opening folded papers to check the importance of their contents. After throwing away a small chunk of overstuffed, disorganized folders, I opened one of my many worn out cardboard boxes and came across a piece of white paper haphazardly folded, peeking out from underneath an old DVD/VHS player. Thinking it was nothing, I hastily grabbed and opened it. At the top were the words “La Desiderata” (Latin for “desired things”). As I started to read, I thought about who could have given it to me. I could not recall for certain, but believe it was my old design teacher from the Creative Circus – Sylvia Gaffney. I vaguely remembered her doing so, and it seemed like something she would leave us with upon our departure from school onto our next step in the world of advertising.
La Desiderata is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann (1872–1945). Largely unknown in the author’s lifetime, the text became widely known after its use in a devotional, after subsequently being found at Adlai Stevenson’s deathbed in 1965, and after spoken-word recordings in 1971 and 1972 (Wikipedia). The poem is one that makes you stop what you’re doing and reflect upon your life at that very moment. It forces you to take a step back and put everything, all the your sadness, anxiety, uncertainty and anger, into perspective. On that one sheet of 8.5×11 paper, words served to remind me of the most important and meaningful lessons in life. And now I will safely store it very close by so that my fingertips can once again touch it at a moment’s desire.
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.