Wednesday, April 27, 2011

subway kids rejoice

In January, I turned 25. For my birthday, a friend of mine gave me The Alchemist. On the title page, he wrote a note: "MCB, I found this one of the most inspiring books I've ever read. I hope it resonates as much with you." It took me a few weeks to finish the book. As I was reading, I knew something important was happening. The book served to reflect aspects of my spirituality that I had learned over the past six months or so. I put the book on a shelf, feeling cemented in my beliefs, but also feeling like I had missed something, that some of the metaphors were lost on me.

I pulled the book from the shelf yesterday, to share it with a man I've been seeing. I put it in my room to remind myself to give it to him, but decided not to take it with me yesterday. It sat on my dresser all day. This morning before leaving for work, I decided instead to re-read it myself, and I put it in my bag. I pulled it out on the train at 86th street and started reading. I stood from 86th street to 14th street reading, then some people got up to exit so I took a seat. I was sitting there reading, and the man sitting next to me looked over and said, "Your first time reading that book?" I said, "No, my second." He said, "Ah. It helps just to re-read it every now and then."

I agreed with him and pretended to keep reading, but there was an incessant pounding on the inside of my chest, demanding that I keep talking with this person. He was older a bit, probably in his 30s, and he seemed really nice and I liked his vibe. I ignored the pounding for as long as possible until I couldn't ignore it anymore.

"How many times would you say you've read it?" I asked him.
"Ummm, about three."
"Why are you re-reading it now?"
"Um, well.  I just read it for the first time a few months ago."
"Oh really? That's pretty soon to be re-reading it already."
"Well, I feel like I missed some of the metaphors so I want to go back through and get a better understanding."
"I see. Are you in the middle of a big life change?"
In my heart: yes.
Out loud: "Um, well, I really want a new job."
"Ah. What line of work are you in?"
"Well, right now I work in magazines."
"And what do you want to be doing? Healing?" He laughed.
"Well, I write magazine articles, but I really want to be doing something more creative. Like writing books or screenplays." Mind you, this is a complete stranger and I've never even told some of my closest friends that I want to write screenplays.
"Have you thought about  taking a loan out to pursue higher education?"
In my head: Um, wow. Damn. Straight to the point.
Out loud: "I've thought about grad school but haven't done any in-depth research on it."
"Well," he said, "I'm throwing caution to the wind and taking out a $100,000 loan to go to school for psychotherapy. I feel like it's my calling."
"Holy shit. That's a lot of money."
"There's this school out in Boulder, Colorado called Naropa. Have you ever heard of it?"
"It's a Buddhist-founded university with graduate programs in writing. They focus on contemplative learning, meditation and stuff like that. It's really cool, you should look into it."
"All right, sounds awesome." Or something equally inane.
"Have you ever heard of Allen Ginsberg?"
In my heart: fucking Christ.
Out loud: "Yes."
"The library there is named after him. He was involved with the writing school somehow."

My stop came. I thanked him and told him to have a great day.
I got off.
I walked upstairs.
The sun hit my face. It was warm.
I went to get an iced coffee but I didn't really need it.
I held back tears as I walked to my office.



  1. I'm glad someone understands my shock and awe. :)

  2. I'm glad my thought was conveyed. Kind of just felt like I was babbling about something I don't fully comprehend.

  3. They are the home of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Seriously looked at it during undergrad.
    Sounds like an awesome experience. Going with your gut and finding that important connection in a babble of millions of people. Those moments are the most important.

  4. Wow, crazy! I didn't even know this place existed before yesterday. I'm definitely looking into it, I would be mistaken to ignore such a sign.

  5. I can't even express my feelings after reading this. I keep wanting to re-read it over and over. Thank you.

    And how have I not read The Alchemist before?

  6. Thank you, Kristin. You MUST read it. I wish I could ship everyone I know a copy.

  7. Thanks for recommending The Alchemist. I read it in January, and it helped.

  8. a friend suggested i read it since my son was having issues... i came away w/a different understanding of my son.. it applies to anyone learning to deal w/their life and the decisions they have to make.

  9. This was, for me, a little like when you see a reflection of a mirror in a mirror -- a round-about and accidental happening upon your account of a serendipitous encounter, during a particularly soul-searching time of my life, becomes a reminder to pick up the book that has been sitting, gathering dust on my bookshelf for years.
    I've never read it. But, in the same way it sounds like the Universe was talking to you that day; feels like the Universe is talking to me today.

    Thanks for sharing this. :)

  10. Wow.

    I love your writing, I have your blog in my feed but only peruse it occasionally. But I saw this post today and felt compelled to say hello.

    I live in Boulder, about two blocks from Naropa. I'm a journalism major at CU--the big bureaucratic university in town.

    About two weeks ago I met a nice Greek man walking down my road carrying everything he owned. He had just moved to Boulder. He works at Naropa and I have become friends with him in the time since I helped him carry his belongings to his new home.

    I'm telling you all of this because in the last two weeks I have gotten to meet and see more of Naropa than before. And it really does seem like a special place. People there are smart and welcoming and they care about emotional and spiritual health (something that is so lacking at my school).

    And I don't know too much about their academics, but I do know they have a good writing program. And that the community is really welcoming.

    This is a legitimate offer...if you would like to come visit Naropa and Boulder you can stay with me. I like showing people around town and my friend could introduce you to people at Naropa.

    It's weird inviting a stranger to my house. But your writing shows more about you than maybe you realize, and so I feel comfortable doing so.

    (I think some of it is that I also, deep down, want to pursue writing creatively. And I'd like to help you achieve your dream because that would, in some way, help me.)

    Let me know if I you'd like to take me up on this offer--I'll be in Boulder until August 2012.

    And I can give you my phone number if you want to call and make sure I'm not a surly old man with bad intentions.