Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 19, 2020

Look at it in its purest form...Find what it is that you want to do and deconstruct that, until it’s so simple that it’s so easy. All the other stuff is just baggage. — Lucien Smith, New York City artist

After 17 years of school, one ends up acquiring a lot of baggage.

The first thing I ever wanted to be was a singer. When I was five, I decided I wanted to be a musician. I grew up some more and decided to become a teacher, a photographer, then a poet. By the time I had entered college, I was jumping from neuroscientist to chef to world traveler to writer.

What was I looking at? What is it that I want to do? What is its purest form, and how do I even go about deconstructing it?

There are innumerable ways in which the thing (or things) one loves can get muddled, buried. Your love for cooking, for example, can get trapped in all the other directions inessential people, circumstances, societal norms and conventions tell it to go. And it’s hard. It’s hard to sit down by yourself and drown out all the static with your own genuineness, which itself may be eclipsed by all the stuff you’re trying to block out in the first place.

So what do you do? Do you take classes you really want to take despite your parents’ disapproval? Do you quit all the organizations you joined just to put on your resume? Do you take those singing lessons you always wanted to take? Do you tell the world, all those people telling you to apply, apply, apply and you need to start a career to shut the Hell up? Is that even enough?

I am a Writing Seminars major because I love to write — I love the way words look, how they sound. How rearranging them into a poem feels like solving a puzzle. How, when I write, I no longer feel like I am at the center of a world full of mirrors; I am the mirror — I am the mirror absorbing everything around me, reducing it to its most quintessential form and reflecting it back out in a way that reveals it at a different angle.

I am not a Writing Seminars major so I can copy edit articles about the “Coldest Draft Beers in Baltimore.” I love to write, so I do it. But how do I write the way I want to after I graduate?

In acting, Sanford Meisner says that the foundation of acting is the reality of doing. One doesn’t act afraid or pretend to drink a cup of coffee. One is afraid. One drinks a cup of coffee.

I think that all the baggage life piles onto the thing you love makes it hard to fulfill that thing’s “reality of doing.” You become concerned about what other people think and say, the superfluous stuff people attach to the thing you love that make it burdensome. You end up focusing so much on the extraneous noise surrounding what you love that you end up doing it for the sake of those things. And maybe the thing you love becomes so heavy that you end up not loving it at all, but hating it.

You end up copy editing articles you hate because “It’s a great newspaper!” and “Don’t worry, one day you’ll be able to write about something that matters!” and “But now you have a 401K and life insurance!”

You become part of this weird act where you’re pretending to be doing this thing, but in reality, you’re doing the things around it — you’re thinking too much of the precursors and consequences, you’re pretending to drink the cup of coffee instead of just picking it up and drinking it.

But that’s just what I think. And it’s coming from the girl who has asked 10 questions and is further away from an answer than she was at the beginning of this article.

So, if I had to really boil it down, find that thing I love and deconstruct it, reduce it to its most quintessential form, what do I do?

In the summer of my senior year of high school, my father introduced to me a philosophy by the late mythologist Joseph Campbell. In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell says, “Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living.”

Follow my bliss — that bliss, that rapture, that thing that fills me with life for life’s sake and not some end to a process; follow it earnestly and without reserve. Maybe one day all the unimportant things will just fall away. Maybe one day I’ll find myself in the reality of doing what I love.

I like to think of it as flying to a place without any luggage. You get on the plane to the place you want to go, you get off and then there you are. No pulling bags out of overhead compartments, no wasting time at the carousel waiting for a suitcase, no worrying if the airline lost it or if your things got damaged along the way. It’s just you in the place you want to be, weightless.

Because anyways, when everything else is said and done, “All the other stuff is just baggage.”

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