Choosing From the Infinite

My bedroom floor is piled high with books, and there are a decent number that I have not read. I have the intention to read them, which is why, in the heat of a discount-book-shop-treasure-finding moment, I have bought more books than I have the time or energy to read. Sometimes, as I think about those books, and the other books on my “to-read” list, I grow overwhelmed. There are so many stories and voices and ideas I want to absorb and process, and realistically, I don’t have the time or the brain space for them all. I don’t want to spend my entire life reading, because when will I have time to apply what I’ve learned? Sometimes I want to forget the whole thing and give up on my reading list.

Since moving to New York, I have felt the same way—not about reading, but about life. The fear that I might miss something good has moved from my reading list to my lifestyle in New York. I find myself wanting to experience everything, pushed by what everyone tells me I should try and what I must do. As if, once the semester ends and I return home, I will regret not having tasted and seen and participated in everything.

I know, you are probably shaking your head, muttering to yourself, “Silly girl. That’s not possible.” And you’re right. It’s not possible.

It’s not possible for me to experience everything in this enormous city. Not only that, I realize I shouldn’t experience absolutely everything, because not everything is meant for me.

The moment of clarity came for me one rainy day, when I was exploring Brooklyn. I had been trying to save my money for big nights out doing what my roommates wanted to do, and it occurred to me that the activities they wanted to participate in were not necessarily the activities I wanted to participate in. They wanted to experience the glamour of New York, and I wanted to explore the hidden corners, the nooks and crannies. I had spent the first month experiencing the glamour, and I was ready to honor the part of me that wanted a quiet, contemplative moment in a cozy coffee shop.

I didn’t have the money or the energy for both day life and night life, so I made a choice. I ducked inside Joyce Bakeshop and warmed myself from the rain, grounding myself through a hot coffee and a flaky chocolate croissant. I journaled and people-watched. I let the familiar environment of a coffee shop hold me for a while. And in that moment, I understood the importance of choosing your own story.

I’ll probably be ready for the glamour again, but I need the quietness of New York too, the things that feel like me—walks in parks, treats from bakeries, even quiet nights at home spent reading and drawing. I realize now that I cannot say yes to everything. Sometimes I will need to say no, so that there is space, time, and energy to say yes to the things that are mine, the experiences that my soul is leading me toward. When I do this, I stop grasping blindly and am led forward naturally.

It occurs to me now that I don’t have to give up on collecting books and making reading lists; I don’t have to let myself be overwhelmed by the sheer infinity of possibilities. I must say no to the books that I don’t feel calling my soul. Just like experiencing New York City, saying no to those books will give me the space to say yes to the books that do call my soul. I can choose my story, the story that unfolds naturally, the story that is truly mine.

~Sara Beaureilles

This is a shared blog post for Beaufort Books and Spencer Hill Press.