Why am I here?
Why am I here? The question is one we often ask ourselves in the midst of a personal, spiritual, emotional (etcetera, etcetera) crisis. What do we mean to address when we ask ourselves this question? Oftentimes, it is not so much an attempt to take account of our motivations, or the concrete steps we took, or the decisions we made, or even a philosophical questioning of the physical and a-physical forces of the universe, time, fate, space (etcetera, etcetera) that led us to this time, moment, place—all the converging shapers of the here we find ourselves in. Instead, the question serves more frequently as a way of casting doubt, even judgement, upon our decisions and our selves.
Even at an MFA the question arises. Crisis occurs and disrupts the equilibrium of the daily striving, and the question forms as some instinctual catching of oneself as one falls. Beneath it, there is the frightening thought that motivates the question—I’ve made a mistake.
Why am I here? The question, for me, immediately conjures up a desk. Specifically, my desk, in the open space office on the second floor of the children’s museum where I worked before coming here. Nearly every morning, I would arrive two hours early, before my boss, and sit in front of my desktop computer with the screen turned off and the keyboard pushed away, my notebook open in front of me. That was my time to write.
During those quiet hours, when the office was still mostly empty, and no one was around to see what I was doing, I would do my best to craft my lines, and often, I found myself frustrated. I was doing my best to read as much as I could, pulling from the downtown library and online, and as much as the poetry I was reading invigorated and enervated me, when I was writing my own lines, it frustrated me. There was always something missing in my own work that I found in the work of others, that I could not apprehend or locate, and as each hollow line fell on the page, I would cross it out in annoyance. My work felt shallow, barely scraping the topsoil of what it was I was trying to dig into, uncover.
It was that hollow place in my writing that led me to the here of the why am I here. I was hungry to bury myself in that subterranean world that my own writing barely scraped, to push myself into the deeper center of an untouchable place.
This is my response to the question when it arises. I am here because I was hungry to push my work and myself deep into this untouchable, but possibly knowable, place. I am here both because I want to be here, and because I need to be here.
Because of the writers here, the environment, the exposure to new reading and ideas, I am being pulled and currented into the deeper grounds I hoped to discover. When I answer why am I here, I feel enormously grateful and glad both to the self that chose this place, and to this place that chose me, and I know that I am here because every day I am thrust into further fulfillment of the delights and desires I hold for myself and my craft. In answering the question, I know that my here is no mistake.