Fieldnote #1: On the French verb ”arriver” + the creative life

In French, the verb arriver can describe both a physical arrival as well as a figurative one. For a long time, I’ve wanted to experience both of these feelings in my travel and creative life.

“Je suis arrivé à écrire une histoire”: I’ve managed/succeeded to write a story. This is something I had always dreamt of saying. The problem was that I wanted my first pieces of writing to be there, already arrived in their final form. It didn’t really matter where the destination was; I just wanted them to go somewhere. Anywhere.

And despite this— knowing that stories are meant to move and fly from Point A to literally any other point in the universe— I had decided to stay here, my feet planted into the shore, at the bottom of mountains, at the edge of faded sidewalks. Whatever metaphor I chose, the situation remained unchanged. I would tell people my idea to start a blog, craft a meticulous plan to launch it, and then become disappointed after seeing the work I produced. I hated sharing what I didn’t think was perfect.

And so I became frustrated with myself for not going where I wanted to go, and the cycle continued. To echo my meager attempts at French wordplay: je suis arrivé à ne pas y arriver.

But then something happened. It wasn’t that I arrived. It was something gradual, almost intentional, almost prophetic. I starting going back out into the world, even as far back as West Africa. I started writing and telling stories again, however imperfect they seemed. I began putting together these disjointed experiences and pieces of pain the universe had given me.

I had started going somewhere again.

After having crossed 10+ cities in 4 countries in the past three months, I think back on Maya Angelou’s saying of belonging “everywhere and nowhere.” To me, these words speak less about belonging to a place and more about whether or not we belong to ourselves. I admit that I haven’t felt like myself for quite some time now, but I’m learning how to open myself back up (whoever that may be) in bold and authentic ways.

It’s okay to be unfinished. Our stories aren’t so much about the ending anyway, but where the plot takes us in the meantime.

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