About two semesters ago, I nearly failed an English class. It wasn’t an absence of adequate skill; I can and still do write papers that turn heads in those circles of mediocrity. For starters, no one writes another paper ever again after finishing school, no they write articles, letters,Â dissertations, and eulogies; I dislike English classes for that reason, but that was not the cause of my misstep. It was something closer to a personality disagreement between the professor and I, specifically a single statement, seemingly innocuous and helpful. In an attempt to purge and cleanse our writing, he said that sentimentality has no purpose in English, or our lives. I disagreed and feel the same way now, and I earned my A to boot, but I still feel wronged by what he had to say. I found this to explain how I felt before deciding to write this. I felt sorry for the people who listened to what he had to say, but also guilty that I’d never corrected him.
If I had known what trouble you were bearing;
What griefs were in the silence of your face;
I would have been more gentle and more caring,
And tried to give you gladness for a space.
I would have brought more warmth into the place,
If I had known.
If I had known what thoughts despairing drew you;
(Why do we never try to understand?)
I would have lent a little friendship to you,
And slipped my hand within your hand,
And made your stay more pleasant in the land,
If I had known.
There are certain things that surround us, things which normally go unseen while hazarding our lives. Their numbers are many, randomly dispersed, and each is molded uniquely. An old website frequented or writing on a notebook long discarded, as an example, perhaps. Others waft from the an apple pie cooking in the oven, or linger at locales important to our past, the back of a coffee shop for instance or and old tree stump near the trash. Maybe it’s that song you never learned the words to, but like to hum when it’s quiet. They exist as a sort of personal haunting, but not unwelcomely so. I aim to recognize that these objects are ubiquitous, numerous, but above all, comforting. This is not to say that they necessarily make us warm and happy; some will and do, but others are as painful as when they were made. Yes, I mean to say that these objects are pieces of ourselves we have left behind. They are things we know well, because they compose who we were, and they make our experience whole.
Therein lies the comfort. Sometimes the misadventures of our lives leave us stranded, and at a certain point, when we feel the most like quitting or sitting out, it becomes easier and more inviting to allow someone else to control the wheel, or at least lend helpful advice. Friends like these are far and few between, so some turn to God, others to drugs and alcohol, and yet others to sex. Some turn to all three, in a sick play on the uniquely human experience of piety and absolution. I offer that we do not need other people or ideas to provide a shoulder-more often than not, that comfortable recess has been cleaved from life-not because we do not need comforting or affection, but rather that we have it already at our disposal. We have, in fact, deposited sign posts ourselves to point the way all around; people call itÂ sentimentality. Some of these are soft and huggable, others sharper than the sting of a belt, but all of them are uniquelyÂ familiar and close. This feeling isÂ criticallyÂ important to survival, not a gimmick to earn sales at book stores and theatres.Â We leave ourselves behind, sentimentally, to save ourselves.
Just stop and think about it. What has made you, you? What messages have you left yourself, what feelings have you stowed away? Speak to that character from your favorite television show, clean the toop of your closet, remember what you wanted to be when you grew up, search! I’m not sure where or what it is for everyone, but I know it exists and it’s more important that your English teacher might have made it out to be. Everyone deserves just a little bit of comfort. It’s possible.