This is the fifth sending of our penpal newsletter, Letters to J.
There’s no other way to put it, the past month — and the ongoing reality for Black folks — was deeply saddening.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee and countless others should still be alive. Their murders reveal, many times over, that prejudice and racism towards Black people is ever-pervasive in America. And we have a long way to go in reversing that.¹
Justin and I put these letters on pause to instead read, listen, donate, and hold space. The topic also doesn’t fade once it does from Twitter’s Trending section — we’re still educating ourselves and here’s a few entries and resources that particularly impacted us:
(Jasdev ⇒ Justin, 5/25/20)
004 has so much to unpack. I’ll narrow it down to two notes and leave the rest for when we kick it next. Part of me wonders if — after all these letters — our conversations will dilate or be met with that comforting silence when there isn’t the urge to make conversation for the sake of it.
The first note (from your quoting of Plath’s passage in The Bell Jar below):
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing the rest
Willa H. put this struggle incredibly well in “The one where you get to read my diary,”
October 10, 2019
There will always be alternative paths, things and lives that could have been. I will always need to choose. And maybe that’s good. I could move all over, choose new jobs and new partners. There will always be the Sunday afternoons when I will be alone at home or walking in my neighborhood and just suddenly be struck with this feeling of “This isn’t enough. There is more.” But in those moments, what if instead of spiraling and plotting an escape, I just took a breath, looked at the sky, and said thank you to all the lives and choices that took me to where I am?
Willa hints at the limitation of the branching metaphor. Trees, well, don’t move (imagine if they did) and their branches are non-intersecting (or, at least in portrayal with details like choosing one and “losing the rest”). I wonder if it’s more fitting to imagine our days as a forward unfolding. Each step tendrils outward and following one path doesn’t necessarily rule out crossing another later on.
I guess this strange view is shaded by mathematics. The field is so rich and infinite that learning within it always feels like a sort of “day one.” Trying to mark progress with “day two,” “thirty nine,” or “seven thousand” doesn’t quite work because the domain keeps opening up beyond those points as if they were day ones in and of themselves that someone could spend a lifetime studying from.
What about you? Are there any hobbies or habits you find yourself missing?
Shoot. I was going to say poetry but since you covered it, I’ll take things in a slightly different direction: scribbling in the margins of friends’ poetry.
I signed up for my first poetry course with Kate Angus back in January after having dabbled with the genre over the years by reading our beloved newsletter, Pome. It was one thing for me to experience doses of imposter syndrome in engineering and another entirely to meet weekly with a room full of incredibly talented writers, teachers, and journalists as a gigantic nerd (pictured below and swapping out “the party” for “poetry class”).