Boston: 9/30 – Menagerie of Sparks!

Finding your Jules Verne.

I remember having a conversation with a friend over the pandemic about our goals in life. He was explaining the topic of his master thesis with such excitement, and it was clear that all at the work he put into it still wasn’t enough to quench that insatiable curiosity for Jules Verne. He asked me about my future within the field of psychology since not only was that my major at the time, it was the only career “goal” I ever thought about pursuing. However, I never had an answer for how I actually saw myself fitting into the field. I used to listen in awe as friends and strangers talked about their goals and motivations in life, regardless of the paths they needed to take, they all had at least something to push them further. It felt like everyone around me had their own menagerie of sparks guiding them through the uncertainty of daily life. I suppose most of my traveling days were inspired by my own desperate attempt in searching for my own “Jules Verne.” Instead, I’d constantly find myself overwhelmed with existential dread whenever I found myself walking home, or wherever I happened to be sleeping at the time, alone feeling as if there wasn’t a single spark guiding me back.

There is never going to be a single moment that inspires a longstanding, fixed sense of purpose. I found myself following strangers on their paths to fulfillment as a supporter. I’d wander to new cities in hopes that I’d find that all-encompassing spark in the arms of another person. All of my decisions to follow new objectives (later to be recognized as “sparks”) were short lived and impulsive, but they all led to something bigger and brighter.

The importance of the Jules Verne conversation came up in therapy the other day. I was explaining how I don’t like to think about my own spark because the realization that its not there shatters every moment of pride and determination. My therapist followed up with questions about an independent research project I’m working on and the session immediately turned into an impromptu TedTalk about the resilience of contemporary farmworker movements. As I started going into excruciating detail about the Delano Grape Strike, agro-capitalism, and New Deal immigration policy, something hit me.

That was the exact moment when I froze and said “Holy shit. I think I found my Jules Verne.”

Realizing that you found your “Jules Verne” will hit you when you least expect it. We all have our own menageries of sparks. Since that moment in therapy, I’ve noticed that these little sparks have always existed all around me. They are woven into the fabric of everything we experience – they are the small embers of hope illuminating the dark spaces within my depressive episodes, they are the unexpected shared moments of laughter and/or grief with those I love, strangers included. These little sparks don’t require major, pivotal life experiences, sometimes they’re simply nestled into a really satisfying oat latte in the middle of winter.

I dunno, I think that’s pretty delightful.

Sidebar: The word “menagerie” reminded me of a short story someone once sent me a few years ago. It’s called the “Paper Menagerie” and I’d highly recommend reading it, but it will definitely move you to tears. So, (speaking from experience) maybe just pick a time where you don’t have to rush into a closing shift or any other sort of social environment.

Here’s a PDF for the Paper Menagerie

See ya


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