Monday, March 19, 2012

Letters to a Young Poet: An Introduction

It's hard to be patient.  I'm 27 years old, and for some reason, I think I have to have everything figured out already.  With blogs and social media and the Internet, it sometimes seems like everyone else has the secret to success.  And in our "instant gratification" culture, we all want success right NOW.

Jess's recent post on Makeunder My Life and a news article that I came across on Facebook put some of my feelings into words... and made me realize I'm not alone.

An excerpt from the article:
Like most twentysomethings, Rebecca Thorman lives in the spotlight of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Flickr, and as the accomplishments of her peers become more public than ever, there’s a heightened sense of competition.

In Washington, she’s surrounded by overachievers—some of whom, such as her boyfriend, Ryan Healy, have gotten funding for their companies practically straight out of college—and she doesn’t want to be left behind just working at some “normal” job.

Call it the Mark Zuckerberg Effect. At 26, the Facebook cofounder was Time’s Person of the Year. And all over the country there are knockoffs of Zuckerberg—young people upping the ante for their peers. AOL ran a story called meet the new young millionaires, about people under age 33. Yahoo ran a feature called how to be a millionaire by 35, filled with real-world examples.

A commenter on a Gen Y blog described the landscape: “I feel like, at 23, I should be starting my own design studio, have tons of clients and work experience, and be at my peak.”

No doubt this mentality is the midwife of Thorman’s anxiety and self-criticism. Looking around at other people her age—both in real life and on social media—she says, “I feel like everyone has figured it out except for me.”
Now, stick with me here...

Recently, I felt the need to reflect and look back in order to counteract all my forward-thinking ideas, anticipation, and this pressure I put on myself to not only achieve my goals but also do it right this second.

When you think about it, so much happens in a lifetime... things we could never expect.  Ten years ago, I was a senior in high school, struggling a bit to find my place in life and discover what made me truly happy.  Five years ago, I was almost a year out of college, loving life in Chicago with my roommates but unsure if my job was the right match and ready to find a guy I could spend my life with.

I think over time, I've come closer to the person I want to become.  But I needed time to figure out who that person was... and then more time to grow and change.  It can't happen overnight, just like relationships, careers, and almost anything else in life aren't immediate.
Ten years ago, when I was that senior in high school, someone recommended a book to possibly help me sort out all the uncertain feelings I was experiencing.  Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" spoke to me then... and it still does. 

Every time I pick up the slim little volume, I rediscover the quotes I love and find new ones that are just what I need to hear at that moment.  It's amazing, considering the letters were written between 1903 and 1908 (which also means Rilke was 27 years oldmy current ageat the time he wrote them).

This book has popped up a number of times throughout my life, acting almost as a guidepost to let me know that I'm on the right path.  A couple of years ago, when I was trying to figure out a way to make writing a bigger part of my life, I talked to the director of my alma mater's writing centerwhere I worked during collegefor some ideas.  He recommended "Letters to a Young Poet," and it felt like a reassuring sign. 

I've come across quotes from the book here and there... at the exact moments when I needed encouragement.  This past week, I read through it again. 

You don't have to be a "young poet" to appreciate Rilke's words.  Since I found so many passages to be inspiring and true, even in this modern age, I wanted to share them with you.  This post is just a little introductionI'll be back with some quotes this week... stay tuned!


  1. Thanks for the reminder Melissa. This really speaks to me today and about reminds me to relax a little and allow myself to calm down and just be 28. I'll have enough time in the future to be older then.
    Thanks for the inspiring post.

  2. Thanks, Marie! So true - we can't overlook all the wonderful things in our lives... right now.


I'd love to hear from you!


Related Posts with Thumbnails