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Monday, October 23, 2006

big city life

I want the best of life and the best of myself.

But there are days when even the sidewalk glares back at you. Days when walking, breathing, even eating is an effort.

On the subway I sat across from a woman whose cheeks wore heavy acne scars. She rocked her baby back and forth. The child's head was wrapped in two bonnets: one isn't enough for Toronto's cold winds. His skin glowed under the subway lights, and his lips glistened, plump and open. He didn't smile, he just looked around, while she continued to rock him back and forth. When she got up she had the body of a 19-year-old. She was probably older, probably never went to the gym, but probably ran around enough in her studded jeans trying to balance her life that she kept fit either way.

Across from me was a young man in a hat, cradling a dog in his lap. When a young artist of a woman got on he looked once, looked twice, and then looked back to his dog.

Watching him, I felt envious that he had someone to hold.

A young black man sat further on, falling asleep into his seat. When the subway approached his stop he woke up. I stared. I liked his face. He looked back. He removed his hat for a second to reveal tight knit braids along his head, his face suddenly more handsome, his one diamond stud shining in the distance. He rubbed his head, put his hat back on, and stepped out at his stop with a bag of laundry.

An older man got on and sat across from me. My headphones played a sad song and tears rolled up in my eyes.

Why is it so hard to be happy?

I want to be happy. I want to strong. But I'm so weak that I cry on the subway.

And so I sat, my body wrapped up in pain, heart beating heavily, tears in my eyes, until the song ended.

I switched to a more upbeat song, gathered my strength, and got off at my stop.

If I'm going to make it, I have to keep going, whether the strength is there or not. Because if I stop, if only for a second, and doubt everything that is, I'm not going anywhere.

subway blues


Blogger lrwderksen said...

What do you want in life? Is it a successful career, heaps of money and a lot of respect (and adoration)? Or do you strive for happiness and peace with yourself. Knowing you have utilized your potential and behaved in accordance with your personal beliefs and values. Is your happiness found in the work you do or the career you have, or is it found in self-confidence and integrity?

The way I see it, strength is not pursuing goals whether you want it or not or your perseverance in making 'most of life', whether you feel you are up to the task or not. Strength is the honesty with yourself. Being able to look yourself in they eye and confront yourself with your actions and behavior. Being true and right to yourself and others.

Furthermore, you lack your doubt of everything. Maybe the most precious thing in life and the beauty of intelligence is the ability to doubt and question. Some people say: the more you know, the more you know there is so much more you don't know. In that sense, ignorance may seem a blessing, but if everything is taken for granted, what beauty is there in life?

2:30 AM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

I want happiness within. I want the most of myself and my potential, and my morality kept intact along the way. I want the strength to make the most of everyday and overcome the weakness that makes me want to let each day just slip by.

I still have a lot of questions, but they say those are answered through time. For now I'll focus on being grateful.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

Don't Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but do not quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up, though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.


5:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post (and the comments!) impacted me today. I think I have pretty much read your whole blog, so sorry that I have not commented or contacted you before. I can't express how much I have been blessed by your writing! I am older than you, but I relate so much to so many things that you have written about your feelings and desires. You are where I wish I had been a few years ago! I am only now learning to be as open and honest as you are. Don't lose that. In so many ways I feel like I have let way too many days "just slip by". However, at the same time, I look back and I see so many things in my life that I am grateful for. I feel like I should feel full with those things, but I want more. I always want to FEEL life more than I do. I have a lot going on right now in my life that leaves me unhappy with the place I am in. But that, also, is part of the journey. And a lot of your writing has inspired me to keep expressing myself through this time, instead of just trying to get through it as quickly as possible. I don't know if that makes sense. I tend to want to skip over the negative times, but I admire how you express the pain as well as the joy. Thanks for your writing. And Happy (late) Birthday!!

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a queer duck. Sometimes your posts are filled with joy and happieness and confidence, and then sometimes, although you write like an old soul, you show your age in your mellow moods. You remind me of me, which is maybe why I get frusterated reading these entries.

8:34 AM  
Blogger b said...

I think there are some of us that just feel so much all of the time. And rather than talking ourselves out of feeling something, we allow ourselves to live completely in the particular emotion we are feeling at a particular time.

I have thought for so long that this is a weakness. But I no longer view it that way. I think it takes tremendous courage to live this way. It seems to me that this may really be the difference between living and existing. Of course, feeling so much so often is exhausting. And that, in large, is why so many of us feel like old souls.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Joy- thank you for the poem, you deserve your beautiful name.

Girasolita- thank you for reading! I think it's good to want more. It's what pushes us towards happiness, or atleast to something more interesting, more alive. It's only in expressing weakness that I can become stronger.

Anonymous- I think it's only healthy to step back and question everything once and a while. If I were happy and confident all the time, I would be one hell of a good liar.

B- That's a good way of putting it. I've always thought I've had a pair of very tired eyes for someone so young. And no, it's not a weakness, it's much too strong to be weakness.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Raj said...


This entry has generated some great discussions!

First off I want you to know that you are not the only one that cries on the subway. I have the same exact thoughts and feelings observing others on the way home from work and it is an overwhelming feeling so hard to describe.... but you did just that in your entry. It is so easy to get caught up in where you want to be and how you want to see yourself. Sometimes it's as if you see your potential and you see others see it in you too but still, you would prefer to have the chance to be weak. Well that's the case for me anyway.
It seems like I am so busy searching and analyzing that is leads me to feel like I am the only one who thinks about these things. So it is nice to read your blog and know that I am not the only one. And as alone as we all may feel even when there are millions around us, there are people out there who struggle with the same questions, and to me that is comforting.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at it not as a weakness, but as a sense of humanity. Do not equate these emotions as a deficit, but rather as being strong enough to acknowledge the beauty and uncertainty of this vast unknown world. There are and will always be fears and questions. Embrace these, for they are all worthwhile and they all shape us, no matter what.

I have a quotecard on my "idea board":
"Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end."

I find, from a perspective 10 years older than you, that the path doesn't become more greatly illuminated from now on - the decisions are less clear, there are no clear answers when one reaches a fork in the road. It becomes more about what your instinct tells you is right for you, and knowing that, even if your decision doesn't turn out to be ideal, you are well-equipped to handle the ride, no matter what.

You, my dear, are more than well-equipped to handle the ride.

Jenn in NJ

7:52 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

I share these feelings too.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Alice said...

How wonderfully you put into words what so many of us feel and experience but don't know how to express...

And how tough that roller coaster of emotions is sometimes, damn can I relate to that!

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read your blog for a long time..and I have even met you in person...
You think far too deep and your fast losing your youth.
If you want to research why you are like this - take a look at your astro sign..Libra...your prone to these feelings (your like many other Libra's I know) - its in your nature. Your going to be like this till the day you die...and probably bore us all to death at the same time.
So take my advice - lighten up - and stop being so self-possessed.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

If moments of sadness and self-relfection make me old and boring, so be it. I'm a very happy person, but it's thoughts like this that make me human and keep me connected with what's going on around me.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Yvonne said...

I wonder how thinking deeply has anything to do with losing one's youth.
Anonymous might want to reference D.H. Lawrence's poem "Thought":
"Thought is the welling up of unknown life into consciousness,
Thought is the testing of statements on the touchstone of consciousness,
Thought is gazing onto the face of life, and reading what can be read,
Thought is pondering over experience, and coming to conclusion.
Thought is not a trick, or an exercise, or a set of dodges,
Thought is a man in his wholeness, wholly attending."

Gillian is "wholly attending" and has the courage and honesty to record her ups and downs. She is magnificently human.

If anonymous is bored with Gillian's thoughts and prefers something lighter, he or she should stop visiting her site.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cheers, Yvonne. i've found ms. Young's writing to be far more than "self-possessed" (which, by the way, according to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary means
"having or showing control of one's feelings, behavior, etc.; composed; poised" - perhaps not a trait one should quickly rid oneself of?) but deeply, poetically sincere and touching. her writing resonates with me on many levels, whether she's in Paris, Vancouver, or a random subway.

introspective writing is boring when it's contrived and forced; ms. young's posts haven't felt that way to me at all.

tiens bon, ms. young!

12:00 AM  
Blogger Sky said...

my own life, which is much longer than yours, verifies for me the complexity the journey contains. life is filled with questions and answers, with emotions of every degree and proportion, with moments when being alone is fulfilling and others when it speaks of loneliness and fear. life is a stage of learning and balancing, of exploring; time filled with contrasts, similarities, contradicition; lessons which are both ordinary and extraordinary.

i don't agree that crying on the subway is "weakness." i think it is simply being who you are in the moment. and in that moment you felt sadness and pain. period. it is a measurement of strength to own who we are and be willing to share and explore it. the more we are able to do that the more strength we find in ourselves.

you mentioned being envious that you wished you had someone to hold. it appeared you were feeling vulnerable. you may have really wished you had someone who could have held you. there is a difference even though there is a sameness here.

you are living a life filled with opportunity and experience on so many levels. life is going to be filled with great joy and great pain...and everything in between. but, you already knew that - enjoy it. there is only one time around. ;)

4:08 AM  
Anonymous loopy said...

wow..i didn't realize how much i missed those old ttc trains until i saw that photo....

3:22 PM  

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