I don’t remember much about the teacher anymore. The contours of his face and the shape of his hands have blown away like top soil in a drought, non-native particles dispersed in some dust, deposited on a windshield far from their origin.
What remains of him has been distilled into a simple question, filed away in my long-term memory but also hung like a banner across my consciousness since he asked: what do you want?
It was nearly a year ago when he asked his question and I answered without hesitation — I wanted a job helping people, my own little apartment, enough money to live, close friends, and an inner state of calmness. I had acquired all of those things at various points in my adult life, but never at the same time and never for long.
It always seemed like the brutish forces of late capitalism and trauma were conspiring to keep me hungry and grasping at new projects, new therapies, new methods to prove I was worthy of some basic-ass shit like housing and mental health. Every time I thought I was getting close, some new disaster would happen and I’d have to regroup and start building again.
What do you want?
Nearly 40 mailing addresses and thousands of lonely nights from my origin, my scattered seeds began sprouting, nurtured by the long pandemic fallow and a descent into the damp catacombs of my heart.
Delicate shoots reaching up from the dirt, a fragile peace in pale green. I stood still breathing deeply, the true nature of my seeds revealed: not what I anticipated.
All I wanted was freedom and love.
I wanted the freedom to grow and change and heal. To shed fortresses and tears. Freedom from the charisma of marketing, from the delusions of permanence and acquisition. Freedom to walk away, to disengage, to seek refuge from the mantra — there is no alternative.
Freedom to love boundlessly, beyond the limits of blood and romance. Freedom to love the parts of me that are unable to turn away from suffering, that are not legible within the logic of capitalism. Freedom from the bondage of too many possessions.
I wanted love like a forest, like mushrooms pushing up through the soft bark of a decomposing tree. A connected ecosystem of care and reciprocity, each unique lifeform feeding and being fed. Love poured out recklessly, repeatedly, without fear. Love shining radiantly, defiantly, without shame.
All I want is freedom and love, I would tell the teacher without hesitation, if he called on me to answer his question today.