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it's a jungle out there


These photos were taken in a little storage cubby I have in my room. The family that lived in the house before my family did had a daughter that loved to paint murals. When she ran out of walls to paint, she painted fantastical scenes inside cubbies and closets. She often painted in secret, as her parents became annoyed with her hobby (it did cost them their walls).


I have been thinking a lot about the things that might have metaphorical value in my life. The artist of this jungle mural (in addition to the mural itself) is certainly one of them. Sometimes it feels like I'm retracing her footsteps. We went to the same schools. One time I checked out a library book and discovered that years earlier she had checked it out too. It feels like her past self is alive on the walls.


Sometimes my life feels like a movie, or a book, and I really wish there were an audience for it. Not because I want the attention, but because I want someone to figure out what things in my life mean. Yes, there are things I've encountered that I've assigned significance to, but there's also aspects and objects in my life that I feel the importance of, but can't quite pinpoint what it is they represent.


Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone could watch or read your life and tell you the things that matter, the lessons that you're supposed to learn, in other words the symbols and themes? I often think about this. I don't really want to know the future, or how I die, or even what I'm supposed to do, but I am interested in figuring out what matters right now.


I guess that's a pretty common desire. But my life doesn't have an audience. And I'm not a character. There's no objective party watching me, assigning meaning to objects, figuring out the gravity of my actions. I have to create these meanings myself. 

Outfit is vintage

And normally, I'm very happy to have complete control over my life. But this mural reminds me of the things that are beyond my comprehension, not even in a great philosophical or cosmic sense, but just at surface level on the scale of my own life. What does this mural and this artist mean to me? Is she a testament to creative perseverance, her beautiful depictions of nature relegated to cubbies I can barely fit into anymore? Or is she the passage of time, nostalgia, the way that where we've been bears the marks of who we are? Or is she representative of something else entirely, a manifestation of my own anxieties regarding change?


Sometimes I think that if I really wanted to, I could look deep inside myself and figure it all out-- psycho-analyze myself into revealing the meaning of all these objects of mysterious power that I collect, the way Gatsby's green light loses its meaning once his fantasy became a reality. Maybe I could even take this a step further and try and track down the artist of this mural, see where she ended up and determine what meaning that has. And sometimes I think that would be a very rewarding process, to know myself completely. 


But of course I never do, because there's a risk there: the risk of losing magic, something that I've decided is worth holding onto, when appropriate. This mural, although not expansive, has meaning that feels so immense-- to evaluate its meaning would only reduce it. I don't want to know how things ended up. I am content with my daydreams. 


I know this is not always a good approach, to divorce from reality and live in a world of endless possibility-- there are real issues we can't ignore. But I think it's also important to retain a little mystery in one's life. I have a good enough sense of self now, so I'm comfortable leaving a few things unsaid, a few stories untold, a few parts of me still unfinished, a few artworks undissected.


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