Isaiah Zeavin-Moss: You are everything

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - 4:00pm

A friend asked me last night what parts of the University of Michigan experience I felt I missed out on.

I said that I didn’t feel like there are any parts I’ve missed out on because Michigan has simply become my life. I have arrived at a place where I do not need to be doing anything specific to feel like I am doing the Michigan experience. Whatever events, lectures and concerts occurred, I was either there or not. And if I wasn’t, I was somewhere else, doing something different — bowling, eating Bruegger’s, sitting in my room, napping, sitting in a gloriously unoccupied UMMA because everyone else was at this thing that I wasn’t at which meant I had a lot of space to really get into my homework/Netflix/chat with a longtime friend from home, etc. — and that counts just as much as anything else towards taking part in “The Michigan Experience.”

I was abroad in Paris during this past semester, and yet I felt really close to my friends from home and from Michigan. Why? Because no matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, the friends and family that mean something to me stay in my life, they stay in the spirit of my mind.

In fact, getting away from those friends actually increased my understanding of how much they mean to me. By not being with them, I got to think about who I think about, and who I don’t care about at all! By gaining distance from my roots and my normal everyday routine, I could identify the parts of that routine that are great and impactful, as well as those moments I spend my life inactively or passively, not deliberately defining my days for myself. I began to see that I spend a lot of time, for example, holed up in my room or in relationships that do not actually make me feel good. I spend time both closed off from the world and not letting new things in, such that nothing can actually change. Bad moods persist and exacerbate when I do not let in new material to help change my perspective and how I understand what’s going on. Coming back to Michigan, I can now make the necessary edits for myself to ensure my time is spent openly and collaboratively.

And that’s such a beautiful thing. That no matter where you are — in an airplane, stuck in traffic, lying in bed, sitting in an exam — you are always experiencing. You are always breathing, you are always with yourself, inside your mind and your body. You can always make the world a little bit more your own. Wow! What an existential delight that really can be, if we take full advantage.

The whole concept of “missing out on something” relies on norms and understandings of “what to do” that are created by other people, defined before I even showed up by the patterns and habits of people I never even met. It presupposes that in order to not “miss out,” you can do X, Y, Z, A, B, C, check, check, check, and then you come out the other side and you have arrived at a place of completion, of closure, as if you were in a supermarket getting all the necessary ingredients for holiday eggnog. What a brittle way of experiencing life because it doesn’t allow for customization, it doesn’t allow for your individual take on things to shine through. Life is more than a big jar of eggnog!

An example: The other day, my brother and I were walking around SoHo in Manhattan and we came across the Bathing Ape store. Bathing Ape (Bape for short), for fashion outsiders, is an overpriced company that sells clothes. Outside the store, there was a huge line, and my brother and I were really shocked that someone would wait in line for hours just to spend tons of money on a piece of clothing.

“What’d you do today, your big day out in the Big Apple?” “Oh, honey, it was terrific. I stood in line, in the cold and rain, and everyone else in line was on their phone just like me, idly passing the time until we got in the store. Then, finally, I got in, and I bought this diamond-studded mink jacket for a million dollars! And it’s Bathing Ape! Bape, honey!”

Why were these people in line? Because they’ve grown to believe that these clothes matter, that they are worth hours of their time and money. The significance of the clothes comes from its status as a big-time brand worn by big-time people. These big-time people define meaning for the smaller-time people waiting in line.

It’s tragic that non-famous people endow famous people who are being paid by famous companies with a power to define what it means to look, feel and smell good because you don’t need to buy any particular thing to look good. Be comfortable, be naked, be yourself. Know yourself. Hide nothing from yourself. Define goodness and prettiness for yourself, get to know what turns you on and gets you jazzed. And then do it for yourself because you are who you are with all the time. In order for this to be a beautiful, beautiful thing, which it can so easily be, you have to accept that you can only be in one place. To understand that oneness of yours makes whatever you are doing, whether or not that thing is on the prescribed “list of cool things,” a layered and buzzing opportunity to be rich, full and rewarding.

There is no missing out because you are always there. And you are enough. You are everything you need you to be.

Isaiah Zeavin-Moss can be reached at izeavinm@umich.edu

More like this