616: flight training

616: flight training

616: flight training


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I’ve been thinking of what folks are calling The Great Resignation lately or The Big Quit. Nearly 20 million people quit their jobs in the second half of 2021 and many people I know personally are rethinking what it means to find not just a job they like, but a job that aligns with their greater purpose.

I can’t help but feel like there is a fundamental shift happening in terms of how we think about work, careers, and how they fuel our lives. I think the pandemic has caused a sort of awakening when it comes to how we spend our time, who we spend it with, and what sort of life we want to carve out for ourselves.

I still remember when I quit my job in 2010. For me, the realization that I wanted a new life also came at a time of great upheaval. It wasn’t a global pandemic, but it was spurred on by the death of my stepmother at 51. Watching someone so young lose their life to cancer puts things in perspective really fast. She died in February of 2010 and just over six months later, I left my good job at a beloved magazine.

After I said my tearful goodbyes to my dear friends and colleagues, I remember standing in Times Square and feeling like I was about to jump off the high dive. I was terrified and elated all at once. I had a plan to write a book, a place to live for a while in my hometown, but hardly any savings and no idea what was next.

Times Square had just set up tables and chairs in the middle of the intersection of 42nd and Broadway, and folks were sitting around and laughing and everyone looked so free. I walked to the subway station and sat on the train and cried. I knew I was doing the right thing, but my whole life had been trying to find some security and in one fell swoop I had thrown all the security away. I know now that I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I know now I was choosing myself over anything else.

Today’s poem is a contemplation on what it is to feel free, to escape your expected life for one minute and to see the endless possibilities of what’s next.

flight training
by Shayla Lawz

sometimes i want to ask the earth,
was it beautiful	      here
without us

or maybe you were lonely too

my nephew asks me why his paper airplane
never really flies	      from here

& i ask the same of our bodies
is it the vessel; is it the way that we’re made
was the sky all lilac & orange for you too

how many nights have i been
at this window & when did it become a door
lately, i’ve been dreaming

of catapulting to a bright moon
& all this grief turned to
to ocean
to blue light

all this dreaming makes me wonder
if there’s always been a sky
this close

in the air i am briefly starlit
& everything
is alive

"flight training" by Shayla Lawz, from speculation, n. copyright © 2021 Shaylaw Lawz. Used by permission of Autumn House Press.