What Now?

What Now? is Ann Patchett’s book-length essay which is based on a commencement speech she gave at Sarah Lawrence College. 

This is one of those small gift books that are commonly given to graduates.

I’m certainly not graduating.

So, you may be wondering, why did I read this book?

Because I’m curious. Because I try to read a variety of books. Because somehow this book had made it onto my ever-growing “want-to-read” list, and because oftentimes, I do ask myself, “What now?”.

Here are a few of my favorite parts that I’d like to share with you:

“It was for me the start of a lesson that I never stop having to learn: to pay attention to the things I’ll probably never need to know, to listen carefully to the people who look as if they have nothing to teach me, to see school as something that goes on everywhere, all the time, not just in libraries but in parking lots, in airports, in trees.”

“I stare at blank pieces of paper and paragraphs and single sentences and a buzzing computer screen. Hours and hours of my day are spent with my eyes glazed over, thinking, waiting, trying to figure things out. The muse is a sweet idea, like the tooth fairy. The muse supposedly comes down like lighting and fills your fingers with the necessary voltage to type up something brilliant. But nobody ever made a living depending on a muse. The rest of us have to go out and find our inspiration, write and rewrite, stare and stare and stare until we know which way to turn.”

“It turns out that most positions in life, even the big ones, aren’t really so much about leadership. Being successful, and certainly being happy, comes from honing your skills in working with other people. For the most part we travel in groups – you’re ahead of somebody for a while, then somebody’s ahead of you, a lot of people are beside you all the way.” 

“The secret is finding the balance between going out to get what you want and being open to the thing that actually winds up coming your way. What now is not just a panic-stricken question tossed out into a dark unknown. What now can also be our joy. It is a declaration of possibility, of promise, of chance. It acknowledges that our future is open, that we may well do more than anyone expected of us, that at every point in our development we are still striving to grow. There’s a time in our lives when we all crave the answers. It seems terrifying not to know what’s coming next. But there is another time, a better time, when we see our lives as a series of choices, and What now represents our excitement and our future, the very vitality of life. It’s up to you to choose a life that will keep expanding.”

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