A Note from Her Story Goes: We’re beyond thrilled to have our first guest post from none other than the lovely founder of That First Year, Ally Willis. We’ve all admired each other’s work and writing for almost two years now, and we’re lucky to have Ally’s talent on display today. If you or someone you know would like to contribute to Her Story Goes, feel free to send us an inquiry through our “Say Hello” page. Without further ado…please enjoy Ally’s first HSG post.
Last year, I saw a black cat cross the street during a muggy summer night, the streetlight the only glow, the cat the only movement within the deserted street. It was the type of image I wish I could’ve captured and swiped a black and white filter over—very noir, Poe-type stuff. Poetry-like, almost.
“La poesie est dans la rue.”
There’s this band called The 1975 that I really, really love. If you know me, you know that I really, really love this band in all of their glorious, outlandish, self-indulgent ways. Anyways, months after my Tim Burton-esque cat moment, The 1975 posted that French line on their Instagram.
“The poetry is within the street.”
And I’ve been thinking about that line, hanging it up in a nice frame in a room in my brain to mull over. The poetry is within the street… yet how often have I been too blind to notice it?
I’ve always been on the search for the great Something Else. You know, the search for the right college, the search for the right major, the search for the right internships, the search for the right apartment, the search for the right job which will start you on the right career path and the search for that Something Else which will bring you ultimate happiness. And this perpetual search has only magnified in my past year and a half of post-grad life. And I know I’m not alone in this, because many of my coffee conversations and wine rants with friends have consisted of the same refrain: What now? What next?
There’s this city called London that I’m madly in love with, and once again, if you know me, you know that I really, really love this city in all of its glory. In fact, I’m in London as I write this piece, eating a salad from Waitrose while sitting in Hyde Park. It’s 8 PM and the sun is just beginning to set, casting a golden glow over the trees, the pavement, the ornate brick buildings.
People are out: roller skating, bicycling, running, strolling, all enjoying this break in the rain.
It’s easy to pay attention here, surrounded by the thrill of new-ness, to notice the beauty surrounding me, to let go of my “what now” questions. Of course it’s easy.
Because this isn’t real life. Real life is all the responsibilities waiting for us at home: the job, the grocery shopping, meal planning, budgeting, cleaning. The routine.
And the routine is what sucks you in like a black hole, blending every day together into an indistinguishable mess of color, all the while you wonder “what next?” and continue to search for the Something Else.
The other day I was listening to The 1975 as I was driving, thrusting my arms about wildly (I refer to this as “dancing”), and for the first time in probably ever, I listened to the music. I mean, actually listened. And that intentional listening expanded these songs for me, songs that I have literally listened to hundreds of times, songs that have been my soundtrack consistently for three years, songs that I know every word to. But for the first time, I heard bass lines, tambourine embellishments, subtle electric guitar flourishes, quiet two-note keys in an otherwise bombastic, guitar-heavy chorus, an unassuming sax line at the end of a song that I’ve listened to countless times… layers of sound I had never before noticed.
“There is ecstasy in paying attention,” wrote author Anne Lamott.
I wonder what else I have overlooked simply because I wasn’t paying attention. In spending so much time in my head, in my future plans, in my incessant need for productivity, in the abyss of my minute problems, in my quest for the great Something Else, what beauty have I missed?
What poetry within the streets of my day-to-day life has gone unnoticed?
My first evening in London, I grabbed some chicken cold cuts from the grocery store and settled against a high sidewalk curb, watching the passersby on a busy street in Kensington as I ate my simple, budget-conscious dinner. A man and woman walked by and paused, the man pointing at some stains on the sidewalk.
Only, they weren’t stains at all, as I had originally dismissed them to be. The colors were actually outlines of leaping deer on the pavement.
Art on the sidewalk.
Poetry in the street.
And I hadn’t even noticed.
Photo by William Santos.
Ally Willis is a 2014 public relations graduate who buys way too many concert and plane tickets and then writes about it. She puts all things British on a pedestal. She runs a blog about post-grad life and also writes about music and travel on her own personal blog, www.mapsandmochas.com.
1 thought on “The Life-Changing Act of Paying Attention”
Long live the Queen, Ally Willis. I’m your fan. Good writing. Great thinking!
Yes, I still owe you a reply to a long ago question. I wonder if you are still looking for that answer. Is teaching still on the table for you?