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Note to my younger self: Don’t pack the Dante books

A former editor, current friend, and perpetually great writer posted an essay — What Fresh Hell Is This? — about the advice he’d give to his 22-year-old self knowing what he knows now. It’s a wonderful weaving of Dante, disappointment, and discovery that will make you think and probably make you nod your head in recognition at least once or twice, regardless of what you and your 22-year-old self have experienced over the course of a lifetime.

For me, this was one of those moments:

“After all these years, I’ve come to realize that I really don’t enjoy reading the “Divine Comedy”; I just like the thought of being someone who enjoys reading the “Divine Comedy.” I like to pretend I’m special, but I’m really just like everyone else.”

Yup, except, unlike Bob, I’ve never even attempted The Divine Comedy, despite having a bachelor’s degree in English, despite owning that lovely set of books you see in the photo here, complete with side-by-side Italian and English translations. Those books have been on my bookshelf in various apartments and houses in various cities for more than 30 years. I guess I, too, like the idea of Dante more than I like the actual reading of this classic. (For the record, I also have not read the The Iliad or The Odyssey shelved right next to it. Same idea, different classics.)Dante single

Then again, there’s a lot I’ve got sitting on the shelf of my life, unopened, untouched, undiscovered for a host of reasons that run the gamut from laziness to fear to exhaustion by a life that at times overwhelms and confounds.

“Life is messy,” Bob writes. “It’s forever unfinished, often complicated and sometimes extraordinary, and it renews itself with or without you. Everything matters, because every moment is unique.” (Read the full post HERE.)

Amen. Why do I always seem to forget that?

So what would you tell your 22-year-old self as you look at your life with 20/20 hindsight thanks to your progressive lenses? I’m going to ponder that thought as I go about my day and come back with my own version of this post.

Right after I put my Dante books out on the curb.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love both of your posts.

    I literally said LAST Monday to a friend that I have two boxes of books, in my basement, that I moved into this house over 20 years ago.

    For all the clearing out I have done, these two boxes remain.

    Two steps forward, one step back.

    I too will ponder this.


    May 25, 2015
  2. Walter Ayres #

    The Divine Comedy has resided on my bookshelf in various homes for a few decades. Periodically, I am inspired to read it, but then something seems to stand in the way: another book, a streak of other commitments, etc. But it will remain there either until I read it or I die. The challenge awaits.

    May 26, 2015
  3. Margo #

    Don’t get married at 23 and get a degree in planning instead of archeology.

    May 26, 2015
  4. Thank you, Mary. Much appreciated! I enjoy your writing. Regards, Bob

    May 27, 2015

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