July is the month we say goodbye to writers who are aging out or moving on to new adventures, and this is Abby’s last post. She is a founder and the daily manager of the post calvin and has been writing with us since the very beginning in July 2013.
CLEOPATRA: My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.
– Antony and Cleopatra, Act I Scene V
It’s been far too hot to cook. No air conditioning means I’m here opening the windows wide overnight, closing them during the day, and refusing to turn on the stove for more than ten minutes. Just enough to boil some eggs.
Dunk them in ice water after boiling to get them cold while you chop the celery and apples and toast the pecans and mix it all with plain yogurt and salt and curry powder. Add the eggs whole and then smash—watch as they ooze out from between the tines of a fork. Chill for a while, if you can wait, or stuff it in a pita and go sit in the shade.
Okay, so it’s probably not the salad Cleopatra is picturing. She has just received a letter and a gift from her lover Antony, and she goes on and on about how wonderful he is and how she’s going to write him a letter every day. Her servant Charmian reminds her how much she used to fawn over her former beau, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra responds with the lines above. In a stroke of his usual linguistic genius, Shakespeare gives her the phrase “my salad days” to describe the time when she was young and inexperienced.
Cleopatra regrets her salad days, the years she spent loving Caesar instead of Antony, years that were “green in judgement: cold in blood.” When I think back on my own young adulthood, that’s what I expect: to cringe, to be embarrassed, to wish I had done things differently. But recently, I’ve been surprised.
Against my better judgement, I can’t resist making this last blog post about blog posting. This week, I got to look back at seven years of my life because I have this monthly record of my twenties. When the idea for the post calvin was hatched in the spring 2013, I never imagined I’d still be writing here in the summer of 2020. (That’s how all the best things happen, isn’t it?) And though writing here every thirty or thirty-one days sometimes feels like pulling teeth, I’m going to be sad to let it go. This is something not everyone gets to have. It’s more than a journal or a diary (which I’ve never been able to keep because I’m always too embarrassed upon looking back). This is different because it’s public. It’s something I polished and purposefully put out into the big wide electronic world. Feelings and ideas I write here somehow seem more valid because they’re shared with readers, even if it’s just fifty or a hundred.
And honestly, some of it’s pretty good. I expected to be ashamed of the eighty-four pieces from the salad green of my youth. To be sure, I found several things that made me cringe. But I also found a lot of things to love.
I do important things in this space. Theories and mottos that have pinballed around in my mind for a long time are formalized here, and little snippets of conversation or particular landscapes are immortalized. Looking back, I’ve found wisdom I didn’t know I had at twenty-three, an almost unfailingly positive attitude in the face of hard things, and even some advice I’d do well to follow now. And I’ve made myself laugh.
I often worried (worry) that my words felt cliche or self-indulgent or preachy. They were, sometimes. But I’m still glad I have them because from this bird’s eye view, I can see myself changing. I become more sensitive over the years, more willing to show my cards. I meet a lot of important people and say goodbye to some, too. I talk about God more than expected. I’m creative. My writing style is refined. I change my mind a few times, and I come back again and again to the things that really matter.
Cleopatra’s instinct is to get ink and paper, to embrace how she feels right now and write it down. She might regret penning “every day a several greeting” to Antony later, but she doesn’t let that stop her. In a few years, maybe this moment will look like my salad days. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in seven years of twelve posts of eight hundred words, it’s that writing it down matters.
It turns out that my salad days aren’t all bitter arugula and green tomato regret. Some of them are fresh and sweet. Innocent, yes, but not bad—just young. And I’m beginning to think that I love who I was. Or more accurately: love who I was becoming. Which is really to say: love who I am now.
Here’s to many more salad days to come.
Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.