Creative Nonfiction

You’ll never be content, taunts one of the unwanted voices echoing in my head.

What does that even mean? My brow wrinkles in contemplation and remembrance.

I’ve been called a lot of things throughout my fifty plus years - intense, bossy, independent, but never content. (Usually with a “too” added in front.) Funny - I am a lot of those. I actually find them empowering, even though they’re usually tossed at me negatively. Am I discontent? I don’t think so. I was also called enigmatic once. I determined that suitable. Though, considering who it came from, I’m sure it was meant in a derogatory sense. I found it enlightening. It made me feel content.  

I remember one time for a work event, we were asked to compare ourselves to an ocean, a pond or a river. I decided I was a river. Upon expressing this to my colleagues, who overwhelmingly declared themselves ponds, they shook their heads in sympathy, I guess, and one woman said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get there.”

My eyebrows raised in surprised confusion. (My face has never been very good at hiding my thoughts - therefore, my surprise at being called enigmatic.) Get where? To your pond? To my pond? Why? What’s wrong with being a river? Why should I strive to be pond, as she and the others expressed? As though it were some common achievement in life to just kick back and never desire to keep moving forward, to stop learning, or to stop striving to be better. Is there ever a point in life where you reach a threshold and just think to yourself, “Okay, I’m done - I’ve reached the point in my life where everything is perfect, I’m perfect. Time to stop.” Maybe it is the goal for which I’m supposed to aspire. Maybe I’m just weird, but I can’t imagine that way of thinking. It feels so limiting. Why do they assume that striving to obtain a pond lifestyle is what makes everyone content?

Why would I ever want to be that stagnant? Is that what it means to be content? If so, no thanks. Maybe I’ll reach that level when I’m on my death bed, until then, there is too much to do and see and appreciate and learn. I don’t have time to be a pond. I don’t have to want to be a pond and with that, I’m pretty content. One definition of content is to be “in a state of peaceful happiness” another is “satisfy.” Well, I would feel trapped within the confines of a stagnant pond, I would definitely not feel satisfied. For me, satisfaction and being in a state of peaceful happiness means forever following a quest for a better me. I can’t do that sitting still, my feet stuck in the mud. Feeling stuck does not make me feel content.

Like a river, I choose my own path to follow toward a decided destination. Envisioning the possibilities makes me feel content in inspiration. The skeptical observers can choose a pretty pebble left behind in the river bed to remember me by, after witnessing my swift current roll past the grassy bank. Determined, driven; yes. Unpredictable: no! My destination is pretty clear-cut. Maybe I’ll meet you there. I am content in my flow.

Many people seem to be uncomfortable with my persistent flow; sometimes rapid and turbulent; oftentimes, mesmerizing and inviting, but always renewed. You may want to drink from my stream, but, unless you dare traverse the potential rapids, you cannot. Anyone is welcome to join me; I appreciate the company, but mostly, it remains a lonely journey. I don’t mind. I am content in the truth of solitude.

For my second choice, I would consider myself an ocean. Learning how to surf on top of the water does not appeal to me, I would like to SCUBA dive. I love the idea of treasure found within the water’s dark depths, and constant variation of the bottom and ocean life. offering knowledge to uncover. I would be so involved, I might forget where to surface. Getting that lost frightens me. I enjoy the discomfort of facing my fears, though. I will imagine I’m a mermaid, when I get swallowed by the sea. There, I could be content.

Not that I can’t take time to enjoy the glory of a pond: the reflection, the peacefulness. It’s a wonderful place to catch my breath. It’s a place where I can refresh my strength to decide on my next course, not a place for me to permanently linger. It’s a great place for a cooling dip in the summer, or ice skating in the winter, but I wouldn’t want to live there. When I feel refreshed, it’s time to move. I am content in my freedom of choice.

It’s currently about seventeen years later. I’m still carving my own path and moving forward. Sometimes it’s bumpy, but often I love the sound, and the magical sight of shimmering water. Is a river discontent? There was a time where I was discontent, feeling held back by a man-made dam.

When I look back, I can see that I tried to live reasonably hushed within a lifestyle that, essentially, expected me to be a pond. I believed I was incapable of doing anything on my own. I was afraid of the possibility of my own power. When I was young, I tried to become completely immersed in the pond when I failed at making hamburgers, proving my point. It was stifling. When I got older, a mis-step with spaghetti caused me to overflow. I overspilled my banks and made my own course, defying the dams that kept, still keep, trying to hold me back. I am content in my direction of flow.

In the end, a river usually spills into an ocean. Maybe, when I reach that point in my targeted meandering, I can dive, satisfied, into it’s depths. Until then, I like being a river and I contentedly strive for nothing different than that. I do not need your pond.

September 16, 2022 16:04

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Trebor Mack
02:30 Sep 20, 2022

The way I'm going at the moment, I'd liken myself to the Dead Sea. Good story, well done.


Keila Aartila
09:51 Sep 20, 2022

Lol! Interesting. 😜 Thank you!


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