Sink or Swim

I did not arrive here bearing any expectations. My agenda, intentionally abandoned, had stripped the phenomenon of time from my sense of being – leaving me restless at certain moments and slightly anxious for what lay ahead. Tick Tock. Didn’t I have somewhere to be? Certainly the copious amount of time I’ve spent bathing under the sun could have been spent doing something else which may be considered more productive. Tick Tock. What was I supposed to be doing at that moment? What was I expected to have accomplished after the alarm – which was set by no other than myself – went off?


As I stared across the Gulf, the words of Chopin’s “The Awakening” reflecting back at me, I realized at that moment my life was not defined by achievements or milestones. There was no checklist to cross out as the hours aged. There were no thoughts to rehearse monotonously within the confines of my head and there was no reason for me to feel guilty that I was not doing such things that I have now considered to be “normal.” Just as protagonist Edna Pontellier was seen as a bird trapped in the cage of Creole societal standards, I had become a time based machine, operating on an input-output system. Driven by efficiency, swiftness and precision, my character had forgotten what it meant to live, to understand and embrace the joy of life.

The sight of the water stretching so far away, those motionless sails against the blue sky made a delicious picture that I just wanted to sit and look at.
— The Awakening, Kate Chopin

Time passes, but I don’t seem to notice anymore. The silence and isolation of Grand Isle has become quite comforting. Undoubtedly, Mrs. Pontellier would see a nap as fitting.

My days no longer revolved around the clock. It was not a matter of how fast I could respond to emails or text messages. I did not have a place to be at the hour or another place the following. Life was slow. So slow that each moment seemed to pause briefly, allowing me to stimulate each of my senses and consume that time with gratefulness, knowing it would not return.  

The views of the Grand Isle State Park filled my soul. Unknowingly, my phone was bombarded with notifications, lighting up my pocket. But what a waste it would be to turn my head from such a view to fix my attention on the pixelated screen – spoiling the present and ignoring those around me who were there to share that moment. 

The juxtaposition of the bright playground adjacent to the Grand Isle Cemetery spoke loudly. So quickly we grow from naïve, happy children swinging, believing life is eternal,  to adults trudging through a rut from point A to B, then back again. Reality is, however, life is short and can be stolen from your hands at any instant. Don’t be caught empty handed.

 These first few days spent at Grand Isle have not only provided me with an opportunity to escape the fast paced race of L.A. and USC life, but have gifted me with a new perspective. In my desk drawer at school, I have a list. On the list I have written out the things I define my success and assumedly, my happiness. But I understand now, that list is equivalent to the restrictions of individualization Edna Pontellier faced in her pursuit of feminist triumph. 

I am beyond excited to spend these next three and a half weeks exploring Louisiana with 11 other students who are each at a different stage in their journey at USC and who each focus their studies in array of subjects. In just these few days spent together, we have shared so many memorable times together. From roommate disaster stories to relationship disaster stories as well as plenty of food and laughs. I am looking forward to implementing my newfound paradigm obtained at Grand Isle in order to truly appreciate the Louisiana culture and make the most of this bookpacking opportunity which I have been so lucky to be a part of.