Self-help sections of bookstores are crowded with two types of books: those promising a way back (with -ing in the subject: recovering, healing) and those promising a way forward (with –al in the subject: motivational, inspirational). At the far end of the latter lie the Aspirational guides to becoming who you aren’t.
An insightful essay, author and title long forgotten, celebrated the bittersweet rise of aspirational journalism: glossy magazines filled with watches you’ll never wear, car’s you’ll never drive, parties you will never be invited to. The Tyler Brule sort of existence.
Aspirational literature is different: it seems to bring distant things within your grasp. Travel, art, languages, cooking, all the things we could do, could become, if we only had the time.
I have a list, scribbled stubbornly in the margins of my to-do lists: Read, Write, Teach, Sail, Travel, Paint. “Learn Dutch” is now the lucky seventh. This vacation week, I scored high: I finished a (not very good) novel that I’ve been plodding through, polished off a watercolor painting, traveled to Sweden, and sailed the Archipelago.
‘not a bad week, as things go.
‘Aspirate” is also to push out an obstruction with a strong burst of air. Maybe it’s the happy sigh that comes from a good vacation. And, perhaps, a good vacation is one that let’s you become who you could be.
Title painting by Madhavi Sivan, artist
Bottom painting by me, aspiring.