Yesterday, walking in Byrd Park with a broken heart, I noticed the budding trees, the newly green grass, and the light slanting through the top of the Carillon, and I thought about all the ways I know to save myself: writing, exercise, yoga, reading, noticing. The art of paying attention seems so simple—you look, you see—but it is so easy to forget to practice it. The phone dings, the child yells, the car won’t start, the deadline looms. We get busy, life gets fraught. But attention to the details of things can power you out of yourself and away from the shards and glass dust of your disappointed heart. 

I want to tell my students, old souls in teenaged bodies, that paying attention is important—put down that damn phone!—and that although I do not fully understand the way life has been hard for them, I do understand the poverty of sorrow, how the pain is not in the heart as much as in the very center of the body that can feel, at times, so full of emptiness. Of what could have been but wasn’t.

I want to tell them what I have been telling myself—that pain always fades, that life will carry you forward, that it is important to see the budding trees in springtime. They, of course, won’t listen—but maybe, one day, far in the future, they might remember that someone told them to notice, and to keep going, no matter what.


Alexandra does most of her 10-minute writings with her classes of first-year college students and so dedicates her writing on this site to them.