This past year, I’ve realized that there are two sides to me– the Took side, and the Baggins side. Just as J.R.R. Tolkien relates in the first chapter of “The Hobbit,” there is a conflict between these two heritages.
Tolkien describes the Bagginses as considered to be “very respectable… because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him” (Tolkien 16). He follows by describing the Took-clan: “Certaintly there was still something not entirely hobbit-like about [the Tooks], and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures… The fact remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses” (Tolkien 16).
Similarly, the Baggins side of me (or the 1/16 of Baggins in me, since I am 1/8 hobbit ) wants to maintain a peaceful, controllable and safe life, and puts every ounce of energy into achieving this perfect control. Meanwhile, my Took side wants to take life day by day, deeply feel its joys and pains, and take spontaneous adventures whenever they arise.
The past year, as told by a Baggins, and by a Took:
Now, If you were to ask my Baggins side how the past year was for me– my freshman year of college, and my first year at a new job– it would say:
“This year was messy. Life just kept poking its head out the box I was trying to shove it into. I couldn’t manage to keep my life organized, simple, and peaceful. Every week was school and work: As an English major, 5 classes each semester, 4 which were reading-and-writing-intensive, while I worked increasing hours at a new job. English Major Leaving early in the morning, returning late at night. Late nights or very early mornings of studying, with sometimes only a couple hours of sleep.
Hardest of all was the internal journey. I was constantly with people who had very different beliefs and lifestyles than my own. Interactions with them presented new thoughts and perspectives and made it hard to hold firm to my own previous beliefs. I began to slip away. I constantly asked silent questions. I constantly struggled with the disconnection between the my previous beliefs and the things I was now seeing, hearing, and experiencing. I knew that I must be a weakling, a coward and a fool for not fighting as my mind told me I should fight. And it became easier and easier to draw inside myself and never say anything about it, because then I didn’t have to explain myself. I felt so disconnected from people. This year seems to be a useless 12 months of sliding backwards, regressing farther than ever before. It seems to have been a pointless journey, because I have come out with so few answers and the same questions with which I began it.”
But my Took side would reply:
“This year? It was the craziest adventure of joy and grief I have yet experienced. A year begun with a spontaneous road trip, a year full of gaining perspective from difficult and interesting and fascinating books. I wrote stories, for the first time in ages. Stories about chess games, chalk grafitti, balloon painting and murder onstage. It was hard to write them, but so good to wander into writing again, try my hand at new styles and forms, and gain the courage and stamina to keep writing afterward. Meanwhile, a few classes led me to a crazy and incredible idea that gets me excited every time I think about it: an odd project that has a lot of potential as an honors thesis project.
And yes, my dear Baggins, I did have a long struggle with questions and doubt and disbelief, but it only came about because I had to face it. Perhaps I never had truly strong belief in the first place, and I needed life to disrupt my comfort zone so that I could see how frail my belief truly was. I have learned my weakness, and now am learning how to become strong. And no journey is ever wasted.”
This year, I had the mind of a Baggins, and the heart of a Took. In my mind, I knew what I had to do to maintain an undisturbed, “I’m fine” appearance, and fought to the limit of my strength to do everything and to keep everything in balance. In my heart, I journeyed back and forth between frustration and enthusiasm, grief and joy, questions and answers. Thus, the road of this year was gutted with grief and frustration, but then washed with inexplicable and amazing amounts of joy. What a paradox.
The best thing to learn is how to be both a Baggins and Took, in heart and mind. Know what you believe, but listen whole-heartedly to those who believe differently. Be willing to be wrong, and have your mind changed. And be humble always. Entertain dreams of adventures, big and small, but temper them with reality and learn how to live those dreams and adventures on a daily basis, right where you are.
In the midst of this, a line of one of my favorite songs has really encouraged me over this crazy past year. It says,
“God, it has been quite a year.
I’ve lived a little bit, and I’ve died a little more.”
— Sleeping at Last, “Aperture”
It’s been quite a year. The Took in me would say,
The Baggins in me would say,
But death and life must come together, and together they have made this past year one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit.New York: Ballantine, 1973. Print.