Once, when I was at work, I was mopping a bathroom floor after a day of screaming children, popcorn spills, butter stains, and soda stickiness seemed to fray every hair on my body. Talking to people for seemingly unending hours tended to exhaust me, and I typically refueled by spending time alone.
And so I mopped.
Mopping was part of my cleaning routine each night. It was the signal toward the end of the tunnel, the final stretch of the race. I was almost done for the evening, and I could soon lose myself in my heated blanket and a book I was rereading: Tiny Beautiful Things.
As I mopped, I lost myself within the Pine-Sol scent wavering around the bathroom. Its lemon-infused cloud presented an almost transcendent experience, and I was able to get lost in my thoughts without thinking about how exhausted I felt after what seemed like the most grueling week of my academic life. I thrived on staying busy, and nights with less than five hours of sleep became the norm. Sleeping sometimes felt like a chore—I had to do it in order to survive, but everything about my personality tried to refrain from fulfilling this need. The purple under my eyes felt like a constant nagging presence: You need sleep. I had too many books to read, essays to analyze, thoughts to interpret, and sentences to construct.
The building was constructed in 1935, and sometimes it felt as though I could never fully clean the tile. It was perpetually filled with character and aging marks—wrinkles I could never fully tighten.
And so I mopped.
When I reached the edge of the bathroom and began to exit through the swinging door, I noticed a dry space in the middle of the bathroom. As I allowed the overhead light to dance upon the streaks I thought I carefully painted across the tile, I realized I had not noticed I truly did miss sections as I mopped. From a close observation, everything seemed wet. The lights directly above had given me a false notion that I had successfully completed one of the last tasks of the night; however, this was an illusion.
Once, when I was washing the inside of a trashcan, I watched as the cloudy, lukewarm water kissed the swirls of soap. They glided along the edges of the trashcan. When my gloved hand crashed into the pool with a sponge and cleaned and prodded and scrubbed, the swirls dispersed before quickly rejoining. As I stared into this gloomy pensieve, I thought about how my plans to pursue writing had always been interrupted by some outside force or an internal change in direction.
Cheryl Strayed once said in Tiny Beautiful Things, “Trust your truest truth, even though there are other truths running alongside it.” I reread that section just hours before I stood perplexed in the ancient bathroom with a mop in hand and clouded by lemon.
I used to look at situations with a close eye: When I was little, I wanted to be a writer. I made this statement in a coloring book I crafted in first grade. I didn’t know what kind of writer. I just knew I wanted to write. As I aged, I began to author stories eerily similar to J.K. Rowling’s magical tales—maybe this was my first taste of fan-fiction. When high school evolved, I decided to pursue journalism. It seemed the most practical way to pursue writing. Now, I have plans. I have desires. I have truths.
I know I love writing, but I also know I love politics and journalism and reading and movies and walking outdoors and drawing cartoons that will never come to fruition. I love photography and idolizing other cultures and observing how we generate enough to goodness to spread throughout the world. I love helping others find their flashlights to shine in dark rooms. I love hot tea and hot chocolate and cold beverages and a lot of ice in my sodas. I love cherishing and protecting the small things and stopping to observe the flecks of dust floating in the warm window sunlight. I love pursuing anything that can help me emit kindness into a dark room or a cold night.
These are all truths.
My truest truth: I know I love writing. I depend on writing. I love writing because it allows me to be contradictory and gut-wrenchingly honest. It allows me to be more than one person. Humans are complex creatures and we need to feel as though we are allowed to live outside of our cardboard boxes as we learn how to color inside of the lines before realizing it is okay to color outside of the lines, too.
I used to analyze writing the way I analyzed the tiles in the bathroom floor. I thought if I looked at it with one perspective, I would stay focused. Actually, though, I was only hurting myself. I failed to see the different perspectives and ways light can shine on different sides of the same tiles. I failed to see how observant and open and honest I needed to be in order to help my truest truth evolve into my realest reality.
I stood in the middle of the bathroom wondering how many times I had failed to realize my sheer lack of awareness. It left me feeling perplexed and curious. I walked back to the swinging door where I had placed the bucket. Soap and water intermingled here too, and I realized how writing was like a seamstress—it always sews together patches of our lives when we think nothing correlates or makes sense.
Eventually, though, a quilt comes out of it.
I grasped the green mop and dunked it in the water as though it was a child’s head bobbing for apples. I took my right hand around the plastic middle of the mop and turned it counterclockwise until the excess water had ringed back into its home. I walked back to the middle of the bathroom floor before observing the different flecks of light and realizing how changing perspective or simply taking a new approach can enhance and better an outcome.
And so I mopped.
Lauren is a Ball State University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. She enjoys breakfast for dinner with a side of literary enjoyment.