Inertia

I have always been a little enamored with scientific terms. Not all of them or generally, but specific ones and intensely. Inertia, for one, has become a favorite, has often erupted into my mind and begged to be the word that I use to understand a moment.

And maybe that’s surprising, the stickiness of a “science word,” as I am an “English person,” and somehow there is an incompatibility between these things, but before I claimed my English path, I was solidly invested in the idea that I would go into the sciences. I told my mom I wanted to have a job where I’d never have to dress up. In my daydreams I saw myself becoming a forest ranger, or a marine biologist, or something that converged nature and thinking and a pair of jeans in a way that my 15-year-old self deemed appealing and summative of what I wanted and had to offer.

Ultimately, I don’t consider it odd that I shifted from these notions to literary footings–I see a kinship between the goals of science and English. Both attempt to grasp and describe worlds and their inhabitents and workings, grasp how they are made up, how the things inside them relate to one another–though the way I went has a decidedly indoorsy bent to it. Books need to be in buildings.

Joking aside, science has been tasked with putting a name, a language to some of the most remarkable things out there, has attempted to pull into our attention things we might observe but, without language, can’t meaningfully understand. I think many scientists and writers have the same sort of heartbeat. See–another science word.


Inertia, as fifth grade science teaches us, is the resistence of any physical object to any change in its velocity. “An object in motion tends to remain in motion…” rings through my head, even all these years later. It’s inertia that I turn to, that I stand and look at, maybe with narrowed, accusing eyes, maybe with wide, watery ones, as I think about the past 5.5 years, or maybe the past 37. It’s an interesting look backward, because I would say that my inertia–“my inertia” being shorthand for “good, valuable forward motion”–my inertia has been trifled with, poked at, pushed, kicked off its line.

When I am tempted to be angry about the things that have interfered with “my interia,” my brother reminds me that there’s no one that hasn’t had their inertia fooled with in some manner. He doesn’t say it in these exact words, as he is much less fanciful than me, but this is what he means: there isn’t anyone who is now exactly in line with what would have been the eventuality of their initial inertia. That’s just not human.

What I would like to do, though, is be an agent of my own dramatic shift in momentum. To stick my foot into the path of my life’s prevailing motion-maker–work and career–until I become an object at rest. With the intent to stay, for a time, at rest.

So: in May, after Matt and I are married, I am taking a leave of absence from work. To do what? To stop, primarily–to see what it feels like when I do. To see what bubbles up in the stillness.

And, to be frank and fully honest, to have a moment to see myself in a new way. My pet notions about life’s injustices–what out to have been versus what was, have turned me, in my own assessment of myself, into a remainder, a chipped away self, only interesting as a survivor of circumstance. And while I am not alone in arriving here, my inability to consider myself with any more love and consideration than just “remainder” is destructive to the life I’m trying to live–to living, at all–and, I finally agree to realize, untenable.

My hope, then, is that this disruption from motion to stillness also disrupts the inertia of my own stubborn belief about what momentum has made me. My hope is that, within a period of stillness and its properties, I might find a new language for what I am, a new science of self.

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