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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

We Must Give the Void its Colors

"Yeah, Super Amanda!"

It's around 2005, in Des Moines, Iowa. We're in the front yard of "The Old House."

The Old House is our creative title for my family's first home. Usually in reminiscence, The Old House's defining characteristics are its cramped space, the staircase Alex used to coat in yarn (a pretty intense Spider Man phase) and the towering maple tree in the front yard.

The maple tree. My favorite thing.

There was a different tree there once. My dad says it had blossoms that smelled sickly sweet and branches that couldn't hold up to a good old Iowan thunderstorm.

So the weak, smelly tree was chopped. The replacement maple prevailed.

My maple.

"You can do it!"

Currently, I'm one with the sky.

Tree branches get a lot thinner the further you go up. My dad knows this, and if he knew better, he wouldn't convince his daughter that she's a super hero. I can't exactly fly down.

But that doesn't matter, because 2005 me is on a mission. This mission has carried me to the top of the maple, and I'm sure at this moment the whole neighborhood can see how high I am. They must think I'm so cool.

This mission is called "Pick the Reddest Leaf." My dad tells me about it every autumn, and it's extremely important.

My five-year-old brain is convinced that the maple keeps all of its reddest leaves at the tip-top, because surely anything so treasured must require a labor of love to obtain it.

Eventually, I'm satisfied. I find the reddest leaves in my scope of vision and hurry back down the trunk. They're presented to my dad, and I'm sure that he has a trophy case for them somewhere.


It's 2023. I'm living in Boston. The Old House is golden and hazy in my brain with nostalgia.

I wonder if one day, this chapter will be golden and hazy too.

I know that everyone makes jokes about "being an adult now," and maybe the commentary seems overplayed. But truly: I don't think you can ever be prepared for the total removal of your life's guide rails.

It's 2023. I am alone out here: total freedom to spend or waste each day of my life how I decide to.

I worry that I'm not being responsible with it.

I used to have rules. Pick the Reddest Leaf had an urgency that gave me purpose. After that it was college, relationships, career.

I cross off these milestones and I feel void.

I worry that it's purposeless now. Or maybe it's an illusion of purpose that I've created for myself my whole life so as to skirt around what's true.

I worry that what's true is that none of this really matters anyway.

And none of this thought spiral is new to me. I've always lived with the void, and "what's even the point?" has always coexisted in my brain. Sometimes it gets a little too loud.

I told my friend Hannah this once. She asked me if I've heard of Albert Camus, and I hadn't.

He has this quote. I've thought about it daily since she showed me. It works its way into my artwork almost every time I'm creating:

“To work and create 'for nothing', to sculpture in clay, to know that one's creation has no future, to see one's work destroyed in a day while being aware that fundamentally this has no more importance than building for centuries- this is the difficult wisdom that absurd thought sanctions. Performing these two tasks simultaneously, negating on one hand and magnifying on the other, is the way open to the absurd creator. He must give the void its colors.”

Camus was at the forefront of "absurdism," which (simplified) claims that life may not have any meaning at all, and that's fine. We give it the purpose that we choose to.

I wonder what my colors will be.


My parents are visiting. It's their anniversary, and there's nothing more romantic than visiting their daughter in her scrappy new apartment.

They sit across from me, excited for my in-person updates. We talk almost as if we're friends now. A bittersweet feeling.

We decide on hiking by the lake. It's autumn, and the landscape lights up like a painting around us.

My mom pauses to take photos.

My dad starts rummaging through the trees.

I'm hyperfocused on hiking, and try not to be impatient as they lag behind and I wait up.

My mom shows me the photos she's taken of the lakefront.

My dad insists that I take a branch home for apartment decoration.

They're showing me the leaves.

And maybe it doesn't matter.

And maybe "what's even the point?"

But I give the void a little red today.

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