Ten Years Ago

466944AE-4F7E-4125-9277-63F3DE9DA65ETen years ago yesterday, I graduated from high school. Ten years ago yesterday, I began a long journey backwards. Suddenly I didn’t know myself, was afraid to know myself. I wasn’t the person I thought I was and the pond was a lot bigger and I was a lot smaller. Ten years ago I wandered off and there are many things I’d like to change about that path I took. But ten years after that I’m glad I’m learning to know myself.

Ten years ago today, in the earliest hours of the morning, I was ready to let you do anything. I didn’t know myself but I thought maybe you could help me figure it out. Maybe you’d see something in me, something you found interesting, something you loved, and I could love that thing too. It took me a long time to figure out that when you looked at me you saw a mirror and you didn’t care at all about the girl trapped inside it.

It’s hard to believe that I don’t care that much about you anymore, since every now and again I have to write this story down. But ten years after that, I’ve found many things to love and many questions left to answer. And I am learning that I don’t need anyone else’s hands or help. The pond hasn’t gotten any smaller, but I like to think I’m growing. I know more now, at least a little bit more, about all the things I don’t know, about all the things I want to know and all the things I don’t.

You do not become a person when seen, I remind myself. You were a person the whole time. You are not a mirror, not a slate, not unmolded. You are raised and raising, known and unknown. You have a heart that beats for no one else, lungs that breathe and feet that walk and hands that write for no one else. It’s hard to remember, with all this noise, with all the things you can give and all the people that can take. But I am a person, myself.

Ten years ago yesterday, I graduated from high school and ten years ago yesterday I wandered off. But don’t worry. Ten years after that and I found that girl and we are wandering back.

Love Your Disruptions

IMG_1449On my birthday this year, Kelly pointed out in her birthday message that I am “always down for an adventure provided at some point sleep and food are in the equation,” and while I’ve always wanted to be a spontaneous, adventurous person, I have to admit that’s not entirely the case.

I’ve said this before, I’m sure, but I’m a creature of habit. My mom always used to point this out at the end of the summer, when I had started getting irritable and lazy. I needed the routine of school back. Every time I’ve moved to a new place, I feel loose and unsettled and anxious until I can make my bed and my lunch and my own coffee, and I know what the next few days are going to look like. I like adventures, sure, but I need something to come back to that makes sense, and I always pack granola bars and water.

Sleep and I have always had a contentious relationship (hence this blog) so its less that I need sleep in my adventures and more that I need to come back to my routine afterwards so I have a chance of making up for all of that sleep I lost while I was romping around…wherever I was.

I say this all as a preface for pointing out that this spring has been, well, weirdly not like that. Whether I’ve been house sitting or traveling or making plans for the rest of the year, my routine has been, shall we say, disrupted. And I find myself in the midst of all of that insanity thinking to myself, “just get through this week, and then things will get back to normal,” or more recently “you’ll be done after May – just get through May and things will get back to normal.”

Nothing lasts forever, and time is always passing no matter what, and I’ve used this technique to get me through many, many things – presentations or meetings I’m nervous about, conversations I’m not looking forward to, excessively long plane rides, periods of uncertainty. In 24 hours it’ll be over. This time tomorrow I’ll know. Only 93 hours until I’m past this and back in my bed.

Lately though, in perhaps a kind of new year new me style, an unintended resolution and an accidental mantra, I’ve been making myself stop doing that. The point of life is not to get to the next period of calm, the next set of days where you don’t have to think too hard because you’re going to know exactly what each day is going to look like. I’ve never wanted things to be that easy, and it only occurred to me recently that it wasn’t just the comfort of my routine I was looking for, but the safety of it.

I’ve been out of my apartment almost every other weekend since the beginning of March. I’m going to Seattle this week to reunite with two of my best friends from college. My dad’s coming to town next week and I’m house sitting in TriBeCa again. I’m planning a trip to Nashville. I’m going to Vietnam in September and I’m going back to poke around Australia again over Christmas. I’ve just about used up all of my vacation days and Summer Fridays are coming up soon. It’s going to be warm and there are so many things to see and I’m going to relish these disruptions. I’m going to remember that the point is not to get past things, but to enjoy them.

 

The Perpetually Unsortable

IMG_0156Kelly has always been a Hufflepuff. My mom has always been a Hufflepuff. My dad is unequivocally a Gryffindor.

I, however, am the perpetually unsortable.

Just before Pottermore was launched for the first time, there was a surge of self-sorting. Everyone had an idea of where they thought they should be, where they thought their friends should be. And yet, one of my best friends said to me the night before we’d all be able to take our tests “Well, I can see you in Gryffindor, sure. You’re pretty Ravenclaw-ish. But with a Slytherin slant. Anywhere but Hufflepuff, honestly.”

I bet you can guess what happened next.

This was back when you had to wait to get a Pottermore username, but I knew some people high up in the Potter world (yes, they exist) and immediately after getting sorted into Hufflepuff, four of those people donated extra usernames so that I could take the test again.

And again, I got Hufflepuff. I got Hufflepuff three times before the test let me pick between Hufflepuff and Slytherin. When I took it again after the Ilvermorny launch I got straight Slytherin.

But none of these houses feel totally right to me. If you ask my sister, she puts me in Ravenclaw, with reservations. If you ask my friend Lauren, she puts me in Slytherin without a doubt. Anyone who has ever so much as looked at my sister funny has seen the Hufflepuff loyalty in me.

I’m not a Gryffindor though. I’m just not that brave.

sortinghatWhatever else we are, we are also the Harry Potter generation. Was does it mean for one of us to be perpetually uncertain of our house? I think we are all looking for the Myers-Briggs description and the buzzfeed quizzes and, yes, the sorting. But I’m never sure about any of it. I’m greedy for descriptions of myself from people I know, especially when they don’t necessarily match up with how I see myself. I’ve always felt pretty centered. I didn’t write my name all over my walls. My knowledge of myself feels innate, but completely indescribable. I find myself anxious and uncertain about all kinds of things, just like everyone else – decisions I’ve made or not made, social interactions, things I’ve never done before or don’t know.

But I don’t know what Hogwarts house I would be in. I’ve never trusted my Myers-Briggs (INTJ).

Kelly just walked in the apartment and said, “Well, you’re hard to pin down.” I’d like to believe this is true, because who doesn’t want to be inscrutable. But I suspect that I’m supposed to read into the more subtle messages of Harry Potter – sorting is just one way to understand ourselves. And perhaps not a very good one at that.

It’s Always the Little Things

IMG_0811I don’t have anything to say today.

It’s just been one of those weeks. I’ve been feeling really in the past week, some of it because of dumb things I’ve done or not done, and some of it because of a situation that is almost entirely out of my control. Still, that kind of uncertainty weighs on you. I’ve also been pretty bored at work, which hasn’t necessarily helped.

Do you ever just get tired of yourself? You know that you aren’t handling something well, that you aren’t making good decisions, and instead of dealing with it or at the very least, dealing with your emotions, you descend into bad habits? My bad habits, like you couldn’t guess, are a little too much wine and way too much fanfic. And honestly, it’s the fanfic that’s really been driving me crazy. Instead of reading books or manuscripts for work, or even writing or talking to people or listening to podcasts, I’ve just immersed myself in the literary equivalent of donuts for dinner. I broke the habit last night, closed the windows on my phone, made real food for dinner metaphorically and literally, and then I got a dumb assignment at work today and the whole plan went to hell.

The thing about fanfic for me is that sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes its really interesting, and sometimes the stories are really, really good. But at the end of the day, its pure escapism. That might not be what it is for everyone else, but for me it’s avoidance and safety – a big plastic bubble that you can make opaque any time you want.

The things that have been bothering me are stupid, regular life things – things that will pass or that I’ll learn to handle better once I get my swagger back. There are days or weeks or whatever when real life just gets you down, when you can’t make yourself do the smart thing no matter how much you try.

Those are usually the same weeks, I find, that you misplace your center and can’t let the little things go. It’s irritating, because it’s not existential dread or big questions. It’s cleaning the kitchen and stupid supervisors and not knowing what to say or when to say it. It’s minor things that you know you’re blowing out of proportion, but they sit with you, follow you around and whisper dumb things in your ear. It’s like a mosquito, here in our privileged urban centers. You know they aren’t going to kill you, or even cause you pain. But they are there, and they are annoying and for the life of you, you can’t make them go away.

By next week, most of this will have gone – I will have found the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can. Or at least to wait them out. In the mean time, I’m going to try to kick this obsessive fanfic thing one more time. And make frozen pizza for dinner.

It’s just been that kind of week.

An Ode to Things That No Longer Keep Me Awake

2014-12-21 12.07.55You don’t.

You did for a while. For far too long, you were the phone call I waited for, the joke I almost told, the gift I bought but never gave, the pair of eyes I looked for at the beginning and the end of the day. You taught me how to give the silent treatment, to stop listening, to drunk text. You taught me about the joy in recklessness.

You taught me about about the fear in recklessness too.

You opened me up, messed around, hid some things from me, brought others out to play. And then you closed me back up.

You were the villain in all my stories.

But now you don’t. Now I find you boring, and me boring too when I find myself thinking of you. For a while I was so glad to have a story that I didn’t care that it was a bad one, that it lacked character development, a hero, a denouement. I didn’t care that it was far too long, that it needed a red pen like a fish needs water. I never realized that, had I been this story’s reader instead of its writer, I would never have made it to the end.

I thought any story was better than no story at all. I was wrong.

I know what I look for in a story now. I like the slow burn ones, I like to feel the pressure in my left hand along the line of my thumb, the lurch of in my heart instead of my stomach. I prefer the spot behind my ear to the one on my waist. I need better character development. The protagonist needs to be her own person, she can’t seek definition from you anymore.

Instead, she’s going to find it in traveling, in finishing a novel, in cooking delicious things for and with her friends. She’s going to find it in good wine and good whiskey. She’s going to find it mason jars and moleskins and ballpoint pens. She’s going to find it in waiting. She might try to find it in online dating. But more than likely, she’ll probably just keep the coffee shop dream alive. She’s going to find it in good stories. Because she knows how much damage bad stories can do.

You used to keep me up at night, while I was trying to write you better, write you different, write you there. You kept me awake while I tried to make you a character instead of a delusion, when the whole time I should have remembered that you’re a person, and not a very good one. You kept me awake at night while I tried to put back all the things inside me you made a mess of.

But not anymore. In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, I think I’m finally clean.

Objects at Rest Remain at Rest

IMG_1817I had a really great blog post planned for today, but due to circumstances beyond my control I will be posting it next week instead (I hope). It will make less sense then, but it will it won’t get anyone in trouble.

Today, I’m going to be talking about stuff. Things. The accumulation of tangible objects. What we always say we have too much of. I waffle on things. Sometimes I think that I could live a really minimalist lifestyle. I could get all my books from the library. I could just wear the same week’s worth of outfits all the time. I don’t actually wear half the shoes I own. I don’t have a lot of makeup anyway. What does any one person really need in the world, anyway?

But this weekend I was at home clearing out a bunch of my stuff. I’ve almost entirely moved out of my parents house, but there was still a little left to do. As part of this project, I was trying to get rid of a lot. I don’t have a ton of space in Boston and I have all kinds of that stuff I hadn’t thought of in years, let alone seen or missed. And yet still, the whole project left me feeling a little like an exposed nerve. You can see from the picture just the sheer amount of books alone I got rid of this weekend.

Books, as we’ve discussed previously, are super important to me. Being the girl with all the books has been how I recognize myself since I was in grade school. Buying books, and all the potential unread books represent, is how I always made myself feel better on bad days. There’s a lot of potential sitting on that bed, and a lot of old favorites. A lot of potential for other people, as my mom kept reminding me. But it used to be mine.

It wasn’t just books though. It was class photos, old projects, Legos. It was the bookshelf I painted myself, now meeting its end in a dumpster; a leather jacket I bought abroad that no longer fit; things my parents had bought for themselves and never used. Things I had bought for them that they had never used.

I was taught the value of money in my youth. I didn’t just buy any of these things haphazardly, and neither did my parents. And yet, years later, we had accumulated so many things that we never used, never touched. Things that just took up space, that we surrounded ourselves with, that mattered a lot in each individual moment, but mattered hardly at all this weekend.

The cause of my anxiety about all this will become clearer in the coming weeks. Many of you may be able to put together the clues based on what I’ve told you. Times, they are a’ changin, and the things I’ve surrounded myself with my whole life aren’t going to be around anymore.

The question then becomes… If I’m my stuff, then who am I now? And if I’m not my stuff, then who the hell have I been all these years?

The Trouble with Stories

book

Alright, so this is the whole other blog post.

I get overly fixated on narrative. I have no idea how long that has been the case. I stayed up really late finishing books as a kid. When other kids got in trouble for not putting their laundry away, not emptying the dishwasher, ignoring their parents, I got in trouble for those things too but it was usually because I hadn’t heard the instructions. When I read, I stop seeing words and start seeing images. My brain makes a picture and suddenly, that’s where I live.

When the third Harry Potter book came out, I came home, locked my door for three hours, and when I came out I became the only kid I knew to get in trouble for reading. In my youth, I thirsted for adventure, for high stakes, for revolution. I couldn’t find it in the world. I’ve been too lucky and too complacent. But I’ve always found what I needed in stories – trust, honor, sacrifice, romance with both sized Rs.

That said, stories, narrative didn’t always keep me awake. But my first year of college, I fell in love with Veronica Mars, a show about a high school private detective trying to solve the mystery of her best friend’s murder. I was lonely and uncertain. I felt a little like I had failed for the first time in my life, which, for those of you who know where I went to college, is silly. But that’s how I felt.

I watched all of Veronica Mars in a week and a half over winter break. That’s approximately 66 episodes of television in about 10 days. The show had been canceled rather abruptly less than a year before, and it ends on a cliffhanger. For weeks after I saw the last episode, I lay awake in bed trying to write an ending that would satisfy me, that would fill in the holes that I thought the show itself was going to fill.

A day of reading Avengers fanfic gave me fever dreams the like the ones I described in my last post. I chose my major based on the West Wing. The best thing on my resume right now (besides my Masters degree – shout out to a major in reading) is the Harry Potter Alliance, an organization dedicated to engaging fans in activism using parallels from the series. Madeleine L’Engle made me feel less alone. Give me ten minutes with a sports game and a friend who is invested and the battle parallels become even clearer.

I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s probably neither. We all have flaws. I’m sure many future blog posts will be dedicated to mine. Some people think my investment in narrative keeps me from engaging in my actual life. That may be true. For so many others, it’s a familiar experience to find what you need in fiction. Real life, or whatever you call it, doesn’t have an arc. If it has a purpose, that purpose is not made clear to us. But I find so much of what matters to me in the sharing and telling and creating of stories. I find meaning and power and glory in narrative. And I find comfort there too.

Perhaps it’s a little sadistic. But I hope one day a story I’ve told keeps someone else awake all night too.

image source: http://eileenwilks.com/free-short-stories/#!/