Remembering

A Bedtime Story

The air in my room is a little too still, so I crack the window and let the cool November night sing me to sleep. I bury my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase and wish for sleep to come quickly, just this once, a nightly ritual. It doesn’t, as has been the case all week. Despite the restlessness, my eyes are thankful for the rest the nighttime lends. Out the window I can hear cars pass on a highway a few blocks out, a murmur that blends with the breeze.

Clearly, distinctively, the sound of a train interrupts the rhythmic rustling of my body as I kick the sheets away, then pull them back.

I am a little girl again, burying my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase that smells of home, in a blue-walled sanctuary with soccer trophies on a bookshelf across from my bed. A train keeps me awake as it calls in the distance, warning the road of its presence. It’s strange how close it sounds, but it’s not close at all.

I know exactly how long it would take me to pedal there. It’s a long ride, one that takes me around Dead Man’s Curve, down the shaded street with speed bumps every ten yards, past the house with the mean horse, the sometimes-sweet goats, the streets named after flowers, and all the way down the big hill, the really big one with train tracks at the bottom. It’s not close. It’s a long ride, one I’m not allowed to make alone.

And in this new city, far from the room with the blue walls and a bookshelf now empty of childhood trophies, I’m having trouble remembering where I’ve passed a single set of train tracks, where a train could be running close enough I can hear it so clearly, so distinctively, warning the road of its presence.

Maybe it calls to me from the other side of the highway, where I only wander when I’m a little sad and a little lost. Maybe it’s a few blocks out, in a part of this city that remains more foreign to me than the rest. Maybe it’s far from me, past a set of streets named after flowers, at the bottom of a very big hill, a long bike ride away, one I’m still not quite old enough to make alone.

IMG_1262

Advertisements
Standard
Reflection, Relevant, Remembering

To My Favorites

While I was the second of two daughters in my family, most of my closest friends growing up had younger siblings, and because of them I lucked into a number of little sisters. I shared hallways with them for a year of high school, my last and their first, and did what I could to make everything a little lighter. I got to watch them grow in a similar way I imagine my own sister did me: with the desire to protect them, to teach them everything I knew, to keep them young, and provide them with a space to grow up that was even just a little more compassionate than my own.

Of course, they grew up on me and became the most stunning, intelligent, creative, and caring young women I know. Next week they begin college, and with that will come many changes, I’ve learned, just a few years ahead of them in age. In many other ways though, they’re lightyears ahead of me. And now I’m certain that I didn’t just gain a gaggle of little girls to play Mother Hen to, but a number of dear friends.

There are a lot of Guides to Surviving Freshman Year of College written and published this time of year, which contain a number of insightful things like how to get involved with student organizations, the reality of the Freshman 15, how not to fail every class, how to party like a real frat star, and many similar bits of wisdom I don’t care to share with you. Instead, I write this one to my favorite little sisters, with the acknowledgement that I’m not full of wisdom or answers, just a great deal of love.

I still want to protect you, teach you everything I know, keep you young, and create a compassionate world for you to continuing growing.

For my favorite babes as they begin college:

Know this list is full of contradictions and exceptions.
Know that life is full of contradictions and exceptions.

Feel everything, except guilty for feeling. I don’t know a more graceful way to write that succinctly, but I think it’s important. There will be times when someone will dismiss your feelings, will minimize, will trivialize, and—if you’re anything like me—will make you feel embarrassed for caring too much. Or maybe it will be the reverse. Be honest about it. Let yourself feel what you feel, the extremes, the in-betweens, the numbness that may be worst of all. Let yourself miss home, let yourself be confused, let yourself be heartbroken. Feel organically. Sort through it when you can. Write from it, create from it, run with it, be motivated by it, make it valuable in some way if you can. And when it’s too much for you to handle, know how to ask for help. That’s important.

Communicate what matters. When you hurt someone, apologize. When you have big questions, ask them. When you love someone, please tell them, and don’t wait too long. I’ve spent too much of my life rehearsing phone calls before I made them, imagining conversations before they happened, and writing letters too late, letting my over-thinking get in the way of saying things that actually matter. Relationships do dissolve, friends do move away, and people die, which isn’t meant to be a that-escalated-quickly moment, but a serious one. I’m not one of those people who claims to not have any regrets because you can’t change the past or whatever. I regret many things, but most of those moments surround failing to say ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m sorry,’ for fear of shaking pride, or for fear of the response.

Take an Intro to Philosophy class your first year.

Be alone, and even lonely, at least a little. Let it teach you.

Don’t be afraid you’re not doing college correctly. I’m sure you’ve already heard/read/seen more than you would ever want to about The College Experience, so you’ll naturally go in with a number of expectations. For the record, my college idol was Rory Gilmore, who went to Yale, while I went to a giant state school in Texas, if that tells you anything about my misguided ideas about college. Gilmore Girls talk aside, my point is that you can’t possibly get rid of your expectations, but I think you can foster a kind of attitude towards those expectations which allows something meaningful to come from the disappointment when it isn’t everything you’ve ever hoped.

College may be the best four years of your life. It also may not even come close to the best years of your life. Let it be what it is and don’t worry you’re doing it wrong because it doesn’t fit the college mold. Don’t feel guilty if you actually like studying. Join a sorority even if your friends back home think it’s lame. Don’t be afraid of fitting a college kid stereotype, of being a hipster, of dating a guy or gal who writes poetry, of getting a 4.0, or being in student government. Don’t be afraid of being outside every stereotype. Do you, plain and simple.

Talk to people who challenge you and what you think you know. Let them teach you about yourself.

Read for pleasure (alright, over winter break).

Call your folks and your siblings often.

Know that if you choose a liberal arts/humanities major, people will criticize you for it, and there’s not much you can do to stop them. Know why you’re studying dance or studio art or creative writing or philosophy or theatre. Have a good reason, one you believe wholeheartedly. If you know what you’re spending your time studying is valuable, the criticism won’t get to you. Expect people to call it the “easy major” and throw around words like useless, frivolous, and would you like fries with that. It will be hurtful sometimes, and crummy people will base their judgements of you on what you’re studying. Don’t feel like you have to defend your major to the death. You won’t change their minds. Brush it off, and don’t ever read Yahoo! News. Just, don’t. English-major-hater central.

Know what is within your control and what isn’t. You can’t change the time of your 8 a.m. class when you come to your senses and realize 8 a.m. classes are the very worst. You can’t change your bank account balance when it tells you you’ve spent your last seven dollars this month and don’t get a pay check for three days. You can’t change the fact that you lost your phone on a Saturday night you can’t remember. You can’t change the fact that he doesn’t love you.

Know that everything and everyone can teach you something if you let them.

It’s OK to share cigarettes with boys on front porch steps, but always know how many packs you’ve bought in your lifetime. It’ll keep you in check, and keep your lungs from quitting on you when you’re 45.

Stand up for yourself. Identify what makes you valuable. Know those things like the back of your hand, so you never have to question it and never let anyone else.

Love with conviction.

Let yourself change. Recognize the changing as it happens, how it happens, who it happens with. Document along the way if you’re into that kind of thing. Write Future You a letter telling her all about you now. She’ll want to meet you, I promise.

Make balance a constant goal.

Resist apathy. This last one is important. You’ll meet a lot of people who care about very little. Don’t be like that. Care about something. Care about everything. Care too much if you have to, but be alive.

comment

20130821-142311.jpg

Standard
Reflection, Remembering

We’ll Be OK

The only recurring dream I remember having as a kid was of my house burning down in the middle of the night. In the dream I would wake to flames all around my bedroom window, and firefighters would carry me out of the house with me balancing in the middle of my mattress. I was, quite simply, afraid of large fires, and also of sleeping. I think the idea of sleep causes most children a bit of anxiety, which is why our parents, grandparents, and babysitters read bedtime stories and tuck us in and check for monsters and kiss us goodnight as we clutch our stuffed animals and blankets and do anything to make the ritual easier. Sleep has the potential to bring dreams and sometimes nightmares, neither of which are within our control. I remember sleep causing me a great deal of anxiety as a kid. And with the addition of the typical Texas storms that haunted the otherwise silent nighttime six months out of the year, the whole process was futile.

Luckily, I had an older sister just down the hallway from me who rarely resisted a Sister Sleepover, which almost always included a few rounds of Guess Which Song I’m Humming, a game I remember losing more often than winning. But on nights when I was on my own, I would watch the alarm clock on my bedside table for hours, the neon numbers that glowed onto the lenses of my purple frames. The time passing made me nervous, but I remember taking comfort in the fact that the time seemed to pass slowly late at night as I watched the geometric shapes shift from sixes to sevens and eights and so on until the patterns reset and repeated. And when I think about being a kid, I feel like I was afraid of everything. Sometimes I still feel I am.

I remember my mother recommending various tactics that occasionally helped (I did some serious counting, folks). But at some point, I took matters in my own hands and developed a way of pausing my neurosis just long enough to fall asleep. I would take my pillows, place them where my feet were supposed to be, untuck all of the sheets and covers, and I would sleep backwards on my bed. Maybe someone taught me this and I’m claiming as my own childhood brilliance now. Maybe everyone did this, but I saved if for the most dire of situations, when midnight would turn to 1 AM and my necessary-eight-hours-of-sleep opportunity had long passed. For whatever reason, this usually worked. And when I think about this strange habit now, I imagine it had a lot to do with control; it was something I could alter, something I could change.

The most overwhelming heightened moments of anxiety I’ve experienced in the last couple of years as a young adult align well with the experiences I had as a kid trying to get to sleep at night. And what all of those recent instances had in common was they occurred precisely at a moment in which I completely surrendered control, and the outcome of that moment I irrationally perceived as necessarily dreadful or threatening, when that wasn’t the case at all in the end. As a kid, I would always wake up the next day with no justification for my obsessive anxiety from the night before. But the cycle would often repeat.

As an adult, the fix may not be a simple one, and it may not be a complete fix at all. But I guess all I can do is try to make sense of the mess.

I’ll start small. I’ll place my pillows at the foot of my bed. I’ll rest easily. I’ll be OK. We’ll be OK.

We'll Be OK

comment

Standard
Reflection, Relevant, Remembering

Pretending

Yesterday, I went for a walk and pretended it was springtime.

I packed my favorite camera with my favorite lens and a barely-filled sketchbook. I left my headphones at home, though silence makes me anxious, as does being alone. But it was a beautiful day, so I looked for an adventure on my own and listened to the changing rhythm of my breath.

I felt the sun warm the backs of my hands. I met an armadillo who didn’t run away. I met an old man riding a bicycle who told me he liked my  shoe laces as he passed me to my left. I met two horses and a man and a woman riding them, who assured me the horses were very sweet as they were coming and I was going, or maybe it was the other way around.  I met a grumpy dog. I met a little boy on a little bicycle wearing a cape and riding ahead of his father. I sat on the cold gravel at the edge of a trail and drew power lines that disappear into tall grass, and the cement walls of an old railway.

I met a man who asked to see what I was drawing and wanted to know what kind of pen I was using and the weight of my sketchbook paper and he told me he used to draw when he was in prison and that he had just gotten out and I told him it was a spectacular day to be alive and he introduced me to his friend Christina and he told me they had met earlier that day at an AA meeting and had been walking for hours getting to know each other and he showed me his leather bible he made while he was in prison and he told me that he would pray for me and I thanked him and the two walked away hand in hand.

I thought back to my art classes in high school and took a photo of a tree with a branch that stretched across the trail, creating a harsh diagonal line across the frame. It was striking and I was happy to arrive somewhere worth stopping for a moment because I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I knew the trail was far too long for me to reach the end and walk all the way back and I needed somewhere to arrive so I could turn around knowing I had made it somewhere.

I don’t know how to go without going to or away from something, someone, some place.
I don’t know how to be still.

Winter renders the world a little heartbroken. If I were a poet, I would make something beautiful of it all. Instead, I’ll wait for the sunshine and the warm breeze to invite me into a kinder day. I’ll take a walk, pretend it’s springtime.

photo

IMG_8335IMG_8316

IMG_8311IMG_8345IMG_8347

IMG_8304

 

Standard
Reflection, Relevant, Remembering, Ridiculous

‘Round My Hometown

It’s interesting going to college in my hometown. I say interesting because that’s the word we use when things are neither good nor bad. And I suppose Denton, TX is my hometown, although I don’t know if I’ve acknowledged it as such until recently. I don’t have any family here or anywhere close to here besides my parents and sister. And as a whole, looking to generalizations about Texas and Texans, I don’t see where I fit in. But in this quirky little town that, in reality, is not all that little anymore, I certainly found a place. And I love it most when I feel I’ve made a home here as a young adult, separate from the one I grew up in.

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about home lately. Summer and winter breaks from classes prompt this, with old friends and acquaintances returning from school or their newly-established homes to visit family. College towns have seasons like beach towns and ski resorts do, instead marked by the beginning and end of the semester, not the weather. The local coffee shops close early, streets around the university are empty, and the bars become filled with Dentonites, those of us who stuck around and those who come back.

You find yourself in restaurants and grungy bars with people you once shared bleachers and classrooms with. Everyone looks a little worn around the edges, even you. Especially you, it seems. In any case, you don’t know how you’re supposed to feel about them. Obligation? Regret for not keeping in touch? Complete apathy? To complicate matters even more, your college friends will mix with your high school friends. The girl you studied abroad with works at a Victoria’s Secret with a girl from high school who you recently deleted from Facebook, so that’s awkward. While they seem to be two worlds completely, space and time has continued as it always does completely outside of your life.

I vividly remember the summer before I began college, before many of my friends moved to various parts of the country for college. I was scared of change and probably still am, but I wasn’t worried about losing my friends. I thought the ones that mattered wouldn’t disappear, nor would our friendships. And the people I lost touch with wouldn’t be a huge loss or we (presumably) would have worked harder to stay friends.

But growing up is never that easy, and growing apart is certainly not painless.

As I’m about to begin my last semester as an undergraduate, with plans to move away in a few short months, I’m realizing more and more that sometimes we change as individuals too much for our friendships to survive solely because of history, of shared experiences from our pasts, of once being friends. It takes hard work, and sometimes it can’t possibly work. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do plan to continue working on a few goals I set for myself in the middle of last year, one of which was to not keep friends out of obligation. You may disagree with me on this one, but I decided that friendship was too important to me to reduce to facebook stalking and a text message on their birthday. While it’s not ideal, I think it’s okay that we get caught up in the lives directly in front of us, and that work and school keep us so busy that we don’t acknowledge each other for months at a time. I am certainly not immune and I have many friends where this is the case. But what is there behind all of that is a mutual level of care, an understanding that we’re invested in the other, we think about each other, and there is love motivating a friendship, not obligation to something that once was.

***

I remember how our worlds once connected, how they intertwined so tightly I never imagined they would ever do otherwise. But I want to both recognize how they once did and no longer do, to be kind to one another, but not regret the directions we’ve moved. We forget the capabilities of time to change us, neither for better or worse, just significantly. In this town, everyone seems to know everyone. But in reality, no one really knows anyone at all. We may not know each other at all.

But if we want, we could re-meet, without presuming we know everything about each other because we shared hallways and glances across tables of coffee shops four years ago. As lame and aphoristic as it sounds, I think friendships begin with discovery, and that’s a pretty spectacular thing worth shooting for.
20130107-145854.jpg

Standard
Relevant, Remembering

I’m Sorry I Never Met You

In hopes of preserving my livelihood, a video from Ingrid to you, Julia Moen. Oh, and funny story. So there were a few people around me taking videos including Christina, and when we got in the car to drive home from the concert, she went to watch her videos. And we learned that not only did her iPhone pick up the sound of Ingrid’s beautiful ukulele, but also the sound of my shutter release on my camera. Let’s just say it’s not a subtle, quiet clicking sound. I still feel pretty bad about it. I didn’t realize the show was as quiet as it was. I had no idea. I apologize to the world for any videos I’ve ruined taking pictures.

Anyway, here’s one without clicks.

Standard
Relevant, Remembering

You’re Okay

And when I grow to be a poppy in the graveyard
I will send you all my love upon the breeze.
And if the breeze won’t blow your way, I will be the sun.
And if the sun won’t shine your way,
I will be the rain.
And if the rain won’t wash away all your aches and pains,
I will find some other way to tell you you’re okay.
You’re okay.
You’re okay.
You’re okay.

This moment a year ago, I was in the library studying for an exam, making up ridiculous mnemonic devices to try and remember some stupid names of politicians or something that didn’t even matter. I knew I would wake up and bike to class the same way I did everyday. I knew I would cram into a lecture hall and fill bubbles to the best of my ability. I had no idea of the phone call, the disbelief, the gloomy sky, the tears that would prompt me to run out of class because I couldn’t hold myself together, the endless hugs from people whose bodies felt equally as fragile as my own, of the reaching out or the falling apart. I was completely unaware of the way everything can change in an instant, or how everything would change in an instant.

Standard