Random

Beginning Again

I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know what I’m doing here, or how this little space has remained empty for so long. I don’t know where to begin again, but I’d like to try. 

I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know how to drive in the snow, or how I left home with no plans to return. And I don’t know how I feel about any of it. I don’t know how people survive these harsh winters year after year and never think about leaving, how they resist the temptation to give up because it is dreadful in a way I have never known. I don’t know how not to need the sun. 

I don’t know a lot of things, but I know I miss writing poems, though I was never any good at it. I know I miss holding your hand, though it was never completely right. I don’t know how to articulate this tangled mess of feelings, but I know I miss the blueness of you. I miss the parts of you my metaphors can’t touch. I never looked away when your eyes caught me studying you. Even now, I could write about the freckles behind your ears, the neatness of your fingernails, the way you scrunch your nose when you felt like my staring required a show, but not your blue. Maybe this will be my favorite mystery, maybe it’s like the ocean you always seemed to be longing for. Maybe this is the closest I’ll get. 

I don’t know a lot, but I know I’m in the midst of big things. I don’t know where I’ll be living in six months, where I’m headed or what I want, but I think I’m starting to learn who I am. I know I wish the world was a little bit kinder to itself, that I still believe love undesired is the biggest waste. I know that I’m resilient, I just forgot for a little while. 

 

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Reflection

On Your Birthday

This time of year still feels haunted. Autumn feels like a gift that belongs to you, is overwhelmed with you, but absent of you. If you were alive, I like to think I would call you today. I like to think I would have apologized by now, that it wouldn’t take you leaving forever for me to realize how wonderful you are. I imagine I would call you and I’d wish you happy birthday, but I’d linger a little and stay on the line a little too long, even though you would have other calls to take and dinners to get ready for, because the whole world would be waiting to tell you how glad they are that you’re alive. I would ask you about work or some warmup question, one that doesn’t matter but feels essential. I’d ask about how your sister is, how home is, and you would say that everything is OK, and you’d tell me the most hilarious thing Victoria said the other day, and I would laugh with you because we both love her so much, and I would have figured that out by now. And I would tell you how I wish I was home to celebrate with you, to buy you a beer and give you a hug because I love you so much, and I would have told you that dozens of times by now. I would tell you about the boy, about the charm and the frustrations, and you would spout some brilliant advice, to be patient, to be sure to always be my brilliant beautiful self, and you’d say something perfect like, “I’m so happy that you’re happy, My Alien,” but a million times more eloquently because words were always on your side. And I would have teared up a little, even then, with you still alive and thriving and stringing words together perfectly on the other end of the line just hearing you call me by my favorite nickname, one no one has called me since you left.

Sometimes, I can still hear it, faint and far away and fleeting and full.

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Random

Season Sting

Today I ache for summer, for an open road with only one lane on each side, that weaves and winds and turns and stretches and couldn’t hold onto me if it tried. For time outside of coffee shops, for time with the stack of books beside my bed labeled “To Read When…” For a scratched CD scribbled “Summer 2010″ playing Sublime or Marvin Gaye or anything that sings to me from summers past through the warm wind that tangles my curls and reminds me that the glorious sun can heal everything, but stings a little. And I’ll take the sunburn and the Texas heat if it means I get to race to the lake after work on Friday and bury my toes under murky sandmud and stay up late playing music and eating snow cones because that’s what it means to me to be young and terrified of everything, especially growing up.

And I’m still young and terrified of everything, most certainly growing up, but everything else has changed.

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Reflection

Wanting

I want a rooftop garden, or a porch with potted petunias, or even a dusty windowsill with tiny succulents to remind me I can keep something alive, to remind me to be thankful for the sun.
I want to make music every day.
I want to feel comfortable with my clumsiness, with my shaky voice.
I want to ask you what you’re thinking instead of guessing.
I want to stop writing about you.
I want to feel like someone worth Saturday mornings, worth sharing secrets, worth sharing silent spaces.
I want to stop pretending.
I want to live with fierce authenticity.
I want to toss away the irony, the apathy, the pretense, the bullshit.
I want to cry every time I hear that Death Cab song and always be terrified of my parents dying.
I want to stay up all night writing terrible poems.
I want to write about you until I understand.
I want to always remember what I love about writing.
I want to never compromise that for a career.
I want to care more but be a little less careful.
I want the questioning and certainty.
I want to settle in the unsettling contradictions.

I love abstractions, I love
to give them a nouny place to live,
a firm seat in the balcony
of ideas, while music plays.
I love them more than hard evidence
and shapely stones, more than money,
which can buy time, but not enough.

Stephen Dunn

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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.

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Relevant

Making Sense of Somewhere New

You’ll drive somewhere just to see if you can find home again on your own, wandering to wander.

You’ll miss hugs, the good ones that last too long and say so much.

You’ll go to the same places over and over again to relish in the familiarity.

You’ll miss the possibility of running into someone you know, an entire town of yearbook photos that have grown a little worn around the edges.

Homesickness will fill the silences if you let it. You’ll step onto an empty balcony at an uncomfortable house party and it will come.

You’ll be surprised by the easy days.

Your new friends won’t notice when you’re gone, when you work through lunch everyday for a week or miss Wednesday night drinks, because you haven’t been a constant in their lives long enough for them to realize you’ve been elsewhere.

You’ll double-take every time you hear a voice or see the back of someone’s head that feels familiar, regardless of how improbable it is. You’ll be disappointed every time it’s not him.

You’ll take yourself out to brunch on a Sunday morning because you want the calm and the quiet and the proving to yourself that you can. Eventually you’ll learn to feel comfortable saying “table for one.”

This comfort might scare you.

You’ll find yourself making categories and placing people in them in true Dr. Seuss fashion: old friends, new friends, home friends, school friends.

Those categories will becomes less defined and new ones will materialize: then and now. This might not be easy to accept.

You’ll challenge the things you feared.

You’ll survive.

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Reflection

Imaginary

I’ll probably always be one to love a little too much a little too soon. Someone whose feelings don’t subscribe to the time tables set for them.

And I’m not among those who knows she’ll have either peonies or ranunculus at her wedding. I’ve never pictured it. I have heard myself on many occasions saying to close friends, “I hope you get married in the next few years so I can plan your wedding,” demanding complete creative control, of course, despite my intense skepticism for the whole practice. Marriage or even a long-term romantic relationship is not a guarantee for me, or at least I don’t feel that it is.

I bet on my friendships most days, even though they allow for a certain level of unspoken commitment and platonic love and bring their own kind of sadness as they end. I plan for friendships as though they’re guaranteed, but romantic relationships seem to be in the Great Unknown category, something I’m content with most days.

And despite all of this, I still find myself planning an elaborate future, without any certainty of a future with that person at all.

I’m not a fiction writer, but I can’t help but imagine a lifetime with anyone who will let me, a romanticized vision of every possibility.

He and I were to ride bicycles across the Golden Gate Bridge. She and I would share a closet-sized apartment in the city. He and I would have a cafe con leche (his with a little too much sugar) every afternoon in our favorite plaza and he would tell me how he loves music but finds comfort in sharing silence with someone and she would ask to share a cigarette on a back porch when sleep wouldn’t come and she would always forgive me when I get bossy about playing music.

We all would have reconvened for New Year’s Eve or ditched our families to have Friendsgiving in November and he would have read books in the grass and I would take too many pictures of him and we would have opened a flower/letterpress stationary shop, she and I, with soft-colored walls and hand-painted flowers and hand-drawn letters on the windows and he would have traveled the world, but come back for me, or asked me to come along and kiss him on every bridge we would have walked across.

You would have realized you were way too young to get married and I would have learned to write sweet songs on ukulele to sing our kids to sleep or maybe just a sweet pupster that would have found a comfy spot each night at the foot of our bed and I would have written you a hundred more letters and left them on the kitchen counter for you to wake up to and nothing would have felt truer than Whitman’s words when he said: “We were together. I forget the rest.”

And today, I suppose I’m content to indulge in these lovely stories. But really, I hope to spend a lifetime being continually mesmerized and fascinated by how much more wonderful reality is than anything I could scribble into imaginary notebooks in my head.

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