It’s hard to describe how I feel sometimes. About a year has passed since I last posted a blog, since I left my job teaching preschool to work in an office, since I turned 27. I think of writing often. I think about the writing I did as a child. I was always telling stories about historical events that fascinated me, placing myself as a character within the midst of chaos. As a child I survived the sinking of the Titanic, trudged through the trenches of war, and even made it through a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. That part of me started early: the curiosity of someone else’s shoes. How could I understand if I wasn’t there? The only way to try was to write it.
I think about the writing I did in high school. It was morose and vague. There was poetry about dead birds, rifles, and a boy that was never good for me, because what else was I to write about as a teenage girl? And then there were the snips and snaps that started to happen; the characters that I knew too well becoming the center of each new piece. An idea that perhaps, I was not just an avid reader but also someone with a voice, whatever that voice was.
I think about the writing I did in college. An 8-page analysis of one line in Heart of Darkness that was probably entirely wrong. Stories littered with my past and present. An unfulfilled need to move, move, move. That was always clear.
I always moved. From town to town; from house to house; from person to person; from thing to thing. My roots have never quite settled in one place, yet once I’ve left that place they seem to stretch back as if grasping for mossy rocks or solid ground to hold onto them. A search for something new was always at the forefront of what I wrote, yet my words were set deeply in nostalgia.
I think about how I don’t write now. I don’t write myself out of danger, or out of love, or out of the murky past. I don’t make up names and plots to faces I already know. I don’t even write the images that flitter through my brain.
You know what I write about now? I write about apartments, and how qualified I am for a job, and my five year goals. I write that we should catch up and that things are good and miss you sometimes.
I miss me.
There’s an image I still see some days. It’s of me sitting in a desk amongst classmates, my high school English teacher with my paper in his hands. He has just finished reading and it is quiet, my cheeks are flushed and I’m terrified. And then he nods, and someone else smiles, and my paper is back on my desk and someone else stands in front of the class. My cheeks cool off and I can see clearly again, and I feel good.
I miss me.
Or maybe it’s just that I miss what I used to believe me to be. I was a girl who wrote and wrote well. I was a girl with a voice and a passion for telling stories. I wanted to tell my stories. I wanted to live my stories, like Alice falling into that rabbit hole and landing in a foreign world. I still want to live stories, but I don’t tell them anymore. Not like that.
Recently my boyfriend told me that for someone as scared as I was to share my art, myself, I sure could be judgmental about other art. I suppose it goes hand in hand. Those who can’t, teach. Those who don’t, judge. It’s a viscous, jealous cycle and I don’t know where it stops.
When I started writing tonight, it was all about tips on how to have a good day back in the office after a 3-day weekend. Your typical listicle of overly obvious things you could do to have a good day. And I was bored and sad. Who am I to tell anyone how to enjoy being at work when I just had a tediously miserable day? Why would I write something so uninteresting? I’ve been writing what I think I’m supposed to in a blog. I’m supposed to be witty and snarky and offer valuable insight to your life. But I don’t have it in me today. Today, I just want to write without trying to impress anyone. Younger me didn’t want to give you advice, she just wanted to write something a little sad, and a little sweet. Because that’s me. It’s a big part of me. And it’s the me that I miss.
So here I am, sitting on my couch, sipping a G&T and daydreaming about summer afternoons laying in the park grass in Lancaster and you were there, and you were there, and I was there. We couldn’t read this post online and it probably would have been posted to my Easyjournal which ceases to exist anymore. Thoughts my teenage self put out into the world are now lost in an endless realm of coding, bad URLs and time. But here I’ll put them back out there. I wish to be more than I have been, and I’m terrified but I feel good.
If I say it is, therefore it is. In college I wrote a lot of poetry and creative nonfiction about how much I smoked, how little I valued marriage, how things fall apart, and how artists portrayed isolation in urban environments. Those were my themes. In college I smoked a lot, visited a lot of art openings and music gigs, babysat a couple munchkins on campus, and was always holding a cup of coffee. One of my trusted professors--who once called two of my other favorite professors into her office to brainstorm about my writing, who would whip up a fresh French press at my arrival--called me “a true artist” in the way I lived my life. To another professor that I sometimes had coffee with, not to me, obviously. A compliment to the extreme, I thought, a person that knows me and really gets me. Cogito ergo sum. Only: She think I’m an artist, therefore I am.
I used to believe it was a way of life. Art. Living artfully. Observing closely, pulling away from the mundane the most extravagant of details and backstories. Dabbling in paint, or charcoal, or clay, or the theatre, or guitar, or sewing. She who does is! I could justify my quiet and my solitude by living in this idea that I was built like those who inspired me. But a degree, a job, families, and laziness interrupt dreams. Then again, dreams are cut short by overreaching, insufficient talent, and our goddamn heads. If we don’t do, then we aren’t.
But if an artist posts a new piece to Facebook and gets zero likes, does the art make a sound (or a difference, or a meaning, or whatever)? Picasso, Vonnegut, Oscar Wilde and all sorts of infamous artists are quoted defending the importance and necessity of art to our souls. Quotations once absorbed into my character have become questions of their own. We recognize art for its beauty; we talk about what it portrays. Then we go and call it dark; we say art is emotive, that it must make us feel something to be art. Sometimes we simply make art an idea. It just is, even if it isn’t, we say. We’re entertained by the new and unclear. We’re bored by things of convention, even when done beautifully. Often, it seems, we separate art into two categories: what is controversial and what is appealing to the eye, yet we’d be scorned if we were to classify people into the same two categories: those that are pretty and those that cause trouble. Because, as everyone knows, even pretty things can stir up a storm.
In a world where half of you reading this probably have your own blog, where at least 75% of you have a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to post your own statuses and computer-filtered photographs, and all of you have the ability of creating a blog or website or social media page to show off the work you could be doing, everyone has the ability to portray themselves as an artist. I’m having a hard time justifying, to myself, that I am a writer just because I post on this blog every so often. In fact, I’m having a hard time justifying that I am anything most days. In an ever expanding digital world we have the ability to consume whatever we want but we keep on wanting to be everything without doing anything.
It’s a little late to start talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Christmas lights are packed away, vacation days seem nonexistent, and nobody’s baking anymore! If we’re going to be talking at all about the goals we set just before that last chime of 2014 struck midnight and our wobbly posture and slurred words set in, we’re probably supposed to discuss whether we’ve held up our end of the bargain. It’s January 28th. How’s that diet working out?
I wrote down some goals back at the end of December, too. Before I start preaching, I’ll even share the list with you for all judgy purposes.
Two years ago, my resolutions were just two: make your bed every day and drink the coffee at work instead of buying it out each morning. These are the only New Year’s Resolutions that I’ve ever kept. Probably because they were small. Also, because they helped me build better habits. And they’re now my new model for setting goals. In fact, I think my goal for every year, or better every day, will officially be: do things that make you happier, smarter, and better. Work for progress.
How did a few pressed sheets and Folgers coffee make me happier, though? I know I don’t have a whole lot of support when it comes to making the bed. To some it might seem frivolous, a waste of time, or the worst of all, boring. I am not your mom and I will not make you make your bed, but it is how I start each day. It’s the official, “I’m awake and not going back to sleep,” status. It’s also the comforting invitation to crawl back in at the end of a (hopefully) productive day. Drinking coffee is also a (obviously) long-running morning routine. I’ve simply changed the way I do it. On work days, if I make it to school on time, I’m rewarded with free coffee. On my days off, I’m rewarded with the luxury of not putting on a bra if I put that old French press to work. Both goals have helped me wake up and face my day while saving money. Habits for progress.
Don’t get me wrong, the goals that I listed earlier all have the ability to make my life better. But I think sometimes where I go wrong is by looking too much at the distant future and setting too many restrictions upon myself. A better me (and a better you!) takes more then a flip of a switch to achieve. I’m working on it.
First, and most importantly, I’ve rediscovered things that make me feel at the same time happy, productive, and rewarded. This month, after considering enrolling in a ceramics class for several years, I’ve started throwing on the wheel. Centering be damned; I will make you a giant mug! I’m also remembering how therapeutic working long, fast-moving hours while building with my hands can be.
Working with clay isn’t the only therapy I’ve been indulging in. There’s been more reading and less tv watching. I’m writing my own words down in my notebook rather than quotes spoken by someone more successful. It’s a bit like a renaissance of self, where I’m rediscovering some of the things that make me feel like me, the things that I’ve chosen to define myself by. And I’m finally working on them. Steps 1 and 2 of resolutions: identify what makes you feel good, then put your time into those things.
What It Feels Like (Edition)*: When you’re supposed to be trapped in a blizzard but get less than one inch of snow.
I despise the jinxers out there. There are two kinds of people who jinx in this scenario: those who cry snow day at the very mention of flurries, and those who pray for a fluke, a weather channel prank. Today’s for you, jinxers, may you enjoy your snowless day off. My heart, on the contrary, aches. I stayed awake all night, not caring that the news had already broke; school canceled for what? I waited up like a lover waits for her gentleman’s reply to her text What are YOU thinking? Fair trade organic coffee beans hid in my cupboard while almond milk and local cage-free eggs rested quietly in the fridge. I still waited, even as the forecast kept pushing you back, further and further from my sight, until the chance of light snow at 5am was all that remained. I fell asleep to the whisper of crappy television, knowing in my heart of hearts, it was all gone. My chance at the soft, silent light of the night. The freshest, and the best, the white ground before the corruption of slush and dog piss was, irreparably, lost to the sea. The current no longer drifting in but pulling you further north once more. Say goodbye to the angels, the sleds, whiskey in your coffee. I have not earned today, so I sit inside, hiding from the sun, for it melts all that is left of the evening’s fall.
I stepped into a lot of emotional realms I didn’t plan on dealing with today today. Slightly hungover first. Sleepless and delirious. Sad and broke loser, later and continually. I wasn’t sure if I’d be spending my evening curled in bed watching sappy television dramas about fairytale characters in the real world (oh my god, I can’t stop watching stupid tv) while randomly tearing up at each sappy sentimental scene. Things turned around. Want to know why?
Because it’s beginning to sort of, kind of, slightly resemble Christmas in our teeny tiny apartment. My boyfriend Patrick and I bought our first Christmas tree for our first home! Sure, it’s the biggest thing in our living space at the moment, but the place smells like pine. Yes, we only have one ornament to put on the tree, but it’s a fuzzy squirrel! But once we filled the little guy with those cheap CVS lights, my mood instantly lifted.
Now that I’m feeling the quick approach of the holidays skipping nearby, and even more so the stress that I haven’t bought a single present for anyone yet, I wanted to share the new game of the season. It’s #cheesycheer(s)ing and everyone [me!] is doing it!
I’ve become friends with several people after discovering their fondness for tequila rivaled my own. #cheesycheers was spawned from one of those friendships. As we would raise our glasses, my friend would always cheers to something both simple, and lame. We’d toast to friendship, and love, and dreams. We needed to progress. We needed to cheers to the beach at sunset or candles in the wind! So we did.
I’ve been trying to get this trend going for a while now. And by trying, I mean, I hash tagged a couple of my Instagram photos back in the summertime and proceed to clink shot glasses to “dancing like no one’s watching” on a fairly regular basis. But I think now is the perfect time to bring the rest of the world into the wonder and fun of cheesy cheer(s)ing.
The way it works is simple.
Step 1: Buy someone--anyone--a shot of hard liquor. My drink of choice is tequila, because it always is, and because tequila shots are a whole fun process in themselves.
Step 2: Raise your glass and propose the cheesiest toast you can think of.
Step 3: Drink.
Step 4: Repeat as desired.
You might be wondering why is this perfect for the holidays. Simple! This is that time of year where you’re going to be expected to go out: holiday work parties, family dinners, cookie exchanges, parties in one of your high school friend’s parent’s basement, and the dreaded New Year’s Eve. A lot of these events are going to be dull. But not if you engage in some good cheerful imbibing!
Oh, you’re also probably going to be expected to start exchanging gifts with some folks, right? Fear not, friends! #cheesycheers are the perfect gift! You buy the shot! You cheers some cheesy words of praise to your buddy! If you’re feeling really ambitious, get someone else to snap a picture of you pre-/post-shot and let’s get this hashtag moving up the ranks online. Wahlah! Cheap and sweet in a snap. Don’t be afraid of seeming like the broke friend (If you’re cheer(s)ing, you know you’re the broke friend!) The greatest gifts aren’t the ones we can literally wrap our fingers around. But presents that you can wrap your stomach around rarely go to waste. Here’s to Christmas trees, sugar cookies, and home is where the heart is! Don’t spend this holiday season sober.
What do you want to be when you grow up? a four year old asked me. He was mimicking, as that’s something we ask and suggest to them every day. His options are vast: ninja today, astronaut tomorrow. Some of the girls veer towards princess. Most people don’t become princesses, I say. But Grace Kelly did! That’s not what you’re supposed to remember about her.
She was kind! Remember: she was kind.
They ask me back, maybe because I’m small, or because I look young, or maybe because they can see the general realm of confusion that permeates through my skin. Who knows? It’s a question I still get, only as I get older, the question becomes more embarrassing, and even harder to answer.
It’s been a wacky few weeks, full of head bugs and witches and busy schedules and snow and sun and fighting and making up and slipping on spinach and now a blatant disregard for comma use. But there’s been one topic of conversation that has come up over and over. It’s this thing a lot of people like to call the Quarter Life Crisis. I’m renaming it to the Mid-Twenties Slump.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is more about being scared. I’m scared to give up on my dreams: the ones that still seem to change from day to day, the ones that I’m not even sure are real, because the people that I love the most are still struggling to accomplish theirs, and I’m scared of how I will look to them if I agree to a job in an office, filing papers and answering telephones and leaving the idea of publishing a novel or starting a ceramics business in the past. I’m also scared to pursue my dreams: because they keep changing, because they make no money, because what if I fail and I finally realize that I’m not as good at all those things I was told I was good at as a kid.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is when you realize that you’re no longer a recent graduate, and that the line markers that were set up for you as a kid, as a young adult, as a recent graduate, have yet to be achieved. It’s when you realize that other people are passing right by you and you’re treading water in the same place, with the same job, with the same problems that you can’t seem to fix.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is when you start asking yourself how important is it to have a job that you love, and why? When you actually start worrying about health insurance and benefits and realizing that you still don’t completely understand how a 401k works. It’s when you realize that you’re working a job that you will never be able to retire from because you are never able to save more than a hundred dollars a month; that you will always have to live in an apartment or house with multiple roommates in order to make rent; that you haven’t taken a real vacation since you were in college; that you will never make 35k a year. It’s when you start questioning your worth, and then wondering why humans mark their value in the amount of money they bring home each year.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is not strictly relegated to those in their mid-twenties.
The things that I’m passionate about, that many of the people I love are passionate about, are not things that our society tends to place value on. Making art is not as important as being able to sell things to the general public. It’s hard for me to understand how anyone can be passionate about marketing, or you know, passionate about selling a particular brand of floss. Why is it that manipulation is often more valued than creating beautiful things?
Then again, maybe I just don’t understand. Because people are passionate about everything. Some people find punching numbers exhilarating or the font used on an advertisement just right. Others want nothing more than to plate the perfectly cooked steak every single order. And some see the beauty in cleaning and organizing, in meticulously kept files, in bunsen burners and beakers.
I just happen to find the glaze on a ceramic bowl mesmerizing. I like sad songs you can’t dance to and headstands after a long day. And I, no matter how many times I lose sight of it, will always find joy in watching and listening to people, searching for the middle of every story, the meat with the bones still in.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is the frustration of not having the answers. Then again, even grownups don’t have all the answers.
heavy heeled when walking; heavy handed when pouring a drink