my last entry was so culminating, it feels odd to return to write, while i still sit here ten stories up in my new york life. but today marked the end of something big, and its worth writing down. Today was my last day of attending an undergraduate class. I am no longer tethered by the idea of earning my degree with attendance in a classroom. For all its good and bad, i am so damn free.
I am twenty, and the future is mine for the making. I have learned so much about myself being here, and being a student, and being in college, and yet the biggest most overwhelming truth I have discovered is that there is no such thing as truth. Nobody has it right, there’s no one correct way to live, and for however dogmatic or open one is, there is never anyway to know what is the right. Instead of believing in how things should be or are, being completely unassuming and open is the only way to feel fearless.
I think this is growth. My left wing beliefs and rejection of the material and consumptive remain, but dogmatism has melted into something more tolerant, something more giving to the possibility that happiness is only how you look at things, and clinging to a certain sense of what is right is only bound to dissapoint you.
Yes, this is what i’ve been trying to get at for so long. Like religion, sureness in a “way to be” accomplishes temporary confidence and trust, but inevitably leads you down the path of uncertainty once again when the mandates of the belief system let you down and you lose your faith. There is also the consistency of guilt and fear: but what if I am not what I believe to be right? Then who am I and what do I deserve? The crisis ensues…fear. confusion. its okay. its all okay, the shit and the glory and the fire and rain. its okay with me.
my roomates just returned, time to transport myself out of this mind suspension. more soon.
as i sit here, 7:42 a.m, exhausted but ready to get through another day, today seems much like a day over a year and a half ago. That day, i wrote a post called good morning new york, on an early crisp fall morning, just at the outset of this crazy journey.
Its hard to believe i’m here already, moving into reflection rather then wondering mode, looking back rather than looking forward. Its spring, crisp and clean as well, and ironically, the type of day when you look forward, into the heat of the summer, forgetting the long cold months that lay behind you. finally.
I guess i’m doing both. I am so excited for what lies ahead, both what i know and have planned for, and what i haven’t. I feel more confident in the twenties ideal i’ve been dreaming of than i have in the last few months, and its going to be a very. good. summer.
But over these two years, New York has treated me well. Last night, i was walking up broadway in a misty spring rain, and the newly bloomed flowers on the trees were all lit up by the wet lights. I wish I was cam jansen, so I could just “click” and preserve that sensory treat forever– it’s one of my favorites.
The self-discovery and self-education that this city has afforded has been intense and incredible. I have learned about poverty, wealth, hope and despair, culture and politics. I have sat next to every type of person, thought every type of thought, and experienced the highs and lows of feeling totally powerful and totally meaningless. I’ve covered a lot of ground.
And, I still haven’t ridden all the subway lines, been to all the neighborhoods, seen all the museums, or even been to many broadway shows. I’ve yet to try and get into a club, or drink whiskey in a bar, or stay out all night long or find a jazz show in a smoky room somewhere deep in the west village. The images I had of me here have come to life in some cases, stayed dormant and fantasical in others.
But somehow, leaving here doesn’t quite feel like i’m going for good. Will I be back one day, to stay? Maybe. But more importantly, a big chunk of me has been planted here, and this city has really gotten under my skin. Since i’ve never been in the business of having just one, New York is a new place to call home. And for that I’m happy.
Good morning, New York.
april first. the beginning of spring greets us with moisture and humidity this year. A year ago the first day of spring was brisk and sunny, the scents of blooming almost stinging our eyes. A year ago I was confused but happy, unsure but eager, and pensive. Now I am emerging from another dark time, not nearly as dark, not nearly as complicated, but the rain is fall and my spirits are lifting. As they often do with spring rain.
Nearing the end of this semester, with thirty days left as a real college student, the horizons carry the burdensome yet exciting label of “adult”. Tired of the wearisome class schedule, eager for something new and different, I’ve forsaken all advice, and am plunging headfirst.
Darkness envelops this spot, though the ceaseless illuminations of the city remind me that here, i am never. ever. ever. alone. And for that I am appreciative. Though I seek spaces where nobody has wandered, I too am comforted by the density of this island. There is serenity in this chaos, somehow.
Over apple pie this evening, I envisioned the next ten years with faltering clarity. No goals define the coming decade, and for this i feel most anxious. I don’t know what i’ll be doing or how I’ll be doing it, and I am more than comfortable, excited in fact, about that. But that I don’t knnow what I want for my future, that weighs heavy.
Coarsing rainfall blankets the street, and the tiny people that can be seen evading the rain ten stories below, can’t see me from where I sit. They have lives, more complicated and story-worthy than I will ever know, and yet I want to know them. I want to write their stories, my stories, make them one big story, and follow it through. I want to compose music in words, words in music, color in written lines, written lines in painted color. I want to be an artist, and I want to fucking matter. How did I not know until now? Its taken twenty years, i know the truth, and it doesn’t feel real.
Closing the chapter of this New York book is going to be strange and wonderful, but I somehow don’t think its my last one.
It makes sense you know. The reason I always search for validation in others opinions? Nobody hesitates to contribute their thoughts to your successes when you are eight and grieving and moving all the time and disconnected from your brother and fighting with your mom. Any evidence of success– a good grade in school, a new, nice friend, a good party dress—were all suitable accomplishments for a compliment. My family, family friends, friends, everyone just wanted to give me a reason to think that life wasn’t so bad and I was worth something. But there was an assumption that somehow I was struggling with that idea. And I wasn’t. I was confused, I was lonely sometimes, I didn’t like moving and yes, there was a lot of yelling. But I was a happy-go-lucky kid who, like all other kids, got over their crying tantrums within a few hours and went merrily on their short-term memory way. So, now I’m twenty and looking around and hearing silence where praise used to be. People have stopped feeling motivated to craft support for my every move, and now I have no measure of how I’m doing. How AM I doing? I mean, I’m enrolled in this fancy college, and I’m getting pretty good grades, and I have this awesome musician boyfriend, and some days I even manage to put an outfit together which resembles stylish. I can navigate New York City streets and I know how to kick a soccer ball pretty well. I’ve got some good close friends, and a network of loose affiliations that some might call friendships and I prefer to call a walking rolodex. I’ve held down a few jobs, and although I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life, I do know it’s going to be okay because I’ll have the letter B.A. after my name and I’m pretty good in the interview chair. But with all these societal standards to live up to, all these qualities to measure myself against, I can’t quite place where I really stand. In a sea of women who can rattle off these same traits, who can tell me what they’ve eaten for the last six days (very little), what their goals for the next six years are (very ambitious) and what they want to name their kids (very weird) , I have no voices patting my shoulder with a friendly Australian “good on ya”. I have nobody sitting around just waiting for me to screw up either, and for that, I’m pretty damn thankful. But it’s weird to be left to my own devices, to have to dig into myself for the kind of self-worth and validation I should have learned to identify much, much earlier.
sometimes i sit down wanting so badly to write, but find that I have nothing to say. How could this be? In a city of inspiration, a life of stimulation, and a mind that churns around the clock, how could I have nothing to say? It’s a baffling feeling, and beyond surprise, its distressing. Does my mind and heart simply stay stoically in the off position for lengths of time, and do I not have any control over the switch?
Mid-february thoughts descend about what the hell to do with the three months that I have at my liberty this summer. My last summer before graduation, I have many thoughts…many, many, thoughts.
One thought is that this crazy city is even crazier in the summertime and wouldn’t it be great to be here, taking it all in? Romantic images of concerts in Central Park, sidewalk cafe breakfasts, late night walks around town, these paint my fantasy of a summer in New York. But, where would I live and how would I pay for it? What kind of office would I be spending my days in, and would I even feel like I had enough time to really BE here? Can I write my novel from these rooftops?
Another thought is that its time. Time to jump this patriot ship and swim east. Back in time, swim for distant memories and scratching and itching at the chance to make new ones. One step in that direction and even the best laid plans will slip from beneath these hardened soles of these careful feet, and I will be lost. Lost amongst the scents and the spaces and the change and the enormity of it all.
But a new thought has emerged. That getting lost in all that doesn’t mean I can’t be found, once again. I can go, and I can come back, and I can endure that, and perhaps that is my challenge. Nourish my straining patience for that other world, and yet challenge my fearful self to come back. To extend love across borders and time zones, to enjoy the airplane ride to and the airplane ride from…what a concept!
In the midst of it all, I will begin to major pieces of writing. My first novel, and my senior thesis. One researching the depths of my creativity, the other researching the depths of the human world. Can I go overseas for six weeks, and return to bucolic Amherst Massachussets among love and peace to write write write write for my life?
Perhaps thats what this summer will be.
Almost eleven p.m. at the end of my first school day back in New York. The general bitterness and confusion of last semester’s volatile campus has been mulled over and seeped clean, as attention shifts to worlds of bigger politics. The minnows have been replaced by the trouts, at least for now.
Cold has sunken down from the rooftops of this place, and everywhere you go is a stop along the way to getting back to the safety and warmth of your indoor corner in this city. Today I had a list of things to do, and all I could think of was tea and pyjamas– not a good sign for the rest of the semester.
On the bright side however, classes are shaping up fairly well so far– one day in and I’m already excited about one of them. If I can pull off what I want to this semester– linking my classes in a meaningful way, interning and learning a lot in the process, and getting a composting program off the ground– I will feel wholly pleased with two years well spent here at Barnard.
In other (more official) news, two striking media stories have come down the wire this evening. Between headlines about today’s Middle East superstar Pervez Musharraf and presidential hopeful Fred Thompson shocking us all with his drop out of the race, American readers were confronted with two other headlines. On the one hand, a story about a report just released that documents the hundreds of blatant lies the Bush administration told prior to the March ’03 invasion of Iraq. On the other hand, the scandalous death of an Australian heartthrob movie star in a SoHo apartment.
After reading both headlines, it occurred to me my answer was bitterly cynical and yet surprisingly similar to both: “so what? it happens every day.” While we’ve come to accept lying and dying as a part of life, it is the lies of a government, and the death of a superstar that brings our attention to the “real” tragedy of it all. And yet another thought followed my first: Tomorrow, will the streets of Morningside Heights be filled with the words of outrage at this newly discovered information about our lying administration, or will our AIM away messages and facebook statuses mourn the death of a blockbuster gem?
No matter how excited we may about the prospect of elections and the advertising fanfare this presidential race has brought forth, I imagine these events will be hampered down in mourning for this celebrity. Tragic as it may be, it seems to me the real tragedy lies in what has become of American media, and more importantly, its primary consumers.
drinking tea in the morning, wine in the evening
the gray mornings seep from the steam
the blurry lights form droplets from the bottle
both hard sucked for life that isn’t here
in winter barrenness and times alive here gone and passed
people hurting, people who stand strong
men who grew me up, falling like dominoes
and can we, the others, pick them up and set them right?
the strength of science windswept by chances and
the cold truth
that man does not conquer nature
that bodies do not conquer disease
that we are all dominoes in someone else’s game
and that it makes perfect sense that when one falls
from above we see the collapse over and over again
the question emerges from under the table
searing the black dotted landscape
will these hands set them right again?
will we ever make it upright again?
finally finished with that godforsaken semester of pain and agony. twenty four hours ago I was travelling home, twenty four before that still working on my last assignment. I am tired. After two good nights of sleep, I remain exhausted, a sign of accumulated sleep deprivation and energy expellation.
This place feels stranger than ever, house permeated with smells of construction as our kitchen gets re-done, and neighborhood permeated with the cheesiness that is suburban Maryland holidays. None of the grandiose romanticism which is Christmas in New York, but instead weak tree lights that flicker and horrible music that perpetuates fume-induced-headaches and blares over every radio and loudspeaker of every consumer establishment. Suburbia is at its worst in early winter, dry and dead, effortful joy which feels fake at every turn. The joys of home– friends, family, good food, comforts of home, are all diluted in some ways, though this doesn’t mean i’m complaining…
In fact, home. is in other ways truly great. Despite its strangeness, its wonderful to be at ease in all these places, to be quiet and left alone, to wake up in my own room, to have Leah down the street. It is such a priveledged life I live like this, I just need to remind myself to keep it temporary.
And that i’m doing! Monday I’ll board a plane to california, arriving in San Diego to my greater extended family, warm weather, and west coast tranquility that I know and love. I can’t wait.