Journals

Leaving Home: The Art of Losing Oneself

Pulse. Pulse. Pulse.

One hundred glittered faces, two hundred clapping hands in a light-scattered ballroom.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

One hundred sleepless roommates, two hundred restless parents dwelling on their goodbyes to our raging dancers.

Beat. Beat. Beat.

One thousand. No, one thousand eight hundred souls have been ceremoniously but abruptly thrown into a swirling vat of heartbreak. The saddest part: none of them can know that what they feel is forgivable, identifiable, and undeniably alive in their immediate surroundings. For now, all they can hear is each other’s temporary muting devices: their excitement. The thundering, deafening pulse. Boom. Beat.

***

The caution I had taken just a year before at this dance was dramatically more present than the little-if-any nerves I had just a few days ago, at the same production. The committee for the freshmen’s celebratory week of arrival had decided on an eighties theme this year, and —delighted at the idea of bursting through the double doors as veterans, meeting the eyes of our newcomers looking both awesome and ridiculous — a group of friends and I had piled in the back of a Sion to the nearest thrift store to nab the most gaudy and obnoxious sweatsuits, blazers, and two-pieces. When we arrived, we made a point of strutting theatrically down the entry in our garb and posing for a picture or five, and no, we are not going to just “side-step” with you tonight, thank you. We would rather do the disco. Nothing held us back from embarrassing ourselves.

At one point, I had flowed into a group of friends that had broken from the masses for a cup of water and a plate of mixed fruit at the back of the room. Surrounded by the hot and sweaty, the fan hadn’t been proving itself to be much of a help. At only an hour in, our polyester windbreakers were tied limply around our waists. Laughing, brushing dampened hair from our foreheads. Smiling as we nibbled at a sugar cookie.

Pulse. Pulse. Pulse.

My group was returning to the clump, playfully scrambling and squeezing through a maze of dancers, yet found myself staying at its edge. The faces, the unfamiliar that were there. How could I have forgotten? It was just that afternoon that one of them had stopped me. I had handed her a box of tissues.

Beat. Beat. Beat.

“I haven’t been feeling myself, here, y’know?” She had said. “I miss home, like, more than everyone else does. I just feel like everyone is having fun but me.”

“That is because you are only seeing them at their best.”

“Hmm?”

 “I know how you feel, and I am so sorry you are sad. I’ve been there. Here’s what I’ve learned from it, though: I was seeing the others only when they had forgotten to miss home, when they were caught up in the excitement. I didn’t see them when they went back to their rooms and couldn’t sleep.”  

The tears had stopped, but her eyes were still reddened.

“Listen, I can bet you that they are missing their loved ones back home, too, just as you are. What you are feeling is totally understandable, and very OK to feel.”

I saw her thinking as she looked at me.

“But,” she said. “I still don’t feel like myself now.”

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Two hundred hands, ghost-like, thrown up to touch the spotlights as they played about the ceiling like comets. It was true, I remembered what that girl had felt, so vividly. Especially as I had stood at the back of the room, singular, observing like I had a only year before, noting how crazed we — then, “the human race,” but now I would say “we” — could allow ourselves to be when we momentarily berid of the past, and grasp nothing but the present (Dance with me, while I am not thinking of anything else but the Now. How peaceful it is, to be away from the silence!). If, I imagined, any of them had felt as melancholic as I had at this same dance one year ago, I could imagine this moment, as I watched it, to be almost spiritual.

A bold, resounding, harmonious piano intro cut through the crowd. People cheered, met each other’s eyes and gaped in exhilaration. 

“JUST A SMALLTOWN GIRL!” 

Of course, DJ. I wouldn’t have been able to help it, either.

“LIVING IN A LONELY WOOOOORLD!”

Others might have said that they wish they could’ve started it all over, that first year, and relaxed a little bit. Perhaps in some cases I would agree, but, I believe that my biggest problem was not simply  that I wasn’t comfortable, but I had faked that I actually was. How at ease my peers seemed. Spirited, outbursting, cool. No, if I could relive those first few weeks, I wish that I would to come to grips with the fact that my unease was not a rare, uncouth disorder, but instead omnipresent, and in need of mutual support for healing.

“STREETLIGHT, PEOPLE!”

“LIVING JUST TO FIND EMOTION!”

That time of my life felt so vast, unending. If only I would have known how at home, untouchable I would feel, after only months. I dove into the crowd, joining in with my friends once again. My shouting was likely damaging to my vocal chords, but in the moment I wasn’t caring.

“HIDING!”

“SOMEWHERE IN THE NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!”

Then the guitar solo that we — lost but unified — knew every note of.

Pulse. Boom. Beat.

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housekeeping

How I have enjoyed writing so regularly! However, now that summer has ended, it is time for the Idealist within me to slow to a walking pace, and for the Realist to find its stride. In order for me to achieve as a full-time student while maintaining a blog that I am proud of, I will require extra spacing between posts. From now on, instead of hearing from me once every Saturday, you may expect a Journal once every second Saturday, with the next arriving on August 27, 2016.

Thank you all, for continuing to support me throughout this experience.

Scheduling

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Journals

The Reveries that Gather Among Threads

Clothing carries memories. I toss them to the side, let their luscious fabric rumple on the carpet as I search for an appropriate self-image for dinner with coworkers. I am in an unfamiliar space now, with furnishings that I’ve only recently trimmed the tags off of. Because of these alien surroundings, it has once again become easy for me to forget my origins, but it is the worn — the skirts, dresses, zippers that unwillingly struggle upwards and past my shoulder blades — that pull me back to where I came from, with their frays, the change in their pockets, their wafting, leftover perfumes.

I gaze at my options. A black romper with crimson blossoms and a daring neckline remind me of my first walk down Austin’s Sixth Street, of eating by lamplight and looking out the window to be amazed by the rush of thrill-seeking eclectics. A swishy dress in Maya blue, brings me to the night when I was asked not what I planned to do with my life, but what I liked to do. A grey, wrinkled shift brings me back to a church service, sitting on a green pew that will forever feel like home. As I let another outfit fall to the ground from dissatisfaction, from behind my closet’s curtain, a denim blouse whispers to me that she was once a favorite. Tempted, I pull it over my freshly-showered head and am suddenly struck cold by my unforgiving, full-length mirror. The darkened splotch of tea at my ribcage. That was a bad night, I thought. Plus, it is too hot out for something so heavy. I grabbed it by its trim, pulled upwards, and let its remains float to the floor amongst the others.

As I looked down at my scattered options, I realized that each of them were worn at least once, for a summer outing with my parents at their favorite local seafood place down the street. I was flooded with warm visions of evergreen carpet and dark wood, of deep, elegant wines with cherry blossoms on their creamy labels, of a dimly lit booth near the bar. The wait staff was always fond of my parents, smiling comfortably with them and stopping by our table simply to share a story about their weekend, never bothering to give us a menu because they were aware that we knew it as well as they did. Rustic, nautical decorum, a wall of mirrors to reflect the firelight, a glass-full of chocolate mints by the door. The place was like the dining room of an old friend; that of a grandfather that I never had.

My family has always been enchanted by evenings out, my parents especially, when the both of them had finally arrived home from work or errands or dropping someone off at some sporting practice. We would dress up for such occasions, my stunning mother in her wedges, pounding down the hallway while my sister and I finished curling the last strands of our hair.  It was at that restaurant specifically, in those clothes, that I remember the most cherished conversations with my family: lighthearted jokes, embarrassments (both the shuttering and hilarious), and looming heartaches. I can hear our laughs muffle off the wallpaper; see the tears puddle on the mahogany tabletop. We cherished the presence of each other.

Yes, it is the older things that remind me of who I am, where I came from. There are too many variables at a university, new influences, that cause my unfocused, wandering mind to fall into an entirely different universe of self. This may be ideal for one who wishes to escape, but for me, whose mind escapes involuntarily, it can be a trial to work through. Although the world is vast, I must never allow it pull me from my roots, for after all it was they that grew me out of the muck and soil.

I settle on a sleeved day dress with grey and white stripes, which I wore the day my little brother asked me why I was looking so nice to buy groceries.

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Journals

The Monotonous Habit of Burying Talents in the Sand

I want to begin by noting just how risky this topic is for me to publish. As a current student in preparation of entering the field of healthcare, it is considered completely ridiculous, foolish, that I would choose such a profession and did not grow up with an absolute passion for anatomy. I was not the kid who sawed maliciously at frogs and cats, digging through their flesh with oddly gifted precision, scavenging the brain, eyeball — lens, even — and causing the instructor to become secretly disgusted and concerned for my psych. No, I was not that student at all, and to admit this, though they may have already caught on, will reward me with disproval from my fellow students and unconcern from my advisors. Let it be known that I find it remarkable, miraculous, to be aware of the mechanics of my own body as it beats, ticks, whirrs, but, honestly, my demeanor in high school consisted of nothing less than your everyday, preppy lover of the arts.

***

It was my seventeenth birthday. It must have fell on a Tuesday or Wednesday, because the memory brings tones of exhaustion and boredom; of snooze buttons, throwing on a polo before the sun arose and sitting uncomfortably in a desk that I was outgrowing. Disappointed I was, too, that a day that should have felt festive I perceived as being frustratingly ordinary. I had doodled and scribbled through a category of calculus with a nulling cloud of headache swirling above my eyebrows (Goodness, I used to be incredibly moody. I guess I still can be, but I think the introduction of regular caffeine has lessened that from my system.). God bless, however, because right afterward was English III.

Literature was like walking aimlessly in the relentless summer heat for hours and misstepping into a swimming pool; creamy, pristine, complete with other-worldly sun rays striking through its surface. The relief struck me fast as I floated into the dimly-lit classroom, slinking to my desk, melting into my chair. Our teacher, who sat peacefully at her desk, rustled through her papers. The desks were arranged as she liked them, around the perimeter of the room, facing the middle. There, she had arranged the quaint, tranquil scene that was the source of my dazing: a glowing candle and a porcelain vase full of silk, blue roses.

We were studying The Glass Menagerie at the time, which when reading I remember interpreting to be quite the casual play, but, that day the atmosphere it radiated was nothing less than mystifying elegance. As we read aloud, we solemnly passed a miniature, glass unicorn, each pausing to hold it cautiously by its torso. We would raise it to the mid-morning light as it broke within the figurine and scattered playfully about our desks. When it was my turn to momentarily care for it, I wondered at its mild little face, enchanted by its purity. It must have had a chipped hoof or tail, because I remember our teacher quietly complaining about a careless past student, although the imperfection caused me to adore the figurine even more (“How beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken.”). I wanted to hide it, to slip it into a pocket and drift away with it, allowing its magic to be alive and with me wherever I went, forever.

Of course, I did not steal the unicorn that, now that I am looking back, eventually became a bit pagan amongst the class, but I did leave the room feeling uplifted, refreshed, joyous. Being immersed in a story had always been something that gave my spirit a rest.

***

My first year studying the sciences found a way to tire me. After hours of lectures over aerobic respiration, the complexity of a plant’s stem, and the Origin of the Universe, I would stumble out of my five-hour General Chemistry lab for a direct path to my bed and air conditioning. Some weekends I would return to my hometown carrying a bit of a tense presence, causing those who knew me best to worry about me. However, though some may argue strongly otherwise, I refuse to believe that I was worn because of the subject itself. No, what caused me to ache was not that I chose to study something that required discipline, it was because I had strategically neglected to continue enjoying what I was born to love. No longer was I sketching before bed, singing obnoxiously in the shower (or wherever I went, for that matter), or finding new angles to photograph a moth or a grasshopper. I was cold, shallow, playing the part without adding personal flair. The things that normally fueled me were not being practiced in fear that I would lose appreciation from those who surrounded me, and I was draining myself.

Whatever your employment, your study, there will always be a downfall: a colleague to disagree with, a lousy place to live, finances. Even if I had achieved my childhood dream of becoming a pop star, there would have been long, hot bus rides, a manager I didn’t like, a family far away from where I was. If you choose to make your lifelong dream your employment, please feel the power to do so. However, you must realize that it does not take a life-changing event to make yourself happy. If you love to read, carry a book for your bus-ride. If you love to draw, spend a few extra minutes to add character to a birthday card. If you love nature, take the long way home. If the excuse is that there is not enough time, than you have not made enough time. Verbal approval and paychecks are wonderful things, but they will never satisfy a starving soul. It will be up to you to create the moments that give you joy. Do not neglect those joys from yourself, either, because we need them like food, water, and air to breathe. Without them, we are lifeless.

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