There was a time in my life where I held my grandmother’s hand as she showed me Washington Square Park. The men doing backflips, the chess players and of course, the dog park.

She would point up at buildings and my eyes would follow. She explained the history of tenements, those windows that stare at brick walls. The cloudy glass spheres buried in the sidewalk so that workers in the basement could receive light. These nowhere windows and these tiny underground cut-outs would have gone unnoticed, unremarked. She was full of this light these structures so desperately craved. She used to be so illuminating.

In my youngest years, in so many ways, she was New York and New York was her. The two were so synonymous that my tiny brain couldn’t separate them. It was not the city without her and I felt as though the city imbued her with so much character. Loud speech, quick steps, witty remarks and a street sense that must have taken years and years to cultivate.

Now is the time in my life where she holds my hand. We walk slowly to a small, quaint Italian restaurant at the end of the block with her arm wrapped around the crook of mine. He back has been hurting, we take it slowly. And in that very moment we pause, in an instant, New York seems to fly past us. Hurried pedestrians overtake us, she tries to tell me something about the theater nearby and her voice is drowned out by sirens. Somehow she is no longer in command.

Grandma’s back has kept her working from home. Grandpa’s cancer is localized but it’s back. And most suddenly of all, as I learned from terse texts from my mother during what was probably an incredibly stressful day for her, her father had a bleed in his brain and needs her.

As a twentyteen, you yourself do not feel like you’re nearing death, but you are more attuned to the fact that those around you are. It feels raw and real and I don’t know if I’m ready. Guess I’ll have to see.



So last night I sort of snapped…

I’m not entirely sure what went wrong (the older I become the harder I find to pinpoint my emotions on one or two causes accurately…funny how I thought age would bring me emotional maturity, anyways…)

It was certainly a combination of intense PMS, reading her essay for the nth time and hearing about a person’s darkest moments over the last few months. In addition, I had just come from a talk by Michael Cunningham who described (in a way which I cannot give justice to) Woolf’s deepest depression and yet her ability during it all to write about the joy of life in a way no other author has captured since. (What a lark! What a plunge!) I read The Hours during my senior year of high school in a class I loved dearly and the nostalgia was hitting – hard.

The point being, I snapped. In my room (on Skype, of course) I start feeling something boil up, up, up within me to the point that I’m shutting off my camera, hanging up, bawling, bawling, bawling.

It’s a Wednesday night, I have work to do, but I’m in hysterics.

To calm myself down I angrily grab Cheerios (no chocolate in the room, believe me I wish) and turn in the movie version of The Hours.

If you haven’t seen the movie (or read the book for that matter) it shouldn’t be categorized as a tear-jerker really. More like, it’s profoundly upsetting. The sort of upset that really reaches into you, grabs hold of your throat and squeezes, slowly, deliberately. The first scene, for example, shows Virginia Woolf wading into a river — with stones filling her pockets — with a voiceover of her suicide note.

“I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been” and her head submerges under the current.

I can’t totally explain why. It’s a mixture of my natural inclination and a conscious effort to be kinder than I have to be that makes me like this. That makes me ready and willing to listen to anything and everything my friends have to say. Putting aside my work and time for myself and giving it to them.

It’s to the point that an acquaintance had to ask, “But who asks you ‘How are you doing?'”

I decided last night that I need to be more self-centered. More hours spent disengaged from my phone. Ranting more to my friends rather than vice versa. Saying no. Taking more Zumba classes and naps. Being as kind to myself as I strive to be towards other people.

But it’s harder than it seems.

Even today I’m being tested. I have two choices for housing next year. Either pair up with a good friend of mine to be guaranteed a single in a dorm I want oh so badly or wait with another best friend until the lottery comes, risking a double and a bad dorm. I truly don’t want to ditch anyone here, but I feel as though either way I choose someone gets left out. So shouldn’t I pick the choice that gets me the most benefits? Unlike my hysterics last night, won’t picking what I really want give me peace of mind?

I won’t be as dramatic tonight as I was last night. But, suffice it to say that when I go to sleep there will be a sinking feeling in my stomach that no matter how hard I try it will take me a lifetime to learn how to balance selfishness and selflessness.

“You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is that I owe all the happiness of my life to you.”