2/18/15

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.

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2/5/15

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.”

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1/23/15

“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” and so begins her day of planning a party. The rest of the novel follows that one day and weaves between Mrs. Dalloway’s ideas and actions suited for traditional women’s domesticity and for independent feminist ideals. Even just in that sentence she is both fulfilling her role as a wife and mother by creating a social atmosphere in her domestic sphere, while also refusing to rely on her servants or anyone else to accomplish her goal.

I thought a lot about this line today while picking up party supplies for S’s birthday tomorrow evening. I have never been much of a party planner. I will greedily grab random decorations from all corners of a store, haphazardly place it together and hope for the best. My aesthetic is far from Pintrest-worthy and the colors I have chosen often clash. For a cheese platter I picked up brie, goat cheese and the first blue cheese I saw. I almost forgot the crackers.

I grew up at an all-girls school and in a home with a mom who had a full time job. So in my priorities, party planning fell way below school, family, grades, friends or even athletics. I never grew up practicing for domesticity. It wouldn’t have suited me and for that I am very grateful that my energies were not spent slaving over dishes and laundry and sewing and the like.

And yet…

Reading about Mrs. Dalloway’s almost spiritual relationship with her flower arrangements and Mrs. Ramsay’s impeccable, harmonious dinner party makes me think that maybe I should have spent some more time honing some party planning skills.

I have come to realize that in college I tend to forget the days I have spent with my nose buried so deep in a book that when I come back up for air the sun has set and my room has darkened. The tests I ace fill me with pride, but only momentarily before I shift my attention back to the next paper I have to revise, the next email I have to send, the next book I have to read.

I, however, have been lucky enough to share some memories with my friends that will stay with me for a long time. There are days where we are all happy, joyous, smiling and talking about the mundane to the philosophical and I take a step back and everything has come together and I am filled with a sort of feeling that makes me laugh too loud and occasionally tear up and I feel almost tipsy on company and companionship and belonging.

And if party planning – if setting up candles like Mrs. Ramsay or running all of the errands like Mrs. Dalloway – creates the space which invite these sublime moments to fill them, then perhaps I should start practicing.

I’ll start tomorrow in my black velvet dress with only three cheeses on the cheese plate and light blue and royal purple streamers wrapped around the room. It’s no passage out of a Woolf novel, but it’s a start. And isn’t that the point of being a twentyteen?

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01/15/15

This semester at school I’ve been struggling. My grades have been fine just like last year, but I think the sophomore slump has hit and it’s hit hard. In short, I’ve stopped believing that what I have to say is worth hearing.

I came from a small high school with lots of rah-rah feminist spirit. In a classroom of 9-18 other girls that I had known for years, my opinion counted. I rarely had a doubt. I was never the loudest in the room, but when I had something to share I didn’t hesitate. I’m immensely grateful that in the fragile years of my middle school and high school experience I was given a space where I felt (at least for 70 min, 4x a day) that my words had weight.

And yet…

Now, as a small fish in a big pond, I fret.

Last year it wasn’t nearly as bad. My one discussion section had a great, enthusiastic teacher and the books we were reading were well in my comfort zone. Now, however, I’m stuck in a class where philosophy is debated and I sit there with my head moving back and forth as if I’m watching a ping-pong match that I am completely removed from. I am almost always silent.

I don’t know what to contribute because I don’t believe I have the capacity of my peers to think the way they do.

Half of me knows that this insecurity is bs. I am smart, I am capable, I take vigorous notes and do well on my essays.

The other half of me, however, is more convincing. Maybe my whole education up to this year has been sheltering. Maybe now for the first time I’m in the real world where, tbh, your opinion isn’t all that relevant/important/groundbreaking. Maybe everyone else here knows what’s up and you just need to take a seat and listen. Maybe all you have to contribute in this classroom and in the world is nods and quizzical looks. Maybe that’s just about all you’re capable of.

Almost everyday I leave this 2hr class completely disheartened, upset and even at times holding back tears.

Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas and Locke – you have stolen my voice, smashed a decent portion of my self worth.

I still can’t tell if this was a much needed wake-up call or a cruel thing to do to a girl exiting her teenage years with trepidation.

Regardless, I think this blog will be a way to slowly take back some of my voice on a platform where I am more comfortable voicing my ideas/thoughts/self.

And while I’m still unsure about how private/public this blog will become, I hope you – the other insecure, sentimental, inquisitive, disoriented twentyteen – will come along for the ride.

xo

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