are you writing?

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About a year ago, my mom sent me a Hemingway quote on Instagram:

you are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.

But more on that in a minute. It’s only partially related to what I have to say.

Hello, old friend. It’s been a while. I haven’t blogged properly in months, actually, and it feels strange to be sitting here typing what seems like my age old story… which, honestly, is an overly dramatic way of saying “Hi! I turn 25 tomorrow and I’m unemployed again!”

But this isn’t a story about how I got fired (although I’m happy to talk to you about it if you want to know; this isn’t the space for such things). This isn’t even really a story about being unemployed–or at least, that’s not all it is.

For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Quaker high school. Quakers, in case you don’t live in a city founded by them, believe in that of God in everyone. A light, if you will. Now, I don’t entirely agree with that belief, but it’s a good metaphor for what I’m trying to say, so we’re going to roll with it for now.

I’m not very good at seeing my own light.

No, perhaps that’s not exactly what I mean. Perhaps it is better to say I know what think of myself, mostly, but I don’t know what others think of me–or rather, I don’t know how what I do and think translates to what other people perceive and experience.

This is pretty normal. I am, after all, only human, not telepathic.

you are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering, mother told me, and I wondered at that because I am many things but I am not particularly brave or particularly quiet.

Continue reading “are you writing?”

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crossroads

I’ve never really introduced the small section of my blog that I call The Coffee Shop, but here’s another taste of it. It’s something of an anomaly: fiction and nonfiction, simultaneously real and yet completely imaginary. It’s a small space in my mind that bends space and time to try and think about what a future or past version of myself might say to me if she saw where I was, what I was doing, who I am. It’s kind of like a letter to the future, a letter to the past, and a letter to the present rolled up in one. This installment is a little different in that I really started writing it months and months ago and only recently figured out what I was trying to tell myself. Basically, it took me the whole of my Summer of Unemployment (a story for another time) and a conversation with one of my oldest friends to figure out what I was trying to tell myself. In any case, here we are. I’m not really sure why I’m even writing this introduction, but… I hope this small corner of my imagination helps one of you as much as writing it has helped me.


Right
, she says, all business. What seems to be the trouble?

I stare at the mug clutched in my hands and say nothing, trying to figure out why we’re back in this place as she slips onto the stool next to me.

Oh, come now. It’s just me, she says, nodding thanks as Wisdom hands her a cup of tea. It’s just you. I glance at her. She’s younger than last time, her curls still brown and her laugh lines not so deep. I wonder what exactly this forty-something in business casual can tell me that the eighty-year-old with a penchant for reading on porch swings can’t.

I don’t suppose you can tell me when you are, what you’re doing? I ask her.

She crosses her arms on the counter top and smirks at me. Now why would I do that? she says, her tone gentle and her eyes wise. It would ruin the surprise. She nudges me with her elbow. Come on. What’s up?

Crossroads.

Ah. She leans back. Yes. Those. Her eyes narrow and I can feel her taking me in, seeing where I’m at and remembering what it feels like. I shift awkwardly under the weight of my oldest, comfiest sweatshirt and avoid her gaze as Anxiety slips past my elbow to grab my empty plate.

I nod. Those. My mind whirls, and I wonder how to explain this, how to describe the knot of worry and confusion that’s constantly in my stomach these days. I force my eyes up to her face. She winks at me. Of course she’s taking this lightly. She knows how this ends, how I get through.

She softens, somewhat, unfolding her arms and nudging me with her elbow again. She gives me a nod, and somehow it’s all suddenly too much–the knot of anxiety, the confusion, the fear, the weariness–and the words come tumbling out.

I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s as close to a summary as I’m going to get.

I stare at my tea. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I hate that. I hate not knowing what’s next. I hate not having a plan. I hate that I’ve started questioning every little thing and worrying about every big thing. I take a shaky breath, exhale slowly. And I hate that on top of all of this–this mess, this anxiety and lack of clarity–I hate that on top of all that, I can’t make it go away because I don’t know what I want to doI like knowing things! I like learning things and discovering things and keeping tabs on everything from fact to fiction and I hate that I can’t even do that with my own brain these days because I’m so confused and conflicted that every time I try to do something about it, I’m grasping at straws. And I know it’s not unique and I know other people are struggling with this but it feels so damn lonely that knowing isn’t enough and just. Everything.

I bite my lip. Everything feels like it’s falling apart, and I don’t know what to do about it. 

She nods slowly, looking straight ahead. Patience is standing there, holding a tray of freshly baked scones. She takes one and smothers it in butter before handing it to me, sliding her own plate across the counter to catch the crumbs. I take a bite. She watches me eat, and it is only when I have finished the last bite of butter and cherries that she speaks.

Have you thought about what you want to do? She stops my retorted “of course” with the raise of her hand. I mean really thought. Spent time on it. Questioned what you’re good at, what you like, what you want out of life and work and all  of that. Have you really, really thought about it? 

I blush and lower my eyes to the crumbs on the plate. Not really, I mumble.

Start there, she says. You know more than you think you do. It’s all in there. She taps my forehead. You’ve just got to do some digging. 

I nod.

Use your skills, nerd, she says affectionately, face amused behind her glasses. Write it out. Trust me. She laughs quietly. Trust you. It’ll help. She slips off the stool.

She picks up her bag and knocks her elbow against mine. It’s okay to be scared, she says with a small smile before heading towards the door. But don’t give up on hope.

98.6

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I’ve been out with the flu all week. It has not been the most… thrilling of experiences, to say the least. I’d go so far as to say it’s been pretty miserable. Being feverish, achey, coughing, and general unable to walk more than ten feet at a time is not exactly my idea of pleasant.

The problem with the flu is it just sort of knocks you down and makes you lie around for a few days until it’s done with you. Plans? Cancel them. Work? Call in sick. School? Hope you have a friend to get those notes. You can’t even concentrate on a book, usually–it’s just television and movies and feverish dreams.

We had a discussion at dinner the other day as we all hid behind bowls of soup and hoped we were recovering. My mom asked if we–me, Tucker, Dad, Grandmother–remembered being sick as kids. Tucker doesn’t have many memories about it. He said he blocked them out. Dad had awful asthma as a kid, and remembers that; Grandmother had a few stories. So did mom.

Personally, I have a list a mile long of stories I could tell you about when I was sick: late autumn nights on the huge swing under the oak tree, huddled under a blanket and coughing with the croup. Shuffling between the kitchen and the living room in New York to watch Persuasion with a mug of theraflu in my hands. Lying on a pallet in my parent’s room. Hallucinating about Mary Poppins in the hallway when I was eight and had the stomach virus. Swine flu, twelfth grade: 104ºF fever, three seasons of 30 rock in two days. I don’t remember a single episode. Catching laryngitis and reading the fourth Magic Tree House book, then trying to talk to my grandparents on the phone. Generally, when I was growing up, sick days were when I attacked a pile of books and drank a lot of gatorade.

One time when I was about seven years old, I came down with some sort of infection. I don’t remember what it was that time around–a stomach bug, the croup, the aforementioned time I got laryngitis–but I do remember that I was stuck in bed all day long. I was homeschooled at the time, so most of my schoolwork became reading work: math and writing would wait for me to feel better, but reading has never been a chore.

Continue reading “98.6”

there is no one alive who is youer than you

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Dear You,

It’s been that kind of a week. I know, I know: it’s only Tuesday (or probably super early on Wednesday, by the time I finish this). Still, here I am, staring at my computer from a faded blue armchair that’s older than I am. My first Christmas pictures were taken in this armchair. They’re kinda cute, I guess, but I seem to have drooled a lot during those days. To be fair, most six-month-olds seem to drool a lot. It’s probably not just me. Mom asks me occasionally if I want to get rid of it. I don’t. It’s one of the most comfortable chairs in the house, right after those beanbags that are so large we call them the planets.

Work is… well. You know how work is. It’s not that it’s dismal, or even particularly difficult. It’s that I don’t particularly like my job, and my boss can be rather… mean. Or maybe just odd. Today I asked him if I could bring in some pictures to liven up the rather dreary and derelict bulletin boards by my desk. Oh, he said. I don’t… I’m a bit of a fuddy-duddy. I mean, people come through here, visitors and professionals, and it needs to look—I don’t like music. Or personal decoration. He paused. I know that makes me a bit of a fuddy-duddy, but when people come through here—

We are a rather small department (maybe ten people, max). We don’t get a whole lot of visitors. I just nodded, told him I understood, and, well, my pictures of Dublin and Edinburgh and other fun European places will just have to live at home with me for now. How a picture of a bridge seems unprofessional is beyond me, but hey. I’m certainly not going to mess around with the rules. I just thought that the five-year-old Christmas card and four-year-old postcard from the Bahamas could use a little company, that’s all. They look so old and yellow, you know?

I’ve been living at home for almost three months now. That’s three times the length of any amount of time I’ve stayed at home since starting college. It’s been… interesting. An adjustment, certainly, and probably harder on my fam than it has been for me. I’m working up towards the pinnacle of adult-kid-living-in-her-parents’-home: cooking once a week. Grandmother said she’d be my sous chef, so all that’s left is to pick a day and have at it. And while I don’t always really want to be here—who, when they start college, says to themselves Wow, I can’t wait to finish this so I can live at home again? No one, that’s who. Or at least, very few people—I am also glad to be here.

Yes, it’s an adjustment. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s weird to not have my own space that’s not just a bedroom, and yes, it’s weird that my roommates aren’t… anywhere close to here. In the four years since I started college, my room became my grandmother’s room (2012), a housemate’s room (2013), and, finally, after the “Grand Rooming Swap of 2013,” my parents’ room (2013-present). I now live in what, when I last resided here, was the study. The cumbersome brown desks are gone (and so is the rather wonky carpet). I’ve got my old bed, my old desk, and this old armchair… and two of my walls are 60% covered by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Granted, these are mostly filled with my dad’s theology books (1.5 of the shelves), but I’m starting to stake my claim (0.5 of a shelf). Still. I’ve always surrounded myself with books, but this is a whole new level. I miss the wallspace some—I mean, the bookshelves mean there’s no way I can recreate my last wall decorations. That’s okay. Staring at the map would probably just make me more antsy, more ready to bolt out of this beautiful city and straight into the horizon.

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It’s not that I’m unhappy here. I’m perfectly happy (…minus the job situation). A whole slew of my friends moved to my neighborhood recently—seriously, it’s something like eleven or twelve—and we’ve had a grand old time with movie nights, game nights, brunches, dinners. And for all its difficulties, I’ve loved moving home because it means I automatically see my family—ice cream dates with the sis, late night talks with the brother, family dinners and laughing with Grandmother.

Then there’s all the plays to see, movies in the park to watch, First Fridays to attend—Philadelphia is an amazing city. I love it here. I always say it’s the first place that ever really felt like home, and that’s true. I’ve never lived anywhere quite as long as I’ve lived here—eight years is a lot in the scheme of my short twenty-two years. So no, this mental itch that makes me want to drop everything and hop on the first plane to Europe doesn’t come from any particular unhappiness or lack of adventure.

Honestly, though, all of this just kind of feels a little loose: like I slipped into this new skin, this new space and it just doesn’t fit quite right. It’s been a while since I had this urge to get up and go—the last time was at the end of my first year of college, right before I flew off to North Carolina for the first of many (but never enough) delightful summers working at a camp in the mountains.

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I haven’t seen the mountains this summer. I haven’t even seen the ocean. I’ve been in the city all summer, so I definitely haven’t sprawled out on the ground and gazed at the stars. Those three things are typically a staple of summer for me: I usually get at least two of them out of these short months. Maybe that’s what feels so off: I can’t remember the last time I got that tiny glimpse of infinity that shifts my perspective and reminds me that I’m small.

Maybe I’ve forgotten I’m not big, not in the slightest—not even middle of the line, really. I’m a tiny speck of a human in the eye of eternity and sometimes I need to be reminded of that because otherwise my ego gets too big. I start thinking of myself too much. I make myself up into something bigger than I am: someone who should have everything sorted out because honestly, isn’t that what college was for? I forget that no one has their lives sorted out. More and more I realize that we’re all sort of faking it till we make it, and if we dwell on that for one second too long our confidence in what all we have to do might come crashing down and who knows what sort of chaos would ensue.

Of course, sometimes staring too long at the abyss—or the ocean, or whatever spot of grandeur is in front of you—can be a bit too intimidating. I remember hiking up this narrow path above the Giants Causeway with Lis and getting to the top and thinking wow, this is… this is almost too much. Too much to take in at once. Too much to see, too much to admire, too much to shake you to your very core because look at this beautiful place.

Hold on to that thought in these next few days. Maybe this week will stay one of those, but maybe it’ll move up, passing not so good and meh to arrive at an agreeable not so bad.

Did you ever read Dr. Seuss? When I was growing up, my favorite was And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which probably says more than it doesn’t. Now, though, I’m more of an Oh, the Places You’ll Go! type of gal. There’s this amazing section of the poem that addresses how easy it is to maybe get a little off-track and turn around to find you’re in “a most useless place/ The Waiting Place/for people just waiting…”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live my life in that “most useless place.” I don’t want to spend my day waiting to send my last e-mail so I can go home and go back the next day to send more. I don’t want to sit around and wait for things to happen. There are some times when waiting is good—necessary, even.

Take Advent. Even without throwing my religion into the mix, Christmas wouldn’t be quite the same without the whole season, would it? Or if you don’t like Christmas, take birthdays. They’d be run of the mill if they happened every single day without those other 364 (or 365!) days between ‘em. Waiting has its place. That doesn’t mean I’m always going to like it.

And honestly, I’m slowly becoming okay with that. If I feel a little off right now, there’s probably a good reason for that. I’ll keep looking at grad programs, keep writing in my free time, and keep reading more books than seems humanly possible. I’ll write more letters, send a few care packages, and keep trying to get my Etsy shop back off the ground… if I can think of any more designs. I’ll graft these spaces of creativity back into my life, try to remember to breathe, and for pete’s sake, woman, don’t whine. Goodness. You’re twenty-two, not three.

Yes, life’s confusing and complicated and curious all at once. You knew that already—you’ve known that for years. Hang in there. Keep fighting against that urge to curl up in a ball under your favorite blanket and pretend the world disappeared. You already know that’s not going to change anything. Change isn’t passive, hon—if it’s something you want, it’s something you’ve got to instigate.

So drive to the ocean sometime soon, for me. Or the countryside. Maybe take a trip to the mountains. Stare at the stars, walk at the edge of the sea, swing your legs over the side of a cliff and watch the clouds scampering beneath your feet. Look out or at or up into those small tastes of infinity and remember that we are so, so small—dust to dust, right? But then ignore the double negative and think about this:

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We are small, yes, but not insignificant.  What you do matters. Who you are matters. How you act and react to the people and place around you matters. Do you want to be remembered as the person who ignored everyone while she tried to figure herself out, or do you want to be remembered as the person who made ridiculous mistakes but kept her chin up high while she told her latest escapades to her friends?

That’s what I thought. I know you need some alone time—isn’t that what this is? But you need people, too. We aren’t islands. We’re built for community.

So make people laugh. Compliment their hairstyles. Talk about their favorite books (not just yours). Ask about their hopes and dreams and fears and actually listen to their responses. Share yours, too: friendship is a two-way street. Say thank you more often and mean it. Be sincere. Be grateful. Be kind and helpful and for the love of all that is good, be patient. I know you love that Emily Dickinson line that says dwell in possibility, but don’t forget to keep your feet on the ground if your head’s in the clouds.

A bit of dirt won’t hurt your feet, and be honest: your pedicure was probably ruined already, anyway.

Remember that journal Miss Thomas gave you for eighth grade graduation? One of the quotes she stuck inside was from Winston Churchill, and I think it’s a good thing to remember right about now.

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That’s all I’ve got for you right now. Make some more tea and think on it for a minute, would you? Breathe a little. Be generous. Be fierce. Be true.

love,

Me

this one’s for you.

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Dear You,

You know that phrase que sera, sera? I’ve often used it to explain away parts of my life. What happens, happens. What will be, will be.

Today, though, that seems foolish. It’s like that quote from Winnie the Pooh: You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.

You can’t spend all your days sitting around and waiting on something to occur, waiting for some sign that yes, this is when your life startsHead’s up: your life already started. You’re already alive. Right now, your heart is beating. thump. Blood just passed from one chamber of your heart to the next. thump. It’s rushing past your lungs, picking up the oxygen you just inhaled. thump. back to your heart. thump. Out to your body.

Right now, there are thousands and thousands of mitochondria making energy for you to use. There are red blood cells and white blood cells making sure your body’s doing what it’s supposed to. There are nerves telling you that the mosquito bite you got last night is itching rather dreadfully–can’t you do something about that? There are brain cells telling you not to do something about that unless it’s something like cortisone because scratching a mosquito bite–you might remember this from your previous encounters with them–makes that bite worse.

You’re alive, alright, but that was never the question. The question was whether or not you’re living.

That’s an answer I can’t give. You can only really figure that out for yourself. I know a fair bit about being alive–I can tell you that there are three types of muscle in your body and that oxygen is practically our life blood and that the reason I take antihistamines every single day is because my body reacts to things like trees or flowers or grass like they’re an attack on my immune system, and that triggers the release of histamines that make you feel all puffy and swollen.

But living–that’s another issue entirely. I’m only twenty-two, so I don’t know much about living, really. Still, here’s what I’ve figured out so far.

In a nutshell? You can’t sit around waiting for life to happen.

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Living isn’t passive. You can’t always wait for things to come to you–you have to go out and find them. Sometimes you have to fight for them. Have you ever read the story of Jacob wrestling the angel? He was losing from the beginning, but he kept fighting. He clung to this angel as tightly as he could, wrestled with him until the angel agreed to bless him. Sometimes, you have to cling to the hard places until they bless you. Not always–sometimes, you have to let them go.

But sometimes, other times? Sometimes you have to grab life by the lapels and shake it and say, “You don’t own me. I am not defined by what you put in my path. I am more than the sum of my experiences, and I will not let you make me forget that.”

Because, you see, you are more than the sum of your experiences. Here’s a newsflash: life is not about you. You can try to live like that, but you will only ever succeed in making yourself miserable. Human beings are meant for community, meant for relationships–we quite literally need each other, even if you don’t like that idea. We need encouragement and affirmation and love, whether that means holding hands, high fives, swapping recipes, pulling silly faces at each other, having deep conversations, crying over ice cream together, or creating secret handshakes.

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You are more than the sum of your experiences because you are also some of their experiences. That time you and your best friend went on a road trip to nowhere in particular, the time you almost burned down the kitchen but your roommate realized you’d left the stove on, the nights you spent as a kid running around and catching fireflies, that feeling of absolute terror and absolute excitement you got from hearing those words, Congratulations to the Class of…, the awe you felt when your parents took you to the ocean or the mountains or hiking in the woods for the first time, that glance you shared with a classmate when your teacher made a really bad pun or a really funny movie reference.

Whitman had it right: I am large. I contain multitudes. So did e.e. cummings–i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart).

You are many things, see? Life is many things. Living is so, so many things. Don’t dither over which station has the cheaper gas when you could be on that road headed Somewhere. Don’t worry about the shortest route when you could be blasting music and chasing dreams and singing at the top of your lungs, or maybe just driving in silence as the miles slip past you and the stars come out overhead and fill you with their wistful calm. You’ve been given a chance. Don’t waste it.

And when you get to your Somewhere, remember this: sometimes, somewhere is right where you started, and that’s okay. It’s okay to stay put. It’s good to sink roots. It is a ridiculous, crazy, life-altering blessing to stay in one place and get to know that place so incredibly well that you actually know it better than the back of your hand.

That’s the funny thing about Somewhere: it’s not anywhere in particularIt’s not a state, or a country, or that spot on the highway where you know you’re almost home and can’t wipe the smile off of your face; it’s not a solo road trip with your favorite tunes or a cramped city bus with no more standing room; it’s not a job or a five-year-plan or getting into that school you’ve always wanted to attend. Somewhere is all of that, but also none of that.

Somewhere is a fancy way of saying Where you are now, Where you have been, and Where you are going to be. It’s a way of saying that life is not a destination, but it’s also not your average journey. You might not know exactly where you’re going. You probably have no idea where you’ll end up. If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t even know all of the people who will be traveling with you.

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And when you get to your Somewhere, remember this, too. I want you to remember wondering what you were doing with your life, whether or not you were living, where you were going and why. Remember how scared you were. Remember how terrifying it is to have no idea what you’re doing with your life. And when you do, I want you to laugh at yourself. Feel that smile stretching across your face–because you’re Somewhere now–and laugh to yourself because you may not have known where you were going, but look where you’ve ended up.

You’re already alive. Living is just the next step. Don’t worry if you’re scared–I am, too. We all are, here. None of us know what we’re doing, or where we’re going, or even (sometimes) how we ended up where we are. We all feel pretty lost at sea at one point or another, and that’s okay. Remember what Dory said? Just keep swimming. 

And yes, que sera, sera. Life’s going to throw some hard things your way. It probably already has. Maybe it suckerpunched you just this morning. Hang in there, okay? Think about what I said earlier. Your heart is beating. Your lungs are expanding. Your body is processing oxygen and quite literally making something out of thin air.

Remember this: You are more than the sum of your experiences. You’re already alive. You’re already somewhere. You’re living, and there’s an awful lot of stuff for you to do at this somewhere. What are you waiting for? You can’t do much if you’re just sitting there staring at these words on your computer screen. Hop to it.

…and when you get a minute, let me know how it all works out. I’m cheering for you.

Until then,
Me

everything will be alright if…

I started off my foray into the world of twenty-two armed with a cheery attitude, a plan, and a Taylor Swift song.

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I had walked halfway to work before I realized I had forgotten my key. Our offices all stay locked, always–medical records and liability or something–I needed that key. If I walked back home, I’d be late to work, so I did what anyone in my shoes would: I called my mom.

She met me at the corner, brought my key, and dropped me off at work. I got there early.

The second thing I did as a twenty-two year old was to inaccurately respond to a question one of my bosses posed to me on a telephone call. You haven’t done your homework, he said. Working here isn’t like school, it’s not coming in on a Saturday evening to do the work. It’s different, but it’s still importantWhy don’t you figure out the answer and get back to me?

It felt a little unfair, actually. It wasn’t unfair at all–I have been there two weeks, I should know the answer to this basic question–but it did, and I felt more like a twelve-year-old than a twenty-two year old as I sat at my desk and tried not to tear up. This does not define me. I can do this, but even if I can’t, I am more than this mistake. 

As it was, I researched the question, figured out the answer, realized I had been correct but hadn’t been articulating myself very well, and shot him an e-mail. He called me back a few minutes later. That’s exactly what I was looking for, he told me, and my lips quirked a little as I went back to work.

The worst thing I did at twenty-two was miss an important e-mail from my other boss completely. I didn’t see that last minute urgent: please e-mail me this particular file before you leave today, didn’t notice the (1) on my inbox until I got home. It’s my birthday, I wanted to tell her. I’m sorry. I got distracted, I wanted to get home, and I’m sorry.

Over all, today was not the best of work days. I messed up files, composed silly e-mails, and felt over and over again that I was not measuring up to what is expected of me. I hate that feeling–this idea that I have to prove myself in a new area, introduce myself to my new colleagues by way of my actions all over again. It’s never really bothered me when I moved, but taking a new job is a different kind of move. There may only be seven or so people in my office, but they don’t know me at all. And unlike working at camp, this isn’t the type of work where you can prove yourself quickly by jumping all in and having a good attitude and a good work ethic.

(Because I’ve tried that, and I still feel a bit lost at sea.)

Even the people who knew it was my birthday (there were two of them) didn’t say anything to me about it today. Granted, they were busy, and I’m not particularly an attention seeker (says the girl with the blogs, I know, I know). That’s just the kind of environment this is: people eat at their desks and work their way through lunch. We don’t talk much past the “Hello, I’m fine thanks, how are you” in the morning and the occasional question about a file or protocol.

It’s quiet, which is a change from my last office job. It can be hectic, though, and it can be loud–but in general, I work in solitude and silence, which is actually… kind of relaxing, and not as lonely as this is making it out to be, especially now that 90% of my friends are moving into my neighborhood. It’s not what I want out my life ultimately, but it’s okay for now. It’s a step, not a destination. In the long run, it will help. In the meantime, I’ve learned that I never want to be the type of person that works through every lunch and drives two hours each way to get to and from work. I don’t want to be the person that obsessively checks their e-mails 24/7, sending reminders and notes to my new employees anywhere from 4:20AM (this morning) to 11:50PM (last week). I don’t want to be a person who lives without boundaries, who can’t separate her work from her play, her job from her life.

That sounds miserable and unhealthy and I don’t know how these people do it. I’ll eat at my desk, sure–especially if it’s raining and no space outside–but I will be turning off my computer screen and settling in with a book for at least twenty minutes, thank you.

I ended my first day of twenty-two much more positively with most of my best friends–some of that 90% over for dinner now that they’re here, my fam, a few phone calls, a video chat. I ate some delicious food, laughed long and hard, and spent a lot of time just smiling. My friend and family are pretty amazing, and it was an absolute joy to have so many of them in one place.

My mom always told me to write on important days–when things were hard, when bigs thing happened, when I wanted to remember something. I have page after page of half-filled journals covered in stories of what happened today. There’s an entry from when I was seven that’s dated 1/20/2000 and consists only of me writing the birthday song down for my sister. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. 

So today, here’s what I think it’s important to write, important to remember.

to twenty-one: thank you. You sent me off to new countries, pushed me to make new friends, and sat me down more than once to have a heart-to-heart about whether or not I’m serious about the writing thing, or the medicine thing, or whatever I happened to be worrying about at the time. You gave me a thirst for adventure and new things and big things and scary things–and you also gave me more love for the ordinary, for home, for the known and familiar and routine. It takes both, I think, to live pleasantly. Remember those last two books you read? What were those lines you loved? Oh, right. One was from Stardust, and the other from Warm Bodies.

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Thank you for living like that, without even knowing you wanted to do so: for being so completely captivated  by the world that all you could think was expect me when you see me and so, so utterly caught up in this life and its stupid sticky rawness.

and to twenty-two: there’s this saying that I’ve always heard called a Chinese curse, whether or not it actually is: may you live in interesting times.

I’m not sure what you’re up to yet, twenty-two, but I have a feeling it won’t be dull. Here’s to fun with friends, travel to help you breathe, and the stamina to make it through the first year of a nine-to-five. Suck it up, dear–discipline builds character, after all, and we could all use some more of that in our lives.

And so, self–if I can address myself for just a minute here–may this year be one that builds up grace and builds up character, inspires joy and creativity in yourself and those around you, and doesn’t leave you crying because the weekends are too short. Don’t forget that resolution you made when you were fourteen–you know, that one you decided was important enough to write down in the middle of the night–literally?

I don’t want to live by the “I’ll be fine once”s of the world: I’ll be fine once it’s the weekend. I’ll be fine once pre-season finishes. I’ll be fine once field hockey ends. I’ll be fine once it’s Christmas break. I’ll be fine once finals are over. I’ll be fine once it’s summer. I’ll be fine once the play is over. I’ll be fine once _______.

Remember that? It’s what you wrote, and it’s still true. Forget T. Swift’s “Everything will be alright if…” Your fourteen year old self knew better. That’s no way to live, you said.

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So hop to it. You’ve got a life to live, and it’s not just going to sit around and wait for you to catch up to it. Remember that stanza Miss Thomas wrote in your eighth grade graduation present–the one from a poem by Longfellow that you memorized so quickly?

Let us then be up and doing,
with a heart for any fate;
still achieving, still pursuing,
learn to labor and to wait.

a note to days gone by

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Dear Almost Eighteen,

First things first: sit next to the tissues at that graduation and birthday party mom and dad are throwing for you.

I know you don’t think you’ll need them. She called tonight’s celebration one of Wine and Cheesy Poetry for a reason, and I promise it will be funny, but trust me: grab that box of Kleenex. Dusty’s about to read you a poem that his brother wrote just for this occasion. You’ll recognize it by his voice and by the frame in which it sits.

Continue reading “a note to days gone by”