25.txt



yesterday, i turned twenty-five. when i say twenty-five, i mean a quarter century. when i say a quarter century, i mean the quantity of time by which a person discovers how they intend to live their life, except that i am still figuring out what it means to live at all. i am not graceful. which is to say, i try too hard to be at ease. i once learned a word - kalokagathia - it means beauty and nobility of the soul, but my tongue feels clumsy when i try to say it and my soul feels clumsy when i try to be it. i like small places but large crowds make me claustrophobic. when i say claustrophobic, i mean sometimes i desperately want to be left alone, but once i am alone i am bombarded by the kind of thoughts that make being alone scary. do you feel like the world has robbed you? sometimes i feel trivial, which is to say, i thought my life would be more extraordinary by now. what i mean is, if i were a plant i would be a vine that stretches its neck out as far as it can but is never able to start over. when i was in ninth grade we dissected a sheep heart and i was awed by the intricacy of the cardiovascular system. i wish i was still in ninth grade because then i could tell miss thomas i don't care where the aorta and the superior vena cava are. which atrium feels heartbreak? which ventricle heals loss? maybe then i would not now be twenty-five with the heart of a sheep. one time i went to a ballet and i fell in love. when i say i fell in love, i mean i cried but no one saw me. when i say i cried, i mean i wanted to be the tiny dancer that you held close. beautiful and strong and effortless. i once had a friend who paid for his gas five dollars at a time. cash. we never had a destination but we never ended up in the wrong place. when i say destination, i mean life. when i say life, i mean time revises you. i mean sometimes i get to the bottom of a bottle and it becomes a lens that i see myself through. i mean everything is uglier up close, but tomorrow i will wake up a different person than i woke up today. i mean i overheard my seventy-six year old landlord reminding her daughter that we are always becoming who we are, every moment, not all at once, and i felt bad for eavesdropping on an intimate moment, but it is probably the best advice i've never gotten

*written in response to the essay first date by Sabrina Benaim

2018


2017 simultaneously saw the best and worst iterations of me.

It saw me navigate through new and old cities alike – New York City, Boston, New Orleans, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco. It saw me feel brave

It saw me make new friends and become even closer to old friends. It saw me truly appreciate their love, care, warmth, laughter, support, acceptance

It saw me crumble into tears in the middle of an Au Bon Pain while my brother handed me napkins and a stranger averted his gaze and my mother sat by my father’s hospital bed four floors above us. It saw me afraid

It saw me pass my comprehensive exam and receive two fellowships. It saw me publish a paper. It saw me present my work at conferences and meet the big names in my field

2017 saw me go on first dates, perhaps too many of them, stomach in knots every time. It saw me learn to not reduce myself to my physical appearance. It saw me search desperately for love, and then suddenly, to not want it at all

It saw me realize that I didn’t need anyone, but that this does not mean I never need anyone

It saw me learn to put myself first, to learn that doing so does not make me unkind. It saw me find out that not everyone can be trusted. It saw me look at the world more sadly but less naively

It saw me grow up

It saw me keep secrets, and to feel lonely with these secrets

It saw me call my brother crying in broad daylight. It saw me find out the hard way that sometimes shitty things happen that no one could have predicted and no one can be blamed. It saw me accept. It saw me move on

2017 leaves me with a heavy heart, but a resilient one.

The only way out is through, and we made it through another year. Let’s go, 2018.


A guide to navigating your loneliness


1. At first, it will be difficult. The bed will look so warm and so safe. There will be emails to respond to and dishes to wash, but you will curl up in one corner of your mattress and make yourself as small as you can. The walls of your room will tremble as if they are trying to decide if it is safer for you to keep the world outside, or safer for the world to keep you inside. You will feel disinterested in most things. You will just want to go to sleep, and that is okay – go to sleep.

2. Some days, it will come easy. On those days you will cook with just your underwear on with music blasting from the speakers. Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, you sing with a dramatic wave of your spatula. Your love is an abyss for my heart to eclipse, you croon to your refrigerator. You will arrange your dinner on your plate as if you are a restaurant cook, even if no one will see it but yourself. You will even open a new bottle of wine, and by the third glass you will feel immensely pleased with how your sophisticated night has turned out. As you should.

3. Other days, the lights in your apartment will remain off until dinner time has already passed. Alone, in the darkness, just shhh forgive yourself.

4. You will feel vulnerable on a Tuesday night at 8:21pm and find yourself swiping through endless profiles on a dating app. This will be exhilarating, at first, and you will even hang out with The Musician and The Undergrad and The Golfer (who was not very good at golf). You will be excited before every first date, disappointed after every first date, and rarely go on a second date. This will make you feel as if loveisimpossibleandunattainable and you will frantically download new dating apps, until you realize how much they have brought out the worst in you. Please do not feel horrified at yourself. Please understand that we are all caught in between being too afraid to commit, but too lonely to stay alone, and that this conflict inside our little human hearts can make us unrecognizable to ourselves. You will find yourself again – just remember that you cannot find yourself in other people.

5. You will feel restless. You will feel like you need to get out, even if you do not know what you are getting out of. Your work will offer you the opportunity to go to conferences in places like New Orleans and San Diego and you will seize these chances as if they are your lifeline. You will love every moment of it, from the lectures and the networking to the jazz clubs and the beaches. You will meet people with fresh ideas and accents you’ve never heard before. You will feel more alive and more inspired than you have in a long time. Remember this feeling. When you are unhappy with your life and your small corner of the world, remember that there is a whole universe for you to discover.

6. Every once in a while, you will be overcome by the desire to cry – but of course, you never actually do. Stop acting like youdon’tgiveafuck. Try to be okay with being not okay, for once. Be soft…be vulnerable... show your weakness to the world. It will only make you more a part of it.

7. You will flip yourself inside out, dump out your contents, and wait to see who might fill it again. You will feel like your worth can only come from external things like a text from a certain someone or praise from your boss. You will know that this insecurity is senseless, but for some reason you will not know how to give yourself worth. Take a look at your life. Zoom out as far back as you can and look at how much you have changed. It is easy to overlook your own progress when you have been with yourself all along, but look back far enough and you will see that you have grown much, much more than you are giving yourself credit for.

8. You will hang out with your best friends one weekend. It’s been a while since you’ve had the time to all get together, and you will realize how much they mean to you. You will realize how much you care about them, and how much they care about you, and this will make you feel so thankful that you think you might burst. Don’t ever take these people for granted.

9. You will be getting ready for work one morning when you suddenly remember you had been meaning to delete those dating apps. You will pull out your phone, rid them of the apps forever, and go out the front door. As you walk to your office, you will marvel at how light-hearted you feel. It is a relief not to look for love anymore. You will wait patiently for it to arrive.

10. You will stop comparing yourself to other people. You will learn that everyone has their highs and their lows, and that even the happy people on your social media feeds have their insecurities and fears. You will realize that the people you look up to have felt loneliness too. This whole time, you thought you had no one to turn to – when in fact, it was you who would not turn to anyone. Embrace that you are just as human as everyone else.

11. You will inevitably have a relapse, and drink whiskey and write dark poetry and spam your older brother with a series of deplorable text messages. He will tell you to call him, and listen to your tales of woe until even you are tired of listening to yourself, and you will realize that you are never actually alone because you always, always have family.

12. Most days, you will be calm. Your apartment will still feel too quiet sometimes, but you will be in less of a hurry to fill up the silence. The walls will not tremble anymore. You will curl up in a corner of your mattress and tug your fleece blanket up to your chin. You will toss and turn a little bit, and you might even wish there was someone there with you. A shoulder to rest your head against. Soft breathing in sync with your own. You will close your eyes and drift off into a gentle sleep, alone. Dream that you are free…because you are.


Be my escape

I’ve been having trouble focusing lately. I keep feeling overcome by this urge to do something exciting, meet someone new, go somewhere far away. It’s the kind of restlessness that keeps me up at ungodly hours of the night, my body exhausted and surrendered to my covers, but my mind flickering with little flame-thoughts that lick their way around my sanity, spitting and burning and sparking…

The flame-thoughts scurry away when the sun comes up – as if humbled by its superior glow – but the restlessness remains. It is difficult to satiate a feeling when its origin is unknown, but some things can curb the worst of it: a busy day in the lab, a blurry night drowned in liquor, a new tattoo. But late nights at work have ceased to be productive. And the louder the bar, the lonelier the quiet walk home. The tattoo, though permanent, gave the most ephemeral satisfaction of all.

Sometimes the inside of me feels like it is aggressively unraveling – not falling apart, but rather, untangling into different versions of me that are trying to coexist within the same small body.

It does not feel safe walking around as if I will detonate at any second.  

I crave the exhilaration of detonating every second.  

The restlessness makes me look everywhere, searching wildly for something that will make it go away. Worst of all, the restlessness makes me look into myself, and I don’t like what I see. I see someone who uses other people to feel whole again, yet rejects anyone who gets too close. I see someone who loves the feeling of falling for someone new, but bristles at the idea of any sort of real commitment. I see someone who uses novelty as a tether to sanity, chasing new people and new interests, right up until the moment they are not new anymore.

The restlessness is all-consuming. It makes every day feel like an endless climb where the higher I go, the farther the sky seems. The more I want, the more I get, and the more I get bored. As each day ends, I crawl into bed with this immense feeling of chronic dissatisfaction. The flame-thoughts come back, and sometimes they are hurtful.

You are scared to be alone because it is easier to make other people like you than to make you like you, they tell me.

You take everything and everyone for granted. Why do you want more when you already have it all? they ask me. I don’t respond.

I try to close my eyes, as if the shutting of my eyelids will seal these flame-thoughts inside my head, denying them of oxygen, but they continue to spit and burn and spark and spit and burn…

And the truth is, I don’t think I’m ready to extinguish them just yet. As much as I hate the restlessness, I am more afraid of the stillness. Somehow…that would feel too much like settling. Giving in. Being tamed.

As much as I hate the restlessness, it sometimes feels like freedom.


5/7/5




Sunday

I hate feeling like
I'm supposed to impress you.
Should it be this hard?

Monday

This type of sadness
is so heavy that it will
immobilize you

Tuesday

I'm not gonna lie
It's nice to have someone here
Even just to talk

Wednesday

I wanted to help.
(I forgot your happiness
wasn't mine to fix.)

Thursday

Empty promises:
I'm getting quite good at those.
Someone make me stop.

Friday

Sometimes, in the dark
I hate myself for thinking,
"I wish you were here."

Saturday

At least once a day
I wonder if they can tell
I'm breaking inside


On being independent (reprise)



I’ve a spent a lot of this past year chasing after independence. Obsessing over it, even.

For some reason, independence felt like a thing to claim, the next necessary step to my growing up. To my becoming. Fresh out of college, I was ready to soar – as if I had been waiting my whole life to finally be set free into the world. I felt a need to prove my competence, to show my strength, and most importantly,

to do this all alone.

It was nice – for a while. I relished in having a living space all to myself, decorated to my very eclectic taste and, of course, full of all things wolf-related. I liked waking up every day, writing down my to-do list in impeccable handwriting in possibly the most OCD journal you’ll ever see, and feeling certain that each task would be dutifully checked off by the day’s end. I liked feeling comfortable showing up to social events by myself, making new friends, and going home as late or as early as I pleased.

In fact, it was the happiest I had been in quite a while. For the first time, I felt like I knew what kind of a future I wanted for myself, and even more – that this future was within grasp. Life fell into a structured routine, each day beginning with optimism and ending with satisfaction. I was self-dependent. Self-sufficient. I was enough, and simple as that sounds, it is a wonderfully powerful thing to feel.

As summer turned to fall, the air became crisp in the kind of way that is usually accompanied with a sense of freshness and change – a big change, it turns out.

When the new semester began, I found myself facing a daunting workload, a slump in my research, and – perhaps the most frightening part of all – single for the first time in my adult life.

My survival tactic was to work hard, play hard. My weekdays became a whirlwind of non-stop studying while my weekends were packed with social activities. Late nights in the office became a norm – as did late nights out at bars. I (don’t) remember celebrating my friend’s birthday until 4am, miraculously waking up hangover-free less than five hours later, and heading straight to the lab. I even tried forcing myself to relax one night by trying a face mask for the first time, and instead spent the twenty minutes of “relaxation” reading about the chemistry of how the tannins in my face mask were reducing my pores.

Sometimes friends would ask me how I was doing, and I would look at them almost incredulously, as if the mere suggestion that I might not be okay was an insult to my fortitude.

Back in my cross country days, I remember my coach telling us that even if we were tired, it was always better to keep running than to stop and walk, even if you had to slow your pace, because walking would decrease your heart rate too much and make it even more difficult to pick up and run again. This is what the semester felt like: a long race in which I could not stop, for fear that any break would mean that I might not finish the race at all.

This lifestyle, however, was not sustainable. After another busy week, I found myself unexpectedly without work and without plans one weekend. As midnight creeped around on a Saturday night, I suddenly felt a craving for ice cream. And then all at once, I wished not only for strawberry ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, but for someone who would sprint down the block with me, laughing all the way, to snatch a tub of Ben and Jerry’s right before McLanahan’s closes. I wished for someone to devour it with me while watching Star Wars in bed. I wished for someone to rant with me about how awful The Phantom Menace is while still watching the whole thing and not making fun of me while I cry at the scene when Anakin has to say goodbye to his mother.

And as much as I hated to admit it, I realized that I felt…lonely.

And worse, that admitting it was uncomfortable.  

I find myself now entangled in a strange web of feelings. Some days I concede to the vulnerability. You are only human, I tell myself. It is okay to feel like something is missing. It is okay to want to love, and to want to be loved. It’s okay to need someone else, sometimes. I sit at my kitchen table and sip coffee. I read in silence, and it feels nice.

Other days it makes me angry. Get it together, I say to the mirror. Loneliness is for the weak, and you are not weak. I pick up my phone. I put it down again. I sit at my kitchen table and sip whiskey.

In the end, I know that I need to find a balance between the two. This whole time, I thought that being independent meant being alone, but real independence means knowing yourself well enough to admit when you don’t want to be alone. Real independence means giving yourself enough credit to realize that needing other people doesn’t mean you are any less without them. As it turns out, independence was never mine to claim, but all of ours to share. You and you and you and I,

we can be independent,


together.


A Poem to My Future Lover

Let’s just get this out there:
I’m no good
at being one half of a whole

I will either be consumed by you
or I will not give you any part of me at all

(and neither has worked out for me so far)

I am fairly certain there’s an organ
in the vicinity of my chest
pumping blood through an aorta or something

It beats,
but it’s all Morse code to me
I have never understood what it’s trying to say

So I am sorry in advance
if falling in love with me

just feels like falling

Don’t say I didn’t warn you