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


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.