Thursday, January 11, 2007

I haven't written in a while, until tonight. I had a fairly traumatic experience about two weeks ago. My computer crashed on News Years Eve--I sat there and watched dumbly as it erased 4 years of my life from itself. Good news was that I had backed up--but not since last February, and I hadn't backed up everything. I put in the CD on which I had saved all of my writing, and there was almost nothing there. I felt like Carrie Bradshaw on that episode of Sex and the City when her computer crashes. The episode ends with something like, "all we can do is breathe and reboot." That's true, that was all that there was left to do. But I was still devastated--even thinking about it now makes me sick to my stomach.

You know, writing is like painting in a lot of ways. A person can never merely reproduce a painting--either his own or anyone else's. Paintings come along in creative surges that must be seized by the artist and acted out before they disappear. The writer must do the same. For the writer, brilliance flickers rarely--words seem to fly out of no where and organize themselves with such clarity the writer needs to physically stop and get them down before they frustratingly disappear forever.

This is why I am so heartbroken over my irreplaceable loss. I cannot remember what it is that I wrote about in the last year, but I remember reading through it all some weeks ago and thinking that I still liked it.

So I haven't written because I am scared to write. I am scared not only by the tiny life crisis erupting in my head at this period of my life, but I am scared of deletion. I have always been afraid of things disappearing from my life, but now, perhaps, I am afraid that my thoughts will leave me too. That those precious moments of brilliance that I managed to take by the horns, my own thoughts, my own ideas, manifestations of my own brain, will be expunged from being. That this will all be deleted, sucked away, wasted by a little machine that arbitrarily decides when it's time to cleanse itself and start anew.

And perhaps it will be. But a true writer cannot help but write through fear. We're pretty used to it, afterall: flying words themselves are pretty scary.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

To love a country, one must fall in love.

It doesn't matter what he falls in love with. It can be the sunset over the Pacific Ocean on a breezy evening the first night. It can be a color painted on a house that looks like it's falling apart, but he knows is still alive because someone who lives there paid for the paint and painted it that color for a reason. It can be a phrase in a language that he may or may not understand; his first words in that language, or slang that doesn't exist anywhere else but in that town at that very moment. It can be a song that repeats again and again on the radio, or even only once, that is so loved he remembers it days later, is still humming its tune without knowing the words or name. It can be a friend he makes, a woman on the street who shows him the way, a father who mixes strong drinks for recent arrivals, a maid who squeezes fresh juice and kills the spiders in his bedroom.

He can fall in love with a woman. It doesn't matter if she falls for him in return, he needn't even know her--her name, her favorite color--for he can be in love with her smile or her walk or her mere presence. He can fall in love with a night, or with a fantasy. He can fall in love with a smell, a dance, an old blind man sitting on the street corner playing the accordian with a smile on his face because, even though he is blind, there is no real reason to frown. He can fall in love with the strange bed he sleeps in every night. He can fall in love without knowing what he's fallen in love with.

To love a country, one must fall in love with it. He cannot reach every part, he doesn't have time to reflect and weigh those things he likes with those things he doesn't. No, the happy traveler is soaring on love--it is love that makes him stay, keep returning. He must return to his sunset, his song, his woman, that maid, or something like it. He is in love, and thus yearns without his lover near him, dreams of it, fantasizes. Perhaps it is the only bit of ridiculousness he allows himself, and so it exists always like a euphoric drug that he thinks of sipping everyday.

He must be in love afterall, for leaving is heartbreak.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

If you’re sitting on the toilet in my bathroom, you’re looking at the door. There’s a silver doorknob that looks fairly polished, especially considering I’ve never cleaned it in over a year. It acts as a mirror. Tonight I glanced at it and noticed in its weird bends the square of my purple shirt, and floating above it, my head. When I saw it, my head looked mis-shapen. The smooth turns in the doorknob had made my neck and chin disappear, and my forehead and eyes bulged out like a drop of beige water hanging on the edge of a shower faucet, about to fall. It looked squeezed, pressured, like it was on the verge of exploding.

When I moved my head to the left, my face became recognizable again, but doubled onto itself, so I saw a blurry reflection of two of my faces growing from each other, like some weird alien in a children’s book.

And then when I moved my head to the right, and passed the position where it was an exploding bubble, the reflection just disappeared altogether, and I became a purple shirt without a head. Perhaps it had exploded.

I’ve had a hard week. I didn’t go out last weekend, I spoke to myself in Spanish for two days straight instead. Needed my friends on Tuesday to talk about how I got stood up on Monday but could only talk to them through email because I was stuck in the windowless basement of the library writing seven pages about bullshit in another language.

On Wednesday I had a panic attack. On Thursday I had one too. They were different than the ones I had last year. When I printed out my edited, completed, ready to be turned in Spanish paper on Wednesday, I was overcome with the feeling that I was forgetting something. Even at 5 when I turned in my paper, it felt like I hadn’t even started, and like I was completely failing to turn something in. I looked in my planner time and again. There was nothing.

On Thursday I slaved in front of an excel spreadsheet until my contacts got so dried out I couldn’t see, and then I went to the gym. I don’t remember running. But I did.

And then tonight, I’m here. And I had a bad week. I don’t remember much of what I did, but I know it was a bad week. I know I had a bad week because I haven’t finished a hard Sudoku since last Thursday, and my room is littered with half-done level 4s and 3s and Avanzados that I can’t bear to throw out because I know I know can solve them. I just can’t solve them this week. I must have had a bad week.

I know I’ve had a bad week because I drank a half gallon of milk in two days. I almost never buy milk, and I never drink milk plain. But I don’t have cereal right now, and I drank a half gallon of milk from the same cup that I kept washing between glasses and then filling up again and gulping down, and then washing and filling up again until my stomach hurt and I whined to my roommate. If I think that milk is going to make me feel better, I’ve had a bad week.

And then my head disappeared in a reflection in my bathroom. It popped, and I watched it, and then it disappeared. And I wonder, since when has stress bothered me? Since when can I not remember running for an hour, but I can make up fake deadlines to freak out about?

It’s been a bad week.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Here's one reason why the "Abstinence until marriage" message is just ludicrous to me:

If 30 is the new 20, and people aren't marrying and having babies when they're 14 like in colonial times, and so many parents encourage their kids to explore themselves and follow their dreams before jumping into marriage, and almost half of marriages end in divorce, then aren't the majority of people in this country unmarried? And thus, if we are all abstaining from sex except with our spouse, what on earth ought the never-married 35 year old do? What should the 40-something divorced woman do? Well, they're unmarried, so they ought to abstain.

...So then I guess we'll all become 40 year old virgins...

...ahh, Kelly Clarkson!!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

My brother couldn't wait to come home. He started talking about it in mid-October. First he missed the dog, then he missed sitting on the couch watching TV and playing video games. He missed space, he said, and alone-time. He loved school, but he missed home. He missed the way life was before college started.

And then he came home for Thanksgiving. I arrived in Philadelphia an hour after him, and by the time I stepped in the door, he looked as confused as dog did to see us both home at once. "It feels so weird," he said. "It's so quiet." Hours later, he admitted that he missed his friends at college.

What my brother was shocked at was not how different everything seemed, but rather how identical it felt. He had longed so much to return to the way he used to live in the house, and had forgotten that although it's still the same here, he was the one who changed while he was away. "It felt like I was never there," he kept saying about college. His friends at home were the same, they did the same things, they looked the same. They drink more now, and they're better at beer pong; but they make the same jokes and have the same relationships. They love each other the same way.

What's different are the things that are hidden: my brother went to school and started working out everyday, he's taking his school work seriously, he has all new friends. He feels different, I know he does. His friends do too. And yet they come home, and nothing has changed.

I'm three years ahead of my brother. Two nights ago, I went to a bar with a bunch of people from high school. We've changed more than my brother has. We're fatter or thinner, either more or less beautiful, we've traveled, we speak other languages, we hold ourselves differently and we're not as afraid of each other and ourselves as we used to be. And yet my friend laughed to me when I pointed out how different we all are now, "Yeah, but we all interact the same way. We all have the same roles in our group; we're all the same people," he said.

When I think about change, I think about time. I think about how we all move through our lives independently, growing and making choices. Each day in New York, I learn new things, I meet new people, I branch out more and more into the world and into myself. But somehow when we reconvene, we find ourselves unchanged. Home is no longer a haven that moves through life with us, but rather an island in the background that provides us shelter and comfort when we choose to take a break from the real world.

And then there are our friends: those people who will always engage with us the same way. There is that group that, no matter how old people get or what they do or see in life, will always have the same jokester, the same leader, the same type of predictable moments. I find that beautiful, and I find it comforting.

One of my other friends is moving to California when she graduates. Some people seemed angry or upset when they heard, but I told her merely how proud of her I am. And we agreed that our relationship will be the same as it has been in recent years: we will talk on the phone and through email, and we'll visit sometimes. We will never leave the others life, but we won't be in it everyday as we were in high school. Perhaps at this point we're so used to coming back to each other, we aren't afraid to be so far away anymore.

I don't have an answer here; I have no explanation about how to weigh an unchanging past with a nostalgic, yet rapidly growing present. I don't know how we can explore the world and always get back to that same tiny island. I don't know. But I find it beautiful. And I find it comforting to know that it even exists at all.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I've heard it said that writers are often scared of writing. That for writers, writing is like sky-diving or bungee jumping from a cliff. Writing, sitting before a blank screen, imagining your life's work pouring from your fingertips, can cause panic attacks and adrenaline rushes; paralysis from fear.

This is not true for me. I am not afraid to write.

I am afraid when I cannot write.

And I am afraid to not write.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I dreamed a lot last night.

I dreamed about Peer Health Exchange. I dreamed about journalism. I dreamed about everything that's been consuming me for the past three years. And even though I don't think I slept that well--because I was dreaming and if you wake up and remember your dreams, that means that you probably weren't sleeping so well--I woke up feeling rejuvenated. I woke up feeling truly awake. I woke up feeling good, and inspired, and like all I wanted to do was write and organize and...and drive on.

I turned 22 years old over night, exactly 9 hours ago. But maybe I just now woke up. Maybe 22 years after I was born, I truly awakened. Because for some reason today, because of my dreams, because of whatever it was, I feel like I can do anything. And for once, I don't feel paralyzed by that feeling. Maybe it's just a coincidence that this just so happened to me on my birthday; but I'm 22 years old and for the first birthday since I turned 18, I don't really feel so old. I don't feel old; I feel strong. Isn't that weird? I feel strong.

When I turned 11, I remember being in my den and Uncle Tom sitting on the couch and holding up all ten of his fingers and saying "Wow, I can't hold your age with just two hands, I need more fingers." I always remember that because I think that was the first time I really started to feel...age. And I started to understand that as each day went by, I was filling up more and more fingers. And those fingers, well those fingers symbolized less time that I had left.

Last night, at 12:00 when my frist called to say happy birthday, I told her that story, and I said "I'm 22, I'm twice as old as I was that day when Uncle Tom held up his 10 fingers and said I had grown out of just two hands."

I'm twice as old as that. And if I'm lucky enough to live to 88, I'm 1/4 of the way there. My dad used to say that as you get older, the years feel faster because each year, or each finger, is a smaller percentage of your life; so that one year when you're 5 is 1/5 of your life, but a year when you're 22 is 1/22 of your life, and when your 88, it's 1/88 of your life.

And so each year is going faster I guess. For that reason, I thought I would wake up this morning feeling depressed, feeling like I didn't know what I was doing or where I was going. Feeling old, wrinkly maybe.

Instead I feel motivated. And this day will be shorter than yesterday, because it's a smaller percentage of my life. And this year will go faster than last year. But perhaps I'm running now. Perhaps I'm running because I realize that I'm running out of time, and that everyday is going to matter more and more.