Saturday, April 7, 2012

Who you are.

You don’t seem very happy.  I think maybe a lot is worrying you.  I want to care, and I do care, but I’m afraid to show it, since there is so little I can do about it.

I want to be thoughtful, considerate, kind, but those things I associate with a prior me, a weaker me.  And so I will be those things, when I feel you understand me, but until then I’ll show you the roughness, and there isn’t a way for you to get in until you give me a reason to let you.

I’m eating cinnamon yogurt pretzels from the corner market. They’re not a terribly dignified food, I’ll give you that, but they’re addictive.  There might be cocaine in them.  Which brings me to another point: I think I do more eating in private than I do in public.  I hear this is a major difference between me and France.  We may not get along.

Honestly, how many people have this opportunity?  I’ve done this to myself, so to speak, and I know this is not something most of the people in the world, let alone most of the people in history get to do.  I need to stop treating this as difficult and start regarding it as a chance.  That’s what it is, a chance.  And I think there was a time and place for realizing how difficult this trip was/is going to be.  I don’t think that culture shock should be ignored; I don’t think that safety should be ignored.  However, I also think that I get to live in Paris for three months, and that’s exciting.

Americans have gone to Paris for a lot of different reasons; artistic endeavors, racial equality, social freedoms, a need for inspiration, a love of French culture.  But the great things about France were not introduced to me through war; nor am I escaping some terrible prejudice; neither am I facing financial or social ruin.

Turning 19 was hard for me.  Turning 20 was a million times worse.  I wanted to do something significant in my life because I felt I’d done nothing significant thus far, and that desire has led me down a lot of paths.  I turned 20, and then I went to London.  I turned 21 and I went back to college; moved in with new roommates; became a new person.  I turned 22 and I started planning my trip to France.  I’ll be 22 for a month and nine days before I turn 23.  Sometimes I just feel like time is passing too quickly, and if I don’t hold myself to doing something interesting or memorable, my life will pass without anything in it.  For my first two months of being 23 I’ll be living in Paris; I’ll graduate from university; I’ll hopefully get an internship in a Museum in LA county, I’ll hopefully get a job that makes me want to get up in the mornings.  Hopefully I’ll make enough money to move out to DC, take the GRE and begin applying to graduate programs back East.

But really, everything is in flux and none of these things could happen.  So what do I know?  I know that I’m a different person than I was when I was 18.  I’m a different person than I was in high school.  I’m meaner, I’m more abrasive, I’m more offensive, I’m less likely to give a crap about you or anyone else, I’ve been told I’m mysterious (that’s not really very true).  I’m less religious.  I’m less kind.  I’m less often loved and less often lovable.  I’m less patient.  But.— I’m also less likely to be used or manipulated.  I’m more spiritual.  I’m less likely to let other people dictate to me how I feel.  I’m more long-suffering.  I’m writing my own script for life, and so although the grammatical mistakes and bad cadence are mine, so are the jokes, and the sincerities.  The deep and abiding love which I am capable of feeling is better funneled into the people I know will appreciate it.  I love deeper and know better how to show it.  Some of my relationships are actually fulfilling.  When people say they like me, it’s because they actually like me.  I’m more relatable.  Mistakes don’t bother me.

And it’s not that I don’t have my problems, and it’s not that I don’t feel lonely most of the days of my life but that none of that matters, because it’s just the way life is and I might as well take those opportunities for joy that are so few and far between.  “Such is the life of a man.  Moments of joy obliterated by unforgettable sadness.” – Le Château De Ma Mère (1990).  But if you don’t look for and enjoy those moments of joy, you will have nothing to offset the sadness.

I feel like I should be writing something a little more epic, given this is my last blog post until I go to France, given that this is my last week and a half in Provo (at least for a while), given that I’m finishing up and undergraduate degree, and that I’m starting a whole new part of my life.  But I can’t think of anything at the moment.  As Don Draper of Mad Men says, “Fear stimulates my imagination.”  So I’m sure that when I become terrified again, something will come.  Until then, I’m leaving you with these thoughts, and perhaps to think about yourself and how much you’ve changed since you started school.  Are you better?  Do you like yourself more?  Because sometimes those answers are different.  I think the latter is more important, and let me tell you why: you are the only person you have to live with for forever.  If you like who you are better, chances are you’re more yourself.  And if you’re more yourself, you’ll have an easier time being better in the long run.

No worries, more to come.  Until then,
Signing off.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Random Worries

I gave my presentation today.  It was a little frustrating because one minute in all the two girls in front of me did was watch the clock.  That's not very validating.  I wanted my presentation to be less about moving through my proposal and a little more about learning something new.  Well, I tried.

I really don't know what else to say about this.  I guess the idea is that I leave in 17 days and I should be preparing myself for that.  But what else is really necessary?  You don't care what I'm really going through because it has to connect back to my Field Study in some way, and so I keep going around in circles thinking of things to say without saying what I really need to say.  At this point EVERYTHING connects to the fact that I'm leaving the country, that I'm doing a field study, but...don't let me try to convince you of that.

That's alright. There's a time and a place, I guess.  But the longer this goes on, me saying nothing, the closer I get to spending this time on a n/a grade, which means that I'm just wasting my time.  Apparently I'm in a bad mood.  Just figured that one out.  Or cynical.  Maybe both.  I guess the problem is that I want to be happy about this, and I am, but it's been dragging out so long that I can't really be very excited.  Before I went to London I had a summer to work.  I don't even know if I'll get the loan I applied for.  And I am worried about money.  But when it comes to money I've never once wondered why I was doing this.  Money never seemed to be a problem--even though it is probably the second biggest problem after the fact that I HAVE NO WHERE TO STAY IN PARIS.  That's a big problem, right?  I think so, and yet here I am, 17 days away, doing nothing about it.

I want to care, but I don't.  Maybe I'll get in a car accident and so it won't matter and that's why I'm not worried.  That's morbid.


I'm going to miss my sisters.  I do miss my sisters, though the older I get the less I miss home.  London cured me of that.  I was so homesick by the end of London, and then I was home for 8 months and then I never felt homesick again.  Boy, what's Paris going to do to me?  I already have trouble missing people.  I think maybe I'm broken.  Old news, right?

Also, if I do find a place to stay, probably I'll end up never leaving my apartment.  Just saying.

I think I need to allow myself a movie a weekend.  Did I put aside money for that?  Probably not.  Am I going to do it anyway?  Yeah... I am.  When one is working, one cannot convince oneself they cannot afford everything one wants.  Unless it's a car, a house, or a baby.  I think I'll always be able to talk myself out of those.  A movie a weekend, and 2 food purchases a week out on the town.  Maybe.  It'll depend on whether I'm living with a host family or not.  (Oh yeah, worry #1, fun.)  Okay, but again I hate the word mitigate because I don't know right now how to fix these problems.  But I'm thinking about them, shouldn't I get SOME credit for that?

Something else I'm worried about?  My best friend.  I can't be happy, because if I'm happy she'll just remind me she's NOT happy...because her boyfriend leaves in 2 weeks, and we go to London in 2 weeks, and then she comes back to Provo which she's not happy about.  Okay.  Well, I'm thinking of a way to be a part of her life even if I'm off in Paris.  She's just feeling sorry for herself right now because she's not going off doing something cool, but these are choices she made for herself, and if they're right, then she's going to be fine, and she'll be doing good things, and they'll be plenty cool.  But I still worry about her.

I worry about who I'll be when I get back.  What my family will think of me, what others will think of me.  But mostly where I'll go after that and what my next adventure will be.  I'm afraid of being stuck somewhere or in the middle of something that doesn't make me happy.  So I like to plan adventures a little in advance.  I like to tell myself that something to look forward to makes me happier.  The truth is, it doesn't, it just makes me feel more useful and more interesting, which in turn makes me feel like I'm doing all of this to surprise people or to make people think I'm crazy rather than because it's something I think I ought to do for myself. That's an idea, hm?

Who knows what comes.  I'm thinking past Paris.  I still can't believe I'm doing this.

Well, welcome to some of my crazy worries.  They may or may not be here tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pep-talk for Paris

Sometimes I wonder and think what they'd have done in Paris. What they'd have done in any paradise, even if it wasn't paradise, and what I'd do if paradise existed. I should have done my field study in New Orleans. I should have gone down there and been a volunteer, helping rebuild something, somewhere. I should have asked people about jazz. I should have read Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston at night. Is it ridiculous to say that my mother would probably be more nervous about me going to New Orleans than me going to Paris? Not to mention, Caitlin would never forgive me.

It's funny, that I'm less than a month away now, and more than aware that I'm doing the craziest thing I've ever done before, but also aware that this is just a stepping stone for doing things that are crazier in the future. I was watching The Music Man last night with some friends, and I realized how good it was for me that I wasn't born in a small town. The old women talked of the librarian in a way that I realized people would talk about me if the people from where I'm from weren't used to people hauling off and doing crazy things. For most of them, moving to LA from wherever they were from was the crazy thing. So me going off to Paris is surprising, maybe, but not unexpected, if they know me, which many of them do.

My mom says she's afraid I'll never come back.

I'm not afraid of that, though it wouldn't upset me if I found a reason to stay somewhere.

Going over culture shock again I realized what I'm most prone to is holing myself up in whatever apartment I get or wherever I'm living, reading, writing, but never going out because it means I'll have to go out on my own. That's how I am at home. I love getting in the car and driving somewhere, but I always have to have a purpose, and directions. But then again, I am prone to wander. But wandering for me usually comes with the need for comfort--not total comfort, just an understanding that I can control myself, or...something. I haven't figured that one out yet.

I wanted a way to "mitigate"--I hate that word--this issue. I hate the word because it's so impersonal, and it means nothing to me. It's just meaningless. Anyway, I've decided that I'm going to chose one place that I have to visit every day. Not the same place, a new place. Something to get me out of the apartment. When I went to London, and realized I had no idea what I was doing there, and I didn't have alone time, and it was brand new, and I'd never been abroad, I got an email from my father telling me to go to St. Paul's. Honestly, to make him proud, to tell him I had gone, to write back to him about it, was all that got me out that first weekend. And that was all I needed.

I'm not afraid of the romanticism of Paris. I'm afraid that'll all melt away as soon as I'm in that city alone, and part of me wants to just sit on a park bench for two or three days after Kate leaves and force myself to realize that this city will be kind. I think that's why I might need Langston Hughes with me, to keep me company. I may have found something to love. But which love? And in which life? Kate says that God let me listen to the music, enter those speakeasies and listen. I feel I can remember asking, please let me go. Please. And I imagine God rolled his eyes at me. But it makes me wonder if perhaps I've been to these places before, and if I have, then why be nervous?

I remember thinking when I was in Heathrow for the second time, so nervous because it was such a big airport, and that taxi driver had just cheated me out of about £20 and I was angry at him (and will not be speaking for him in the trials of heaven) and I was afraid of never getting home. Getting into JFK airport was like coming home. You could feel America in the soil, coming up through your feet. Everything clean and in straight lines, the shops on the right in the left, rather than circling around you, and I knew I'd get there. On the plane to JFK they gave us these horrible airplane pizzas but on the cover of the pizza box was the Coliseum, the Eiffel tower, and the London Gherkin, all of which I had seen and been to, if not inside of, and it occurred to me that 4 months ago I hadn't at all been to those places, just seen pictures of them. This wonderful sense of accomplishment came over me. The boy sitting next to me laughed at me, and I explained. He said he was going on holiday to Florida with some friends. I thought that a very odd place to decide to go on holiday, but didn't say so. All of this goes back to the point that I said to myself, "If you can get through Heathrow, you can do anything." I honestly believed that, because I was nervous about it, and I was afraid, and it seems a ridiculous thing to be afraid of, if you've done it, but I hadn't. So when I got back home, an occurrence I don't actually remember, Heathrow had been done. And I knew I could do anything.

Why shouldn't that apply now? Why can't I use that as my reason for going to Paris alone on a Field Study? Gosh I'm crazy, but going crazy--so I've been told--can be a fun experience. If I just let it happen. Damn. I've been through Heathrow! What can't I do? Learn and speak a foreign language? Sure! Travel a foreign country on one's lonesome? Done! Live abroad for as long as a tourist visa will let you stay? Not a problem. I mean let's be clear about this: Heathrow is 10 miles in diameter. 5 terminals. Outside of London. It's got really circular design, so its easy to get lost, and there are a trillion people so it's easy to not be certain where you are. It's only when the plane is going to board that they actually tell you where your gate is, so you have to stave off sleep while you wait for the board to update your gate, meanwhile you may be on the other end of the terminal from your gate. That's not nerve-racking at all.  (In another time-continuum, by the way, Jennifer is still sleeping in Heathrow; she missed her plane and just became an illegal immigrant of the UK.) My question is, if I've been through Heathrow, what can't I do? Well, honestly, I'm aware there are plenty of things I can't do. Like speak Romanian. Or French, for that matter. But you know, people have been doing this for centuries. Americans have been doing this for centuries. What really is the problem?

If you haven't figured it out, this is my pep-talk. Because it's easy to tell yourself its all going to be fine when you've got 3 months until you go. But now it's a couple of weeks, and I really have to do myself some convincing.