Guess who’s back? Of course, this is a rhetorical question, no one’s hacked into my blog account (yet) and the answer can only be: it’s me!
I haven’t written all that much ever since the New Year flipped on my crunch mode switch aka omg-finals-panic switch when it accidentally leaned against it (that drunk bastard, pardon my language). Not because I spent my days and nights crouched over books and books and more books. That too, but I also picked up my little guitar and wrote a couple of songs (that still need a bit of fine-tuning).
Sometimes, you need to let go of one thing to make room for another. But not all good-byes are forever (whoever came up with that idea anyways?).
This is also what I’m telling myself whenever I think about having to move by the end of the month and I get that tingly feeling in my stomach that has nothing to do with butterflies whatsoever. I’ve always had a hard time letting go of things/people/seasonal candy (so what if I have a craving for peppermint bark in August? Sue me).
Yeah, changes, changes. I’ve finally graduated this summer and I’m about to move (in case I’m able to find a place to move into, of course) so I won’t have to drive 3 hours to work and back every day – which seems like a sensible idea and I hear people expect you to act sensible more often than not once you’re done with school because they think it means you’re all grown-up and stuff.
But more often than not, people are pretty funny and they expect all kinds of things that are not gonna happen. Just sayin’.
What does it mean to be grown-up anyways? Having sensible ideas and making reasonable decisions – are grown-ups allowed to cross a red light and go to bed without brushing their teeth every once in a while or having cereal for dinner or … ? Maybe it’s all about having a mature taste in music/movies/food – but what if I still wanna sing that awful nineties song in the shower?
(This one, no regrets:)
And what if I still wanna watch Saturday morning cartoons, what if I prefer that pizza place around the corner over that terribly chic French restaurant downtown?
Then again, starting this fall, I’ll be teaching 6-10-year olds – I don’t really have to be too grown-up yet, do I?
(I’m sure you’ve all missed my brilliant closing lines!)
Good night y’all (spoken like a true adult).
So. New Year’s. Really? Already?
Okay then. New Year’s. New resolutions, of course.
Not because everyone talks about their own resolutions. Not because I feel like I have to come up with something inspirational (but if I did, wouldn’t it be great?).
Simply because, let’s face the obvious: there’s always room for improvement.
Am I the best version of myself? I doubt that. Am I getting close? Closer at least? Who knows. Honestly, I don’t think so. There are a lot of things I’d like to do that I haven’t done, a lot of things I’d like to be that I’m not (yet), there are ways in which I’d like to behave given certain situations and I don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that I don’t like the person that I am right now (most days, I think she’s quite alright – despite the occasional bad hair day, the overly emotional fit from time to time and other lovely quirks I prefer to hide until the third date at least). But still. Maybe I can do better. Be nicer. Be more aware of what’s really important.
As an (almost) teacher, here’s one of my (very original) catch phrases: that was great but I believe you can do even better! Hell yeah! I’m going to earn myself some new gold stars in 2014 – who else is on board?
So where were we? Resolutions, right.
***So here are a few thoughts***
Don’t change for someone else. Although you may very well change because of someone else. Or simply because of yourself. Of course.
Something to remember: everyone’s very different and the fact that you’re dealing with something in a certain way doesn’t mean everyone else does – we should all try to be aware of this and respect it. We’re all little individuals – this is why life gets exhausting sometimes but it’s also what keeps it interesting and exciting and lovely. Think about it.
Sometimes, you just need to rest.
It’s not always someone else’s fault (… sh** … I don’t really like this one, but oh well).
It’s not always your fault either (now it gets complicated).
Maybe this year it’s time to learn this one: not forcing something that just isn’t meant to be but also not letting chances slip by – is there ever a way to tell these two apart?
Music. There’s no way around it. And maybe there’ll be time to improve your guitar playing skills and write a few more of these silly songs. And maybe there’ll be someone to play them to. Maybe.
It’s all very scattered, mind you. I know. But whose thoughts aren’t, really? It’s mostly a mess if you ask me. It’ll be a mess in 2014 as well, that’s something I’m sure of, but maybe it’ll be a little shinier and maybe it’ll be the first step towards something like an actual arrangement system.
You’re not supposed to laugh at this, I was trying to be serious. Okay, whatever. One last resolution: don’t take yourself too seriously – you should use every opportunity to laugh you can get, even if it means laughing at yourself.
***Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a marvelous 2014!***
Do you believe in soulmates? I asked her. It was one of these pensive Sunday mornings, the apartment empty as usual. I’d been contemplating life and love and the many layers in between over (at least) three cups of coffee, and suddenly needed to know what she thought. I believe in sublime connections, absolutely; her answer bridged 3000 thousand miles of Atlantic Ocean and 8 hours of time difference. That alone told me that sometimes connections are deep enough to work, even transatlantic. Thank God, I thought, and then: I knew it. Her words were soothing like Advil or a mug of hot chocolate. Why do you ask love? She wanted to know.
Well, why did I want to know exactly? For one, I’m an over-thinker. I love to think about things – be it the question whether or not it’s really necessary to have light products of things that aren’t supposed to be light to begin with (such as frosting – really, who wants light frosting?) or the question whether or not soulmates might possibly exist, I’ve thought about it, at least once. Simply thinking about questions doesn’t give you any answers, of course. So after I’ve spent quite a while thinking, I tend to look for the answers in books. No how-to manuals, of course. Any book really. I believe that if you come across the right book at the right time it can tell you something. Maybe even if you come across the wrong book at the wrong time it’ll tell you something. I’m not sure, though – I’ll have to think about it some other time.
I’d also been doing some soul-searching for a while and had just finished reading a book about soulmates. A bit esoteric but not too far out there and strangely gripping. I stumbled over it on one of my many amazon binges. Actually, a friend had recommended the author to me almost two years ago and for some reason I had suddenly remembered him. I almost ate, slept and breathed the book until I was done. And although I was out to find answers, it just handed me a bunch of new questions. Maybe that’s a type of answer, too. Of course, a book is just a book; it’s not an oracle, not a life-line. Especially with this book, I had my doubts anyways. I imagined the author’s smirk as he typed the epilogue, bedazzled by the fact that he can make actual money by making shit up as he goes (who wouldn’t love that?).
The problem: I’m a cynic and a believer, all at once. Like everyone else, I certainly would like to return a couple of things life’s handed me down the road. I’ve had days (weeks, months) where I felt like kicking and screaming: was this really necessary? At the same time I’ve always had hope: there’s got to be a reason for all this; it’s got to get better eventually. It just had to. It was the same with the book: I wanted to believe, I just didn’t really trust it. In the end, however, I decided a little more belief and a little less doubt couldn’t hurt. If we’re honest with ourselves: who doesn’t love the idea that one or maybe even two or three soulmates exists for every one of us that we are destined to meet (what is done after the meeting, of course, is free will – (un)fortunately?). Not because the book had convinced me to. Just because I wanted to. I guess, that’s what believing means anyways. Also, because the book left me with so many questions, I’d just found my own answer: another soul that agreed with me and made me feel a little less crazy about it all. A soulmate, maybe?
It’s a Wednesday night and I’m in my sweatpants, drinking wine as I’m writing this.
I’d actually planned to go to this after-work-thing to be a little less anti-social with my colleagues but it was cancelled last-minute – thank God! Now I can be anti-social while pretending I’m not: sorry you guys, I would have loved to go out, too bad it’s not happening (did this sound too sarcastic you think?).
Now I’m officially free to do all the fun stuff I would have preferred to do all along and I don’t even have to feel bad about it: wear comfy clothes, eat in front of the TV, listen to any music I like, blog. Cause that’s fun, right?
Or am I getting lame these days? Is this what I should be doing? Shouldn’t I be out partying after all? Meeting interesting people and stuff? Is this why I’m slowly but steadily approaching my mid-twenties, still half (or three-quarters) in school, half (or one quarter) working, single, home alone tonight? Am I missing something? Was my mother right (and what’s her most important advice again – why can’t I remember this)? What am I doing with my life anyways?
Oh dear, is this it now – a quarter-life crisis?
No, I’m not helplessly neurotic – just a tad bit. Here are a couple more of my most recent thoughts on being (almost) 25.
Vocation or occupation or something else entirely?
Six-year-old me wanted to be a writer when she grows up. And seven-year-old-me, too. Eight-year-old me wanted to become a vet until she found out that they don’t just get to pet the animals all day long and decided to stick with writing after all. Now I’ve almost finished grad school, on the best way to become a teacher. What would six-/seven-/eight-year-old me say? Would they kick my stupid grown-up (and maybe too reasonable) butt? What do I really want? Do I even know?
Of course, being a teacher doesn’t mean I have to give up writing; I could always write on the side (like I’m doing now) – that is, if I have enough nerve and time. Or I could become bitter and cynical and just keep telling my future students about the novel I was writing and eventually going to publish, without ever actually writing anything. And then, 24-year-old me thinks, just because we make a certain decision at one point in our life, it doesn’t mean we can’t make another decision some other time.
I think, if six-/seven-/eight-year-old me made a fuss about it, I would probably turn to them and say: do you remember how one year all you ate for breakfast was Coco Puffs and then one day, you decided you wanted to try out Froot Loops because they looked really good? This is kind of like that, too. There would be a brief moment of silence and I would nod wisely and finally agree with myself. Hopefully.
Also .. what about love?
As my Mom loves to (accidentally?) point out whenever my sister brings her husband and two boys over for lunch on Sundays: I’m still single. While people around me seem to be procreating like rabbits (boy, it must have been a very cold winter last year and what’s with this biological clock everyone’s talking about?), I am a rock, I am an island. I’m going to tell you this much, though: it’s not because I just can’t let go of my precious freedom. I do believe in love – the heart-wrenching, earth-shattering kind; this incredible love that you can feel to the tip of your fingers. I’ve felt it. And then it left me.
Maybe it was just a preview, though. Maybe it didn’t mean what I thought it did. Whenever this silly feeling deep in my gut rears its ugly head and wants to tell me to get real, because life’s not a movie or a fairy tale, that there’s no such thing as fate and that, by the way, Santa Clause doesn’t really exist, I decide not to listen to closely. It’s not that I’m a hopeless optimist/romantic – I’ve just decided that if
everything turns to shit life gets rough, nodding your head and mumbling I’ve known it all along doesn’t help you, either. You might as well have a little hope – even if it’s all you’ve got.
So much for my latest random thoughts. You may or may not want to call this a quarter-life crisis; probalby it’s just an almost boring reflection on life the way people like Socrates already did it way back in good old Greece (in the golden days, when they weren’t bankrupt or so much as knew about the concept of bankruptcy yet). And anyways, what’s in a name, as Juliet would say. No matter the label, it still feels the same.
I have been so busy lately (and still am) and who-or whatever’s responsible for the weather seems to suffer from manic-depression: within the past couple of weeks, we’ve first had a period of non-stop rain, then a subsequent flood (millennial aka a helllottawater) and the most recent gem: a heat wave. From the highs into the lows and back and whatnot.
So for these past weeks, I didn’t really have time to write, but I’ve been very tempted to write something about highs and lows in general – I mean, go figure, right? Yet, now that I do have some time on my hands: I’ve decided against it; I’m going to stick with the highs. I’ll give you high temperatures and enthusiasm – because after a miserable spring it’s summer (finally). And just because I want to.
This Monday was my dad’s birthday and because my family is a little weird (as I imagine all families are if you look closely) and my mom’s always been a very practical woman, they decided they were going to have a birthday B-B-Q the Sunday before – just because schedule-wise it worked out better than celebrating his actual birthday or throwing a party the weekend after (like most people would have done – just sayin’, guys).
So I packed my present (an exquisite selection of different beers to maintain my dad’s perfectly shaped beer belly – you’re welcome, Mom) and got myself on the bus, while my sister packed her three boys (one husband, two sons) and got into the car. My sister’s eight years older – which, I think, doesn’t make that much of a difference when you’re 24 and 32, yet: if my parents had decided to set up a grown-up and a separate kids table, they’d probably put me on the latter.
Of course, I wouldn’t have minded. At all.
My nephews are adorable. B., the older one’s in fifth grade: thankfully he hasn’t hit puberty yet (knock on wood); last Christmas he whispered a very indecent joke into my ear while the entire family sat gathered around the table for lunch and I almost knocked my food right off the table – a minute later I discovered that he’d just learned it from a girl at school (of course, I immediately told him that she was bad influence and he better stay away from her) and that he wasn’t entirely sure what he’d just told me (Thank God). His most impressive quality: he is able to eat seven really huge pancakes if he’s a very hungry caterpillar; to my dismay: English is his least favorite subject and he couldn’t care less about the fact that his aunt (almost) is an English teacher herself (luckily, he also doesn’t care when his aunt tries to sneak in books or other English-related goodies along with the actual birthday or Christmas present – he just frowns and puts it aside when he thinks no one’s looking).
D., the younger one, is a little straggler – he isn’t even a year old yet. He has my sister’s huge blue eyes (her very romantic husband lovingly refers to them as fish’s pop eyes) and also wouldn’t mind stuffing seven pancakes into his little mouth, if only my sister would let him. Because she doesn’t, however, he has to content himself with stuffing one of his socks into his sticky, smudgy baby face – or his foot, if the sock’s already soaked and my sister slipped it off his chubby foot. Whenever I get a chance, I pick him up to carry him around. I tell him incoherent stories with so many plot twists that in the end, there’s just twists and no plot at all and he doesn’t mind (he’s my most appreciative audience), he just looks around, kicking his feet and rowing his arms as if he was about to take off, a little bird. Eventually he gets tired – that’s my favorite part – and rests his fluff-covered head on my chest: and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate high. It’s even better than – oh my God, I can’t believe I’m saying this – chocolate. I swear.
A song and a poem. That’s really all.
Watch those horses
fathers tell their daughters
spruced in Sunday dresses;
so calm and clean,
their necks bending in red bridles
as they go and go
(and you along with them).
Watch those horses
fathers tell their daughters
with their pink-ribboned hair;
sweet and smooth as a newborn.
It smells of popcorn and sweat (it’s Mid-May),
and they go and go and go –
the fair is in town.
Watch those horses –
I watch those horses;
Once a year, every year.
Sometimes when it’s spring,
I’ve almost forgotten about them,
but as April turns into May
the smell of popcorn fills the air and
I hear wooden hooves (and your voice).
Watch those horses –
I watch those horses
as they come and go
(and you along with them):
sweet and smooth as a newborn.
The fair is back in town
(and it doesn’t let me go –
There are times that walk from you like some passing afternoon, Mr. “Iron and Wine” Beam sings in one of his songs (songs you can often pull over your ears like you would your blankie, back in the good old days).
If you’d ask me what I did last week, my answer would be very short. Not because I didn’t do much. I studied, worked, studied some more, had an exam. I could say a lot more about all this but it doesn’t really seem to matter in the light of last week.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to write about bombs, terror, injustice, fear – a lot has been written about it already, probably in a more eloquent manner than I ever could. Besides (as one of my friends rightly pointed out and is all too obvious): you could always write about any of that.
Whenever someone tells me we’re currently living in one of the longest periods of peace in a long time, I wonder what they’re talking about. I wonder if they’ve watched the news lately. War (terror) doesn’t have to blow up right in your face to be real. So that’s that. Let me rephrase: I’m not going to write about bombs, terror, injustice, fear – not any more than what I’ve written so far.
But if this isn’t about any of that, what is it about? Perspective, maybe. Realizing what really matters and what really doesn’t, maybe. Also, realizing that sometimes, even though something matters a lot, there’s still nothing you can do or say or feel that is going to change anything. And then, realizing that none of us is immune to pain and fear, no matter how much we’d like to believe it.
It’s about building a shell all around you to distance yourself (from whatever, really), only to find out it just doesn’t fall to pieces as long no one tries to break it – because as soon as they do, it’s falls apart all over you and it knocks you down or out right away. It’s also about how things like that often happen when we least expect them.
No, actually, I take it back. They always happen when we least expect them. Like that phone call happened just like that, this one summer day when you were simply having ice cream with your best friend (your grandmother died). You’re never prepared because there’s no way to prepare yourself for something like that. That’s what this is also about, maybe.
And it’s also about how life goes on, just like that. Because it’s that moment, when life just decides to go on (no matter how much you think there’s no way that this is how it works) and you’re not sure if you’re just dreaming and you decide you wish you were so you just try to numb all your senses (not temporarily, this is not something a couple glasses of gin could do for you; rather, you will your body to go numb – because there’s nothing else you can do) – these are times that walk from you like some passing afternoon. Thank you very much, Mr. Beam.
So this last week’s just walked by me – and if I’m really honest with myself: not just this week. And if you’re really honest: do you remember what you did last week (last year maybe)? It’s scary to think about how life slips by if we’re not careful; if you let your suffering, your fears take the upper hand. Life just goes on, that’s the way it’s always been and although it sounds tacky: this is how it’s always going to be.
We wake up the next morning, to dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, work, another day, brief moments (a fifty-fifty chance: meaningless or meaningful) and all of this is going to be there – no matter whether the times just walk by us or we try and walk with them.
That’s the challenge: to try and keep up. I guess that’s what this is about: keeping up. Even if this week, that’s the last thing on earth you want to do. Especially if it is; especially this week (and other weeks like this).
I spent most of March traveling and although I’ve been back for a while, I haven’t entirely unpacked yet. Because I hate unpacking.
It’s the least romantic part about traveling to me: dirty laundry, (hopefully still intact) souvenirs, used boarding passes/train tickets, crumpled receipts, postcards you meant to send but forgot about; it’s like taking down Christmas decorations after the holidays – it always feels too soon.
I think of emptying a suitcase as surgery: delicate; you have to remove piece after piece carefully and in the right pace or it’ll be a bloody mess.
I love to keep some sand in my shoes, and some change if the currency is foreign. I usually find little notes, candy wrappers and flyers advertising concerts, museums, movies and all sorts of food between the pages of my journal after I’m already home for weeks.
This time, there was also a note from a friend I visited for a few days of my trip.
She moved to Houston last year and I hadn’t seen her new apartment yet. I only knew her old apartment in Austin.
In the end, the new one reminded me a lot of the one she’d had before – her bedroom looked almost the same, to me it did anyways: postcards and pictures on the wall (quotes in English and Arabic), books (in English and Arabic).
One evening, we sat on the floor, having an indoor-picnic-dinner (because, even though we were in Texas and it was March, it was still too cold to picnic outside).
We decorated slices of apple with dabs of peanut butter and the soft carpet with crumbs of bread (there’s a reason why people usually picnic outside). I tried to pick up a few crumbs with the tip of my index finger, tracing back the way our dinner had gone, a path back and forth between our plates, like a bridge; I tore it down (sometimes, that’s what you have to do).
We hadn’t seen each other in almost a year so we talked about things that had happened: life and everything in between.
We talked about how one of her friends was almost pulled into a car by a couple of strangers on her way home while they studied together in Egypt and how this is not a big deal there because it happens all the time and no one ever says a thing (until it happens to them, but it doesn’t, right? it’s always someone else); we talked about how one of my friends was kidnapped a couple of years ago because her family was too wealthy and the rest of her country too poor and how this is not a big deal there because it happens all the time and no one ever says a thing (until it happens to them, but it doesn’t, right? it’s always someone else).
Sometimes I’m sure there’ll be a loud creak any second and the world will just fall over, unhinged, because there must be an imbalance between good and evil in the world; sometimes I’m sure the only reason it doesn’t happen is because you’re in a relatively stable position while you’re knee-deep in the shit.
Other times I get up to my favorite song on the radio and it’s enough to make me think it’s maybe not that bad. Not because I think my favorite song is going to level out everything that’s going wrong in the world – but if we’re going down, I feel a lot better knowing that at least the soundtrack is good.
We also talked about our favorite songs, a movie I’d recommended to her a while ago (Harold and Maude), and boys love, its complications, its many layers and whatever it is that girls people talk about when they talk about love.
We talked about the future – job possibilities, what our friends had done with their lives (and impressed us with it, or the opposite), what our parents wanted us to do with our lives (and how we didn’t really want the same, of course); things we wanted to do, ideally; things we could imagine settling for.
There’s so much life ahead of us, she burst out all of a sudden. The only answer I could think of: What are we going to do with it? So we tried to come up with a plan; it ended up being a list of things – written as a note, the twist: we wrote it to the other (because advice to others is often easier).
My note said: * Keep writing * Keep learning/teaching * Keep breathing * Keep doing yoga * Keep taking pictures * Keep watching inspiring movies/reading inspiring books * Specific items to do: play guitar, research teaching assistantships in America, find and visit the German-speaking part of Romania (yes, it exists! no, it’s not where the vampires are … or is it?) * Always remember: it’s worth it to fall in love.
I put the note into my journal; I re-read it many times since she first wrote it. I’ve been trying to keep it in mind – while I’m waiting for the loud creak and the sinking feeling you get when you’re going up/down too fast for your stomach to keep up because the world’s falling over after all; while I’m hoping it doesn’t.
Because there’s so much life ahead (and a lot in between).
Okay. I know it, you know it – we ALL know it: I haven’t been a good blogger lately. Actually, I haven’t been a blogger at all, and I am sorry. Of course, I didn’t mean to. As always. Blah.
I didn’t really have time to write (at least, not in the way I want to have time when I sit down to share a story or an idea). Yet, this doesn’t mean I didn’t have time to think; think about stories or ideas I’d like to share. That being said: Enter new form of expression (that is, new to this blogger) – photography!
It’s not entirely new terrain but I haven’t really taken anything beyond snapshots in quite a while. Not having as much time to write, though, I’ve come to appreciate its quality to capture a moment on the go (which is handy while you’re on the go yourself) while still holding a certain poetic beauty (if you know what you’re doing).
So without further ado, here are a couple of moments I couldn’t put into writing but I want to share nonetheless.