“I wish we had known, when we left, that we were leaving.”

When I left the high school for the last time

on Friday, March 13

I thought we’d be closed for a week.

Maybe Two.

I told my students to enjoy the week off.

I didn’t bother saying goodbye to the students

I didn’t have that day.

I left a water bottle in my room.

I left a stack of papers, ungraded.

I left a sweater.

I left homework written on the board.

I miss my students.

I miss even the annoying ones.

I miss the busy halls and filled-up lunchroom.

I miss the hectic joy of graduating seniors.

I wish we knew, when we left, that we were leaving

Because now we’re gone

And the school is a ghost town

But the ghosts have all left.


Summer Approaches

I was here, and I am here again. Look, we are both heading into a blank summer. We will both likely be here next year, me after months of interviews and disappointments, you after sunburns and supermarket jobs and hours and hours in front of your television. My sister watched Grey’s Anatomy twice last summer, all thirteen or fourteen seasons of it.

I was unemployed in high school, thirsting for money and something to do in this boring suburb, and here I am again, four years after my graduation, complaining and lazing like Daisy Buchanan on a breezy sofa.

I’ll get lots of writing done, I say, not writing. I’ll read lots, I say, not reading.

I brush my hair at night until the brush goes through it easy as water.

I sit with my plants and candles, draped in a scarf I never wear outside. I copy symbols and recipes as if I’d ever do anything with them. I play with tarot cards and waste my time. I slice Havarti cheese and eat pickles with toothpicks, souring my breath even worse with white wine, pretending I have the budget to be blasé and aristocratic, pretending the books I do manage to read aren’t affecting me like so many pills.

I take a portion of The Bell Jar and wonder if it wouldn’t be so bad, sitting in a mental hospital and feigning growing health. I take a portion of Little Women and wonder if it would be so horrible to be a housewife, to find pleasure in a washing machine. I take a portion of Anna Karenina and the words wash over me like hot soup and I can’t focus and put it down.

It takes my eyes a long time to focus on things far away.

Alone again

Seems like I can never be happy on this blog, can I? I think it’s because I use it when I’m feeling down. Writing out my feelings makes me feel better, so I end up blogging at low points.

My boyfriend is gone, and I am alone again. Being in a long distance relationship is hard, especially going back into one after a months-long paradise of being together practically every day.

I’ve improved, mentally, so much since last time. Since mid-January when he headed off to Mexico. I’ve improved 100-fold. I no longer feel devastated, lost, isolated. I have my family, however weakly-held together it is, and I have my friends. If I open my mind, I have plenty to do and plenty of people to do it with. I will get crafty, I will knit to my heart’s content, I will clean every corner of the house, I will learn to use a curling iron and learn to crochet and learn to bake bread. I will learn every song in my ukulele book. I will write fiction, I will write articles, I will update my blog more and more.

I will be okay. But now, so soon after he’s gone, so soon after the summer has ended, I feel alone. Not lonely, because of all I’ve already said. Just alone.

In the car, when I was driving away though everything in me wanted to stay, I could still feel the imprint of his lips, the weight of his hands,  the tenseness in my neck from resting it on his shoulder. It’s impossible to think I won’t see him again until Christmas. It hurt me to type that. It hurts me to think that way. So I won’t. I just won’t.

It’s  not bottling: it’s feeling, accepting, and tossing out. I cried long and loud and messy, on the drive home, and now I’m done. I’m done with that feeling. I can do this. It won’t be so hard this time, it won’t be so hard this time, I will chant that like a mantra until even I believe it.

But for now…before I move on, before it becomes easy, before we find our rhythm of when to text, call, Skype, while I can still imagine his voice with clarity, I’m allowed to feel alone. And I do feel alone.

I’m an introvert, I like being alone. I guess it’s a different kind of alone. It’s not a quick aloneness. It’s both longer and shorter than it seems. I’ll be away from him for awhile, but I’ll be with others soon. They will patch the hole.

I will be okay. We will be okay.

I am okay.

Notebooks never forgotten

Does anyone else fall in love with their notebooks? I’ve never thrown one away. I flip through them when I reach the final page and reminisce about the doodles in the margins, the swooping titles shaded and shadowed during boring lectures and five minute breaks. I love the feel of well-worn pages, I love the smell of quick-run ink.

I can’t throw it away! Not after hours spend sliding the side of my hand over the blue lines, not after flipping each page one by one—except the one that stuck and got skipped. I couldn’t possibly send this to the curb after it supported me during late nights studying, during impossible essays.

Dark, denting consonants when I was angry. Soft pencil scratches when the teacher turned on the overhead light. Slanted print when I took notes during a film. Perfect cursive at the beginning of class, slowly morphing into illegible loops and bumps, like my pen had monitored an irregular heartbeat.

All the knowledge I had soaked up and forgotten lay fresh on the page, preserved from light and water by thin shiny covers. Coffee stained corners, nail polish smeared on the edge.

The black ink haloes finished classes with rosy nostalgia in the wistful summer. The thing I snatched off my desk in a rush, threw across the room in frustration, attacked with red pens, bought for fifty cents at Walgreens—this is what I swoon over? This is what makes me sigh and shove in a drawer instead of a recycle bin?

Emotions are strange…but perhaps for a writer, who swears every word is her heart bleeding on the page, it makes sense for a notebook to feel like a part of her that can’t carelessly be forgotten.

On Being Overwhelmed

I am waist-deep in the first week of classes, and my mind is a-whir with activity. With so much to read and write for my overloaded schedule, days seem to last weeks. I enjoy it, honestly. Being busy has always been good for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

Over-stimulation, a common problem in introverts and especially prevalent in myself, can occur even when alone in a room. When you aren’t reading for pleasure or browsing half-mindlessly, words can become loud in your head, echoing, hard to understand.

I have a few tricks and tips to overcome isolated overwhelmedness, most of which seem rather obvious in retrospect. I do chores while listening to a podcast. I cook myself a little meal. I take breaks to browse YouTube, I take a nap, I play cards with a roommate. It is amazing how much more I can get done when I’m not going in one big push. Little nudges work much better.

I’m majoring in a degree that focuses on writing, literature, and publishing, as well as a minor in journalism. The reading amount is astounding. I’m pushing through, though, with a little help from this past long weekend. Maybe some yoga soon. Maybe some tea.

First Day of Classes and The Concept of Names

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the first day of class. Going over the syllabus always filled me with excitement. I like learning, and learning about what learning I’ll be doing in the near future was like candy. The worst part about the first day was always introductions.

Hi, my name is blank, I’m from blank, I’m a blank major, and something exciting I did over the summer was blank.

Maybe it’s in part because no one ever seems to do something exciting over summers (except that one kid who went to Mexico or where ever) or because I know I won’t remember anyone’s name, but the biggest reason is because introducing myself fills me with anxiety.

Do I use my full name? Just my first name? My nick name? City and state? What in God’s name did I do over the summer? I draw a blank on it. If I’m lucky enough to go near the end I write myself out a script on the corner of the syllabus. I even write down my name in case I forget.

It’s funny how much emphasis people put on names. It’s perceived as one of the most important details about a person. I suppose it makes sense–what good is knowing random facts about someone if you cannot refer to them clearly? But yet they are still so strange.

The functionality of names is inarguable. But why are names sometimes popular? Why are there millions of Emilys, Olivias, Davids, and Sams? Why do we invent words and call them names? What is an “Emily” anyhow? Some names mean things, if you look them up, but no one ever actually names their daughter “Bringer of Light.” But why not?

Sometimes I think about myself and my name and it blows my mind that my name is mine. I will say it out loud, hear it come out of my mouth, and feel baffled. It doesn’t seem like a fact. It doesn’t seem important.

Something interesting about the English language–and I don’t know if other languages do this, but I don’t think most do–is that we say “I am Tom” whereas other cultures would say “My name is Tom.” Both sentences are correct in English, but the difference is that we often have such a close relationship with our name it becomes us. We are not our names–we are separate beings, we are bodies, we are minds. The name is just what we refer to each other as.

I also think it would be nice if it were more commonplace to change one’s name. Perhaps at 18 years of age, if everyone got to choose whether to keep their name or switch it. Many people don’t like their name. Someone’s parents may have named them Sunflower when they feel like an Alice, or vice versa.

Overall, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Just don’t forget yours during introductions.