Tag: summer

The Hindsight Looking Glass

Some nights get into me like fish hooks. Teeth marks left long into bleary-eyed mornings. Tiny scars to remind you that adventure starts with a simple decision.

“Are you coming with?”
“Yes.”

And then suddenly I am flung into my favorite headspace: sitting in the back seat, music turned up so loud you physically can’t think about anything else, a quick glance and a shared smile.

Let’s talk freedom. Let’s talk summer. Let’s talk that rumble in the pit of your stomach, that happy growl when you bend the rules, that lustful humming of  hubris. Let’s talk being as young as you’ll ever be again.

Nights like these are the ones I am always scared to write about. I can’t find a way to explain the feeling of youth. I can’t hold them long enough to examine them, to pick them apart. The memories don’t stay still. They wiggle and buck and skitter away into the dappled shadows of street lamps.

Your name melts into the folder of things I wish I remembered, but I can’t get the way your hands felt out of my head.

Until this year, I never spent a summer in Columbia. I fled, with the majority of my fellow students, to other adventures. Found home in cities far away from Missouri, from routine.  But from May to July I found myself, college degree (metaphorically) in hand, dancing in summer rain and crying in my empty apartment. Alone, but not lonely (except when I was).

It was a happy, sleepy, sweaty, stormy existence.  Half of it was the mundane pattern of food service closing shifts and finishing my research project. The other half was a fever dream of freedom, of clinging to friends and not acknowledging the countdown to saying goodbye.

Romanticizing the hell out of my life is something I do very well. I can take a stranger at a red light and spin them into a glowing golden lost love. Very basic human kindness sends me spiraling into a mess of metaphors. I am a sappy, ridiculous human being, all sadness considered.

But the months I spent in Columbia this summer practically wrote their own poems. When I was in the thick of it, it was too big to fit into 26 letters. I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough, couldn’t swallow enough sunshine, couldn’t hold enough rain in my hands.

I moved home and things slowed down to a quieter existence. I mostly drive my family to work, stress about finding a job and build my marketing portfolio. And, of course, write. Spare time presented itself to me shyly for the first time in ages, and I was excited to examine the life I had lived so decadently for two and a half months.

But every intention of dissecting my summer went out the window with a pain like a train leaving without me on it. I couldn’t look directly into the sun I was trying to write about. Nights blended together — was that the night those creepy guys were staring at us? Or was that the night we made dinner together? Before or after I closed my thumb in a car door?

I have tried and failed to convey how it felt to be there. The haze of vodka and beer, warm in the bellies full of cheap Mexican food and cheese pizza. Passing a cigarette around a circle of friends, unconcerned with sharing spit or lipstick smudges. A pile of humans and dogs in a too-hot living room, singing Action Bronson and Purity Ring and Frank Ocean.

It was art only recognizable firsthand that I am trying to drag back into my home. Records with songs we sang in the car, in your room, on the street.  Candles that smell like rain and smoke, like your shirt, like too much Chinese food. A shadow-box of every 3 a.m. I’ve ever seen: wet grass, ticket stubs, streetlight, bug bites shoved into a frame.

What I did, objectively speaking, was very standard. I went to the same coffee shop nearly every day. I spent too much money on brunch for the sheer nostalgic value. I made a shaky, nervous, giggly effort to flirt. I stayed up late. I watched fireworks from parking lots.

It was, for all intents and purposes, a very standard summer, so why did my heart feel fit to burst with light? I tried to talk myself down, but the warm, syrupy magic of it all never washed off my fingertips.

A misfit band of heartstrings tangled across the radius of downtown. We ran down brick roads. We shared hash browns. We split vodka sodas. We danced with strangers in dark bars. We dragged our un-showered bodies to McDonald’s in time for breakfast. We stood on chairs. We said goodbye.

Friday night, I went out with new friends. We raced down a highway at 11:30 p.m., hungry for beer and loud music and people we’ve never seen before. Or at least, I was. I wanted to tap back into my summer dream state. Less checking Glassdoor for average salaries, more moving through crowded dance floors. Less anxiety-induced shaking, more kissing cute people.

My CoMo summer sits apart from the tail-end of summer I’ve been living at home in Austin. It is a brewing thunderstorm I can’t tear my eyes away from. A beautiful bruise I can’t stop poking.

Andrea Gibson wrote a poem called “I Sing the Body Electric, Especially When My Power Is Out.” I can’t remember if they read it when I saw them perform at MU, but I don’t think I would have got it.

I started asking the sun about the Big Bang

the sun said, “it hurts to become.”

I carried that hurt on the tip of my tongue

and whisper “bless your heart” every chance I get

so my family tree can be sure I have not left

you do not have to leave to arrive, I am learning this slowly

Facing truth head-on is much less terrifying when your bones have been warmed by the radiator that is your old heart.

So here are my summer truths: Summer ends because winter must begin, just as winter will end to make way for warmth once more. Noses must be pressed to grindstones in order to afford to buy the next round of shots. You can lose a pair of kind eyes in a crowd as easily as an earring back. Love aches in the best possible way. Long-distance friendships are just as painful as you thought they’d be.

Life can’t always always be a yellow-saturated dream about the madness of youth. It doesn’t have to be a constant grind either.

It’s okay to write 1,000 words about not being able to write down how you fell in love with the simple magic of being.

You can’t always channel heat lightning into your writing.
There is no way to nail a luna moth to your notebook.

 

***

Here’s a video + transcript of the Gibson poem. Get your tissues ready.

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Happiness and the Nature of Winging It

Happiness is the easiest thing in the world, and also the hardest. It’s sunshine on your face. It’s battling brain chemistry. It’s as complicated as being in the right place at the right time to see the right person, and as easy as making yourself get in the shower after an anxiety attack.

This weekend, I celebrated happiness in the most tangible sense of the word. I decided on a whim to tag along with two friends to St. Louis Pride, which has been one of the best spur-of-the-moment decisions I’ve made in a long time. We gathered beads and beer, danced with friends and strangers, cheered on drag queens and yelled “Love Wins” at the top of our lungs. People were so happy. This ruling is a triumph in every sense of the word, but it’s a first step. A monumental one, but a first step nonetheless. There is so much more fighting to be done for LGBTQ+ rights: You can get fired for being not straight, and you can be even be evicted from your apartment. But there we all were, filling St. Louis with color and kissing and battle cries and selfies and hope and stickers and tears and smiling, celebrating a happy, happy victory.

Spontaneity has been on my mind a lot recently. It’s something I haven’t been able to indulge in for quite a while. I had to work. I procrastinated too much and needed to stay up super late to finish a project. I was broke. Usually, summer is my adventure time. After freshman year, I explored Austin with my sister. After sophomore, I ran away to Alaska to work as a camp counselor. Last summer, I hopped the pond to spend a summer in Belgium. This year, I’m off to a slower start. It’s been mostly work, Netflix and going to my favorite bars with friends.

But things are about to pick back up. When your life path is largely “I don’t know,” things are equal parts scary and exhilarating In two weeks, I’m moving out of my apartment and out of Columbia. For good. Which, initially, is terrifying and very, very sad and anxiety inducing in the extreme. It’s also exciting and thrilling and cause for celebration. I get to move on to a new adventure in Austin (which will hopefully soon include full-time employment if y’all could cross your fingers for me). I get to change and grow and go do new things. Meet new people. Find new coffee shops. Find new favorite bartenders. But to do that, I have to be willing to put myself out there.

This is my public declaration and internal plea to let myself take more chances. I’m a people pleaser and also a nervous sort of person. I worry about what people think of me. I don’t like to leave the house without triple-checking my hair or doing my eyebrows. I am also a person who loves adventures and eating at late night diners and exploring where there isn’t cell service. I want the next chapter of my life to focus on soothing this cognitive dissonance.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s way better than it has been. I feel more like myself than I have in ages. My good body image days far outweigh my bad ones. I’m not really afraid of shorts. I’m not afraid to dance in the grocery store. My hair is half blue-teal-teal-whatever.  I am realizing parts of my identity that are exciting and freeing and wonderful. I have a couple ridiculous crushes that make my life so wacky. Things have been really good recently.

Maybe it’s the fact that I won’t have to endure another finals week for more than five years (assuming I ever go to grad school). Maybe it’s the fact that my research project is done and submitted and out of my hair. Maybe it’s the fact that I feel validated in my physical presence. Maybe it’s the fact that people are proud of me. I’m not sure, but I feel more less like a pile of sludge and more like a sunbeam every day.

Lessons from Alaska, part II: grit, granola and flannel

I am going to keep this short and sweet, but let’s just say Alaska is still amazing. I learn more about working with kids, my mental strength, my physical strength and the wonderful capability of people to rise to the challenges presented to them.

I have become so gritty, y’all. My body is stronger (although I do have shin splints from trekking all over the concrete in Anchorage). My mind is stronger. I am building up tenacity like I haven’t before. I wear even more flannel and ever more fleece-on-fleece than I did before, which is really something. I have been designated as one of the most granola in our staff, and I am glad to wear that ground.

I am coming home from a two-day trip to Anchorage in which I was a total tourist, looked like a bag lady and spent entirely too much money. It was a welcome change from a two-week-long session, but I will admit I am itching to get back to camp. I feel entirely too clean and materialistic, and I can’t wait to be covered in dirt and surrounded by kids again. I really do believe I have the best job on the planet.

It really is amazing what you learn by forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, out of your circle of mastery. You learn to dig deep within yourself as much as you learn to ask for help from those who know more than you. I am growing, growing, growing and so grateful for it.

I would love to tell you every amazing success story, every frustrating struggle, every moment of camp, and that would take entirely too long. I will forever have camp songs stuck in my head and I don’t think I’ll be actually fully clean for a while after getting home. Camp changes a person like that.

Check out my Instagram for more regular photo updates. Hope y’alls’ summers are going super well!

100 percent in my element.
100 percent in my element.

Casual mountain view after I hiked up Bodenburg Butte

No filter needed. Sorry Instagram.
No filter needed. Sorry Instagram.

An Awfully Big Adventure

In 15 hours and 48 minutes, my plane will be taking off. In case you didn’t know, I’m going to Alaska. To be a Girl Scout camp counselor. For two and a half months.

Oy.

An example of the platform tent I'll be staying in all summer.
An example of the platform tent I’ll be staying in all summer.

I’m crazy excited. Alaska is waaay further north than I’ve ever been before, and I’ll be further off the grid for longer. I’ll be in charge of young girls – making sure they make friends, sleep enough, pack well for hikes and make enough friendship bracelets. I’ll also be in charge of taking care of me, working with my co-counselors and not being carried off by giant mosquitos in my sleep.

Summer is such a time for learning and living and giving, giving, giving. I plan on flying back into Missouri on August 12th as a more spiritually centered, tanned and wizened human. Hopefully Alaska has the same plan for me.

I won’t have a whole lot of access to my computer, obviously, but I do hope to be able to blog once a week. A weekly recap, of sorts.  I want to share what I’ve seen (mountains, bears, sunrises), heard (camp songs, rushing water, giddy laughter) and learned (how to live in a tent for 11 weeks, lessons from my campers, how to avoid killer mosquitos).

Message/text/email me your address and I’ll try to send you a postcard! In the mean time, keep an eye out for pictures and posts about camp.

Hope you all have an awesome summer as well!