January

I’m supposed to be note-taking while I read for history class, but I’m really just sitting with a bowl of soup and a big glass of wine. My history book is spread out on my lap, open to the first page of the reading; I’ve titled my notebook page with the source material and my pen is at the ready.

I want to do the reading. I want to be productive and thoughtful and intellectual, and, dare I say, “smart.”

Well, I suppose I am, objectively. But there’s more to life than being smart and a good note-taker. 

There’s a lot to think about, to reflect upon, in this new January. I’m twenty-one. Most people have lives by now– they’re either finishing up school with a definite plan or they’re already working or beginning families or establishing themselves in some other way. I spent this afternoon in rehearsal and then walked home in the freezing cold to drink tea and try to get healthy again, during which I took a “What Disney Princess are You?” quiz and tried to locate a suitable recital dress online that won’t break my bank account. It just feels a little strange, to live life so abstractly. 

And still, even knowing that studying and recital dresses and whatever aren’t the most important things– they’re what’s immediate to me right now. The concepts of marriage and “real” jobs are so far away– and who says marriage is in the hazy future for me, anyway? Or children? Or even a stable family life with my own immediate relatives? I might be halfway around the country by this time next year, studying for a career that’s touchy at best– what am I doing? 

I’ve blogged before about having a kind of faith that would allow me to do anything. I’d like to say that belief– in self, and in an Otherness– is returning to me in some capacity. Otherwise, I would have been a basket case long before this little period of reflection. This introspectiveness isn’t happening with an overtone of dread or foreboding– it’s logical, calm, and clear. Here I am, with not one clue as to where I will be in a year, and I’m fine with it. I know there’s an infinite amount of work yet to accomplish, and I’m terrified, but I’m facing it. I’m ready to try and tackle it. (Not sure if it’s actually doable, but I’m prepared to give it a go.) That’s where I am right now. 

I’m supposed to be note-taking while I read for history. I’ll get around to it. I might sit and enjoy being here for a few more moments.

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Stream of nagging consciousness

So for most of today I’ve experienced simple, so-happy-I’m-stupid bliss raging blood-spattering war against a persistent nagging feeling that there’s no real reason for me to be so happy. Read that single-comma-ed run on one more time in a single breath and then you have my day in a nutshell.

I just saw a picture of a guy I know on facebook. He had a laughing, pretty girl (much shorter and more petite than I, with a little more charm in her laughing face… let’s face it, who has a charming laughing face?!) on his arm, and a smile that read “I’m getting some.” This guy I know, well, he and I may or may not have entertained the idea of entertaining one another. To some extent we did, for one hot endless summer night.

We talked a little after that but it was obvious that nothing would come of it. But for some reason I allowed myself to build castles in the air around him for a little while, and it took a few weeks for them to gently collapse back to dust in my brain. But the time we had was nice, as he was nice. We were compatible and there was some serious chemistry. And then there was no contact so the chemistry faded softly away, as did the niceness and the friendship.

So why is it a blow to see him with someone else? Why, when I Have Someone now? Maybe it’s the heartsore “what could have been” coming back to nudge me. Maybe it’s the memory of that warm night and his mouth on mine, persistent and electrifying. Maybe it’s the absence of a new and shiny friendship that fell off into nothingness, or maybe it’s simply a bittersweet melancholy that whines at inopportune moments.

I don’t know, exactly. Maybe it’s a combination of them all. But what pisses me off the most is that I let it interfere, for even one moment, with the happiness I have right now. The pleasant fizz under the skin at the thought of moments that might arrive, the ever present maybe of thrills that may or may not ever be realized. The challenge, the adrenaline of discovery… I have that now, or at least a taste of it. I don’t want to ruin it by worrying myself into a paranoia that complicates it all just because something made me sad and that prods me into thinking I might not be justifiably happy.

Reflections on stars and the moon

I’ll preface this by saying, I don’t really know why I’ve thought about these things lately. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d probably figure that it’s part of some larger circle that needs to return and resolve. But anyway.

At some point within the past three years, I’ve realized that the boy I gave most of my innocence to wasn’t the person I thought he was. He never pretended to be someone else: no, he didn’t pretend. But I did. I saw the hurt and the sadness in him and I wanted to fix it. I saw the scars she had inflicted and the wounds he didn’t want to admit his parents had left him with. I saw a sharp mind and an experienced, worldly soul and I wanted to help him grow. I wanted him to be the man I’d always read about: the one who swoops in to sweep the strong, independent, outspoken and vibrant woman off of her feet.

Well, here I am, nearly four years older and a hell of a lot stronger. And more independent, and hopefully more vibrant; although I can’t comment for sure on the outspoken because I feel like I do an awful lot of listening these days. But I’m smarter, and I suppose that lately it’s struck me just how much stronger.

He was eighteen then; I was fifteen. I was precocious, sure, with quite a bit of educated reading under my belt and a pressure to be better, to learn about the world.
He had been cheated on and, I guess, manipulated. His parents were divorced and I’m sure he’d seen a little too much of the world.

Those aren’t excuses, for him or for me. I guess I could fall back on my old quantification: I never said I loved him; I never gave him everything; I never expected too much, especially toward the end.

But that’s not entirely right. I never said I loved him but I allowed him to manipulate me, to make me think I was less than I am. I allowed him to tell me things about myself that weren’t true. I let him steer me away from my family and my friends simply because he wasn’t that close to his and I wanted to be with him. I gave him my trust. I gave him my loyalty. I gave him my time, my being, little parts of my heart that I’m proud to say I reclaimed and then some.

Long story short, I think it’s really interesting to see how capable I really am of looking back on the only “real” relationship I’ve ever had to see the issues I’d viewed as such complexities then become clear as day, now.

Now I sit here in my room in the dorm building of a school that is leagues and leagues above and beyond what I’d even dreamed of attending four years ago. I’m going to be in debt for the rest of my life, but I charged headfirst into that with the full intention of making the most of myself in the time I’ve been given here. I’m doing something I love, and am going to continue to. I am capable of doing almost anything.

And I all I can think of right now is how much has changed, how much I’ve learned in a few short years. How much I’ve grown. How much my life could have been like the song “Stars and the Moon” from “Songs for a New World.”

And it never changed
And it never grew
And I never dreamed
And I woke one day
And I looked around
And I thought, “My God…
I’ll never have the moon.”

But I’m not. That’s not me, but it could have been. But I don’t think I need someone who can give me the moon, as romantic as that might seem. I’ve grown up surrounded by strong women who take the moon for themselves, and I intend to be one of them. I’ll have the stars and the moon for myself.

Real, and well this is my life right now

So I found this quote on Ivy’s blog and nearly started crying. It’s silly, I know.

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. May your coming year be a wonderful thing, in which you dream both dangerously and outrageously. I hope you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), I hope that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind. And I hope that somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

-Neil Gaiman, “A New Year’s Benediction”

But it’s just that I think I’m experiencing a period of self-hatred right now. I know that is probably silly, too. There’s all this crap about loving yourself floating around and being shoved down everyone’s throats, and up until recently I believed it. I wasn’t truly deeply happy, although seeing my family always inspires a serious dose of love. Upon reflection I think it’s that I hate myself. I love everyone around me. I love them so much it hurts and would never want to leave them (that’s why going back to Eastman generally just makes me sick). But me?

I feel stupid. I feel undereducated and barely literate. I know of few ways to rectify this and in any case my schedule this coming semester absolutely would not allow it. Those “fine books”? Yeah, right. Because I can read for fun. And if I could, where would I get the books? Rush Rhees? Because I have that much time.

I feel ugly. And I know it’s not what you look like that matters. That’s what I tell myself every day. I tell myself that just because I’ve gained a little weight I am by no means fat. I’m curvier, and that’s supposed to be attractive. Right?
I can’t even fall back on cleaning horse stalls to tone up. It’s winter and the tractor is clogging the barn. My dad cleans them every few days because he uses the tractor and if I tried messing with that whacked-out setup I’d break the barn. And if I make an effort to work out it will be like confirming I’m a mess and need to fix myself. I’m just scared to make a change, and for that I despise the insecure and procrastinating parts of myself that slap and tug, each in opposite directions.

The idea that I will kiss someone wonderful this year is unlikely at the very best. I need to not focus on boys or relationships. Boys terrify me. I hate writing that and I hate that it’s true. I hate that I’m too much of an insecure coward to take steps to get to know anyone like that. I hate that the only boy who would kiss me has two other girls he’s also propositioning and I hate that I would even consider that offer. I won’t take it. I know that he won’t care and we’ll move on and stay friends. Chemistry means nothing, the physicality of it all means nothing unless there’s love. And that’s just not in the game plan. I won’t waste my time when there are so many more important things to be doing.

That looks so dramatic and stupid and I’m sure that three years ago I’d’ve been scolded and told to stop being… oh shit what was it. “Emo?” Yeah, well… That was a long time ago and I know the psychology of my situation then back to front. I’ve put it aside.

But I’ve also thought through my life in terms of the big scheme and if I stumble across someone in the distant future who can value me as more than a good time, more than someone to manipulate, and more than a secret meeting, I’ll maybe reconsider. And to be honest I’m jealous of the normalcy, the innocence of my sister, because she has so many options and the good sense and sharp mind to tell all the jackasses and lost causes I seem to attract to go screw themselves.

So this is one step I can take. One thing I can and will firmly refuse. Without love, I won’t make myself vulnerable to anyone. It’s such a hopelessly romantic statement and looks like I’m a giant loser, but the drain that kind of attempt at loveless commitment can take would cost me too much, in terms of emotion, and time.

Most importantly time.

But I will sing. I will write and I may finger paint. If nothing else I will progress musically to the best of my ability, even if that ability happens to be less than everyone else there.

I keep returning to a thought: that I’ve been told I need confidence.

Well you know what? You get too confident and then life sucks when you find out you’re not even close to as good as you thought you were. You try your damnedest to mix humility with the confidence and hope you shine, hope to God it’s working because you crave to do what you love, and it hurts even more when it’s destroyed. You think you know something and you keep seeking that knowledge and you try and fall flat on your face. I’m in a place right now where if I take those kinds of chances and fall, I may not be able to get back up. Everyone knows everyone and they talk. They talk they talk and I keep thinking I don’t want to go back and spend as much time socializing because sleep is great, but apparently their opinions matter and I don’t quite know why. It’s only three and a half years more.

But these people will be around, connecting in the future, for the rest of my life. What do I do? I don’t know. I don’t know.

What do I want?

I want to dream. Dangerously, outrageously. I want to do, and do something useful to benefit people. I want to serve, I want to help. I want to give of myself to improve the life of someone else. I don’t want to dwell in this place where I’m sad and I’m stuck and miserable because I’m ashamed of myself.

I don’t just want, no– I don’t just want to.

I need to surprise myself.

In another life, maybe

So I realized upon waking up and reading what I wrote last night, I left a few important things out of my post.

First of all, I realize it’s a pretty personal subject. When I mentioned the vulnerability? It’s kind of weird leaving that last post up, just because it talks about crap I’ve tried my best to not even think about for a long time.

Because let’s be realistic. I sing opera. I have plans for my life, and they’re not all money-making or stabilizing. I’m ambitious and fairly smart and love to read, write, think, and work outside/shovel horse shit/run around with my dogs when it’s not snowy. I don’t fit the typical mold for a significant other and I’m aware of it. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it, or having a yen for it. Even if it doesn’t make sense.

And hey. This was a blog for my thoughts, first and foremost. So if I’m thinking about boys and the future, then that’s what I’m going to write about.

But upon further reflection, I almost feel as though I should resign it to fiction. Keep the thoughts of a future with some faceless, nameless gent within the pages of a word document. The idea of jeopardizing my future plans because of some unknown stranger is horrifying. It’s just not worth it.

So ignore my lists and forget the standards. It’s just a silly topic that happens to surface in my mind whenever I see my friends happy in that way. I’m glad for them, but in the more selfish section of my brain I do tend to wonder why I can’t have it, too.

A little bit of time

I’m taking a breather right now. I’m just sitting in the dorm relaxing (playing on my laptop) as the sky dims to a sheet of grey outside the window as a soothing breeze tries to creep in.

It’s just a nice pause in a week that’s been crammed with new sensations and the first spurt and rush of a new life. Fourteen weeks to go until this semester’s over.

I want to say that I will be prepared. I have a plan. I am ready for what may come my way, or I will make myself ready. I’m facing the future with less fear than I’ve ever felt. I haven’t wondered “what will happen if I die today” in almost two weeks. Well, to be truthful I thought it yesterday, but it was in passing over the fact that I haven’t really thought about it. In case you’re confused, after my cousin passed away at nineteen, I became fairly neurotic and theorized about death almost daily. If you could see my other blog… well, it wasn’t the most cheery read some days. I mused on life and its end a great deal.

But lately, I have thought about other things.

For example, how Eastman is like Hogwarts. We have a Chamber of Secrets (the Director’s Dining Center, off of the regular Dining Center), many (MANY) stairs that lead to hallways that look highly alike, and we make something from nothing. Whether we use wands or batons or horns or ourselves, we’re shaping ourselves and the world around us into (what is perpetually hoped to be) something better. Something that can make the world better.

That brings me to what I’ve been up to. Yesterday I went to the first SA meeting of the year. SA is the Student’s Association. Representatives from each class are chosen and it’s recommended they attend regularly; also reps from clubs and organizations on campus show up. It’s where student government leaders are decided. In addition, anyone who has something to complain about is urged to go.

So Mary and I went and were the only freshmen there. We’ve been (well, I’ve been) trying to kind of spread the word about the need for freshmen class council members. I’d like to do it, but I think I’d want to be secretary/treasurer, so the pressure of leading others to decisions doesn’t necessarily fall on me. I have to see if I get an ushering job first, though. And there might be more interest and someone with more drive will want that spot.

I’m not saying I’m not ambitious: quite the contrary. But I’d rather see someone who’s obsessed with class government get it, if they want it and will do a good job. I would be pretty good, I’m not going to lie, and I want to be involved, but Garrett Rubin’s organization seems like something I’m going to find a passion in.

It’s called Eastman for the Shropshire Music Foundation, and Garrett developed our little part of it. The Foundation itself was founded by Liz Shropshire, whose background and experience in music and music education led her to raise funds to purchase musical instruments for the children of Kosovo refugees. It now reaches children in Northern Ireland and Uganda as well. I won’t go in intimate detail here, but please visit this site for more information if you’re interested. If you’re not interested, check it out anyway (please). But my point is, I want to get involved. I don’t want to just “be a part of something” for the feeling of inclusion. I don’t want to commit my very limited time to an organization that isn’t doing something proactive, something useful and beneficial.

The Shropshire Foundation is worthwhile. It helps people. Moreover, it helps the children who will grow up to someday have their own impacts, however publicly realized, on the world. To be a medium through which people can learn to love music seems to me a truly influential and vital use of time. Especially since Eastman for the Shropshire Music Foundation is based here. It seems too coincidental that something I’d be crazy about doing would be one of two university-based campaigns for the foundation.

So in this little snippet of down time I’m snagging now, I’m considering the future, considering the options here to be a part of something that’s making a difference. And, I figure, it’s about time.

Refugees (picture taken from http://www.shropshirefoundation.org/mission)

Anxiousitis

I’ve been distracting myself lately.

If I don’t, that deep cold clutch of fear in the belly gives a yank and tugs me under.

It woke me at five this morning, nauseating me. Rippled, acidly, through my nerves until I couldn’t breathe. Dizzy, I stumbled upstairs to drown in coffee. Necessary, but the caffeine just jittered an already faltering system.

I need distraction. Otherwise I just make myself sick.

I’m excited, right? I keep telling myself that. I need this change. It’s a vital step, a crucial part of my life.

But oh God, I’m so scared, so freaking SICK of waiting. The anxiety is wrecking my nerves. Just get me to school and living, already.