A few Sundays ago, on a grey morning in upstate New York, I jumped into the cool water of Lake Otsego right behind my house. “Jumped,” actually, is a strong word for what I did. I waded up to my hips. Then I waited for courage to take hold. And then I almost turned back, twice – halfway in’s good enough, I said to myself. I don’t need to put my entire body under this unpleasantly cold water. I’m refreshed from the hips down, good enough. And then, in a moment unexpected, without thinking (and thoroughly surprising myself), I dunked. And I swam as far out as I could convince myself to – long before the place where the water suddenly gets deep enough that I can’t feel the bottom (which freaks me out and induced panic attacks in my younger self).
I am sitting at my desk in New York City, the very desk I sat at every day my senior year of college in Charlottesville, Virginia. I am drinking tea. I am looking out of the window at a drastically different view than this desk used to offer – instead of looking into an idyllic garden space (which none of my roommates or I ever used; take me back), I now stare face-on at another building that feels disruptively close to my own window. No, this building can’t even offer me a creepy-yet-comforting view into my neighbors’ domestic lives – the windows are too small. So here I sit, unaccompanied but with the knowledge that there are bodies all around me – above me (two floors), below me (four floors, or five if you count the basement), around me in all directions (I can see six huge buildings just from this one spot). They’re all full of people I don’t know, people I will never know - what is universally accepted as odd about New York city is the stark contrast between the number of people and how impossible it feels to actually meet anyone new. We are stuck in our fears of rejection, which are no doubt reinforced by the masks - hollow looks and dismissive retorts - that New Yorkers build up over the years.
I know, a lofty topic, albeit one that’s appeared in a lot of my writing since the very beginning of my writing career (which began at age sevenish). Well, at the beginning of my writing career I had very little personal experience with relationships to draw on, aside from a brief romance at age five with a boy named Jack who I still refer to as my “first boyfriend.” I even gave him the rose I received at school to present as a gift on Valentine’s day (one of which was given to each member of my kindergarten class with the definite intent that we gift it to one of our parents… I was a ballsy child, I guess, back before I learned to be self-conscious or became aware of the possibility of rejection). Anyway, I would say now that my experience with relationships – platonic, romantic, and in between – has expanded dramatically, even if I did wait until eighteen to have my first real kiss (after Jack, of course) and still have much to experience down the road. But this isn't going to be about my personal experience in the wide world of love (sorry to disappoint).
Just a short little post to start off the week... So, this quote points to a concept that I often find to be soul-saving; it is a source of solace even in my most moody, self-deprecating moments. I like to break it down in two ways:
First, what we seek in the world, and especially in others, is a direct reflection of ourselves. What we find to be so beautiful, so wonderful, in other people, we probably have within us. I have realized over the years that I connect with all of my very best friends for the same reasons. For me, that means a shared curiosity about the world, an ability to talk about any and everything for hours on end, and an unconventional sense of fun (that goes beyond the usual drinking and partying route, though we occasionally appreciate that too). Bottom line - the qualities that people look for in others are often different, but what we love most about our friends across the board must in some measure reflect us as well. Which by default means that we should love ourselves much more than we tend to.
On the other end of the spectrum, the qualities that repel us in other people, we probably don't ourselves have. I am not sure why this is not more self-evident to me, but for some reason it's just not. I often fear that I do things that I don't like in other people; but then I think that, most probably, I don't, because if I did I wouldn't recognize my distaste for those things. You know?
Okay, maybe I'm not explaining this as eloquently as I would like to. But next time you have a moment when you're like, I just LOVE my friends for XYZ reasons, just know you have those qualities too. It's like looking in a mirror for your soul.
Just a little food for thought on a rainy Monday morning :)
I was blasting a Katy Perry song in my car two Septembers ago when I found out that, just a few hours earlier, a friend of mine had died. I was on my way back from the grocery store with my roommate, and as we were parking two girls in my sorority pledge class approached me, shaking and crying, to deliver the news through my car window. Katy Perry was still playing in the background, and I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t know what to say. The truth is that what happened didn’t make any sense, and, anyway, I don’t know how much weight to put on that one event in my life. I truly, to this day, don’t know how much it affected me. We were friends, but we weren’t close friends. Truth be told, her apparent perfection and her sometimes-overbearing leadership bothered me. And yet, she was a golden girl - a shining innocent, and brilliantly smart. She lit up a room. She believed in the world. She was an exceptional person, as people who die too young tend to be. I had always expected that we would get closer as time went on; suddenly, there was no time. What was I supposed to make of that? Was my world supposed to shatter? Every time that song comes on, I ask myself those questions. What bothers me, though, at my very core, is that that song doesn’t make me cry.