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the eighty-ninth key

…to a body beauty and to a soul wisdom and to an action virtue and to speech truth, but their opposites are unbefitting.

There is a song by the Canadian band Metric (or should I say The Clash at Demonhead?) that I am pretty sure is about zombies. Or falling in love. Or dealing with life. Does it really matter?

If I tremble,
they’re gonna eat me alive.
If I stumble,
they’re gonna eat me alive.
Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer?
(beating like a hammer)
Help, I’m alive.
My heart keeps beating like a hammer.

Hard to be soft, tough to be tender….
Come take my pulse.
The pace is on a runaway train.
Help, I’m alive.
My heart keeps beating like a hammer.

-Metric, “Help, I’m Alive”

Being chased and having an accelerated sense of adrenaline is something I identify with in a more emotional way.  Anxiety is a very palpable emotion for me. I have always considered myself to be a deadline-driven person (read: procrastinator) who doesn’t feel really alive about a project most times until the eleventh hour. Change excites and enthralls me, but being out of control leads to being overwhelmed, which soon manifests itself in anxiety. It’s a familiar feeling that definitely varies in severity, a pressure in my chest that would send me to the school nurse daily in the third grade when I was bullied and had a hard time fitting in. In middle school it would leave me gasping for breath, on rare occasion pushing me to almost passing out. Anxiety and me have a long standing relationship, and I don’t delude myself with thinking it’s going to cut me off completely any day soon, although at this point we mainly are ‘it’s complicated’ at best.

Many people live with anxiety. I have found mine to typically be extremely manageable, after a little counseling in my early teens and a lot of group and self lead Buddhist style meditation practices. I, as many do, have a short list of things to keep balance. Eating well and exercise helps a little. Feeling confident in my physical self plays an enormous factor. Being involved in writing and playing music is monumentally significant in my emotional health, second only possibly to being able to anchor myself in a community of friends and family.

My travels to beginning this new chapter in Illinois have currently left me void of nearly all of these stabilizing factors. Not to say I’m off the deep end now, have faith, but it is a strong reminder of how blessed I have become over the last ten years to develop a near system of important behaviors to allow me to live a higher quality of life. Waking up to a dull ache is a strange reminder of times where I was far younger and less understanding of how to take care of myself. The anonymity of being thousands of miles away from home leaves the question of earlier lyrics ringing in my ears as I carry out different chores in a day, going to the bank, getting milk, even talking on the phone to a customer service representative at the electric company. Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer? 

It’s strange how intimidating something can be without a familiarity. Calling the cable/internet/phone/gas/electric companies in my hometown? I wouldn’t ever think twice. But my first call to set up utilities here was nearly as exhausting as waiting on hold for two hours to get through- for no other reason than the company had an unfamiliar name, had an area code that I am not yet familiar with, had a logo that I haven’t seen printed on ads at the home stadium or in receipts in my home mailbox. Each little step some days feels like a mountain, but each flag I place in the summit is a little less weight on my chest the next day.

Metric might be right on with this one- a big part of being alive is the little calls for help. Maybe I’m only telling half the story- for those of you who haven’t listened to the video yet or aren’t familiar with the song, here’s the second part of the lyrics:

If I’m still alive, my regrets are few.
If my life is mine ,what shouldn’t I do?

I get wherever I’m going, I get whatever I need-

While my blood’s still flowing, and my heart still beats.

And so I continue going through the motions until they get easier. The beauty of this all being hard and unfamiliar is that it means somewhere, other places have grown familiar to me. Streets in my hometown of Reno, trees and names of brews of craft beers in my college town, Salem; even bus route numbers in Portland. When a friend traveled to San Diego a couple days ago, I couldn’t hold back my opinions long enough to even count the number of restaurants and sites I knew she had to see.

Surely many people have made far further transitions with far less support. A few generations back, members of my family traversed oceans alone into places where had no roots, no promises, and no shared language. This too will grow to be familiar. Until then, I write blog posts with many words and am grateful for the many friends and family from other homes who drop me messages to remind me that I’m not alone, even when I am.

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I’m thinking that keeping a consistent post of links might be a ridiculous endeavor to undertake, but I find myself realizing that most of what I come across both on the Interwebs and in my daily life is not as much inspiration for commentary as it worth giving a signal boost. And I would be much remiss if I thought that I was doing things proper justice or recording by copying and pasting their links into a Facebook status. So, here is an array of things I think are worth your time to look at:

On Sexuality:

Hugh Hefner discusses sexual freedoms (SFW)
Women in Togo, a West African Country, begin a sex strike that one could liken to a modern Lysistrata (Thanks for the link, Z!)

In (not so recent) Television:

I find myself to be recently obsessed with absolutely hooked on The West Wing‘s predecessor, Sports NightAaron Sorkin again (can you say again if it was done before?) succeeds in creating characters that I want my peer group to emulate, scenes that give me feelings for no real reason, rapid fire dialogue that I will annoyingly want my conversations to be on par with, and quotes that are spot-on with my life decisions, ranging from the heart-stretchingly honorable:

“It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.”

Issac Jaffe (character) on “Sports Night”

…To the possibly more hapless and realistic:

“And in that moment, Dan was reminded once again why he wanted to write in the first place. It’s for the same reason anybody does anything: to impress women.”

Jeremy Goodwin (character) on “Sports Night”

I have also attempted watching Doctor Who, and am finding that I might never be able to realize my place as an alpha nerd due to a lack of ability to get past bad alien costuming in sci-fi. I’m almost three episodes in. We’ll see.

In Music, and an complete lack of knowledge thereof:

Bloggers at the LA Weekly have done their best to completely alienate me by putting many bands I love on lists for ‘The 20 Worst Hipster Bands‘ and ‘The Top 20 Worst Bands of All Time‘ leaving me to dread what music they might think is actually ‘good’.

Lastly, for now, in cuteness:

A picture I found on Tumblr of a ton of White German Shepherds being mind-nummingly adorable and making me miss my dog like absolutely crazy:

Image

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A long time has passed since I last posted here, but a new chapter begs for proper attempts at documentation. What is most noticeable to me currently is this: I have made the novice “packing in an absolute rush of idiocy” mistake of forgetting to bring socks.

Much more of consequence has happened in the last week than that alone: I have begun the underestimatedly arduous task of moving one’s self thousands of miles, searched for days upon days with the support of my loving parents to find an available and non-toxic flat, grappled with many emotions the likes of which are unfamiliar upon recognising that I am soon to have residency in beautiful college town Evanston, IL-where I know no one, I signed my first lease, repacked and moved all of the painstakingly prepared luggage from home into boxes, moved the boxes into a storage unit underneath my future apartment to wait until my lease begins, arranged for renter’s insurance, spent time exploring Chicago with aforementioned wonderful parents, said goodbye as they headed to the airport (comforting myself with the fact that they will be coming to visit in less than two months’ time), and packed a backpack and a shoulderbag with clothes to take to a friend’s house in Libertyville while I wait for my apartment- clothes, yes, but socks, no.

So, in the logic of rationing my one pair of slightly-dirty socks for another day, I wandered through the quaint streets of Libertyville sans socks in my Vans. I should clarify, since all my shoes are Vans, that I was wearing these:

they look even better (read: worse) on. – Worth noting: the back of these bad boys is held together with my own DIY shoe cobbling of medical tape.

After walking to a cute old drugstore which had nothing in it that I needed, noting what days 2.50 cheeseburger-with-a-drink-purchase and $500-jackpot-community-bingo nights were (Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively), and searching for a gas station to buy a pint of milk (where I passed out in their bathroom of heat stroke, but that’s another story…), my feet were hurting more than a bit. Coming back to Chris’s and unsticking them from my feet revealed a little row of toe-knuckle blisters and a big red shiner on my left heel.

Through the unmitigated chaos of the last week, I’ve felt more raw than ever. Distance between my best friends and me means little to no communication, not as an insult to any of our abilities to stay in touch, but rather as a reflection of my shortcomings as a person who best relates with just sharing physical space with someone. Going through the wreckage of finding a rentable, desirable, and affordable apartment in Evanston (pick two!) with my parents helped me reach a new level of friendship with them (which I hope is somewhat mutual)- making it even harder for me to not follow them home. Having long, late night chats with my best friend and significant other (how lucky to say both things of one person in a lifetime) in which we realize that a long distance relationship is not presently reasonable for us is heart breaking, even when mutual and rational. Amidst uninvited tears and unwelcome insomnia, I’ve clung to the old AA adage: “A Day at a Time”.

Just as blisters wear off old skin and make it that much harder to endure new growth, a physical transition of 2,000 miles and an emotional transition out of many comfort zones of familiarity has worn me out in many sensitive spots. I have always associated this trying to make it through each individual day as progress concept with 12-Step philosophy, but never truly taken time to inspect the word “recovery” in itself. To cover something again is to take it from a state of vulnerability and provide new shelter, new safety, and even new surroundings.

It is in this spirit that I suppose I keep on. As a caveat, almost every piece of music I own (which as you should know is a stupidly large amount) has been pushing my emotions a little more than I can handle, although music is typically my only surefire outlet when I’m in a hard time. However, I have found a couple pieces that treat me kindly by digging through some of my favorite classical pieces while looking to make a mixtape for a new friend. Here is a link to Antonin Dvorak’s 8th Symphony in G, mvt IV, a piece I have fond memories of playing in high school:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8J6rxuqStQA&feature=player_detailpage#t=1625s

Any music recommendations and/or advice with making a long move is well appreciated.

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Happier.

Happiness is always equated with doing more. It’s the competitive mentality that floods every social circle I am a part of- music ensembles, classrooms, even (and especially) in my friend groups. It’s a double-edged sword if I’ve ever seen one. Competition is healthy and vital to a lot of progress, I’m by no means naive enough to debate that. Fear that someone is going to kick you sideways at something you take pride in is a powerful form of motivation. It compels musicians to spend any time whatsoever on scales, writers to fill spiralbound notebooks with scribbling attempts, and athletes to go back to an unforgiving exercise. In each situation there is a distinct echo of the physical strain- muscles stretch and tear, ache, and ultimately strengthen. Yet there is always a set of rules determining success and always a greater level to reach. Any relief and happiness granted by achievement is only temporary, it seems, with the realization that in “leveling up,” you are now at the bottom of a whole new set of rules with daunting requisites.

There is such a shame associated with reveling in the static- that contentment is automatically interchangeable with complacency. However, I think that the obsessive drive for progress is just as much as an intoxicating illusion of a pastime. To always see up, but never achieve a filling happiness with life as you live it, and only see passing days as collateral loss towards an ever-expanding goal. It’s a distraction, I think, from a more noble and challenging self-discussion of loving the present.

I’m not saying that every hand you’re dealt is a winning one, and that you should settle for a poor one. But I am overwhelmed by a consumerist society that sees any stagnant behavior as mediocrity and any regression as failure, and although I don’t think I can do much to subvert or destroy it in an impacting way, I can make steps to defeat the mentality it creates in me.

“Some people protest carrying signs. Some people protest by making activist radical music. Sometimes people try to just make it through a day and not kill themselves, and that’s their activism for right then, because that’s all they have.”

-Kathleen Hanna

Although the initial image this post stems from has value, it makes me think more than anything else of Radiohead’s 1984-esque “Fitter. Happier.”- in which lyrics are a laundry list of requirements to meet some unspoken ideal/status-quo. Instead of doing more, I want to do the same, with an invested heart and present mind. We aren’t told enough that the things we do are “enough”- lately, I’ve sympathized most with Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa“- getting wrapped up in the song’s first two verses:

I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail
Yes I would, if I could, I surely would
I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would

Away, I’d rather sail away
Like a swan that’s here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound
Its saddest sound

 

The last line of the song, however, provides a keen insight:
I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet/Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would –

Instead of envy and feelings of inadequacy, there is a new-found appreciation of what is at hand (or foot).  If I am to be a man tied up to the ground, I vow to do so with the dirt in between my toes, relishing in every grain, instead of loathing myself in failed attempts to fly.

“Indecision may or may not be my problem.”
-Jimmy Buffett

New blog time. Posting personal thoughts and long texts on Tumblr kind of feels like writing a diary entry on the wall of a gas station bathroom. So here’s to a place where I can write with punctuation- although Lord knows I can’t ever make up my mind on how I like to capitalize things.

As I finish up my last 2 applications to graduate programs, I’m more easily overwhelmed than usual by the impending uncertainty of ‘future times’ and ‘growing up.’ My closest friends are entering their study abroad programs, as most third year students do at the university I’m attending. However, seeing as I’m graduating a year early, I’m going to be dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on my diploma as they perfect tans and develop a worldview. Electing, as I do many times in my life, to level-up a bit before the rest of the gang.

It’s easy for me to be eager to do this, to head towards a profession that I feel truly passionate about. Of course, I’ve had a lot of different hypothetical career paths throughout my life. Highlights include:

  • Eye surgeon (when I found a National Geographic on eyeballs at age 5- my dad encouraged me with a Fischer Price Doctor Kit)
  • Professional Ice Figure Skater (idolizing Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan’s Olympic success while simultaneously paying no mind to the fact that as a child I had the physical coordination of an epileptic flounder)
  • Research scientist (a very supportive middle school bio teacher would tell me her lab stories… and if there is ever a time when being isolated and away from people sounds incredible, it’s middle school)
  • Free-lance ghost writer (an ex’s dad did a wonderful job of romanticizing his job, which is probably why he had the job- but writing coal to diamonds is a hard market)
  • NPR Journalist (fight the honorable fight with ‘objective’ journalism… back before I realized objectivity is on vacation from the real world, riding on a unicorn somewhere far far away)

Despite this array of fleeting passions, there is one profession that I’ve always seen myself doing: teaching. More specifically, being as much like my dad as possible.

Growing up with a professor as a parent is a stellar opportunity- especially if your parent is an educator in the sense that they devote themselves their field and to the possibility to touch another’s mind. ENFJ, a teacher in everything they do. And as a parent, I want to offer the things to my children that I had access to as a professorkid. I always had the coolest babysitters, given that whoever was my dad’s TA for the semester had the unwritten opportunity to make 20 bucks to chill with me while my folks went to a movie. From age 3 until now, I have had books continuously checked out from the University library on his card. I was navigating the confusing bowels of state school academic buildings as soon as I could walk, and saw campuses as a friendly place to ride my bike, not as a daunting microcosm of a city.

So, where’s the catch, right?

The longer I’ve been in academia (and although I shouldn’t, I do count high school as emotionally being academia, given the time commitment of my workload), the more I miss the other things- the everything that ends up on the backburner as I develop a lifestyle of books and JSTOR and sitting on my ass in a committed relationship with Microsoft Word. For the child who spent every lunch period in a library- it’s a dream come true to think of reading for a living. But it makes the restless parts of me compound, and professions with a ‘rush’ involved seem more alluring than ever.

Get paid to do what you love- that’s the goal. So it’s nice to fantasize about throwing caution to the wind and using my other talents- the ones that get less airtime on my CV. This is where the jobs with uniforms come in. The same way that I get to justify spending disproportionate hours behind a laptop screen, in library corners, and doing “culture studies” (read: browsing Autostraddle) for my Rhetoric degree, I wish I could justify other practices as ‘part of the job.’ A military or law enforcement job where I could spend hours at the gym and the shooting range, to invest as much into my other muscles as I do to my brain, instead of having let my agility and muscle definition fall to disrepair in order to keep on top of my coursework.

At the end of the day and at the end of the blog post, I know what I really want to do for a career, and I sleep well (mostly) knowing that I am moreso than not crafting for myself a future that I am ecstatic to live in. I suppose, for lack of a better conclusion, that the real challenge of growing up is finding a way to integrate all the different passions into your life when they stop fitting on a class schedule. In high school especially, my resume had written on it everything that I was crazy about. Queer rights? President of the GSA. Marksmanship? Lettered for rifle team. Sport? Varsity Tennis Co-Captain. Poetry? Slam Poet competitor and occasional winner. Activist? Youth leader for an incredibly successful homeless project, and a club that raised enough funding to build a school kitchen in Ecuador. The list goes on. Life after high school blurs this idea, but university isn’t too different. Less club involvement is balanced by more intense majors, less extra-curriculars by more intensive job opportunities; the impulse to perform for paper doesn’t leave, as graduation requirements breathe down a sweaty collegiate neck.

I don’t quite know how yet, but I need a way to fit things in that I love even if they won’t ever show up on an application. It takes small steps, and it’s terribly challenging, but it’s a good goal to take on in the spirit of new horizons. I’m in my last riff of undergrad, finished with my thesis and [nearly] finished with my grad applications, just starting out a “new year” after hitting my 21st birthday ten days ago, and about to enter a new calendar year. Seems as good of a time as any to find a way to balance the justified fun of nerding out and the personal indulgences of pointless hobbies.