Daniel Radcliffe & Emma Watson, on the last day of filming, watch a montage of their years of working on the Harry Potter series
my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for eachother: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis-E.E.Cummings
Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?
To answer this question, I am only indirectly going to talk about myself. Instead of talking about my new friends in the English department or some web of friendships I’ve discovered this year, I rather think that a more significant community I have discovered this year is the community of new moms, both in person and on theinterwebs. Now, I am not a new mom, but my sister is, and for all intents and purposes, my sister and I are the same person. I swear that we were twins in a past life, the similarities between us are freaky. This year, my sister gave birth to her first child, a beautiful baby boy named Charlie (I mentioned him in a post or two ago onTumblr) and given that she is such a young mom (she’s 23), I know she found the first few weeks of motherhood isolating and quite frankly, terrifying. Jess is the first of her immediate friends to have a baby, and I remember how scared she seemed when she realized that the delivery was only the first arduous hurdle she would have to face. Breastfeeding, naptime, traveling, running errands about town, all of these things Jess had to master immediately because suddenly a dependent little human being needer her to know all of the answers. Since those difficult first weeks, my sister conquered the steps of what to do with a newborn baby, and if you could see her now, you’d think she was super-mom. As awesome as she is at the whole new mom thing, what got her to that point was largely the community of new moms she met through one of the support groups at the hospital where Charlie was born. Twice a week, this group of new moms meet and talk about questions they are having, problems their babies have developed, what is new in their lives, accomplishments they’ve made as mothers figuring this whole thing out. Watching my sister go frommelting into tears of defeat over the seeming impossibility of nursing and saying things like “I can’t do this” and “I can’t provide for my baby” to being the star of her support group, I know that a big portion of what got her to this point is having people to turn to who understand her situation and can empathize with her, people whoknow what its like to suddenly have a tiny person completely dependent on you - only you - for survival. That’s a huge responsibility on anyone, not to mention a young woman in her early twenties, and as the first months of life with Charlie passed, I saw first hand how important a sense of community was not only for my sister, but also for the beginning of Charlie’s life. There are still new developments and new issues for my sister with Charlie, every day is a new adventure and as Charlie changes, so will my sister’s knowledge about babies, but that’s all part of it. My sister is turning out to be an absolutely wonderful mother, and I truly believe that she rose beautifully to the occasion, and her strength and awesome maternal instincts brought her to the place she is today. Watching my sister grow with the support of her new mom community opened my eyes not only to the world that accompanies the birth of a child, but also to the ever-present web of people out there in the world who are there and understand almost every situation imaginable, if only one has the courage and determination to look for them. It is becoming obvious to me that community is ever present, and whether or not you connect to people in person or on the internet, there seems to always be people out there who share similar experiences and can help. The more people I meet in this world, the more I start thinking that people are okay, and that maybe everyone has a little bit of everyone else in them in all the best ways.
Prompt: Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
This is a difficult question for a few reasons, the greatest being that I am a packrat in all aspects of my life and as a result, I don’t like letting go of anything. Until I moved away for college, I had lived in one room for twenty years and the spectacular amount of overcrowding and fire code violations in that tiny room speak novels to this fact. To answer the question, the most significant thing I let go of this year is my fear of being off on my own. I’m not talking about being single, I’m talking about relinquishing the crippling homesickness that plagued my first two quarters at UCLA. I kid you not, this was a HUGE deal for me. I come from an inordinately close family, and the first two quarters living two hours away – only two hours! – was almost unbearably painful. My first quarter here, I literally cried every single day for two and a half months. I’d tell to you ask my roommate for confirmation, but I did a good job hiding it for a lot of that time. I admit, it was all pretty melodramatic, but as much as I told myself I was being stupid and that I was much stronger than all of that, I also had to admit that you don’t cry every day for two and a half months without there being a serious problem. I considered transferring schools, maybe going to UCSD instead, but transferring schools meant admitting I was weaker than I thought I was, and I wasn’t about to admit that I couldn’t handle it. So, I stayed another quarter and it broke my heart every time I packed my things to go back up to school from home, every time my family left a voicemail telling me how much they missed me too. I remember clear as day this one morning when my mother accidentally sent me a text that she meant to send to my sister that read: “I have breakfast here for you, sweetie.” When you come from a family as weirdly close as mine, you’ve already cried that morning because you miss your mom too much and your perfume reminds you of the orange trees in your backyard, it only takes a text like for your heart to look up at you from the floor and say, you don’t think I can break any more? Watch me. I spent the majority of my mornings that first quarter crying over my whole wheat toast, and trust me, if that’s how breakfast goes, you are definitely in for it. Even now, after months of going tear free and actually enjoying going to UCLA, writing this post and invoking all of those sore feelings, it’s still hard to talk about. It still hurts, remembering waking up crying, my cheek a bit damp from a teary pillow left over from the night before. I’m sure that big scars like that never really go away, they just become part of you like everything else, and one day you stop noticing them as much.
Eventually, probably some time in the beginning of Spring quarter, I started finding pleasant things about school. I started making friends of my own, started going to some fun places out in LA. My room stopped feeling so confining and I even would catch myself saying I was going home when I was talking about going back to my dorm. The shift from heartbreak to healing was subtle, my wounds weren’t stapled shut but washed gently with warm water, and sometimes if that didn’t work, I’d try a little soap. Day by day, the burden of being alone in vast and towering city got lighter. Slowly, I had begun letting go. In retrospect, I’m not even sure what I was letting go of. I guess it was a few things, maybe my fears of losing people I love, not wanting to admit that people and places have to power to become smaller parts of my life and that I could be okay with it. The fear of trusting in myself to make decisions, do the right thing, make mistakes. I remember that when I got to LA, everything seemed so serious, I felt like I was on the ledge of the life I loved and with one step further I would drop off the cliff and fall into a future I wasn’t ready for. Everyone I met seemed to have an opinion for what I needed to be doing, everyone was so eager to project their own insecurities onto me and tell me I needed to grow up, that I was stuck in Neverland, that the time for action was five minutes ago. It hurts when you tell someone that when they aren’t ready for it, sometimes people need time to get there on their own. That’s something that took a long time for me to accept, that responsibility is certainly important, but you need to believe in yourself to get there. During this time, I also realized that some relationships need air, and on the journey to finding out who you are, you also find out who you most certainly are not, and that’s sometimes just as hard. Being on your own for the first time in your life is a complicated circumstance, and little epiphanies more often that not lead to big epiphanies, and you don’t even realize it until you look back for a minute and see the distance you’ve gone.
I guess that’s largely what this whole getting over chronic homesickness thing was about the whole time. It was a letting go, but it was also a finding, an acquiring of the pieces that were missing. No longer am I afraid of leaving home or of being on my own. I’ve learned how to trust in my own judgment and know my pace, what speed I’m good with and what kind of people are one of my kind. Of the many things that made this year monumental in my young life, my overcoming the unexpected trauma of living on my own and beginning to understand what it means to figure out who I am tops the list. I’m still figuring out what I want out of life and who I want to be in five years, but I’m not in so much of a hurry anymore, and I am okay with listening to my own instinct and instructions. I am on the way to accepting that everything important I need to know about me, I already know, it just takes a little time for me to recognize my own reflection in other people and places.
Prompt:Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
This is an easy one. I cultivated a sense of wonder by studying abroad in England for a month. Wonder and curiosity go hand in hand for me, and I can vouch that there are few things that will make you more curious about the world than seeing more of it. From the initial lift-off at LAX and feeling the rush of a swift take off, leaping over the United States and over an entire ocean span, arriving on the other side a little dishevelled but all in one piece, a fourteen hour plane trip is enough to give you a lot to think about, but arriving at a foreign airport is just the beginning of your adventure in a foreign country. In England, every smell, sight, touch, sound felt new. Cobblestones, high tea, ice cream barges, accents, raincoats, Underground platforms, Oyster cards, pound coins, fish and chips served in newspapers, Shakespeare, clink, clank, knock, chime, the Beatles. The sensory overload goes on and on, and sometimes you stand on a street corner and just look up. Walking down the streets of London on my way to the Old Globe made me want to have four more sets of eyes, and that’s just to remember the names of all the pubs. There was just so much to see and do all at once, I was in awe for four solid weeks. I landed back in LAX after it was all over - exhausted, bruised, swollen and definitely hung over from the previous last night in London - but the whirling of my head could only partially be blamed on the pints. The world was bigger, my bag of tricks fuller, my understanding of life a sliver more comprehensive, and my curiosity ignited in all the best ways possible.
I’m three days into this and already I’ve managed to flake out on a day! That’s okay, luckily for me I’m the only one in charge of making sure I stay on schedule, and I like to go easy on me.
Since I skimped out on writing for December 2nd, I decided to choose between December 2nd and 3rd for tonight’s post. Between the two, I very much liked December 3rd best, since the 2nd’s seemed a little too obvious for my current situation (the prompt was to explain what hinders you from writing daily, and I’d have to say that the fifteen pages of research papers I write a week contribute a little to that. Hi, English major!).
Today’s prompt: Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
My memory is witnessing my sister give birth to her first child, my nephew. Before you go running and screaming off into the distance, know that I am NOT going to go into the texture, smells, noises and colors of THAT experience. Trust me, it was enough nastiness just being in the room for that, I don’t need to explain to you the sensory overload of witnessing child labor in all of its gruesome glory. Yeah yeah, it’s beautiful and precious, but it’s also a teensy horrifying. The experience I remember is after the labor was over, after Charlie and my sister were cleaned up and after the intensity had died down from the former cheers and shouts of encouragement to a soft hum of joy and merriment, and I got to hold Charlie for the first time. I truly cannot remember where exactly I was when this happened - it could have been either in the hospital or back at my sister and brother-in-law’s house, it was such a blur - but the first time I held that tiny pink baby, oh man. He was so tiny, I kept stupidly asking, is he…human? I had never seen anything so small and human before, holding a human life that was a mere hours/days old was more defining of a moment than my twenty years of life could prepare me to understand. His feet had no callouses, his skin no mark of sunlight. He couldn’t speak, laugh, communicate, smile yet - was he human? In retrospect, I laugh at my childlike foolishness, of course he was human, what else could he possibly be. But holding him, feeling skin that has never been bruised, burnt, scraped, cut before and smelling that pink baby smell, there’s no smell like it in the world, holding seven pounds of muscle, bones, veins, consciousness, all of the components that equal a person. It was an experience that shattered all illusions I had of what life is, what it means to be a human with a life that is so precious that I couldn’t even begin to understand its preciousness until I held a brand new one in my arms. I held a beginning of a journey, the first page of an unfinished story. I had never known before that moment why people say that when they hold a baby they hold the world in their arms, but now it makes absolute sense. Seeing the beauty and life in the breaking dawn of my nephew’s life opened the windows and illuminated a sliver of the magniture of what being alive means for me. If you’ve held a brand new baby in your arms, then you know exactly of what I write, and if you have not, there is no possible way to descibe it. When it happens for you, it’s going to be big.
Given how dismal my participation in this blog has been for the last few months, I’ve decided to sign up for Reverb10, a website that prompts bloggers to reflect on their last year and anticipate what’s to come. This last year has been quite monumental, and I want to give a final hat tip and salute to it by pausing once every day this month to reflect on what I’ve learned, and thoroughly synthesize all that has happened. Some posts might be heartfelt and emotional, others might just be a sentence. My goal isn’t to break new ground, my goal is to get back in the habit of writing freely and to illuminate my experiences of the last year and, from them, extract significance.
To 2010. You were pretty great.
Prompt: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
This year included a whole host of firsts for me - some good, some bad - and this year I’ve learned to have a new awareness of what it means to understand, and not just my own experiences, but a kind of understanding that includes everyone I know. This year I had to communicate intimately for the first time in my life, I witnessed the birth of my first nephew, I spent a month in England, I entered my senior year of college, the list goes on. I learned something about experience this year, and it’s that whether or not an experience resulted in good or bad is important isn’t so important as the fact that you now understand that experience. For so many things in life, someone can explain to you what something felt like, but until you go through it and feel it for yourself, you don’t really know what it’s like. Once you go through something, whether or not it yields positive results isn’t as important as the fact that you now understand that experience, be that the death of a loved one, losing a job, getting married, becoming a mother. It is having gone through that experience and knowing exactly what it is like that is such a critical element of the human experience - I can sympathize with you because I understand. You don’t even need to explain, I know. That is why I chose “understanding” as my word for 2010.
This next year, a lot of things are going to change. I will be graduating from UCLA, I will be living back at home, and I will need to start making important decisions about my path in life. The prospect of everything I know about life changing in a series of months is a daunting notion to say the least, and to be perfectly honest, I am scared. I feel a little fragile, not knowing exactly where I am going to be in five years, even one year. Despite the fears I have for the future, I want to be able to say, come December 1st, 2011, that I had faith in myself that I could do it (whatever “it” may be), that everything would work out fine. I want to have trusted in my best qualities and relied on my ability to be a fighter and an optimist, despite whatever bad fortune may come. I know that I cannot help certain circumstances and that there are some things in life that I cannot change. However, I do know that there are some things over which I have complete control, and that in most cases I am the captain of my fate. That won’t change so long as I have faith in myself. I want this to be a sentiment I remember all throughout 2011, and a quality I cherish thereafter.
It was hard to say when exactly winter arrived. The decline was gradual, like that of a old person into old age, inconspicuous from day to day until the season became an established, relentless reality. First came a dip in evening temperatures, then days of continuous rain, confused gusts of Atlantic wind, dampness, the fall of leaves and the changing of the clocks - though there were still occasional moments of reprieve, mornings when one could leave the house without a coat and the sky was cloudless and bright. But they were like false signs of recovery in a patient upon whom death has already passed its sentence. By December the new season was entrenched, and the city was covered almost every day by an ominous steel-grey sky, like one in a painting by Mantegna or Veronese, the perfect backdrop to the crucifixion of Christ or to a day beneath the bedclothes. The neighborhood park became a desolate spread of mud and water, lit up at night by rain-streaked street lamps. Passing it one evening during a downpour, I recalled how, in the intense heat of the previous summer, I had stretched out on the ground and let my bare feet slip out of my shoes to caress the grass, and how this direct contact with the earth had brought with it a sense of freedom and expansiveness, summer breaking down the usual boundaries between indoors and out and allowing me to feel as much at home in the world as in my bedroom.
Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel