September 26, 2014

This was my week. Every day. 

 I spent more time in the library this week than I spent at my apartment. I ate all my meals in the car, on my way to campus or actually on campus. I shuffled from work to school to workshop to yadayadayada... It was exhausting. One more paper to turn in tomorrow and then I'm off the grid until Monday. 

Tonight, I talked to my best friend, Kelsey on the phone. She graduated in May and is now teaching high school English at a very progressive charter school in Utah Valley. When questioned my decision and told her I wish I wasn't writing all these papers and finishing up all of this busy work, she tried to raise my spirits by telling me that it was almost over--to just hold out until May. You know. Stuff they all keep trying to tell me. But nothing hit me like the last thing she said: 

"Getting a degree was the best thing I ever did. Knowing that I've done something hard--something really, really hard that only a tiny fraction of the world has done before--is incredibly rewarding." 

Late nights in the library, I'm going to remember that. This is important stuff. College is important and the hardest weeks will be the ones you remember most, right? 

If you're looking for a sign, something to get you back to school, this is it. I promise you, it's worth it. Hard, like, the hardest thing I've ever done, but when I'm not running on four hours of sleep, my life feels wasted because I'm not consuming the world, not devouring books or arguing the differences between dramatic and cosmic irony, oxymoron and paradox. And that's not a life I want, anyway.

 So go to school. 

Do the hard thing.

September 24, 2014

Early Modern Hawaii.

"Here, Courtney! Write this paper on Thomas More's Utopia and contrast it with a primary source from pre-reformation England!"

"Hey, Courtney! Analyze society in Faulkner's "A Rose For Emily" and be sure to mention all the literary devices used to make a point about the south, post-Civil War."

"Courtney, you look like you could use some extra stuff that doesn't apply to anything you want to do ever. Memorize the regression method, find the R.M.S. Error, and spend 7 hours in the library studying so you can get a C on your test!"

"So, Courtney. Take something from your life that you've been wrestling with, make it hard and pithy and stunning, put your whole self into it, and then bring it to class so we can tear it apart and tell you what you need to fix." 

"Welcome to work, Court! We're sending you on a business trip to Honolulu. Like, as in, we're actually going to pay you to go to Hawaii for a week with the insanely rad people that you work with. During school. A month before finals." 

What is sleep, even? Today I spent twelve hours on campus. I've been meaning to get in the office more than I've been able to, but, life comes at you fast. I don't have time for friends or Netflix or any of it at all! I'm planning races, drinking Diet Coke, writing press releases, analyzing literature, and on good days, I remember to eat. Wait, have we addressed that I'm going to Hawaii on business? Serious Q: is this something professors sometimes overlook? Is this allowed? AM I OKAY?! 

There's this great line in Eat. Pray. Love. where Liz talks about how she has actively participated in every decision of her life. It's a contemplative soliloquy that can be tailored to fit every human situation. This idea that one day, she had wanted all of it. 

Well, I can't get that out of my head. Because, turns out, "all of it" is hard as hell to manage. 

September 22, 2014

I don't know, just a thing.

I found this in one of my poetry portfolios tonight. Whenever I have wayyyy too much on my plate (three papers and a statistics test this week, kill me!) and I should be spending time studying, I usually find myself not writing papers and instead sifting through my desktop files. Tonight, I found this. It is from my Advanced Poetry Workshop last semester. Supposed to be one of those poems where you look through magazines and find interesting words and phrases and combine them in interesting ways. That's not what it is, though, because I hate those poems. I'm not very good at that sort of thing, so mine rarely come together in any sort of coherent way. So, this was a bunch of different phrases that came into my head all within a day or two. And anyway, I found it tonight and love the way it is pieced together. Sometimes, even when words mean nothing, they fill this strange hole inside of me that nothing else does. Like, even when the lines don't make sense, they do. A paradox of consonants and vowels that I get attached to. That's how I know I was always meant to be a writer. 

P.S. I was reading a lot of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes around the time this was written... So, lots of second person addresses, short, punching moments, and an uncomfortable amount enjambment. 

Preferring Things
A cut-up poem 

I’ve always preferred wildflowers
to dreams on the site of the battle
at Ghettysburg, and delayed construction
on I-15 has never thrilled me
the way I’d like to be thrilled
by you.

And watch me as I don’t
participate in playful banter
at the dinner table with
your dysfunctional family. Pay
attention to my hair when it
falls across the pages of
your novel, so fetchingly, as we
lie in a field of green memories
and Campbell’s Soup advertisements.

It’s sweet the way
you don’t like Shakespeare,
but you like to eat breakfast
with me.

September 12, 2014

Summer, Part I.

"He struck me with his sophistication, dedication to professionalism, and admitted lack of know-how when it came to child rearing. He makes me thirsty for conversation--thirsty for thinking. He's a grown up. Buys eight hundred dollar suits. Does business lunches. The kind of man you'd like to honeymoon with."

I met a man at the beginning of the summer who taught me so much about myself. About things that make me angry, mostly. Fiery, the good kind. The excerpt above was written mid-May when we met. The first thing I ever wrote about him. And now, I think I'm ready to tell you about the whole thing.

In June, I went to Boston on business. I didn't write anything down about the trip because I wanted to really be there. Snapped a few pictures, but nothing of real note: A panorama of the city against an amber flood of sky. A backlit photo of an incline, apartment balconies saturated with citrus light. I watched him walk through the reaching of my lens as I shot the landscape. The rhythm of the city encircled me. He stood grid-center watching the clouds shift around the buildings. Kept saying, "I want to mold myself to city life soon." I smiled, repeating the eighth month of the year over again in my mind so it would sink in deep. Tried to convince myself that it wouldn't jar me when it came.

We walked along the water front in the dark. His navigating was effortless. There were glass bottom dinner cruises sailing under the green light of a nearby fishing dock and I can't imagine the appeal of a glass bottom boat in the Boston Harbor, but middle age men and women crowded around the center, danced to polka music in the cool summer evening, and it all lit me up in ways I can't explain. I don't remember what we talked about on that forty minute walk, but I remember the way he was so pleased with just being there.
     "Some people, you know, don't like to wander around foreign cities aimlessly like this. It's like they always have to have a purpose. Somewhere to go."
     "Well, not me," I said.
     "Good. Me neither," he said.

He ordered Swordfish at a restaurant with no name. And I want to be clear. This isn't the use of poetic license to romanticize the restaurant. The small seafood eatery on the wharf seemed to belong to no one.

     "Do you want a bite of this?" He said something about how he'd never tried Swordfish and that on a waterfront in Boston seemed as good a time as any.
     I smiled, "Sure." He cut a small piece of velvety fish that fell, steaming, onto his utensil, lifted his fork toward me. I came at his plate with my own, chewed for a moment, hand cupped over the side of my mouth. "Delicious."
     "Isn't it?"

     Walking back, I used a word incorrectly.

     "Huh. Apocalypse. What about all those lights in the building remind you of an apocalypse?"
     "I used the wrong word. I meant to say eclipse. Like when the sun eclipses the moon? Or, maybe it's the other way around. I'm not sure." And I wasn't. I had no idea what I was talking about and we both knew it.
     "Okay, eclipse. Lunar, solar--who knows," he shrugged his shoulders, hands in both pockets as we walked along the edge of the sky line. "Should we grab a taxi to the station? It's getting late." We looked around. A few cars buzzed around us, but no one was on the street.
     "I think we can walk," I said, trying to stretch my minutes.
     "Sounds good to me," he said.

     In a train that led us out of Boston, we sat together on a sloping bench near the sliding door.
     "So, what made you decide to leave?" I asked.
     He scratched the back of his head and raised both eyebrows the way my dad does when he's about to give me financial advice. "Uh," he breathed, "I don't, uh. I don't really know, actually," he shrugged,  "Sorry, that's not really an answer. I just--I don't have anything tying me down at home, and I got this job offer that would've been too hard to refuse. So, I took it," he paused for a moment, stroked his third day scruff. "And, uh. I guess I'm going." My forehead creased. "I think I just started realizing that I'm not going to be in this spot forever, you know? Like, I'm twenty-four. And I love the city, so I'm going for a while. To get it out of my system, before, you know," he motioned with his hands, "a wife. Kids. Mortgage."
     "Right," I nodded, "sounds like you know what you want."
     "I love it back home, but--" The train door slid open, jolting us both. My curls, fallen from humidity, stuck to my lipstick. I looked up at him without regrouping.
     "But you want to go," I finished. He nodded.
     "I do. I just want to try leaving," breaking our contact, his eyes moved to the ground, "and see if I come back."

     We stood up in unison and exited, leaving the conversation in the car, but I'll never forget it.