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"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." ~Jack London

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Always (For Charles Simic)

Always so late in the day
In their rumpled clothes, sitting
Around a table lit by a single bulb,
The great forgetters were hard at work.
They tilted their heads to one side, closing their eyes.
Then a house disappeared, and a man in his yard
With all his flowers in a row.
The great forgetters wrinkled their brows.
Then Florida went and San Francisco
Where tugs and barges leave
Small gleaming scars across the Bay.
One of the great forgetters struck a match.
Gone were the harps of beaded lights
That vault the rivers of New York.
Another filled his glass
And that was it for crowds at evening
Under sulphur yellow streetlamps coming on.
And afterwards Bulgaria was gone, and then Japan.
"Where will it stop?" one of them said.
"Such difficult work, pursuing the fate
Of everything known," said another.
"Down to the last stone," said a third.
"And only the cold zero of perfection
Left for the imagination." And gone
Were North and South America,
And gone as well the moon.
Another yawned, another gazed at the window:
No grass, no trees...
The blaze of promise everywhere.

~Mark Strand

Monday, February 27, 2006

Dwell In Possibility

This is the wooden block that sits on my kitchen window. Every day I watch the sun setting miraculously behind it. Every day I look upon these words and think about their wisdom. Every day I am struck by the beauty of the sun leaving me with this thought. Dwell in possibility.

Sometimes it feels as though my whole life revolves around possibility. The world burns with possibility, with potential, with the idle dreams of dreamers. I like to think that people’s wishes, fulfilled or unfulfilled, hang in the air for the rest of us to step into when the time is right. I know I’m not the first person to want the things I want, to believe the things I believe. I know I’m not the last, either.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about what Deb said, about how fear prevents us from moving forward, from acting on our desires. I know the feeling all too well. Procrastination is hardly ever simply a matter of laziness. It’s about avoidance. It’s about being unable to face one’s fears and apprehensions about what needs to be done. I worry that there’s too much of that in my life.

I worry that without the help of my mother and friends pushing me to do what I need to do, I’d be incapable of doing anything. I’m good about acting on my instincts, about listening to my heart, but I have so very much to learn about taking the necessary steps. I have so very much to learn about trusting myself.

I used to think that without anyone else in my life, things would be easier. I know that it’s illogical, but part of me wished that I didn’t have so many ties to loved ones. It would be so much easier to be free. It would be easier to pick up my things and leave to travel the world. It would be easier to have no plans and no definition of myself. I felt like it would be easier to change my life if so much of it wasn’t already happy.

I know that it sounds awful to say such a thing. Why would anyone want to give up happiness? Well, I don’t know, but a part of me always has. A part of me would rather constantly dwell in possibility, in what could be, instead of what already is. It’s somewhat difficult for me to accept contentment in my life.

I am, in so many ways, content. I am joyful and blessed and happy. I am lucky enough to like my life. Still, there’s always that possibility of more. And I hunger for it. I long for those things I have yet to discover. I long for that life I have yet to live. I long for change.

But those changes are yet to be defined. Maybe out of fear. I could write out a whole list of things I want to do before I die, but I’m afraid of the sadness I’ll feel if they never get done. I’m afraid of the possibility of failure. I’m afraid of that possibility in which I dwell.

Dwell in possibility. I suppose that means both the good and the bad. I suppose all of life is taking risks. Some things work out, some things don’t, but the only regrets to be had are those not tried. Sure, it’s a generic idea, but an important one to keep in mind. It’s important to remember that every thought and action and dream presents the potential for more. It’s important to take each chance no matter how great the fear behind it. It’s important to dwell in possibility.

Dwell in possibility.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Within You Without You

We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth, then it's far too late, when they pass away.

We were talking about the love we all could share, when we find it
To try our best to hold it there, with our love
With our love we could save the world, if only they knew.

Try to realize it's all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small,
And life flows within you and without you.

We were talking about the love that's gone so cold and the people,
Who gain the world and lose their soul
They don't know -they can't see- are you one of them?

When you've seen beyond yourself then you may find, peace of mind,
Is waiting there -
And the time will come when you see
We're all one, and life flows on within you and without you.

~The Beatles

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Question Of Wisdom

Sky so sweetly asked "But, do tell - how did you get to be so wise? What gave those innocent eyes the insight of a woman who has lived on this earth far more years than 21?"

My mom and I were discussing this very question over dinner on my birthday. I've always thought of wisdom as something that comes from experience, and experience as something that comes with age. I was taught very young that it was so important to listen to your elders. It was so important to take in what they were saying, to accept it as truth, to understand that they knew things that I had yet to learn. I do understand that. I listen very closely to the advice they dispense, the stories they share with me. I love that almost everyone who reads and comments on this blog is older than me because they share with me those lessons that they've taken away from their lives.

But when I stop to think about it, I realize that I listen to everyone that way. I learn just as much from the children who tell me stories as I do from the adults. I learn just as much from the friends who see the world so dramatically different than I do as the ones who see it the same way. I learn just as much from listening to myself as I do from listening to everyone else. I am living to learn.

I am living to share my own stories and experiences and wisdom. I think that I've always underestimated myself in terms of what I know. I've never considered myself a particularly smart person. I defined smart people as being those who could make witty jokes about current events at dinner parties, who could get into heated debates about politics, who could eloquently express themselves with intricate and elaborate words. I wasn’t one of those people.

I was the girl who sat back and listened. I was the girl who watched the way people used their hands when they spoke or gave each other slight glances of emotion. I was the girl who noticed when the child in the room was about to get restless or the waiter became frustrated with the customer two tables over. I am still that girl.

The minute my mother said, “where wisdom is concerned, you’re off the charts, you must know that,” I knew it. I realized while we had been talking, my mind had been wandering to the two elderly couples sitting at the table behind us. I know it sounds morbid, but I had been wondering if they were prepared to die. I wondered if they had gotten all that they had hoped out of life, wondered if they had regrets, wondered if they still had plans for the future. I wondered what I would think about at that age, and realized I already do think about those kinds of things. It’s funny that I can be such a child and an adult all at once.

I suppose we all are really. We all have those things that we know and those things we have yet to learn. We all have a future and a past. We are all wise, in our own ways. I have yet to hear of a person who managed to get through their entire life without learning something. It’s nice to think of things that way.

I’ve been thinking so much over this past year about how big my life is, and yet, how small my existence is in the grand scheme of things. As a child I dreamed of changing the world, of becoming a part of history. I wanted to be learned about in schools. I wanted to be remembered long beyond the time when all of the people who knew me had left the earth, but things are different now. All that I want for myself is to know, for me, that my time spent here was worthwhile, and I know that the most important person to deem what is worthwhile is me. I am the creator. I am the narrator. I am the storyteller and this is my story.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Smiley Face

Although I got a very expensive and much needed digital camera for my birthday, my favorite present from my mother was a “report card” written by my preschool teacher when I was one and a half. I had never seen it before, and it was such an absolute joy to read it twenty years later. It’s amazing that I am essentially the same person now. It’s amazing that after so much time and so many changes, this is still exactly who I am. It’s amazing to know that I was born into this world with a smile on my face.

The report reads, “Frankie has been such a great part of our class. She socializes well, despite the fact that she is often the only girl! She has a laugh that will get her anything. In the next month, Frankie’s language is sure to blossom. She has a very delicate manner and enjoys a lot of activities. This openness will take her far. I’ve really enjoyed her smiley face!”

Smiley face. That’s me. I feel as though no matter what happens in my life, no matter how many downs accompany my ups, I’ll always have that smiley face. I’ll always know that I entered this world and will leave this world with that same genuine smile. I'll always know that's me.

At our final assembly in high school, I won an award with the following description. "The Caroline Susan Jones pin is a tribute given by vote of three upper classes and the faculty to a member of the senior class who has displayed courage, cheerfulness, fair-mindedness, good sportsmanship, whose influence is widely felt, who has the courage of her own convictions and who is respected by all. The winner is a competent, quick-witted, effective leader of her class. Not only does she give whole-heartedly and generously to all activities, she has a gift for interacting closely and sensitively with people of all ages and persuasions. She has a special knack for making others feel comfortable and valued. She is Frankie Zelnick."

She is. I am. I spend so much time trying to define myself, trying to figure out how each change in my life alters who I am, but I look back on these things written about me and realize that deep down I've been the same person all this time. Deep down, I will always be this person, and I'm grateful for that. My heart will always be searching for that love that makes it sing.

The picture above is a goofy one. Five of us took them at a concert we attended this summer, each one a black and white portrait of us in a moment of sheer happiness. They’re five of my favorite pictures, even if we all look rather ridiculous. There’s something really lovely about having such joy captured this way, of having captured the essence of our heart songs, of having captured our smiley faces. Smiley face. That's me.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Big 2-1

I’m so terribly sorry for my lack of updates. Things got so hectic after my last post. I have so much to write about, I hardly know where to begin. Here’s my attempt at the most basic overview of the past few days.

Tuesday night I went to a bar known for not carding so that I could drink up until it officially turned midnight, but drinking too much too fast meant that I didn’t even make it to see midnight. At 11:55, I was already outside on the curb half passed out. I won’t fill you in on all of the embarrassingly drunk moments that preceded and followed, but I guess that it’s important to humiliate oneself on their 21st birthday. It will be a nice story to have for the future.

I spent all of Wednesday morning nursing a horrible hangover, but it was made bearable by all of the absolutely wonderful birthday wishes I received. It was one of those days that made me so utterly grateful for technology because between emails, facebook messages, and the fantastic birthday wishes from my fellow bloggers, I awoke to over a hundred little notes in my email inbox. It made me so incredibly happy. Thank you all SO much!

Wednesday night I went out to dinner downtown with my mom and little brother. It was so lovely. We had a phenomenal conversation over expensive food and drinks and I spent the night feeling so very grateful to have them as my family. We talked about life and how important it is to follow your heart. It made me realize how connected to them I really am. I am my mother’s daughter, a thought that never ceases to make me proud.

After dinner, a small group of my friends went out with me to a bar in Manayunk, where for the first time in my life, I had proper ID. It felt so nice not to have to worry about getting in or getting caught. It felt so nice to finally be grown up. The night was much quieter than the previous evening, and I was thankful for that. I needed a little down time. Still, it was lovely. It was so fun to just sit around, drinking and talking with some of the most wonderful people in the world. I really am so very blessed.

This morning I went into work for a little while and then spent the afternoon out at yet another bar with my coworker and friend. She’s nine years older than me and has been counting the minutes until my 21st birthday even more intently than I have. She was so excited for me and excited that we could spend more time together without the limitations of my being underage. We had a great time and a great talk.

I left and went straight to my older brother and sister-in-law’s house. We went to another expensive and beautiful Cuban restaurant downtown and had the most amazing time. They are two of the smartest, funniest, kindest, most remarkable people that I know and we spent the night delighting in each other’s company. I love that I learn something new about them each time that I see them. I love that they aren’t afraid to laugh and be whacky with me. I love that they find that perfect balance of treating me as both their little sister and their good friend. I just love them.

I apologize that this post isn’t in the least bit articulate or eloquent. I haven’t slept much and am still a little drunk from earlier today. I’m really not as big of a drinker as this post would imply, but it’s been nice to have that lifestyle for the past couple of days. It’s been nice to feel so loved and taken care of. It’s been nice to be 21. I can only hope the rest of my year, and all of my years, will be as perfect.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

An Exciting Thought

In 4 and a half hours I'll be twenty one!

I'm out celebrating...will update tomorrow.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Forgetting To Remember

An entire weekend gone without a single post to mark it. I’m not sure exactly what prevented me from sitting down and writing a little something. I had the time, but somehow the blog world slipped to the back of my mind. I didn’t even have the computer on for the majority of the last three days. It was all very unlike me. Sometimes I have difficulty remembering how I like to fill my time.

Which is why it was so nice to have a reminder on Friday night. I went out with a group of friends I haven’t spent nearly enough time with over the past year. It began with just me and my best girlfriend sitting at the bar (one of the few I can get in to without ID), catching up on all of the new details in one another’s lives since the last time we saw each other. Soon after, at just the right moment, we were joined by two more of our girlfriends. The four of us sat around talking, drinking, laughing, reminiscing on adventures together that I hadn’t thought about in years. It was so wonderful to reconnect with them.

As the night wore on, more and more people began filtering into the bar, and I was surprised to find myself so utterly delighted to see each one of them. It was strange to realize that I’d forgotten that feeling, forgotten how fantastic it feels to run into people unexpectedly, to have everything between you be completely different and exactly the same all at once. It was lovely, really lovely.

The next morning, I walked out of my front door only to remember that getting home at 2am the night before meant that I had been forced to park 7 blocks away. I started to make my way there in the early morning. The world was still sleeping. Everything was so quiet. There were a few other people out, still in their clothes from the night before, stumbling in their tired states, making their way to their cars. We all said hello to one another, somehow fearlessly friendly in the safety of morning. I walked a little further and suddenly realized how happy I was. It was so nice just to be out in the morning air walking. It was so nice to be surrounded by strangers and life, the wind whipping at my face, the leaves rustling on the trees. It was so nice to remember that this was what happiness felt like.

It’s so funny how you can think that you’re as happy as you can be, or will ever be, and then a moment comes along that makes you reevaluate everything. It’s why no one can ever really “have it all,” because there will always be that certain something that they hadn’t even considered. It’s so funny that no matter how many times I have this realization, I always quickly forget it. I like that I forget it. I like that every life lesson is to be learned over and over again throughout the course of a life. I like that we are always learning.

For no logical reason, he was the first thing I thought of when I put my head down to sleep last night. I hadn’t thought about him in a while, and when I did, I thought of him as an abstract, as a friend who died, instead of as the friend who lived. Then last night, there he was, the boy who lived. Every memory of him flooded back through my mind. I saw him standing beside me outside of our dorm, sharing his secret with me. I saw him lying on the grass beside me after a night of dancing, staring up at the stars. I saw him sitting with his guitar beside the fire, singing the song he wrote for his little sister about wanting to be a hot dog. I saw the text message on my phone, telling me he was drunk and missing me and hoped I was well. That was the last time I ever heard from him.

And I cried. I cried for the loss, cried for my friend, cried for a life cut short. I cried too, for forgetting to remember him, for not thinking about him for so long until just then. I cried for the promise I had made to always remember those beautiful moments we shared, to carry them with me throughout my days here on earth. I cried for the promise, broken.

It was an emotional weekend, filled with all of those little remembrances that make life the bittersweet journey that it is. Life is a collection of these ups and downs, these moments of laughter and tears, these revelations that need to be forgotten and remembered. If only I could stop forgetting to remember that.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

What's To Come

The news itself wasn’t any great surprise to me. I had sort of assumed it was coming, as he had hinted at it so many times over the past year. Still, when he finally put it into words this morning, I found myself reacting in ways I hadn’t expected to.

What exactly are you supposed to feel when your best friend, the person you depend on for almost everything, tells you that he’s permanently moving to China? How are you supposed to feel knowing that they won’t be by your side whenever you need them? What are you to expect for the future of your relationship?

I’ve never thought that any news could be so bittersweet. I am happy for him, so happy. It’s amazing that he feels so at home and at peace there. It’s amazing that he’s living the life that I’ve always wanted for him, the life he so deserves to be living. It’s amazing that he can be this miraculous person who moves away to travel and explore other worlds.

It’s just, I wish that I could be there with him. I wish that I could be that person too. It’s not that I don’t think that I’m capable of it necessarily, although he is much braver than I am. It’s more that he already has it all planned out. He’ll return home for the next year to finish up college and then move back to China, and then his life will be his own. I worry that I won’t have that until much later in my life, and I don’t want to have to wait around for it.

The truth is, it’s not just that he’ll be gone, it’s that the thought of him leaving only sparked within me the thoughts of all of my friends leaving. I took so long trying to figure out my college years for myself that I feel like I’ve delayed my future, and I hate it. I hate thinking about how a year from now all of my friends will be choosing careers and places to live and new adventures, and I’ll still be here. I’ll still be here. I hate feeling left behind.

I know that we’ll all always be friends. It will just be different when we’re all in different places in our lives. I’ve already seen the beginning effects of it. I’ve already seen some of those bonds fade as we move into different cities and different chapters of our journeys. People change. Including me. I’m changing and I know that and I’m grateful for it, but there will always be things that I wish would remain the same. There will always be things that I long to keep just as they are.

It’s not that I regret the decisions I’ve made. I think they were right for me. I just wish that I didn’t feel like my life had to be so much more complicated because of them, because I dream, because I’m me. This isn’t where I had envisioned myself being at 20 (almost 21). I was supposed to do something with my life. I was supposed to be off having grand adventures and creating beautiful things and meeting fascinating people. I was supposed to be who Tommy is.

And I’m not. Not now anyway. I like school, but I don’t want to spend the next couple of years sitting in a classroom gazing longingly at the world beyond. I don’t want my days, my life, to consist of dreams I have yet to fulfill. I want to feel fulfilled. I want to wake up each morning and feel worthwhile. I don’t want the path of my life to look so terribly different from those of my friends. I’m just having a day of doubt about the road less traveled.

I know that it will pass. I know that I’ll eventually get to a place where I can just be utterly at peace with his decision. I know that I’m working towards the kind of life I want to have and the kind of person that I want to be. I just wish that it would hurry up because I’m growing impatient with things as they are. I’m growing impatient with me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I Am Awake

I’ve been having so much difficulty sleeping lately. What it is, I’m not really sure: anxiety, excitement, anticipation, a combination of it all. It just feels as though I’ve taken a turn towards something new, some new way of looking at the world and my place in it. It just feels as though nothing will ever be the same way again.

In a good way. In the best way. A week from today, I turn 21. Everyone jokes that it’s all downhill from there. It’s the last birthday of the “oh I can’t wait until I’m finally ___ so that I can finally ___.” At 16 it was driving, at 18 it was buying cigarettes and voting, and at 21 it’s drinking. I’ll legally be of age to do anything I desire.

Which inevitably raises the question, “what do I desire?” Of course there’s the obvious answers: life, love and happiness, but there’s more. There’s so much more. I want adventure. I want to travel to foreign countries and foreign realms of my mind that I have yet to discover. I want to explore. I want to dig deep into the depths of me and only find more layers. I want to understand the earth, not where or what or how, but why it makes me feel so eternally grateful. I want to dance. I want to put my arms out and spin with the universe, the way that I did as a child. I want to look up at the sky, at the sun and the moon and the stars, and feel at home. I want to feel connected. I want my mind and heart and body and soul to work as one, to shine and radiate with love’s companion, joy. I want to finally embrace my own advice and live each day to the fullest. I want to live.

It seems so utterly appropriate that two weeks after my 21st birthday, when I’ve tired of the initial excitement of having no restrictions, I’ll be leaving for India. It seems so utterly perfect that over the next month, I’ll finally be able to let go of those limitations that have been put upon me, that I’ve put upon myself. I’ve spent the majority of my life playing by the rules, doing what I thought was expected of me, listening to what others needed from me. I’ve spent so much time trying so avidly to be selfless, that I’ve ended up losing that part of me that needed to be selfish, that needed time and energy devoted to it. In so many ways, I’ve neglected myself.

And then suddenly here at 4am, an epiphany! From a series of little inspirations that have meant the world to me these past few weeks: Tommy’s remarkable emails, Jane’s thoughtful insights, Sam’s words of kindness, Sharp’s unbelievable wisdom, Meghan’s good advice, Ryan’s nonsense, Kelly’s portrayal of unconditional love, my mother’s honesty, and of course, the beautiful words of my fellow bloggers. It suddenly all added up, all simultaneously clicked in my head at just the right moment. This is my life, my one and only life, and it’s okay to allow myself to feel as though I deserve to be happy. It’s okay to feel as though I am deserving of happiness, because I am, because we all are. I wish that I could listen to myself the way that my friends listen to me. I wish that I could hear my own wisdom. If I were to step outside myself and give me advice, I’d tell me that nothing but my own contentment matters. I’d tell me that it’s a waste to sit around festering in self-doubt, analyzing my every move, questioning the validity of my emotions. I’d tell me that the here and now is waiting for me to jump into it. I’d tell me to jump.

I’ve been having so much difficulty sleeping lately, but in a good way. In the best way. I feel energized and motivated. I feel alert and alive. I feel ready to jump into the moment, into my life, into the universe incessantly burning with beauty. I feel so ready to live, as though the course of my existence so far has lead up to this moment, this morning, this reawakening of my soul. I am awake. I am here. I am ready for the new day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Little Inspiration

This morning I awoke to an absolutely gorgeous email from my best friend Tommy who, as I've mentioned before, is in China for the year. His words were so inspiring on this cold winter morning, that I felt it would be selfish to keep them all to myself. I wanted to share his wisdom with you, so here is an excerpt from an email written by the most wonderful person I know.

“….I also had a morning with her where we hiked to the top of this small hill that faced a Tibetan holy mountain. At the top of the hill was a pagoda, tons of prayer flags, and an already burning offering of pine needles to the Buddha. At the top of this hill I couldn't help but feel the greatest power in the world. I never again will attempt to find god inside of a building. We split up at the top of this hill for alone time, when I came upon the burning offering to the Buddha. It was basically a sunken pit, maybe 30 by 20 feet, with a small section of smoking pine needles. The pit was surrounded by prayer flags and the rising sun hit them all so perfectly. I sat there adding needles and fueling the fire, vibing off the scene and pondering life. there are no words to describe the feeling I had. It was more potent than the most powerful drug, it was more strong than any human-elicited emotion. It was purely ecstasy. After a while, Kumiko came to tell me that I had been sitting there for a good half hour and we should keep on going. Between you and me, I couldn't leave this spot.

When my mom and I said goodbye at the airport in august, I felt this fantastic magnet drawing me back towards her as she walked away. Many times I would run back to her in tears crying “don't go mom!” traffic stopped in the middle of the road as I would hug her. I was out of control, possessed by the force of love. At this spot, the feeling was of the same. I would begin to walk away, look back, and feel the tears well up knowing that I would never return to such a beautiful place. Every step farther away would make me want to run back that much more. Even now, in my room, my heart pounds as I yearn to return. It was one of those moments that I will remember when I am old in my rocking chair and pondering what I did in life.

I was talking with kumiko about whether or not to fear old age, and we decided that if I can give my soul many of these kinds of experiences, I will be able to mentally return in old age and experience these fantastic feelings yet again. I pray that in India you too have moments like these, where you fall asleep years later wondering what one small section of the world is like and how you affected it.

I wish you the best of luck in India. I know you are still a month from leaving, but please, I want you to have an amazing time. I am so happy YOU are going, because YOU of all people will seize the moments there and make the world a better place. I want you to return home dreaming of your time there and dreaming for more of the same in the future. I pray that you too find travel in Asia to be a fantastic drug with no equivalent but more travel. I pray that one hour in an alleyway or a field in India effects you lightyears more than years of work in a classroom and a lifetime of writing.

You are the most deserving person for the experiences you will have. Do not waste a moment, because before you know it you will be back home wondering why you didn't walk up a hill to see what was there or why you didn't wake up early one day to see what life is like before the sunrise. Even more unfortunate, before you know it, you will be old and withered pondering whether or not you wasted a precious day on earth. I love that you have the fantastic sense of adventure and risk to embark on such a journey. I am so truly proud of you. I feel that returning home will be a little easier knowing we have an even deeper connection of getting lost in our own niches of the world. While many people stay within their comfort zone, you are with open arms ready to embark on an amazing adventure. I have just begun to realize that I want to go beyond living each day like it's my last: I want to live every day so I can die tomorrow with a smile on my face.

You will grow and mature so much over the next few months, and I look forward to seeing how such an already magical person will continue to flourish during her time on earth. Keep on growing and never forget who you are. every day we grow one day older, and ever day our time here grows shorter. please keep making the world a better place during your fantastic journey of life…..”

Sunday, February 12, 2006


I was snowed in all day. I awoke to a silent morning, something rather unusual in the bustling neighborhood I live in, even for a Sunday. Everything was so still and peaceful and untouched. The world outside looked as though it had been frozen in time, and I followed its lead and silently stood still by the window, allowing my mind to rest. I soaked in the quiet dawn and thought about everything, and then about nothing, and then about the beauty of everything and nothing. I stood there for what felt like forever, just existing.

When I later got bored and went to turn on the TV, I discovered the snow had screwed up my satellite and I would have to spend the day without it. It’s strange how inconvenient I found it, how utterly dependent I’ve seem to become on the availability of mindless entertainment. It scared me, quite frankly, to know that I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself without my TV or car. After reading a few poetry books and blogs, I found myself digging through old things I’d written.

And then there it was, the autobiography I had written as my final English project for high school, over fifty pages of my every thought and experience and opinion about who I was at eighteen. It’s almost three years later, and I can still feel the exact emotion I felt writing each word. Reading over it now, I recalled to the surface the girl I once was, the girl who had grown so faint since then. It’s amazing to think how absolute the world seemed then, how frozen in time like this morning’s snow. It’s amazing to think that I was ever so certain of myself.

I remember sitting down to write my autobiography, only to discover that I was terrified of being uninteresting. I had just finished reading Angela’s Ashes and Catcher In The Rye for the millionth time, and I was so disappointed that I hadn’t had more upset in my life to write about. I was so utterly saddened by my boring little life. It seemed so much less significant to write about my privileged happy childhood than it would be had I been unlucky and angry with the world. I was so jealous of those with depressing childhoods. I really wanted angst.

It arrived a few years late. That rebellious, angry, hurt, emotional person I had wanted to be as a teenager didn’t hit me until the very end of my teenage years and into my early twenties. I was unhappy at school. I left. I started a job I disliked. I began a new school far bigger and more alienating than anywhere I had attended before. My mom moved out of our house. My car that I’d had for my entire childhood died, followed quickly by the cat that I’d had for my entire life. My parents finalized their divorce. I fell into a deep depression. My dad moved out. I watched my friends move on to bigger and better things as I stayed behind. We sold our house. We moved into a new house with our mom. My dad and I stopped speaking. I dropped out of school for the semester. My sister-in-law lost her baby three months into the pregnancy. My grandfather died. Things got complicated.

I spent the day reading over the things that used to seem like the end of the world; little fights with friends and getting caught drinking and smoking and making a fool out of myself occasionally. This was the best I could come up with. This was all that I could conjure up to be angry about, and I wrote about it all, every little detail that would somehow make me seem more honest and exciting and real. I wanted so badly to struggle.

And now I have, I am, and while I wouldn’t want to change anything that’s happened to me because I think it helped me grow, there’s still a part of me that spends each and every day trying to get back to that girl I was when I wrote this autobiography. I spend each day trying to get back to that life that I was so desperate to get out of. Everything then was simple and certain and happy. Everything then made sense. Now it’s all so complicated, so damn complicated, and I miss the innocence of my former self. I fear that kind of simplicity will haunt me as the kind of life I never appreciated, the kind of life I took for granted, the kind of life that I’ll never see again. I worry that beneath the new layer of snow, the earth is fading into a distant memory of itself, the way the girl I once was stands faintly outside my window behind my reflection; waving, waving.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Gotta Have Faith

I’ve been so awful about writing this past week, and I’m sorry, mostly to myself. I hadn’t realized how much I’ve missed it until just now. I guess in following up with my last post, I was a little anxious about diving into those topics, and so part of me just avoided it all together. I’m still not quite at the point where I’m ready to talk about them here. Perhaps just before I leave I’ll write about it all, without the lingering fear of having to face my thoughts with the people I know who read this. It’s strange how timid I’ve suddenly become.

It snowed today for pretty much the first time all winter. It was a beautiful snow. I watched it begin from the solitude of the office, watched it dance outside my window as I sat inside stuffing envelopes. I was suddenly miserable. Not necessarily to be doing something so mundane, but to be doing it while the world outside was creating something so extraordinary. So I gave up, packed up my things to finish at home, and went out to dance with the universe.

It was the best kind of snow, not that mixture of grey slush, but poignantly grand flakes that somehow reassured my belief in miracles. I walked to my car, each tiny miracle landing on the pavement just before my feet, marking the trail I was to follow. It made me feel so watched over, so taken care of.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about God and about what I do and don’t believe. I was joking at work the other day with one of my bosses, telling him not to take the lord’s name in vain. He told me that was rich coming from “miss atheist” and I found myself shocked. “I’m not an atheist,” I told him, “I believe in God.” He seemed a little thrown and added “well, but you don’t practice religion.”

All throughout high school I joked about religion because it wasn’t part of my life. In so many ways, I thought religious people were really narrow minded, which was of course, ironically narrow minded of me. I wasn’t raised as any one religion and I wasn’t ever really asked what I believed. I never really thought about it. I never really needed to.

In fact, the first time I remember ever really considering it was in my freshman seminar at college when one of my classmates addressed the question to the class. The only other out-of-stater raised his hand and said he believed in God but not in organized religion. I liked the answer and agreed, eventually adapting it as my own response to the question.

My sophomore year, at a new school, I took two amazing religion classes and some not so inspiring English classes, which was what I had intended on majoring in since I was about fourteen. At the end of my sophomore year, I switched my major to religion. Everyone, including me, laughed with my decision. It was a fairly ridiculous choice considering my past of little to no religious education and my current beliefs, or lack thereof. For someone who claimed not to believe in organized religion, spending the next two to three years studying it seemed pretty illogical.

It’s only been in these past few months when I’ve realized what drew me to those classes. It was the open mindedness of them. It was the way each teacher and classmate didn’t condemn or promote one religion, but spoke of it as theory. Every subject became a discussion of this is what some people believe, what does that make you think? And I loved it. I loved the question because it MADE me think, it made me pause to consider what I do and don’t believe.

And I do believe in God. I do believe in organized religion, even if I don’t believe it’s right for me. I understand why people are drawn to it. I understand that we are each entitled to believe what we want to believe in every facet of life. I understand that learning about religion hasn’t made me more narrow-minded but has, paradoxically, opened me up to a greater knowledge of acceptance and faith in following our hearts.

I was never very good at science. I convinced myself that it just wasn’t a subject that clicked with me, that I didn’t enjoy it and therefore couldn’t do well in it, but that was never the case. The truth is, I could have studied the material and learned how everything works and where everything comes from, but part of me didn’t want to know. Part of me still wanted to see every flower as having a soul, every life as having a purpose, every snowflake as being a miracle. I wanted to see the world through the eyes of a dreamer, and I think I still have faith in that belief.

I suppose my boss was right in that I don't "practice" religion in a conventional sense, but I do practice it. I worship each and every day and person as a gift. I worship the ground I walk on and the sky I live under. I worship life. Maybe that's all that religion is for me, but maybe that's all it needs to be. Maybe I'm more religious than anyone would have ever guessed.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

You Need To Know

I was so happy to share this blog with my family. I was happy that I gave my mom the link, and that she had the opportunity to check in on me whenever she wanted to. I was happy that she was reading what I was writing and talking to me about it. I wanted more people in my life to share that experience with me, to see the inside of my head, to understand what was going on behind my quiet, contemplative eyes. I wanted people to know the me that existed here, among these lines of realizations and observations.

So as more and more people began asking me about my writing, and myself, I began giving out the link to anyone and everyone who wanted it. It’s not that I mind sharing myself with any of them. I love that they can see this part of my life that has become so important to me. It’s just, I don’t know, that I find myself somewhat limited in what I’d like to say sometimes.

I read other blogs and hear time and time again how people wish that they could share their thoughts with the people in their lives. I didn’t want to have to wish that. I wanted to be brave enough to say, this is who I am and you need to know that. I wanted to be brave enough to say all of the things here that I’m not brave enough to say out in the real world. I wanted to be brave enough to be me.

But courage is a tough competitor. I can never seem to wrestle it down into me, and so what I find myself writing are not the words of admittance and honesty that I’d so like to release, but words of self approval that I wish I could more often accept. Nothing in this blog has been a lie, but it’s been a side of me that only plays one role in my life. There are so many other pieces of my story that I’m too afraid to admit, especially to myself. That, in and of itself, is a major factor of who I am. I am still a little girl who’s scared of reality.

As I read other testaments of truth, I find myself longing to express those things that I dare not speak of. Those issues with the way I look and the way that it haunts me, the way that it affects every move that I make in my life. Those issues with so desperately needing to be liked that I go out of my way to make sure that I don’t act inappropriately. Those feelings of unworthiness for everything good that I have that linger in my mind and soul every moment of every day. Those are the issues that I really want to discuss, to express, to open myself up to. Those are the pieces of me that I keep sheltered within the walls of my heart.

I’m not writing this to discourage my friends and family from reading. I’m so grateful that they – you – do. It’s just that I feel like I’m deceiving you, deceiving myself, into believing that I’m this wise young woman who has it all figured out. I’m not. I don’t have the answers. My life is not a constant myriad of epiphanies and beauties. My life has more to it than that. I have more to me than that.

I’m writing this because I know that this other part of me, this far less glamorous and inspirational side, needs to be expressed. I’m writing this in an attempt to muster up the courage to say all of those things that I need to say. I’m writing this to remind myself of the importance of dealing with the issues that I’ve put off dealing with for so long. Now is the time to deal with them. Now is the time to finally admit that this is who I am, and you need to know.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sweet Music

I’ve spent the last few days rekindling my love of music. I spent all of last summer acquiring new songs as my friends, particularly my best friend, began introducing me to new singers and bands I’d never even heard of. I soaked it in, playing things over and over again until they became a part of me. I attended concerts where I didn’t know a single song that was played. I began to fall in love with that feeling of discovering something new.

When my best friend left to spend the year in China, I stopped listening. Every song reminded me of his absence from my life. It was too bittersweet to bear. I still listened to things of course. I can’t drive without the radio on or do monotonous chores without something playing in the background, but that’s all I allowed music to be – background noise. I wasn’t appreciating it for what it was the way I had been all summer. I didn’t feel as though I could allow it to exist without summer, without him. It was our connection.

My mom had bought me an Ipod car adaptor for Christmas, but I let it sit on my shelf until a few days ago. When I finally took it down and began using it, I wasn’t expecting for it to mean anything more than commercial-less music. I wasn’t expecting for every song that began to play to remind me of who I was. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love again.

But I did, and I’m so glad that I did. Yesterday, with no work to attend to, I decided to go for a drive. I just drove aimlessly for hours, listening to the songs I had spent all summer living my life to. I let the outside world dance with the melodies. I watched as the leaves fell in tempo and people laughed along with the lyrics. I came across an open field, and as the sunlight suddenly burst upon it from behind the clouds, the song I was listening to hit its highest peak, welcoming the glory of its perfection. I pulled over to the side of the road and cried.

When I got home, I had an email waiting for me from my best friend. He told me a story about driving along a road in a taxi with a monk he met along his travels. As they drove, an ambient song came on the radio, a song that he described as “the best and most peaceful song in the world.” It went on and on and he told me that it was in that moment that he had reached enlightenment.

I smiled to think that we had unknowingly shared such a moment. He was the one who taught me, after all, how to really hear music, how to let it seep into your mind and heart and soul, how to let it consume you. All summer we danced to those moments of enlightenment, those highest peaks. All summer we danced in their freedom.

When I awoke this morning, I put on my music as I showered and dressed, I listened to it on the car ride to work, I snuck my headphones on during work when things got slow. I spent the day reveling in every note, every syllable. I allowed myself to feel the art and expression behind it all. I allowed myself to feel free. I allowed myself to see my life as the long song that it is, building and building and building towards its highest peak. For now, I can do nothing, but sing along.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

When Death Comes

I apologize for the lack of updates. Things have been rather hectic lately.

I went to my grandfather’s funeral yesterday. He wasn’t there. His ashes had already been spread over the countryside days before. I was going to say I’m sure he was there in spirit, but I still haven’t really decided what I believe about the afterlife. I’m still not really sure if I would have even liked to believe he was there in spirit.

It was a beautiful service, very simple and quiet and heartwarming, much like my grandfather. It was a great tribute to him. I was especially moved by my mother who stood up to speak from the heart, with no pre written words to guide her. Although I’m sure she thought about it before she stood up, it didn’t feel like she needed to. She sounded so honest and raw and real. It was the first time I ever remember seeing her like that with anyone but me. I cried as she spoke about what a difficult child she had been, how patient and caring her stepfather was with her. I cried because it was the first time I ever really knew.

Later in the day, I began thinking about my own funeral. I’m sure it sounds relatively morbid considering I’m only twenty, but I thought about what would happen if I died tomorrow. What would the tribute to me look like? Because I’m only twenty, I don’t have a will of any kind made up for myself. I don’t really need one seeing as I don’t own anything of real value to leave anyone. Still, I worry sometimes that my death won’t be handled the way I wish it to be while I’m still alive.

But then, I still don’t know what I believe about life after death. I don’t know if it would even make a difference, if I would even know how things were handled. I guess, deep down, I’d like to think that I would.

It will make me sad to be placed into a box, into the ground. I want every physical feature I have that can be useful to be taken from me and given to someone in need. I want the remainder of me to be made into ash and given back to the wind, the sky, the earth from which I came.

I don’t want a traditional funeral. I don’t want to be remembered in a church or a synagogue. I don’t want a biography read about me listing all of the things I’ve accomplished. I want my friends and family to gather together in some beautiful, inviting place, somewhere outside or in a home that means something to all of us. I want people to laugh. I want the stories shared about me to be the goofy tales that we share with each other now, the little remembrances of character that make us who we are. I want people to know who I was.

On the way to the service, my mother said it was so interesting to read my blog and be able to see me for the person I am, far beyond the label of her daughter. She said it was such a strange realization to be introduced to this identity that she had never recognized in me. It’s sort of true. I am a different person in my writing than I am in reality. I am a different person with my friends than I am with my family. I am a different person right now than I will be a minute from now.

And while all of those sides of me compose the “real” me, I love being able to write because I feel like this is the version of me that I really want to be. This is how I want to be remembered. Not as a person who once had a life, but as a person who loved to live.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My Old Soul

Over lunch they said that if they could live their college years over and over again, they’d do it in a heartbeat. I couldn’t imagine a worse fate. It’s not that my college years have been miserable, it’s more that I wouldn’t want to live any second of my life over again. I’m always so ready to move forward.

I used to fight against growing up so desperately. I always saw the adult world as being a place of routine complacency. I thought that as I grew older, I’d start to lose that wide-eyed need for adventure and magic. I thought I would have to give up that part of me that likes to jump in puddles and sit under trees and paint with my fingers, just for the hell of it. I thought that growing older meant sacrificing the child within me.

So I fought it. I refused to admit that I was becoming older and wiser. I surrounded myself with children and people with childlike spirits. I began dressing like a child, wearing mismatched clothing in bright colors with strange shoes and big, cheap jewelry. I still played with toys and decorated my life with cartoon apparel. I just thought it was really unfair that I should ever have to grow up.

It’s so strange to think of that now. My life has changed so drastically over these past few years, and I find myself not only ready for the future, but longing for it. That’s not to say I’m not taking the time to enjoy the here and now, but I’m also looking forward to whatever there is to come. I’m ready for things to grow.

It’s so interesting to read comment after comment mentioning how old my soul seems to be. It’s true. I do have an old soul. I’ve always had it, even when I wasn’t ready to recognize it as such. I’m not sure where it came from or how I, of all people, seemed to acquire it, but lately I’ve been spending less time questioning it and more time appreciating it. It can be a really wonderful thing to look at the world that way, through the eyes of someone nearing the end.

I used to think constantly of what I would do if I knew my life was ending. If I only had a certain amount of time left, how would I spend it? Eventually I realized that I do only have a certain amount of time left, and so I made the active choice to make my life what I want it to be. Yes, it might be easier if I knew the specific time I would go, the exact day I needed to be done everything I wanted to experience, but for now, just knowing that it will be someday is enough to inspire me onward.

Onward I go. Not towards death and it’s inevitability, but towards life and it’s opportunity. I decided a long time ago that I would never be rich and successful and accomplished by the world’s definitions of those characteristics, but that I’d be happy in creating my own meanings for them and then searching to fulfill those meanings. I am already rich with the beauty and love and life that I’ve found. I am already successful and accomplished for finding them.

I am already thrilled with the journey of my life, and it’s only just begun. So without that need to fight my way to the top, I’ve found that I have time to do what I initially assumed would be lost. I have time to play. I have time to run around outside and get dirty, to create, to jump and laugh and sing. I have time to allow the child within me to dance with my old soul. I have time to revel in the beauty of that.

I still wear my bold mismatched apparel. I still have my Spongebob covers on the seats of my car. I still laugh and dream and believe, the way that I did as a child, and my old soul watches it all, and smiles.