Sep 14 2007
This is the part where I would be writing things in a real journal if I had one still, ongoing. I received a couple long-lost old journals in the mail today, from an ex who kindly mailed them back. It’s a little disconcerting, though, to realize I have been so casual with my thoughts as to lose old diaries; I doubt my 16 year old self would have appreciated it.
Anyway, here’s that part. Things I don’t put online: thoughts about people, work (in a specific sense), lovers, true despair. I always got impatient at myself when I wrote those things down on paper, though; it feels banal and self-indulgent, those concerns of emotional daily life (“he’s soooo handsome,” I hear in my head, left-over imprinting from old Disney cartoons).
Anyway, it’s the moments that are hard to write about that actually shape one’s days. I could say, for instance, the facts of the matter — this is the part that I find most interesting to read in other people’s blogs, actually, if they’re a half-decent writer and don’t belabor the points. I like to peek in and see what folks are doing with themselves, what the rhythm of a day might feel like.
For instance, Wednesday. I went to work, and promptly felt overwhelmed with a suddenly looming inbox; went to lunch with a candidate for a job at my school; muddled around trying to fill out travel receipts; spent two empty hours on a reference desk reading Wikipedia archives, punctuated with an argument with a young grad student who didn’t believe me when I told him we didn’t have the fourth edition of something; talked with my coworker for half an hour about electric cars; quickly finished up some meeting notes that I should have done on the reference desk; left, met my esl student at a coffeeshop, chatted, got dinner at the farmer’s market, went to a bookstore where we looked at travel books and pictures of the US in coffeetable books; I stayed and bought a Dorothy Sayers novel I didn’t have and something called The Dud Avocado, which is newly reprinted and looks intriguing; then I went across the street to the movie theatre, where I watched Walk Bike California’s film festival — short films, mostly about bicycling, including a five minute short on moving households by bike in Portland, and a long and compelling documentary about bike messengers in NYC; then I went home, and still buzzed from the coffee I had drunk, stayed up half the night watching Buffy.
And that’s a day. Not terribly exciting, perhaps with more events than usual. Some days are extremely quiet. Almost every day I do something in particular, even if it’s not so visible from the outside: I read a book, I do some chores, I think my thoughts. Today I stayed home, and slept in (most of the day away, shockingly), and did very little.
But it’s not that catalog of events that makes a day. It’s the feeling of standing in a hallway with your coworker, watching the clear early autumn light outside the window and desperately wanting to go outside, want to suggest a quick getaway or a lazy cocktail hour on a patio somewhere, but rejecting that in favor of staying late and writing the minutes you know you need to as you are taking the next day off — a practical decision, but a bad one. (Substitute fellow-student and homework and you have shades of grad school; a particular emotion and particular quality of light — falls have always meant new beginnings for me — that made me intensely nostalgic).
Or else it’s the ice cream that you run to the grocery store late at night to buy because it is clearly, totally impossible to write anything without the aid of ice cream, and then this: remember, ten years ago, we went to the grocery store in Fayetteville, that old crappy IGA, late at night to buy Ben and Jerry’s which we would eat in your first apartment, that terrible basement, ill-lit and over by the hospital, and we would laugh and laugh at jokes only we knew.
Or else: the feeling of belonging in a neighborhood, as you do lawnwork and the neighbor lady smiles at you and you watch the handsome young men play roller hockey in the street (“caaaar!” they yell to one another) — and even though you’ve spend the last five years learning how not to be too shy to give a presentation (and a good one, at that) and you spent the five years before that learning how not to be too shy to talk to people, now you have to learn, you realize, how not to be too shy to talk to your neighbors and to accept that you might be in a place where people want you around. You’ve always assumed, you might realize, that people think you’re an outsider, because you always have been; and you’ve always been slightly defensive because of it, or maybe a lot defensive without realizing it. And now it’s like straightening up when you’ve been slumped over a desk; a slow cracking of the spine as you draw yourself upright and realize maybe that’s not true at all. (In the last few weeks I’ve been asked if I would go to live on two different coasts, and I’ve been invited to stay with three people that knew I was coming to their town, and all of this is rather sweetly flattering). The truest and hardest revelation, though, is to smile back at your neighbor lady, and think, I can do more than just make it here; I could belong, if I wanted to, if I tried.
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