Sunday, February 16, 2014

One Year

We forget sometimes how long a year actually is.

All years are long. They are eventful, and painful, and absolutely nothing like what we imagine they will be on New Years Eve.

Last year, when 2012 came to an end and 2013 began, I stood in front of a fire and burned the words "The End of the World". My cousin suggested it. The metaphor referred to both the Mayan apocalypse and my own tendency to focus on mundane events as if they held earth shattering consequences.

But that wasn't really the end of a year and the beginning of another. Technically, chronologically, yes. The year we were all supposed to die had ended. We could pat ourselves on the back and celebrate that we had made it through. But, for me, nothing had really ended. Nothing had really changed.

My ending came a month and a half later. One year ago today.

I could write about what's happened to me in that year. It was a lot. More than I knew, or ever would have imagined could happen in a year. But I've already done that. I've thought about it, and talked about it, and probably made it more significant than I should have. That's what you do, I suppose.

One year later, and I find it surprisingly difficult to be retrospective. Is that a good thing?

It's cold in New York. Colder than it was a year ago. It's clearer now, but changed. I feel like it's been forever since I've been here...but I was really only gone for a year. Less than that, actually. I feel like I've lived an entire separate lifetime - like I've been born, then died, then come back to exactly what I had before. Can you live an entire lifetime and come back exactly the same?

I doubt it.

But you can sit around and revel in your change. In my case, being a year removed from the early hours of February 17 is anything but bad. If I feel myself being pulled back to it, I can just remind myself of that other life I led, and it's a bit easier to force myself away again. It gets easier the long I'm away from it, and I suspect it will continue that way.

But it's inevitable that being exactly a year away from something will also, somehow, pull you back to it with a greater force ever before. All the progress you made is suddenly both readily apparent and meaningless. You can try to run away, and you're very capable of doing so, but the date makes the memory slightly quicker.

So, whether I like it or not, February 17 will forever be my new year.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What To Do?

I've got about a half an hour to kill. The Daily Show has already been watched. I've checked Facebook and Cracked. I've checked my e-mail (both personal and school) and have even resorted to checking Twitter.

And yet, here I am.

In Colombia I would occasionally run into this problem. Breakfast was at seven, and most people had to be out the door by eight, but I never had to leave until nine. I would find myself in an empty apartment with no one but Rosa to talk to (my Spanish was so basic, at the time, that our conversations could really only go as far as "Buenos dias, como esta? Esta jugo de mora?") Occasionally, I'd have another volunteer going with me to blind school, and we'd hang around trying to figure out what we were going to do that day. During the period when I was teaching at the school without the woman who ran the program, I spent a number of mornings pacing back and force across the living room while Jay, a friend of mine who had agreed to come with me, watched a Korean drama and told me to either calm down or go to hell. When I wasn't fretting, I usually read or listened to music.

But that was South America. That was me when I wasn't considered a "student." You become an entirely different person the second you step onto a campus - and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure why. It's true that, as a student, you are suddenly burdened with all the responsibilities of studenthood, the severity of which can be quite overwhelming. But when you're on your own, you have just as much to worry about. You may not have to think about when your next paper is due, but you do have to consider where you're going to live, how much money you have for rent, what you're going to eat, how you're going to teach three classes of Spanish-speaking blind children when you can only speak a smattering of Spanish.

And yet, with all that to worry about, I still found myself with an enormous amount of time to devote to reading, writing, painting, and any other hobby I felt like pursuing. I read more books during my six months abroad than I had read in years. Originally, I thought it was because I had shaken off my internet addiction (among other things). Despite the impressive list at the top of this entry, my internet usage is nowhere near where it used to be. I get tired spending hours on end online, and I mostly use it for Google Docs and Facebook. Having recently re-learned how to function without it, I returned to what I actually enjoyed doing.

But, for some reason, despite keeping it up through the trip, and through two months at my parent's house, the second I returned to a college environment, I became too stressed out and tired to do anything but sit around watching Bob's Burgers on Netflix again. How did that happen? I have no idea. My workload isn't even that bad. It's been relatively easy to keep up with, and I'm generally finished with it all pretty early. How is simply being in a college environment inherently more stressful than the outside world? And, why?

You always hear that college, for all it's stresses, is a cakewalk compared to the "real world". You're supposed to "enjoy it while you can" because as soon as you graduate and are faced with the pressures of actual adulthood, everything goes to shit. And you know, maybe it does. Adult life is probably a lot harder than I think it is - having only spent a few brief months experiencing it. But from my naive observation, at least as an adult, outside the "high school in dorms" atmosphere of college, you can be slightly closer yourself. You have less to prove.

But of course, everyone is different. Certainly everyone's adulthood is different. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems when you're outside it. And if it's one thing I learned while not being a student, it's that I am very, very young.

Monday, February 3, 2014

I Took A Trip On The Starship Enterprise

So far, living in Enterprise again has been fairly uneventful. 

I've managed to keep a decently low profile. I haven't dyed my hair any outrageous colors, I don't play my music too loud, and I try to keep the television and angry Spanish homework screams to a level no one else will hear. On my first day, I played the guitar for a bit, but since realizing that you can easily hear the sound of a guitar from the hallway and bathrooms, I've not touched it. 

I think most people know me as a visitor. There are two people I interact with on my floor on a semi-regular basis. One of them is my neighbor - another senior here past the four year mark - who informed me that the previous resident of my single was someone named "Elizabeth" who vanished after a man came and tore her name off the door. The most likely explanation is that she dropped out or graduated, and the man was either her father or a representative of Reslife. I'm choosing to believe there was something mysterious and otherworldly about it, mostly to keep myself occupied while I'm trying to fall asleep at night. 

The other person I see regularly is my RA. She lives about three doors down from me, and is pretty outgoing and easy to talk to. We're both taking the second half of Advanced Screenwriting, so we're both going to have to find a way to successfully write ten pages a week while not losing our jobs. Her script, as she pitched it the other day, was really interesting. A sci-fi sister story I would totally take my sisters to. It's ending in particular excited me, though our professor told her to revise it. I hope it doesn't change too much, but then, it's not my script. Still, I would love to see it in theaters. I could easily see it as the new Hunger Games. 

The fire alarm has gone off no less than eight times since classes began last week. Enterprise always was famous for it's sensitive alarms. It's usually hairspray. 

The alarm itself is loud and blaring - the kind of sound you'd expect to herald the approach of a nuclear disaster. It will start suddenly, anxious and upset, and then build as you run around the room trying to remember where you put your shoes and coat. By the time you've thrown everything on over your pajamas and stumble out into the hallway with the rest of your annoyed and fairly zombie-like floor, the alarm will inevitably sound like the world's most intrusive and nagging parent. You know you need to leave the building, you're aware that though it's probably someone burning popcorn in their microwave, it could always be something worse. Yes, Mom, we get it. Please let us exit the building in peace. 

I should note that this is no way a comparison to my own mother. My mother's nagging does not sound like a fire alarm, and is generally triggered by something I've done (or, more typically haven't done) that was legitimately stupid. You get the idea. 

Once we've all filed out of the building in as close to an orderly fashion as we can managed at one in the morning, the courtyard between Enterprise and our neighboring hall, Vander Poel, is suddenly filled with the least energetic angry mob on the face of the earth. There's always someone who manages to find out whose room triggered the alarm, and when the person is discovered, it seems for a brief, exciting moment, that the entire building is going to sacrifice him or her to the housing gods. Then, of course, the moment goes by. We all realize that not only have we forgotten our torches and pitchforks, but we've all probably done something just as stupid. Being angry takes a lot of effort, and over-tired, freezing cold college students are not the sort to be bothered with effort past midnight, if it's not going to help raise their GPA. 

You are then left with several choices to pass the time: 

1.) Find someone you are remotely friendly with in your building and stand around commiserating. An attractive option because, of course, misery loves company, but also because it assures the rest of the building that you, indeed, have friends and are a relatively normal person. It's also a good way to make friends, since the person you wandered over to complain with will inevitably have their own friends who you will get to meet and possibly forge a lasting friendship with. Or you'll hate them. 

2.) Decide "fuck this" and walk across the street to Dutch Treats. Dutch Treats is our on-campus convenient store - convenient in that it's open 24 hours and doesn't stop serving sandwiches until four. Or possibly three. I'm not really sure. A fire alarm going off is a good opportunity to get groceries, and no one really minds if you stand in an aisle staring blankly at the microwave noodle bowls for a half an hour. Depending on the length of the evacuation, you could get there, buy some milk, say hi to the guy in the back who makes the sandwiches, and leave just in time to return to your room. 

3.) Call someone you know and complain to them. If you are lacking friends in the building, and don't want to spend the meal points getting things you don't really need at Dutch Treats, the "call a friend and bitch about your building" option is a good alternative. On the one hand, your friend will not be pleased that you woke them up at one in the morning to discuss something that doesn't really effect them, but on the other hand, if they're really your friend, they'll get over it in the morning and do the same thing to you should they be forced to evacuate their own building. 

4.) Force your significant other to either come and pick you up, or stand around with you. In last night's evacuation in particular, I heard many couples use the term "Valentines Day is coming up" and "Bring something warm." 

5.) If it's particularly freezing, Vander Poel will open it's doors to lost, cold, Enterprise students by announcing that it's lounge is free in the most secretive way possible, thus ensuring that no one will actually come. If you are one of the lucky people in the back of the mob to hear the announcement, you can hang out there, with the seven other people who heard, and check the window every five seconds to see if people are filing back in. 

Then, of course, there's the ever popular, 

6.) Stand around awkwardly by yourself, occasionally playing with your phone, wondering why fate has seen fit to force you outside in the middle of an evening's Hulu viewing, and didn't even have courtesy to warn you beforehand. 

As for me, I chose a skilled combination of options 2 and 6. I started in Dutch Treats, bought some milk for tea, and and then returned to the courtyard outside Enterprise to stand around checking Facebook on my phone. By the time I had come from Dutch, the social groups had already been established and it was too late to attempt to find one to crash. 

Eventually, they have to let you all back inside. There is a great migration towards the door that you will suddenly instinctively be aware of, even if you're not looking in the general direction of the mob, and everyone will file forward blindly. The crowd moves as one, like molasses, slowly oozing its way into the building towards the elevators. The elevators, of course, will not work properly, and the flow of student traffic will come to an abrupt and confusing halt while everyone waits for the elevators to cope with their issues. 

Luckily, I live on the first floor, so I just took the stairs. I put my milk in the refrigerator, turned my Roku back on, and returned to watching Rod Serling teach me about humanity through the use of elegant, science fiction parables. I could almost forget I had just been forced to stand around outside for no particular reason. 

So Enterprise is very much the same as it was when I last lived here, to the point where it's a little surreal. So much has happened since then. A part of me feels like if I take a stroll up to the eighth floor, I could find myself and let her know what's ahead. She'd probably just ask me why my hair looks so thin.