Home

[[This post is part of a collaboration with my best friend Bri, from the blog Tales of A Human Snail. Read her piece here.]]

‘Home’ is in a state of flux.

Home used to be Centennial, Colorado, where I spent my childhood and adolescent years within the same general radius, moving from house to house in a city that remained the same. When I think of Centennial, oddly, I always think of Southlands Mall. Southlands had that frozen yogurt place where I showed my best friend my brand new iPhone 4S in a rush of elation at being on the cutting edge of technology. It had the Victoria’s Secret where I bought my first pieces of lingerie because Jazlynne said that was the adult thing to do. It had the movie theater I visited countless times, the Noodles & Company which I seemed to only rarely be able to afford, the fast food restaurants on the far side where my dad would take me through the drive-through as a step up from our usual dinners.

Centennial is familiar to me, like a winter mitten, something I can remember and trace the shape of with my eyes closed. There was something immensely satisfying about living in a state for so long that you started to understand the geography of it: the disjointed neighborhoods starting to make sense in context to each other. Cherry Creek had the Italian restaurant I went to with Danielle in elementary school, Denver had East High School and that record store and Spirit Ways where I made fairy houses in third grade. Golden is a college town with an amazing pizza place Bri and Jaz and Hannah and I went to; and we were drunk on giddiness and freedom even though our parents wanted us home. Greeley is where Jeremy and Alex live, it’s a spread out rural suburbia where the kids drink late into the night and the houses are towering things. Everywhere had its significance, everywhere was somewhere I’d seen, nothing was scary anymore.

The mountains were another thing. I took them for granted but they never got old. They were a permanent fixture on the skyline of my youth, like the wallpaper your mother put up in your nursery which still appears in your dreams.

When I left Colorado, that home, I felt like I was being ripped away. I left in a flurry of nervous glances and fast-clipped steps immediately after my High School Graduation. I was ushered out of the gym with a security guard herding my clustered family, until they stowed me in a car, and we pulled out of the parking lot with a collective exhale. We had breakfast at The Perfect Landing, another place with memories (parties, anniversaries, when my grandparents waltzed during dinner). And when the plates were scraped clean and the photos were taken, and everyone left, I waited for a taxi to take me to the airport. I caught a plane to the east coast and hid for a while.

Every now and then when I get sad I think about that exit: it felt like the lack of a goodbye. It felt like my ending was stolen from me. I missed every graduation party, every parting get-together that my classmates and friends slowly and tearfully prolonged, unsticking their home from themselves with laborious and nervous fingers, shaking it loose to find a static cling remaining, relishing in it, and then brushing it off for good. My goodbye was a ripped bandaid. It was over so soon that I didn’t even feel the pain.

Maine, by all rights, was supposed to be the new solution. It became Home. I moved into my mother’s small apartment with the things I had managed to smuggle out of my dad’s house and claimed my space in the makeshift bedroom there, separated from the living room by a curtain. When I got my own space in Boston, it was bigger and better and had a locking door and its own kitchen and shower and the windows opened onto the city like the promise of a brave new world, and it was, it was brave and new and beautiful. It feels the most like home to me now. It feels like the first place that was mine.

But Centennial wasn’t magical because it was mine. It was magical because it was where I grew up. It had my family and my friends and the very roads that served as getaways for Bri and I in her car; it was deeply and all-encompassingly familiar.

I feel like a visitor when I’m in Maine. I feel like the Summer Tourist I always was. My mother might move away this year and shutter even the apartment with the curtained-off bedroom. And in Boston, I am the college student, who is exploring a new place with the joy of someone falling in love for the first time. But when the year ends I’ll pack up my things and move them to a different building and a different room, and when three more years end I’ll leave the city altogether. I can’t go back to Colorado. Bri told me returning was like stepping into a time capsule, and even if I had a reason to go back, I know that my capsule has been dug up and shattered, and the memories were irrevocably released, pouring like silent gasses from the canister into the open air. I expect I’ll be afraid to visit Southlands, which is five minutes away from where my dad still lives. I expect I’ll be followed by nervous texts wherever I go from family members who see Colorado only as an open jaw, with jagged, dripping teeth.

So the question presents itself, obviously. Where is my home?

As I write the question fills me with less and less anxiety. As I remind myself of the doors that have closed behind me I can’t help but feel relieved. So what if I’ll never relive my childhood? So what if I’ll never see the Jericho house again, that house in Colorado where for the first and last time I knew what a normal, whole family was like? So what if Maine is not my own place, and just a waystation, and a shrinking waystation at that? So what?

I have where I am now. I have everywhere I go. I have the bus that carried me here and will carry me back, the phone in my hand full of messages from Bri and Parker as I rode. I have those people. I have who I keep with me.

It’s sad to know that I’ll never get the goodbye I always wanted after High School. It’s sad in an inevitable way. But when I think of that blonde haired girl with the small-toothed smile who cried with me over the phone, because I thought I’d be moving away, when I think of Bri, I know that I’m stronger for leaving old places behind me. I know that anywhere a car exists and anywhere there’s a road I will have Centennial again. Centennial was just singing with Bri to loud lyrics from her stereo. Centennial was my best friend and the ways we killed time together, in the way that every teenager finds a way to kill time while waiting to finally grow up.

And god, I think I’m finally growing up. We both are. And things aren’t the same and home is just a memory.

So what?

I’m happy. /

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The art of journaling

In 2012, Brooklyn product designer Ryder Carroll invented the Bullet Journal: an organizational system which utilizes “rapid logging” to combine planners, diaries, and budget books into one. Rapid logging uses symbols and arrows to denote different types of entries that only need a few words to elaborate them. Although Carroll partnered with the notebook company Leuchtturm1917 to market a specifically branded Bullet Journal, it is a system that can be transferred into any notebook at all. Carroll’s system has now garnered over 250,000 posts on Instagram and countless more on Pinterest and Tumblr—the two main sites used by Bullet Journalers.

On YouTube, Bullet Journal videos usually depict suburban millennial women with pages of intricate artwork and calligraphy. But the magic of Bullet Journals, or BuJos for short, is that they are for anyone and everyone. Because every element is handwritten or drawn, it is entirely customizable. As college students juggling creative projects along with classes, we rarely have time for art or gorgeous hand-drawn fonts. Instead, students need an outlet for keeping track of assignments, ideas, and the almost overwhelming amount of events that take place on campuses and in the fervently cultural city of Boston. Shrewd students should definitely have enough time to upkeep a BuJo—and they will be glad for it—because there is so much to be said for holding your ‘whole life’ condensed into one notebook. A few hours on the weekend to draw out templates for the upcoming month will make you feel composed and streamlined. Here are the facets of my first BuJo that worked and didn’t work for me as I tried to get a handle on my busy schedule.

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Getting started: I use a basic Leuchtturm1917 notebook in black, the most common brand used for BuJos. The faint dot grid inside provides lines for writing but also doesn’t show up behind artwork or doodles. Another common staple: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens.

img_0316The first few pages are blank and perfect to customize with your return information and key. You can use the symbols outlined by Ryder Carroll (dot bullets for tasks, circle bullets for events, and dash bullets for notes) or create your own. I use different colored pens for each class so that when I write something like “Textbook reading” as homework, I will automatically know which class it is for. Different colored washi tape applied to the edges of important pages make them easier to flip to.

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A year at a glance. The focus of most BuJos is a week by week view of events; so all twelve months sketched out at the front of the book will help you remember items that won’t occur for several months. I developed my own kind of color key. Pink is for events, black is for Emerson calendar dates like the end of a semester, and red X’s mean no classes.

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I made a separate spread for birthdays and holidays so that my calendars didn’t get too cluttered. Every now and then I flip here to remind myself of upcoming events. I looked at Facebook and chose the birthdays that were most important to me, so now I don’t have to rely on receiving phone notifications the same day of the event or be barraged by birthdays of acquaintances I probably won’t send well wishes to.

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Bullet Journal has “journal” in the title for a reason: Don’t be afraid to set aside pages for your favorite quotes, goals, and ramblings. BuJos are as much about fostering your creativity as they are about keeping you organized.

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Make a fun art page to mark the start of each month and incorporate themes you think encapsulate each one. I drew the Boston skyline because I moved to Boston in September. The little calendar is also a quick reference point for when I need to remember if September 20th is a Tuesday or a Saturday. On the top of this image, you can see 30 lines numbered with each day of the month. In BuJos, it’s common to lay out far-off deadlines within the month, because most people don’t lay out their weekly spreads until the week is actually upon them. For college students, there are too many assignments due next week or in two weeks to plan by the seat of your pants like this if you’re a control freak like me. I write out the bare bones of all four weekly spreads before the month begins so I don’t need a month overview page like this.

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Another page that just didn’t work for me: The commonly seen “habit tracker.” I never found time each day to update the habit tracker. I would accomplish the daily tasks at all different times of the day, and there was no way I could whip out my journal as they happened. Similarly, the September Goals was a fine page to have but they were general and I would rather journal reflectively about some of my goals that had actually been accomplished at the end of the month than use this template popularized by prolific Bullet Journalers on YouTube such as “Boho Berry.”

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The most important spread for me besides my weekly planner was my spending log. I kept receipts until I had a few minutes to spare, when I wrote in their values and other information to help me remember where my money was going and what I could improve on (for example, if way too many entries were going into the “want” category.) Although the header is want/need, I ended up adding other terms like transport (for Ubers, Lyfts, refilling my CharlieCard), charity, and grooming or health (eyebrow appointment, haircut, cough syrup). At the end of each month it’s important you reconcile your spending with your bank account to make sure nothing is amiss and the numbers add up.

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It all comes down to the weekly spread: at the top of each day I write my classes, and use the space to write assignments I will be completing that night as well as events. The two best resources for events in my life are the Next Week @ Emerson email from Emerson College (which students are automatically subscribed to) and Facebook events. I find Facebook events aren’t comprehensive because often you won’t see something is going on unless a friend has already shared the event page. I write everything and anything that interests me and then I am not afraid to place an X next to things I just can’t make it to. I cross out things I did accomplish or attend. Things I can postpone until later get a right pointing arrow, meaning I’ll copy it over onto the next week.

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The weekends get more space because I generally save a lot of homework for these two days. I highly recommend a daily gratitude log, which I will fill in with a minimum of two things I was grateful for during my day (or often after the day has passed and I find the time to go back.) In a way it has been serving as a scrapbook of memories because my gratitudes are in narrative form. For example, on September 12th I wrote “I’m thankful for bravery and reciting poetry…” because I read at a poetry slam, and “for honest conversations about fears and desires” because I had a good talk with my boyfriend. Being grateful will make you happier, guaranteed.

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My favorite part of my journal is my monthly memory page. I made doodle representations of my very favorite moments as a visual time capsule I can cherish throughout the year. These pages may seem like a lot of work to some people, but the first rule of BuJos is that they can be whatever you want them to be. If this stresses you out, keep it simple and quick. If you want to focus on making time for your artistic skills, this is a great way to do so. Find your own inspiration and be forgiving: if you miss a day of something, there is no law that says you can’t go backwards and fill things in. You can change your set ups every month if something doesn’t work or you want to try something new. However you BuJo, I hope it makes you a happier, more productive, and more creative person or, at the very least, you might find yourself a snazzy new notebook to write your homework in. YM

Working creatively with your love interest

As a videographer and director he is more dominant, less insecure, and a little less patient. This is the thing he takes ownership of, like I take ownership of my writing, and it is clear and obvious in the way we slipped into two different roles for our project. We were two parts of a five person team entered into Emerson’s 48 Hour Film Competition. He, the leader and the teacher. Me, the observer.

The world is rife with advice about how to work alongside your significant other. The most common commandment is Thou Shalt Not Mix Work and Play. You are encouraged to separate your creative life and your romantic life; don two different costumes, and be able to hang one of them up. After all, it’s as easy to slip back into “professional colleague” as it is to pull on a raincoat at the door of your suite. Tongues in mouths and pens on paper exist in two different dimensions, and for good reason, or else nothing would ever get done.

Except that this is bullshit.

The cheap and obvious panacea is that having a good relationship will mean having a good working relationship. Our good relationship meant kisses after a successful shot, but I was left with other feelings, too: did I contribute at all? I was the journalism major posing as a VMA, hoping desperately to learn and mimic what they did. Did I compromise and swallow criticisms because I was an outsider, or because I felt deferential to him?

I can’t help but feel smaller than him. I didn’t understand his reasoning for certain creative choices, cutting this, spending more time on that. I worry that he doesn’t think I’m smart because when he’s admiring classic directors all I am qualified to do is admire his intellect. And, because he’s good, he has given me reassurances about this. He liked the fact that I wasn’t perturbed by his idiosyncrasies on set (like the orange socks he religiously wears while filming). But for some reason I felt like Luke being complimented for making a tin can twitch, while Yoda was creating a steel castle with his mind.

The following recommendations were the missing links during my own experience: the things I needed but didn’t act on. The most important thing is to carve out your own space in the project- claim a talent that the other doesn’t have so that you never feel superfluous. If you don’t know about camera angles, focus on upholding the continuity of each shot- use your eye for detail. Channel your ability to talk to people by organizing marketing for your film, or your artistic skills to design the poster. This idea applies to any collaboration, like being in a study group or group project with your partner. Above all, you need to talk to them: fear is nothing except for the absence of communication. Confronting my insecurities with him as they rose up might have slowed us down, but it also wouldn’t have hit me so hard after the fact. And finally, set up an opportunity for them to watch you doing something you’re great at. We had shared our poetry with each other before but he didn’t truly see how I had a writer’s mind until I helped craft the film’s story. Someone in their element is someone at their sexiest- and we could all stand to see a little more of that. YM

Identity crisis

It all comes down to two.

Two branches of a fork in the road. Two extremes of anything. Two people, anywhere, in any time of their lives, wanting to somehow merge.

If I’m being honest, it all comes down to us.

It will always come down to my need for companionship, a need which is neither transient nor unique, but something that will always be there, beneath and surrounding and driving every other creative pursuit. It might not be that glamorous, in the way that a director is glamorous, who has spent his life collecting film and studying it and is married to his work, who dreams only of what he can create, not who he can meet. He is therefor the definition of focused and independent- nay, transcendent- above us mortals who stumble around hoping for copulation and maybe a bit of affection too.

But if I am anything I am mortal. I am fatally dependent on feeling, on feeding off of the world around me- absorbing every breath and hint of other people or the weather or the glint of sun on metal, and internalizing all of it, interpreting it, making it take shape in words or colors so that I can make sense of it. I am much too connected to the world to care too much about the afterlife- and if I were in space I’d still be most excited by the human in the spacesuit next to me, or the million thudding hearts I’d left behind. What do these glistening universes mean to us? What does the promise of a new frontier- the expanse and the exploration- mean as an ideology for people?

So, yes, a simpler way to put it is ‘I am a romantic’ or ‘I am a humanist’ or ‘I am a vessel for channeling everything else. Everyone else.’ Well, when I put it that way it makes me sad. It makes me wonder, in a purely Freudian train of thought, if I don’t love love so much because I’m hoping someone else will be able to tell me who I am. I’m wondering if my void of an identity is because throughout childhood it was easier to become a vacuous mass, a shimmer of smoke, who neither stirred nor thought nor rebelled nor spoke. Yes, Sir Sigmund, it was easier that way. Yes, there was trauma.

And here, at 18, am I only now starting to notice the absence? Starting to feel the smart of something missing, starting to long for that thing which is mine and mine alone, which will be now and at the end of time, like a fingerprint or an iris or the helix of your ear, but, like an unshakeable habit more inveterate, like perhaps, I suppose, a soul? /

Death

I dropped my best friend off at the bus station this morning.

Only one of us cried.

And walking back I had the strangest sense that I was going to die.

And I was at peace with it.

I felt sure that any one of the people around me would be my demise- that man in the blue suit with the white roll of blueprints in his hand- maybe there was a gun in there, maybe he was on his way to snap.

He’d make the news for shooting up his corporate office, but first I’d get in the way. And I was okay with that.

That stranger in the hoodie with the slow, slow gait walking ahead of me might pull out a knife.

And I was okay with it.

Any one of these cars, with the windows rolled down…

The man shaking the coins in his cup.

The people who always push and argue in front of the smoke shop, right on the way back home.

I was okay with it, I was okay with it, why was I okay with it?

But as the light grew brighter my fear got more intense, like smoke on its gray sky, more opaque.

I climbed the stairs and then took the elevator, into a world just waking up, and looked right down the hall like I always do, though I live on the left.

My boyfriend’s room is there, to the right.

My friends’ rooms are scattered across this floor, and the lingering sense of death clung to my shuffling feet as I passed their doors and thought about a fire, like the one we all playacted at not too long ago, the one that had almost happened just one floor up, a blaze that would creep quietly- no- flare up instantly- to engulf me and the people I love.

I wasn’t okay with it, anymore.

Well, maybe just a little.

But the weird thing about it is that I’m not suicidal. Never have been.

I guess it’s easier to will the universe to kill you than accept that you want to do it yourself.

I guess it’s simpler to feel like you’re going to die

Than to feel just about anything else.

City (awake)

My city never sleeps.

It’s up all night.

Just like three college students drunk on being tired

who perused 7/11 like a Thanksgiving feast

spread out on a maplewood table.

It’s South Street diner where the Cuban sandwich

will melt in your mouth

at 3:00 AM.

With the packed-full booths and the shouting cooks,

scrape of the spatula on a sizzling stove,

and all the hungry human din

of the people

who just couldn’t fall asleep:

Not yet-

Who just couldn’t sacrifice this day for darkness,

Not yet-

Who needed one more kiss and one more bite

to fill their stomachs.

It’s the bright cavernous maze of the MFA,

Corridors of secret spaces to touch each other’s waists

That sweet fugitive feeling of being

where you don’t belong:

But the museum never seems to shut down.

My city is a sprawling lawn

With feet twisted together

Watching a movie framed by a warm carousel

and a cool mathematical skyline-

each pricked by bits of light and bleeding constellations.

It’s a sprawling archipelago of theaters;

a chain of culture hopped like squares on a sidewalk

Skipping stones that hit art no matter where you throw them.

My city is a highrise apartment

And the set of keys in my palm with seashell ridges

The lock that I expertly twist and kick or nudge with my hip,

The room where I sit and feel awake.

When it’s dark, when I’m tired

When the world is a rush like the street and the sirens

When my brain is soft and clouded

Still,

In this city,

I feel awake.

Stuck in love

He watched my favorite movie.

He hated it.

How could I blame him, a film student, for hating a rom-com called Stuck In Love for God’s sake?

But what I feel right now is not blame.

I feel small.

I feel like the little girl who sat in her bedroom at night

on her pink and white comforter with the flowers

With a notebook in her lap and a pen in her hand

Who wrote fairytales.

I am that little girl

Who got called out of class

To talk to Child Protective Services in the main office

And answered questions like “what does your dad feed you?”

Who was looked at like she was stupid

By plastered-on concerned adult faces

Who just wanted to do their jobs

And bring in the bad guy.

But the bad guy was never just my dad.

He lived in my brain and slept in my skin since before I was born

He pressed his thick heel on my lungs and never let me forget

The heavy hand of conflict that never ever ceased.

Divorce, for me, wasn’t a word it was a life and my earliest memory

It was my backbone and my breastbone and every single fucking bone in me.

So when I sat on my comforter

And wrote about romance

Or that bright shining willow wisp I imagined it would be

I latched onto the boys like Lou from Stuck In Love. 

I escaped into stories of people finding each other

And I don’t care if it’s not real life

Because it never had to be.

Stuck In Love is a movie about writers,

About family

About a love that I thought was sacred in my room with my pen at 15.

They have the same favorite book.

They kiss in a car in the rain to the sound of an indie song about kissing in cars in the rain.

When Lou’s mother dies of cancer, they cry

And I always cry

Because this cheesy amalgam is real to me.

It is a version of life that I could only hope for myself

It is penned by a little girl on a pink and white comforter

And she is damned proud of it.

And she should be.