To Live Imperfectly

There are some drives that you tell people are an hour, and you mean it in the sense that if you hit every red light, manage to get stuck behind a horse and buggy, and have to swerve to hit dear, then it may be an hour.  You tell them it’s an hour because why explain that it’s probably only 50 minutes.

The drive to my college from Columbus is not one of those drives.  It is a drive that is an hour, and it will always be an hour no long how your flight was, how badly you have to pee, or how tired you are of making small talk with the people you’re sharing a cab with.  It’s just an hour.

You go through Centerburg, and you realize that you still have half an hour to go, not the 15 or even 20 minutes it would be if it was a fake-hour drive.

You pull out your tiny graph paper Rhodia notebook since you better do something with this half an hour back to Gambier.  You write best when you’re traveling, you decide.  You don’t know if this is exactly true, but you declare it to be.  You think best when you’re moving, when the constant farmland becomes meditative, or when clouds don’t have animals in them anymore.

When you write, you start thinking about the presentation you’re going to give this summer, one on expectations, one hopefully of hope.  You’re going to be speaking to high schoolers.  High school is a hard time.  No one knows what they are, yet everyone assumes that everyone else does. You’re trying to figure out what the hell you are supposed to be doing, and the answers you’re given don’t feel right to you.  You remember that quote: the earliest years, the more important ones, are the trickiest.  Emerging from nothingness takes time.

When you think about the presentation, you think about what else you’re doing this summer.  You’re supposed to be interning, shadowing, doing something to make up for the C that you got on your last chemistry exam.  You’ve heard back from one place, an email asking if “u have horse experience.” U do, you email back.

As you go over the hills that seem to have no speed limit, you wonder how you are supposed to tell these kids any advice.  You’re still young.  Most days, you trip over something, drop your keys in the middle of the doctor’s office, run over a squirrel on the way to a vet’s office.  When you try to kiss him, your noses somehow bump each other, and you end up laughing instead.  You probably spent too much time with the Underwood’s over spring break, and not enough with those around you.  You should have finished your drink your mom poured you, helped with the Jeep your brother and dad are trying to build.  You shouldn’t have complained about not having your own car.

You want to stop writing, but the paper is too nice.  You want to tell them that you don’t have anything to tell them.  You are too imperfect to help these emerging creatures.  You, too, are emerging.

Maybe that is all they need to hear.  You can be an adult and be imperfect.  You can be driving to shadow at the vet’s and kill a squirrel on the way.  You can try, as hard as you can, to walk in heels when you go to the Short North for dinner, but you will still trip.  You can fail your first quiz and still want to be a bio major. Hell, you can fail your second quiz and still want to go to vet school.

Live in this imperfection, you tell them.  You don’t think that you can live any other way.


To the Baby In Front of Me

You don’t know me. I don’t know you. Our paths seem to have crossed. You’re in the seat in front of me, on a flight from Columbus to Orlando.

I’m sure you’re going to Disney. Or maybe to visit you grandparents. You are in your mother’s arms. You are laughing, even if you were crying, it would be okay. You are in a flying tube. You are allowed to cry.

You’re standing up now on your mother’s legs. Stand there as long as you can. Let her be your rock. Your foundation. Grip your tiny toes into her quads. Dig deep. Leave marks.

You keep looking around. Observing. I wish the top of the plane were glass so that you could see all of the clouds. They’re so much prettier when you are in them than they are from the ground. Well, they are still pretty from the ground as well.

Your sister keeps peaking her head back and smiling at me. She’s reading a book. I hope that she never stops reading. If she ever needs a book, you call me and I’ll make sure you get one.

Your sister just handed your dad a sticker. What a special gift. I pray that he saves it. Sticks in on the car window. Sticks it on his phone. Sticks it on his heart.

You are so very young, too young to be forming memories.

By the time you’re my age, you’ll have formed so many memories, but you’ll have even more to form.

Some of them will be good. Some will make you cry. Most of them will involve your favorite people, maybe your parents, or your friend, or your first dog. I want to tell you to form memories of every moment. But you can’t. I am sorry about that.

Try to remember the small things. The way your mom’s legs feel underneath your feet right now. The way your sister gives the most meaningful gifts, like stickers.

If you have a dog, remember the way it feels when he falls asleep on your feet.

Hug him often. Hug everyone often.

When you get older, scary things might start to happen. Tumors will be found in your best friend’s leg. You won’t be able to shower because the floor has MRSA. You will be so scared, but you will never be alone.

I’m on this flight now, heading back from college. Heading back home. Back to my mother’s legs. I’ll lay on the couch with her tonight and my unshaven legs and hers will be next to each other, with the dog laying on both of our feet.

You are crying now. I am crying now.

Your sister keeps smiling at me. And I keep smiling back. She’s missing some teeth. She is not fully formed, but neither am I. Neither is anyone.

The flight attendant is coming through now. We are about to land. I hope that you enjoyed your flight, but if it was scary and stressful, that is okay.

No one expects you to be able to handle everything.

For now, all we are asked to do is to stand on our mother’s legs and take it all in.

How to View Your First Dead Body

When you are told that you will be visiting a mausoleum

Specifically the one of a questionably celibate Vietnamese communist leader

Do not think twice

Hanoi is Vietnam’s D.C

The mausoleum is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Do not question your guide when he tells you

Bring your camera and bags

Do not question the guards when he tells you

All are prohibited

Leave your cash, ID, camera, and voice with your guide

All are prohibited

They will wake the resting leader

Do not shiver when you step into the stone

Tell yourself

It just seems cold because

The heat index outside is come celsius degree

That only means hot to you

Ignore the thought that the temperate seems to be

More for the dead than for the living

Ignore all the signs that say

There is a preserved body in the next room

Tell yourself

He will be under stone

When you turn the corner

Do not meet eyes with Ho Chi Minh

When you hyperventilate

Do not meet eyes with the guards

Avoid their bayonets

You do not want to share a coffin

With a man who has been preserved

40 years too long

When your legs go numb

Stiff like the ones you have come to revere

Do not grab the mourner next to you

Sexual advances are not to be viewed

By celibate Uncle Ho

Focus on the stone wall

Try not to think about the hammer and sickle engraved on the wall

Try not to think about the boy engraved on your fovea

Try not to think about Ho Chi Minh

Was on the other side of your first

Face-to-face encounter

With a dead body

To Share Feelings I Like

Inspired by this video, I want to share with you some of my favorite feelings.

1.The moment when I know I have taken a good photo, which will probably turn out to be my favorite from that series of photos.  Not only am I proud of the photo, I am excited to get home, to edit it, to share it.  It’s this serendipitous combination of both instant and delayed gratification that I simply love.

2. The moment when a sentence, or a segment more accurately, just forms in my head when I’m taking the dogs for a walk, or at school learning Calc, or when I’m in the shower, and I can tell that the segment is going to be the start of a poem, or short story, or is simply just a line that I will come to love. As much as I love this, I need to remember to write even when this does not happen.  I often fall into the trap of waiting to write until I feel like something is waiting to jump out, but I must start letting the words crawl out as well.

4. When I am reading a good book, such as Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (which I am currently reading), and I cannot wait until the day is over so I can get in bed, curl up with my creature-of-choice (my dog Spencer) and read with a cup of freshly brewed loose-leaf tea next to me. The book acts as the light at the end of the tunnel for a very long day.

5. When I put on a song, such as Rollercoaster by Bleachers, and it takes me back to where I first listened to it.  I listened to the Bleachers’ album while I drove through Big Sur in California, so now every time I listen to that album, I get to enter into that beautiful place. Sometimes I think that music gives me more powerful memories than smells.

6. As someone with food allergies, I love the moment when something that I think will contain my allergen, and it doesn’t.  This has happened with Oreos and Cookie Butter, two of my favorite foods. (I do realize they quite aren’t actually foods).

7. My favorite time of day is right before I fall asleep, when I’m in bed.  I love listening to WYNC and having a few moments totally to myself.

8. Returning home from a long journey and having my house smell slightly different than when I first left.  I then take the best shower I’ve ever taken, as I finally have water pressure and my own body wash.

9. I love being in an airport by myself.  I feel like once you get past security, the rest of the airport belongs to the travelers.  The airport terminal places everyone on a nearly equal playing field; everyone is slightly uncomfortable; everyone is ready to explore.

10. I love completing a project that I have been working on for a long time.  As the editor-in-chief of my school’s newspaper, I got to experience this feeling at the end of every month.  There is such a huge release when your project leaves the nest and enters the world.