Monthly Archives: May 2010

Let It Go, This Too Shall Pass

Sometimes I just literally stay up and cry all night. New developments (like not being able to move to New Orleans until January and trying to move forward with the love situation and a slew of other things) keep popping up and it’s easy to feel lonely as hell sometimes. And all this just keeps gripping me and pulling me under and I kind of dread every night. Sometimes depression makes you hate the day but for me it makes me hate the night.

But I have this playlist titled “POSITRON”

It’s basically a mix of positive, uplifting, “no way you can still be bummed after listening to this” songs.

So, with that playlist in my arsenal of weapons to fight my patheticness, and random moments like wicked rainstorms during a muggy Memorial Day, the 4 hours of crying episode from the night before instantly becomes the past. In the words of OK Go…

You know you can’t keep letting it get you down
And you can’t keep dragging dead weight around
Is it really all that much to lug around?
Better run like hell when you hit the ground

When you put everything in that perspective, how can you NOT push through and cheer up and survive? I’m being a baby. Thank you, positron mix and rainstorm, for making me grow the eff up.

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Defining The American Dream

One of my favorite Postsecrets in recent months was this one:

I think at first I thought it was beautiful because it seemed to be an alternative take on the American Dream. And because I am so 100% in favor of gay marriage and gay rights, of course. The fact that someone has to leave the country they love to be with the person they love just because their country won’t let them officially love that person is SUCH bullshit. Homosexuality is not what’s ruining the institution of marriage. But that’s another topic for another time.

In my head, the American Dream has always been working hard, becoming successful, making money, and living the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of. But the alternative aspect here (being able to love who you want and have that love recognized) seemed to have nothing to do with the “American Dream” in the way I’d always thought about it.

So, then I started thinking about what my “alternative” American Dreams are. Because being successful just so I can make money isn’t really a dream of mine, to be honest. From this train of thought, I went to Wiki to see what info it had on the subject. When thinking alternatively, I like to start from square one.

It turns out that the American dream in this Postsecret isn’t really that alternative at all.

According to James Truslow Adams who coined the phrase (via Wikipedia):

“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, also too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

“The American Dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”

Epic of America. I am SO interested in getting my hands on this book now.

Apparently wanting to marry your partner isn’t so alternative. Let’s pull out some phrases here:

“…life should be better and richer and fuller for every man…”

“It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are…”

“The American Dream…has not been a dream of material plenty…”

“It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”

Love makes your life better, richer, and fuller. You should be able to be recognized as an GLBT person and be able to achieve everything you are capable of or want to be, regardless of the fact that some may disagree with your lifestyle. The American Dream is not entirely based in acquiring material wealth. It’s all kinds of personal realization. The last part is my favorite. The American Dream is to break down previous barriers and social orders which limited individuals and cease the way of thought which determines that people can be categorized/systemized and understood via the creation of artificial classes and structures. GLBT people are not a different class or type. They just have a set of preferences which is considered alternative to the sexual norm of America. It’s really not THAT alternative. They’re just people. Sexual orientation has as little to do with a person’s quality as race or gender or religion or income or anything like that does.

Thanks to Postsecret and Wikipedia, what I now get out of the American Dream is that it’s the uninhibited maximization of potential for every single citizen that let’s them aspire to whatever their personal goals, interests, and desires may be. It’s ultimate freedom. Not monetary gain. It includes monetary gain but does not exclusively dictate that goal.

I now realize that I have an American Dream too. My American Dream is that I will be able to enable the American Dreams of others. My dream is community organizing and preserving the environment to protect disadvantaged people and helping to create a global cooperation and understanding using American power and influence (which is currently waning because a lot of us are assholes) and helping people be who they want to be and have what they deserve to have. Monetary gain has nothing to do with any of that. This country (in theory) lets me achieve what I want to achieve. And it should do that for everyone too as long as their American Dreams don’t encroach on the dreams and rights of other Americans.

And now I’m curious about what other people’s American Dreams are. What do you hope to be and attain, given the supposedly (almost) limitless freedom of our founding ideals?

Sandra Bullock And I Are Moving To New Orleans

 

“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd

 

True story. One day in early February, during a foul and dissatisfied mood, I decided to go visit my best friend Julia in New Orleans and experience mardi gras. Being that I was still unemployed, I realized that it was the perfect time to go. Maybe I wouldn’t have the chance to go to mardi gras ever again. I was running out of savings, the weather was horrendously bleak (Pittsburgh in February is no place you ever want to be), and it was time for a vacation. My sanity was at risk. Going on vacation meant that I couldn’t pay my rent for April. I had just enough to cover two more months. Going on vacation meant that I would only have enough for one more month and then absolutely have to find a job in March or not have a place to live. Since I had been writing two cover letters a day since the end of December and still hadn’t even gotten an interview, the idea of adding to the pressure was a little unsettling. But I decided to risk it. BEST DECISION EVER.

Tangent: I’m inherently adverse to stability. But lately I’ve fallen into radical stability and it makes me feel like I don’t know who I am anymore and I’m conflicted and messy and unhappy every single day.

Before I left, I honestly thought that this mardi gras thing would be a one-time deal and I’d just end up with stories to tell about the time I went to mardi gras when I was 22. But then New Orleans conquered me and I will never be the same again.

Is this infatuation? I feel like everyone, including myself, should be skeptical about this decision. How can you know that a place is right for you after only 5 days? How crazy is it to move over 1,000 miles away just because you want to?

I don’t actually feel like this is crazy. At all. It feels perfectly sane and rational to me. Yes, I’m worried about some things. Like what if I can’t find a job again? Where am I going to live? What if it actually was vacation infatuation that gripped me and I hate it there? How can I afford a car and a deposit on an apartment at the same time? And the worry list goes on and on. It’s 97% money related.

But then I step back and realize how ridiculous those reasons are not to go. What is the absolute worst that happens? I end up sleeping on an air mattress and eating one meal a day until things work themselves out. And if things deteriorate past that point, I’ll hop on a plane and come home. There are no real negative consequences here. Life proceeds.

As Christine Gilbert states in 8 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 22,

“6. You don’t need a safety net. You can figure this out. The idea of being out there, with nothing to catch you if everything goes wrong may make your stomach do little flips, but really, you’ll be just fine.”

Damn. Straight.

I followed that line of thinking when I spent almost all my resources to go to mardi gras in the first place and now I’m following up with the bigger risk of moving there. And I’m kind of unphased at this point.

I’m drawn to the fact that New Orleans is a community and it’s so apparent. People seem to support each other and enjoy the company of others. They’re rebuilding together. It seems like a non-profit palooza. And all I really want to do with my life is to participate in something meaningful. I spent a day volunteering with the St. Bernard Project and it was one of the most fulfilling volunteer experiences I’ve ever had. The culture is overwhelmingly rich with festivals and shit all the time. The food is fantastic and like nothing I’ve eaten before because it was my first trip to the south. And it’s a music town. I feel like I could go to The Spotted Cat and hear The Loose Marbles play every day of my life and never get sick of it. Even the apartments blow my mind. They’re super affordable and have high ceilings and hardwood floors because that’s just the style. And the exteriors are charming. Perfectly my aesthetic. It’s an HGTV dream.

Oh, yeah. And it’s a football town.

New Orleans just seems to fit me. It’s a weird indescribable feeling. Kind of like love, but not as intense. It makes me want to be in love. I want to sit in Audubon park near the turtles and the cranes and the willow trees and be in love. And live in a sweet apartment with the person I love. And ride the streetcar with the person I love. And go on southern adventures with the person I love.  And eat crawfish etouffe with the person I love. Ryan (my roommate) told me the other day that I’m “going to get married in a swamp.” I probably am. Although all my babies are going to be born in Pittsburgh because western PA is where my family is. It’s my base. And my kids deserve to have the same summers on the farm that I had.

Pittsburgh is just too utopic for me right now or maybe I’m just bored. And New Orleans seems to be pulling people from all over the place. Almost everyone I met while I was there originally came from somewhere else. And that’s SO enticing to me. I want to know about everything and everywhere and that’s so easy when everyone you know has a vastly different experience.

I have no idea what to expect or whether I’m overidealizing all of this and I understand that luck does not always follow you in life and you can’t always expect everything to work out the way you want, but if you don’t go for it, you’ll never know what would have happened.

Since I’m feeling quote-y, let’s throw this one out there.

“I had the craziest night of my life tonight and I guess I learned that if you want something or someone, you have to go for it.” – Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

I did that with a person. I took the risk of staying (staying is a risk sometimes, actually) because I was in love. And it wasn’t a happily ever after. And I’m ok with the fact that I “wasted” 5 months of my life when I could have been far far away because if I had gone, I always would have wondered what would have happened and now I know. I was afraid that staying would put my life ambitions at risk, but it didn’t. Now I can just pick up where I left off.

And now it’s time to do that with a place. New Orleans, I’m yours.

Sandra Bullock just moved there to start over and get away from her life crap. It’s a plan that works.

Harder Hall Disorientation

Disclaimer: I am no art critic. Just an uneducated enthusiast who ignores everything but her own aesthetic preferences.

I can’t count how many times I’ve been to the senior art shows at Alfred University. Or how many times I ran around Harder Hall as a kid during various events. But every year during the art shows, I find myself completely disoriented in the building. I feel like there’s never a methodical way to see everything and so some shows inevitably get missed. I kind of love the chaos. It’s liberating.

Some years, the quality of work seems better than others. But amongst the seemingly ho-hum stuff (I don’t want to be mean because it’s not like I could do better myself but I can’t describe it any other way), there are always a few shows which are simply astounding.

Oh, Alfred, you are my joy.

2010 first prize winner (according to me): Kaye Waltman.

I was absolutely blown away by her pottery. I honestly wish I had a link or a picture or something to provide to you right now so that you could be blown away too. I tried to find her work on the internet but to no avail. Mostly I just want to visually covet the pottery from a distance, knowing that I will never be able to have nice things because I’m a gypsy. A girl can dream though. Summarization: I want those pots. And if you could have seen them, you would have wanted them too. Gorgeous.

Honorable mentions:
Amanda Leigh Moul
Sarah Heitmeyer (A website!)
Jessica R. Figallo
Kate Roberts (Opinions from a real local artist)
Carolyn Bauch

Obviously those names mean nothing to you without visual aid. But commit them to memory (or at least the most basic recognition so you’re subconsciously drawn to them at a show someday) because they will be worth your time.

For whatever reason, all my favorites this year were women. And their work was “pretty” for lack of a better word. Pretty is such an awful term because it sounds demeaning or lacking in depth. But that’s not what I mean at all. I don’t even know what I mean. I used to like work that was entirely inaccessible (e.g. the “weird” shit). But now I’m drawn to things that immediately make sense to me. Art can be approachable and pleasing without lacking talent or vision or innovation.

If I could show you pictures, you would understand.

Pocket-Sized Inflatable Houses Should Be A Thing Of The Future So We Can Take Them With Us If We Want

I can’t say for certain, because I am not actually at the end of my life, but I think that when we’re at the end of our lives, we’ll be a conglomeration of all the places we’ve lived and all the people we’ve known.

People and places and milestones become tied together in the timeline of our lives. Often changes and milestones are associated with leaving people and places and encountering new ones. And for most of these changes, it’s hard to determine whether they’re good or bad. Even if what you’re gaining is positive, you’re also losing something significant in the process.

I love Alfred, NY. Honestly, it’s utopic. The weather sucks and there’s nothing to do, but sometimes a cool July and peace/quiet are everything you need.

I came home this weekend for the senior art shows and because I miss my brother and my puppy every day. And because I need to regroup and get back on my feet. Sometimes home is really the only place you can do that. It’s so safe here. Everything is familiar and comforting so the only thing you have to deal with is whatever you’re dealing with and at that point, you can begin to sort things out. I kind of blogged about this briefly last summer (http://bettermakeitfast.blogspot.com/2009/07/sound-of-door-opening-and-slamming.html).

There are so many quotes about how home is wherever you’re most comfortable or that it’s the people that make home what it is and it has nothing to do with the place.

I think it has everything to do with the place. I am SO attached to these 1.5 acres that the thought of having to let all this go and not have this house to come back to feels catastrophic. Of course, the people make the memories, but it’s the house that the memories were made in and it’s the house that’s always here.

Last night my mom and dad said they were putting the house up for sale. They’re making career changes, we’ve all moved on past the highschool stage in our lives, and if someone wants to buy the house, it makes sense for them to sell it while they can.

I’m calm here. I grew up here. There are so many memories that you associate with a place when it’s been your home for 15 years. My siblings and I probably know the woods behind our house better than anyone would ever care to. We’ve played with three dogs and countless kids in the yard. We’ve had summer adventures and winter adventures and outdoor adventures and indoor adventures and countless Christmases and birthdays and victories and tragedies. This room has been MY room for 15 years. Our parents built this house for us. We saw it grow from being a hole in the ground to being a well worn-in home in need of fresh paint, new carpeting, and a working oven in the kitchen. For a few years now, we’ve had to cook the Christmas turkey on the old stove that sits in the laundry room because my parents haven’t felt that their budget allows for a new one for the kitchen. Things like that happen when you try to put three kids through college at once.

My room is at the back of the house, on a corner. There are three windows. I have a 180 degree view of peace. My sister and I used to share this room. I remember what it looked like with our twin beds side by side and then how it looked with the bunk beds and then how it looked with my double bed and now I’m back to the twin bed I started with since I took the double bed to my first and second apartments.

I love its state of disarray. My bedrooms will likely always be in that state until I get married and have reason to keep it maintained. I’m clean, but my bedroom is where I leave all order and reason at the door and crash in the world of chaos and relaxation. This room, in particular, has always been my safe place. And my chaotic place.

But I know that this house and the 1.5 acres that it sits on was made for kids. And the family that’s potentially going to buy it has four of them. They’ll form their own memories and do their own growing up here. If we have to sell it, if I can’t have this place to retreat to forever, then I want to be able to pass it along to someone who will have the opportunity to know it and love it like I did. I hope they uncover our path in the woods that’s lined with rocks that leads to the fort. And I hope they climb up the climbing tree. And I hope they send messages up and down the laundry chute. And I hope they build mud castles along the ditch. And I hope their parents plant apple trees in what was supposed to be our little apple orchard that never panned out. I think only one tree is left.

I’ve been very happy in Pittsburgh and I will be very happy in all the places I go to in my future, but Alfred will always be where I felt the safest (not necessarily the happiest, but the safest) and this house is a huge part of that.

My parents are going to retire to my mom’s family farm in their hometown of Punxsutawney. Western PA is where all the extended family is, for the most part, and that’s where they did most of their growing up.

There’s no family here in WNY. This house and this land will leave the family. I don’t get to have the same opportunity they do. Most people don’t have that. Once your childhood home is gone, it’s gone. And that’s just how it is. But I think that for the rest of my life, part of me will always wish that I could come back.

I’m a rambly blogger. I apologize. Maybe sometime soon I’ll just blog about why Alfred, as a town/community, is awesome. If it was a vacation destination, I’d be its best champion.