Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brand new pair of roller skates

Leah, my roommate, who is perhaps the most extraordinary adventurer, risk-taker, and action-doer I have met in my young life (and she doesn't read my blog, so I have no real impetus to write this about her, except that it is true), is good at doing things that make her happy. For the greater part of this year, I was convinced that the things that made me happy should be the things that made Leah happy, or that made teachers happy, or that made attractive boys happy, or that made my cats happy, or that made the writers of magazines happy. I had a very strict "supposed to" notion about the way to live my life. Leah goes dancing at bounce clubs in neon-colored outfits, and therefore I should go to bounce clubs in neon-colored outfits. Teachers like to sit over cocktails and bemoan the amount of work they have to do, and therefore I should accept every invitation to sip Manhattans in a dingy bar, and I should come prepared with a Best Of list for the week's misfortunes in the classroom. My cats eat salmon and chicken liver soaked in gravy while making growling noises, and therefore... you get the idea. So on and so forth.

But in the car the other day, I said I wasn't really all that happy. Leah said, "You should go out more." I thought about that. I've gone out quite a lot this year. "But going out doesn't really make me happy, I don't think," I said. And then Leah said something that should have been so obvious to me, but which I had not been able to wrap my mind around up to that point.

"Sophie, aren't you the one who is always telling me to be okay with the person I am? Aren't you always telling me to have confidence in doing the things that make me happy?"

I said, "I like to go to museums." Leah said, "Then you should go to museums."


I lay in bed for a while and thought about the combination that made me happiest, and which was most lacking from my life. I came up with this: exploring, slowly, alone. There's just so much premium placed on having fun in public; in enjoying yourself and letting others know that you are enjoying yourself, so you can create an image of Smiling Face Dancing In The Street. Well, there's no written rule that says you have to have a partner in crime.

On Thursday I took off running.

Or rather, I rode my bike. The rules for this day were that I had to stop any time anything interested me, and take my time to take it in. In general, I have decided I am a very slow-moving person. So I was going to let myself be a very slow moving person.

I did wipe out pretty hard around a corner on my bike. I am actually a really bad cyclist. I think I crash more than any person I have ever met (I average one major spill a month, which my roommates attest is pathetic). I am in a perpetual state of looking like a map of the world charted out in continent-sized bruises. Two things I can conclude from this: 1. I either definitely should or should not join the roller derby. Should, because I can fall with great ease; should not because I fall with great frequency. And 2. I absolutely, desperately need to drop all fussy funding issues I may have with my bank account and buy a freaking bike helmet. I just know that one day I'll be grateful.

I spent the whole afternoon doing nothing but exploring a city I wish I knew better. I saw rope swings, bedazzled bicycles, people taking apart Mardi Gras floats, and a girl roller skating. Instead of a camera, I brought a sketch book. I used to be very interested in sketchbooks, but that has taken the back seat in the past few years, as everything has gotten fasterfasterfaster, and I "haven't had time" to sit and draw. Lucky for me, I met Sam Alden, whose blog is testament to the fact that he sits for ten-hour periods (I'm not kidding) doing nothing but drawing. I bought a couple of line-free Moleskines (pretentious enough for you?), and dove back into it. I am a little horrified to find that I creepily seem to only have the ability to draw little girls. At the bottom of this entry I've posted some of the sketches of the girl roller skating.

Another big revelation of the weekend: it is the fourth time I've visited a single spot along the bayou to read (the weather could only be described as "hideously perfect" yesterday), and I realized it's my favorite space in the entire city. See the self-consciously-snapped photo at right. What is it about waterways? I spent four hours there. My leggings got very dusty.

I'm ashamed to say it (ashamed because I want to be content with winter), but I am really ready for spring. The magnolia trees are blooming now, coaxing the warm weather and soft rain. Mmm.

But now comes the hard part: The week starts again. Back to the routine, back to the late nights and early mornings; frozen lunches and sore legs; stolen jelly beans from the prize drawer. No time to read the paper (and the world should know that all I ever want to do is read the paper). It's a challenge. Good thing I've been reading fucking Spiritual Midwifery (seriously) for my book club (I do like book clubs. They are one of those social gatherings -- like Crafternoons, Wednesday Night Vegan Dinners, and Radical Educator Meetings -- that I find intensely valuable). Those crazy hippies help me sleep at night.


Friday, February 19, 2010

I see the girls in the club, they gettin' wild for me

It is time for a grand re-entrance.

So I'm blasting "Welcome Back" by Mase*, eating a fresh and hot bagel, and getting down to business. My cats are excited. Seriously. I just made a YouTube video about this very topic.

So anyway, you may be asking yourself, "Why did your blog disappear in the first place? What happened to you?" I ask myself this same question fairly regularly, World. Let me tell you the three reasons for my brief and unannounced hiatus:
  1. I thought that my blog was getting a little bit gossipy. I think that's what comes with finally making friends in a place, and knowing that there are people out there who regularly read what you write. Once I had a friend in college who admitted that he would open my LiveJournal and do a Cntrl + F for his name, so he could read anything I wrote about him without having to toil through lots of meaningless garbage. I became very aware of my (tiny) readership, I suppose is what I'm saying. Once I knew who was possibly reading my blog, I would try to mention those people more often than other people, so they would feel rewarded in their reading and would continue to follow my overly extensive ramblings in hopes that they might be mentioned again. And as someone who wants to someday be a journalist,˚ that made me feel dirty.
  2. I started wondering if "fun" was really what I most wanted to be. I like feeling like a fun person, don't get me wrong. But I started paying attention to the merits of getting enough sleep, feeling healthy, being empathetic and kind, listening to other people when they talk, and being honest with everyone around me. All of that is kind of woo woo, and doesn't make for the best blogging material. Since I all-out quit smoking, drinking, driving a car when I didn't have to, and eating any sort of animal products, I have found my emphasis less on "fun" and more on "sane." I guess, dear Blogosphere, that's OK. I am aiming now more for "joy" than "fun," I think. If this means that my blog is no longer meaningful to you, kindly locate your nearest New Age health spa and alert them of my presence. I just know they'll be super-interested in my quest for inner peace.
  3. Lesson plans are hard and take a really long time. Or, moreover, my workday is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day. It sucks everything out of me! I come home, cook, eat, go running, read, and go to bed. I turned 35 before I meant to, I think. My life got a lot boringer, I guess, but I'm okay with that.
And following Mardi Gras '10 and Who Dat Saints fever, I'm worn down, exhausted, and anxious to start over. I want... adventure. I want to explore and poke at things I've never noticed before. I want to create, and to go on long journeys and to document all of that. Just because I am a teacher doesn't mean that I can't take a little time every once in a while to seek the kind of fresh, non-work-related joy I am desperately lacking these days. I have a few immediate adventures I'd like to have, and then I think I just want to spend a lot of time riding my bike around the city and stopping whenever anything is interesting to me. I will need to buy more wool socks, because I am always getting sick and feeling cold. But really, I live in the deep South. I should not be such a wuss. And after all, I live in the best city in the world∫, and I haven't yet gotten inside every possible corner of it! A sin.

So. I want to do these things, in general:
  • Stop and smell more flowers, talk to more people, explore more holes in walls, eat more bread and drink more foreign coffee. Keep my iPod off and my eyes open.
  • Go to every bookstore in New Orleans. The fact that I haven't done this yet seems like a gregarious injustice to me.
  • Walk for miles and miles and miles, alone.
  • Build a swing in an unlikely place.
I'll chronicle these four small goals as the year unfolds into spring (it's doing this now!), and I take some space from my wonderful school and the most amazing seven-year-olds there are in the whole entire world≈, and I'll find my own corner of this tiny, incredible city.

Since you and I last spoke: Ari has departed the Crescent City for the Emerald City (two nicknames which don't really fit, don't you think?), which was a sad thing, but not an ending in my mind. She is one of the strongest, most beautiful hearts I have ever known. Having her here allowed me to see the cracks in the cement in a new way, and it let me be OK with the version of myself who didn't drink or go out late or fake it at big parties. But now she's opening up a whole new life for herself, and I feel weirdly proud of her, and excited for all the things she is going to do. But you should ask her about it. We have a new roommate, too: his name is Allie and he makes moldings for movie sets seven days a week, which he describes as "long, tiring, interesting, absurdly funny, dusty, unromantic, and demoralizing." He's extraordinary. Sam was here for Mardi Gras, and I can't believe how fast the holiday passed. We took in Muses, Krewe de'Tat, and Endymion. We also made a King Cake, so I felt I had met the bare minimum, at least, of my Mardi Gras requirements, which is impressive because I have a bad cold (turns out you get sick a lot when you work with little kids. Who knew?). Lots of good visits. My parents, too, came to New Orleans recently. I felt like a grown up. And then, two weeks later, my little sister turned twenty-one. I visited her in Colorado to see what it looked like to turn twenty-one (because heaven knows I didn't do it correctly -- I just bemoaned my ungraceful departure from childhood and watched a lot of Disney Channel in a state of miserable denial), and to celebrate her existence. I can't believe she's an adult. I guess she always sort of was, but now there's an official number to put on it. My sister is the most extraordinary person I know. How did we get so big so fast? I don't feel like I have changed much. Then again, I could write two separate biographies for the person I was just a year ago and the person I am now. Life is a paradox like that, I guess.

I am looking forward to the adventures.

* I recently sang this at a karaoke/ sushi bar in Metarie and was told that I really wasn't cut out to be a rapper. I have to admit that this was a bit discouraging. I would be lying if I told you I hadn't considered a possible future that included a primary income of six figures due to rap stardom.

˚ Don't ask me what I mean by "journalist." She is definitely a dying breed these days, as Gawker continually, pathetically, and aptly points out. But it's been my stubborn dream since I was about three years old, so I'm not giving up now just because the "newspaper" is "going extinct." Pish posh.

∫ One of them. Portland is pretty staggeringly wonderful, with its insanely black coffee and never-ending bookstores and my mom's bird feeders all choked with sparrows and waxwings and HUMMINGBIRDS. And lately I've missed Chicago a lot too, for all its sprawling neighborhoods, and the rambling El Trains and the magnificent limestone rocks on the big Lake Michigan.

≈ That my students are the greatest living human beings on the planet, I am absolutely certain. Every moment I spend with them I become a better person. I can't describe the brilliance each and every one of them brings to my life, but to cite a total cliche, just imagine you have stared your entire life at black-and-white, grainy photographs, and then someone suddenly puts a bright, color, high-definition, flat-screen television in front of you, playing clips of flowers blossoming as created by high-tech speed-capture cameras. It's kind of like that.