Musings on Chalk and Celery and Creativity: My Quarter-Life Crisis

celeryWhen I was younger, I loved loved loved the 1995 remake of “The Little Princess.” There’s one scene when little Sara draws a circle in chalk on her damp attic floor, then curls up in a ball in that circle, fetal. This is how I feel. She was reeling from the presumed death of her father; I’m just having what I can only describe as a quarter-life crisis.

I just feel… off. Let me attempt to delve into the complexity of what, exactly, I’m feeling: I am a limp and rubbery stalk of celery. I feel completely drained of my battery; I have no backbone, like I’m wilted.

And I think I’ve figured out the root (ha) of this anxiety: I am homeless. The closest I can possibly come to my own personal happy space is that circle drawn in chalk. Sure, I have a sublet with great roommates, but none of the things are mine. A stranger’s art lines the walls; her dirty pink rug sits on the floor; her clothes fill the armoire; I sleep under her linens in her bed. And sure, I have an amazing boyfriend with an amazing apartment complete with amazing roommate, and I spend a lot of time there. But it’s not mine. I may cook and clean and sleep there, but AB never fails to remind me that I don’t, in fact, live there. The couches, my very first adult purchase, no longer belong to me. Nothing, save for some clothes and toiletries, is mine. I express my frustration to him, and he says to go home and have alone time there. But it’s not “alone time” that I need. It’s “me time.” The fact of the matter is I can’t be who or do what I want when my life is boxed up in a basement far away.

I’m actually on the verge of tears right now. This reality is excruciatingly difficult for me. It has detrimental effects on my psyche, and completely goes against my mental health clause. Because when I don’t have “me time,” my creativity dies a slow, painful death. All the things that make me feel like me—the majority of my wardrobe, my furniture, my cowboy boots, my yoga mat—are sitting in a basement. I thought I’d be settled in my own place in March. I now know it won’t be until June or July. You try living out of a suitcase, and in the shadow of another person’s life for six months and tell me how sane you feel.

I want to write a book, I want to tackle my Pinterest-inspired DIY projects, I want to ramp up my blog, I want to take up yoga again, I want to host a party in my own kitchen with my own kitchen utensils. Mine, mine, mine.

I don’t have the means to fix this right now and, as a result, I feel trapped.

I believe it was Maya Angelou who said something to the tune of—when inspiration hits, she has to scramble to write it down, lest she lose it forever.

Recently, my mother and I were taking about my older brother, a photographer and the definition of an artist. Many times in his life he’s said that if he is unable to pursue his art, it will—literally—kill him. And though I used to brush off his remarks as exaggerated and dramatic, I now believe him. When his circumstances prevent him from shooting, a part of him dies. I feel the same way. My circumstances—tolerable in small doses—are now stifling my creativity and my happiness. I feel the artistry bubbling up, but don’t feel I have the means to express it. My reflex is to either implode and curl up in that chalk circle, or explode and somehow find my escape—literally and figuratively. If celery can be saved with an ice bath, then so can I (right?).

Pillow Talk

When I was younger, it was all the rage to have one of those frilly little mosquito nets over your bed. They turned an otherwise ordinary bed into this magical kingdom of fairy princess awesome-ness. I had one, the kind with the velvety white trim on the ends that I would play with obsessively (I have this weird compulsion to pet soft things… velvet, teddy bears, the blunt ends of my hair. It drives my mother insane). My bed became my own little castle on a cloud.

Even now, little has changed. Though I long ago discarded the cheap mosquito cocoon, my bed is and will forever be a sacred place.

My bed is where I spend the most free time, it’s a place that sucks me in and always makes me comfortable. It’s fluffy and familiar and pretty. When I first started moving all over the place and feeling a little more out of my element, I was struggling to find a definition for home. Was San Diego my home? Boston? New York? My laptop, which is arguably where I spend the majority of my time? I had a lot of conflicting opinions… Some people thought that home was where I grew up, some argued home was where my family is. I tended to think that home (which, it should be noted, has little or nothing to do with a physical house) was more of a concept, something I could take with me wherever I went, even if I couldn’t pack it up all neatly in one of my many boxes.

To me, home is transitory. But my bed is as close to a physical representation of home as I can get. My bed is the single thing that can make any plain room look like it’s mine. I’d like to think that I can take the connection even further… my bedding (which I change out every couple of years for a fresh “breakover”) kinda represents my personality. It’s double sided (striped on one side, flowery weirdness on the other) like my innate Gemini, and it’s all earthy, natural tones. Blue, teal, green, tan, brown… I’d like to think it’s a nice contrast to the bright bubble gum pink it was before.

The green in my bedding is the most important part. I try to surround myself with green because it makes me feel happy and because it makes me think and more thoughts=better writing. Before (with the pink), I was spastic, stressed and high-strung. And though my commitments doubled, the greenery makes me more collected and reflective. I love having a nicely made bed. No matter how cluttered my room or my life, if my bed is neat and tide and put together, then my head is too. My bed is where I do my best thinking.

As such, I should also mention that when I say my bed is a “sacred place,” I also mean that it is a chaste place. There is no hooking up in my beloved haven. You know how people tell you not to watch TV in your “sleep place” because it messes with your REM cycles and whatnot? Well, I can’t be hooking up in my “think space.” Mixing sex and thoughts never really works out; it just makes for dirty thoughts. Plus, I can’t be bothered to clean my sheets.

“It feels like home to meeeee…”

So there’s this boy… man? boy? I suppose he’s a 70-something manboy. Yup, that sounds pretty accurate.

I’ve briefly mentioned this old fart before. But his name is James Francis Bunker. And my relationship to him is that he’s my dad’s college roommate’s old boss. Sounds kinda like that Spaceballs scene doesn’t it…

Anyway, our mutual connection introduced us because Jim went to Northeastern and still plays an active role on campus. Turns out, he put in a good word for me.

And now? After a wonderful first lunch in February, we see each other whenever we happen to be within driving range of each other. And for the rest of the time, we email and talk and keep each other updated about the latest happenings in our lives (actually.. maybe it’s more about whats happening in MY life. Oops).

He’s a kook and takes every opportunity to make fun of me. But, at the same time, I’m not afraid to dish it back out. And in our teasing and mockery, we are able to communicate in our own language. To the outside world, we probably look like the silliest pair ever. But I don’t know… I just like this crazy old man. He’s lived quite a bit more than I have, but is happy to share his experiences and his wisdom and the best cafes in Paris.

This summer, I was SO blessed to meet his firecracker of a wife. Not only was she wise enough to con him into going to college when she was 14, but she’s put up with him ever since then. And knowing him, that deserves a ton of respect.

And through him (or those he knows), I’ve been able to meet some other people, too.

I called him this morning and suddenly came to the realization (albeit, belated) that this poor sucker is family. He, combined with the other Bostonians that I love, is the family that I’ve built for myself in my beloved city. No wonder it feels like home to me… I’ve got a crazy “uncle” and his wonderful wife, 80 sisters and countless treasured friends to keep me company.

Vanessa Carlton, in her song “Who’s to Say,” concludes that “sometimes family are the ones you choose.” Now, I’ve got one of the most incredible, dysfunctional-but-it-works-for-us families in the world. But it’s nice to know that I can build one for myself, too, compiled of people that I love and choose to love and who happen to love my city as much as I do. <3

Toto, We’re Not in PQ Anymore…

Apologies to anyone who actually reads this. I decided to leave my beloved Lloyd (the laptop) behind while I spent a few nights in the desert with my closest girlfriend.

I’ve known Lauren since 4th grade. I was 8 and she was 9 and we had a couple mutual friends in common. Now, I’m 18 and she’s almost 19 and I’ve known her for more than half of my life.

It seems like its been weeks, not a decade, since her parents were together and she lived in her old house. Her mom used to give me extra peaches from their tree to take home. I used to help Lauren wash her dogs and when she came to my house, we’d venture into the back hills and pretend to “rough it.” We went to horse riding camp together. On (terrible) double dates. Middle school dances, high school formals, and college parties.

But sometime in the last ten years, we both grew up. She got a job and a boyfriend and a car. I got a job and a (few) boyfriend(s) and a passport.

And suddenly, we found ourselves headed for a girls’ weekend, something that would have been impossible  just a few years ago.

Lauren is transferring to Georgia Southern and leaves in 10 days. Maybe that’s why we spent the majority of the three-hour drive home reminiscing. We shared inside jokes and stories from our freshman year of high school. We ridiculed the people who peaked in high school and talked about the beauty of the world outside little PQ. We patted ourselves on the back for not getting arrested for cocaine possession and for graduating without having been pregnant.

Anyway, it just got me thinking… if there really is some defining threshold between childhood and adulthood, I think we’ve crossed it. And I don’t just mean turning 18.

We are at an age now when we can just up and leave and take a vacation. We have credit scores and loans in our name (meh). We have recipe books and mending kits and host dinner parties just for the heck of it. We no longer “hang out;” instead, we go for coffee or lunch dates. As my friend, Jordan, says, we’re at an age where we say “I’ve heard so much about you,” when we greet people. That’s an abstract way of saying it, but I think it’s true; what 7-year-old says, “I’ve heard so much about you?”

It started with trying on our mothers’ shoes. Then we were kissing boys and wearing LipSmackers and stealing dad’s razor to shave our legs. We bought new underwear (Or, true story, humiliatingly received it from our brother in a very public birthday celebration. Thanks, Conor.) and learned to put on eyeliner. We watched PG-13 movies and painted our toes in every color imaginable.

We met friends that passed on the ever-important knowledge about how to straighten your hair. We started tanning and stealing sips of tequila from our parents margaritas.

But before we knew it, we were stealing more. And replacing the stolen goods with water. We were TP-ing boys’ houses and breaking into apartment complexes to use the pool during free period. Friends started experimenting with new vices and we watched as people disappeared from homeroom roll call and were never heard from again. Colton Echuverria, Daniel Wark, Blake Pierce… people whom I assume are now behind bars or living in half-way houses. And, of course, Chase Manson (R.I.P), who Lauren and I were honestly never huge fans of, though we  wouldn’t ever wish him harm.

Life changed, kids grew up.

Its funny.. sometimes when I see people who I knew in middle school, I don’t see them as the 20-somethings they are now. I see the baby faces and the zits and the awkwardness that they were. Certain people will forever be 12, regardless of how many muscles or cup sizes they’ve grown.

I don’t know if there’s any cohesive argument I’m trying to make, honestly. More of an observation. We’re no longer kids. The time flew and its only picking up speed.

My best friend and I are no longer children. We’re both 3,000 miles from home, learning to figure things out independently and struggling to navigate the dreaded “real world.”

Because of the way my school works, this summer is my last true summer. From now on, the longest I’ll be spending in PQ is 2 weeks. From now on, I will forever be a guest in the house I grew up in. My senior picture hangs in the dining room and evidence of my existence is sprinkled throughout the house, but it is no longer my home.

PQ and the greater San Diego area are absolutely stunning. It was the most wonderful place to spend my childhood. But, like I said, I’ve crossed that delicate threshold between childhood and adulthood. And now I have a new home.