Well Lovelies, it’s 2AM and as hot as Satan’s armpit in my little top story dorm room, so rather than me getting some much needed beauty sleep, you all will get a just as needed end-of-the-year round-up, hyphens, cheese, (and most likely, late night typos) on the house. I’ll edit with a more critical eye pending sunrise and a good cup of Earl’s Garden.
This year could, easily, have been the best year of my life — so far, of course. I still hope to live by the exponential happiness growth model, with highs at the ripe old age of 104. But as for what made it so good, that can be summed up by two, or maybe four things.
The first ingredient to my happiness, is, as it always seems to be, the right people. I befriended Giselle Boustani, one of the most mature, brave, intellectual, compassionate, and wise people I know. When I imagine living in a house one day, if I ever get my act together to do so, I think I will have to have a room for Giselle, so that even when we’re not in the same dorm anymore I’ll hear her cackling down the hallway. It would be harder to live without her than to convince her, I think.
Then there’s Danial, the goofball on the first floor whose hair may even rival mine. I don’t want to wax too sweet on this one, as I enjoy giving the man a rough time, but I think missing him will be its own particular unpleasantness, like hunger when you’re on a diet or no wifi when you’re visiting relatives. You shouldn’t wish they were there, but you can’t help it, so you make up for it by liking all their Facebook posts? You know what I mean. I love the first floor boys, and I’ll go over all of them at length elsewhere, but damn it if I won’t miss Danial like an ache in my side.
There’s Violet and Zoe, who have singlehandedly taken over my holiday calendar for this year and the next one. Of all my friends who asked why I was leaving them for London, these two actually took it seriously when I told them to shut up and come with me. I look forward to exploring Europe with you two, and the South End in the meantime.
There’s Rebecca, quite possibly the best roommate I’ll ever have. We’re completely different religions and across the board on politics, and we’ve managed to talk about both in length without fighting. Our “Post-Its” and papers are still on the wardrobe where we left them — a baby picture of me, a list of places to go, and two notes that say “I’ll meet you at the ZipCar” (in case of zombie attack, obviously) and a joke about our codependence. Well, it’s mostly a joke.
There’s Kamara, with her terrifying stories of Nigeria and her deadpan until you realize she wasn’t actually joking. She’s kept me going the last few nights with Archer and deliveries of Thai food I should probably pay her for sooner or later. There’s Kyle, who may have the closest nerdtaste to mine I have ever met, and who has the kind of piercing glacial blue eyes you usually only hear about in bad fanfic. My teachers, my tutors, my mentors, my family. I love you all, and I am so lucky to have you. Leaving you will be a quiet heartache, like a growing pain.
Of course the second thing is my writing. I feel as though I’ve barely written, though I’ve had a piece workshopped every week of this semester — there just hasn’t been time, and the more I do write the more ideas I have. I’ve upped my game in academic writing and learned much more about the theory behind poetry, but most importantly I’ve realized that this, more than anything else, makes me who I am. I don’t know if that means I have to publish or pursue it in a career, but I know that if someone made me choose between dying and never writing again, I would only be confused, wondering why they would threaten me with the same thing twice. I have learned that it is incredibly exciting to be around people who feel the same way. The brief interviews I have done with writers this year have felt oddly like validations of my existence — a dangerous reaction, but a promising one, too. It’s strange, how the less time I have, the more I write, and better. I have to remember that even as I dedicate myself to my craft by way of my English major, writing started as an escape and consolation for me. I learned to write out of fear, and I have no interest in being afraid anymore. I can’t say I won’t be writing for me, but I’ll be writing for something else, too — and maybe on top of poems and short stories, I can write articles, too, on feminism and food and college and starting a garden. So much of college and the city is about choosing, whittling down the jungle into a path misleading in its narrowness. The only necessary limit in writing is the word count, and even that is moot for self-publishers.
The third ingredient to happiness, oddly enough, is food. I have all but abandoned the dining halls this year, and while my waistline has suffered for it, I have no regrets. I have brought home squid ink paella, tikka masala, scallion pancakes, and eggs benedict just as readily as I have boiled pasta and reheated dinosaur chicken nuggets in my microwave. I have tried dozens of teas and more types of chocolate. Give me a good budget and a decent kitchen, and I’ll take the world one cuisine at a time.
Last but not least, the biggest thing that has changed this year to make me happy has been me. I’d written a good part of this post, at least in the first draft, under the title of “The Art of Losing,” a phrase from the poem “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop. I’d planned something sentimental and nostalgic, and while this certainly fits those categories, I hope it adds something, too. Losing wouldn’t hurt or matter at all if we hadn’t been changed by the gaining — if what we wanted, or what we were, hadn’t changed. I’m different than I was when I first came to college, though by no means finished changing. Where I hesitated, now I speak; where I worried, now I sleep; where I itched in my own skin, now I dance, and damn it if I don’t get better all the time. It’s exhausting to change, but it’s a headrush, too, the same kind of powertrip you got when you were little and spun so fast you fell down and could only see the sky, gaping like you could fall up into it. Becoming is like forgetting yourself in a dream, except when you remember there’s a little more, a little bit of magic, that may be quieted but cannot be erased, with or without your permission. You can never go back to the imprecise innocence you began with, but you begin to know where you are, your moods and preferences, what can save a day or a friendship. I trust my anger more than I did before, and my love. I trust the wasted days because they teach me what I think waste is, and how to avoid it. The days I spent working on papers feel the most like wasted days, but not the days I spent editing them; poetry, midnight conversations with friends, and good desserts, those were the things I lived for, and waited for without knowing I waited for them. No time enjoyed is ever wasted, and the time we do waste tells us what will matter, now and later. I have spent so long trying to figure out what makes people call me “quirky” or “odd,” wondering which of the thousands of standpoints they are comparing me from and why they would bother to label me with something so ambiguous, with such seeming good intentions. It’s easy, especially for women, to mistake what you want to be with what you will be seen as. People can think I’m absolutely nutty, if they like, and the only person who could make me miserable would be me, as it always has been. Going absolutely nutty would be quite nice, I think — at least then I’d be getting weird looks rather than vague, off-color comments intended as compliments. Ambiguity belongs in art, not between people, and even less between people who aren’t related to each other.
This year has been a series of snapshots. My professor, a British knight, stops me on the street to tell me I’m formidable, and ask what I’m doing with my life, and is only taken aback when I mention I’m considering psychology; leftovers the size of two people’s dinners in Texas, wearing Carlynn’s recently gifted pajamas and fiddling with her Otome game on her phone; my tentative fores into the dating world, as I drink red wine while watching Being Human, awkwardly trying to cuddle on a bed as hard as a rock and much too small; hours spent in the Core Writing Office, with Lauren asking me what precisely I did wrong in that sentence while I sip egg drop soup out of a compostable spoon and try to remember not to pronounce Nietsche “NEE-chee;” eating Trader Joes on Giselle’s floor, or having her read my fortune with her Angel Cards; the nights I spent talking with Rebecca about God, or family, or Baltimore; ruthlessly mocking Danial’s carpet as we stay up late in his room and he talks about how he can always finish his essay at 4AM because it’s the world goddamn tournament for Cricket and he’s ready to see Pakistan or New Zealand or Australia take down the colonial oppressors (satire or reality? who knows?); sitting on the stairs to listen to Will play guitar for a little while before trekking up; or trying to get Shisha with friends half a dozen times, always being told the wait was two hours, and going home exhausted only to talk for another three. These moments are precious, not always sweet but sometimes salty with late-night sweat under a heavy winter jacket, a year to be remembered for its flavor when the images that made it up begin to fade. I will miss it, but it is hard to miss something you carry with you, though I do it often, like a cake that remembers its mould yet continues to bake.
But you know enough is enough when all you can talk about it food. It’s 3AM here, the time of night when you realize you need to either eat or fall back asleep, and I am much too tired to make myself breakfast. Goodnight, my dears, and do try to take care of yourselves. But wait — I’d almost forgotten the other thing that makes all these endings worthwhile. Sure, I’m going away, from Boston and California and everything else, but when I get back, I not only get to see how I’ve changed, I get to watch my friends become, too, and wonder how they will while I’m away.