Monday, October 20, 2008

Great Expectations.

It's one thing to be young, bright and failing when you're in a big city; it's something else when you're in the suburbs.

Perched behind the window of a coffee shop in Bethesda on a visit awhile back, looking out at an intersection that had remained comfortingly static over the years, I mentally greeted the self who had been in that same seat more than a decade before. I used to sit there writing in my journal and feeling so paralyzed, having not yet acquired a relationship, job or home that felt mine and true. Adding insult to injury, I was feeling that way in Bethesda, where I had grown up, which gave my depression an extra edge of despair and bittersweetness.

My frustrations now muted and my situation improved since then, I feel thankful -- but also a little wistful for the depressed me who used to sit there, plotting and dreaming and lamenting.

I used to be, and still am, attracted to stories about the gifted and tormented: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Salinger's characters. It is horrible to be in your 20s and feel as if it's your moment to make a mark, but you just can't rise to the occasion. You are too immature, too lazy, too scared, too directionless, too mediocre, too perfectionist, too attached to brooding and self-harm. You achingly identify with those tortured souls, the Sylvia Plaths and Robert Lowells, but the difference is that they were executing, while you are merely aspiring. Their suffering is Large, remembered, bold; yours is small, unchronicled, meek.

Now my fresh-and-new years are gone and I have become a reluctant student in the arts of gratitude and realistic expectation. It is now enough to sit in a cafe and simply experience feeling transient and existential. I don't have to make art out of it, or think about making art out of it -- or worse, feel unique about it.

At this point in my life (practicing said gratitude), it feels like a luxury simply to sit alone and brood instead of doing many of the other things responsible adults do, such as raising children or working overtime or having brunch. I often wonder (maybe too much) why alone-time is so important to me, and how to work out the calculus of balancing that need with those of a relationship.

When I lived with someone, I looked forward to being alone so that I could:

- talk to myself
- cook uninterrupted, because I need to concentrate when I'm doing it
- dance around
- sing really loudly
- peep out windows
- inspect things in the mirror
- browse music
- write to myself (i.e., talk to myself more, only silently)
- watch whatever I wanted and pause it as much as I wanted
- [censored]

Everyone needs to exercise his or her right to wander, either at home or at large. I didn't really appreciate that until I was sitting alone at a counter in suburbia, realizing that it doesn't matter where you are, temporally or physically -- it's still necessary to untether yourself and get lost once in awhile. And it's sweeter getting lost when there's no pressure to find anything other than joy in it.

5 comments :

Jackson Kuhl said...

- [censored]

[in a Zapp Brannigan voice:]

This blog just took a turn for the sexy.

Lindemann said...

I am a hundred percent in love with my alone time. It's the gift to myself that keeps on giving.

the wayward o said...

is that uncmo on the doppler radar?
cause you are blogging up a storm.

Christina said...

LOL

hans q. bungle said...

alone time travels at 4x the speed of regular time