I remember a time few years ago when I felt the world was spinning and somehow I got left behind. When everyone seemed to be doing something, going somewhere, having fun, exploring new things and I was left to count the grains of sands as they fell one by one into the bottomless abyss of my future. An odd and strange dark land from a lifetime ago.
It’s a peculiar feeling to be here right now, when the world is spinning to fast that I’d like to stretch a hand and grab a flagpole, a branch, some Jane and get off this crazy thing so my stomach can stop lurching. Firstly, I didn’t think I would get here. I wanted to, but I didn’t think I would be able to uncage. Secondly, I didn’t think ‘here’ was so furiously-now as well. How odd that I would actually miss those snatched moments of solitude. It’s all very nice to be spinning around this fast, but boy does it make you dizzy. Thirdly, I didn’t think I would start talking in bullet points of threes, but there you go, and now I shall stop with this bulleted menace. There.
(But I will cheat a little and make a list instead, ha, of Things Gone By in the Year Past)
ITEM ONE: An acute case of homesickness.
The funny thing was, I didn’t think about missing my family too much even as I was preparing to leave and packing my things and meeting all my friends for a last round of bottoms-up and a horrendous drunken rendition of wonderwall. I did dread the thought of leaving my dogs, but not so much friends or family. Perhaps it had to do with over-optimism on my part that I’d be able to strike a balance between enjoying my self-indulgent life as a student in this country club called H and still being in touch/blogging/emailing friends and family…. Or maybe I just didn’t think about it because I knew no amount of thinking would ever be able to change the outcome.
Either way, the deepest cut I suppose was seeing my dad (who came with me for the big move and helped me settle in) leave on a Friday afternoon, between classes, and me in the middle of an ridiculously noisy student cafeteria hoping that this infernal chattering hoard of small-talk-makers could turn to dust and blow away with the snap of my fingers.
It didn’t very much feel like a hard-won victory just then, not the sweet taste of independence that I FINALLY got to savor, of no curfews and no checking-ins, and no ridiculously nosy network of spies lurking from the shadows. It felt empty, and sad, and miserable and not at all like the sort of feeling you’re supposed to have just before being off on some wild adventure and meeting new people and making new friends, and downing ludicrous amounts of alcohol. Nevertheless, like all things, it passed…. The dull ache of missing familiar faces, the frustratingly handcuffed feeling of time difference, the longing for familiar sights – of madras summers and mangoes and sundal on the beach on a Sunday. This place, well I wouldn’t call it home yet, but it’s really not that bad. Hmm.
ITEM TWO: An acute case of winter.
I think I can assert with a fair degree of certainty that snow and I do not like each other. It’s nasty and cold. There’s nothing remotely likeable about it. No it doesn’t look pretty and white. It’s cold and dirty and slippery and wet. It’s also windy as fuck. Despite my strong feelings for winter, I think the worst of it was the darkness. Endless days ran on into each other in darkness, whole days when I didn’t see the sun because it rose at 9 and set at 4 and between those times and beyond I was couped up in a window-less classroom in the basement. I think I will never fathom why some people find this so desirable, so…. ‘efficient’, this nonsensical notion of spending endless days cramped over a computer screen, burrowing through tunnels like a gopher, and then pushing yourself to head to a gym and running on a treadmill while you stare emptily at a mind-numbingly inane excuse for news on American TV.
That said, I think perhaps it has to do with all the rest of it. A friend put it best when he said that when Americans (or at least the ones at H) talk about work-life balance, it’s nothing more than a desperate attempt to appear put-together. When they talk about balance, they’re really talking about trade-offs. So you pick your battles and you make your peace with it.
ITEM THREE: No time to myself.
Definitely not to blog. But not even to do things that I hoped I would find time for, things I enjoyed and things that brought me happiness in the past. Like reading. Or writing. Or spent in laughter and randomness in the company of good friends. I don’t think I liked having my life hijacked and being told what to do and when by some master timecop in the sky. Although, I was warned this would be the case, and thankfully it’s a lot better this year.
ITEM FOUR: No dogs.
No dogs no dogs no dogs. Oh woe…. How much I missed them.
ITEM FIVE: Much less alcohol than I imagined
Although I’m to blame. I think I drank less in my one year here than in any given 2 weeks in India. There are a number of reasons (notwithstanding a bit of mopey pity party I gave myself for being homesick and not liking the cold) but also…. I just don’t like drinking with idiots who cant hold their drink. Not that my friends are wonderful at holding their drinks (or myself, for that matter) but I suppose that part of the perks of being a friend is the undeniable license to be a total and absolute drunken buffoon in the company of friends who’ll take you home and get you in your own bed, and probably be nice enough to leave a dustbin next to you for when you wake up in the morning.
Of course, that’s the whole reason why you go to the trouble to brush your hair, clean your teeth and go out all nice and presentable and make friends and work on those friendships. The concept of drinking with abandon with people you’ve just barely met, taking no consequences for your actions, and then coming back the next day with ‘omg I was SO hammered last night, I can’t believe I…..’.
Stop. Right. There.
You, yes you, you spluttering cow with a left tit almost hanging out of that dress with a suspicious looking vomit stain down the front. Don’t even bother opening that hole in your face because I can smell the manure a mile away. Yes, yes, I’m very sure how wonderfully important you are and all that because you’re here in the big H and you’re you and you’ve worked oh-so-hard-won’t-somebody-hold-my-hand-and-tell-me-how-pretty-I-am-because-mommy-didn’t-hug-me-enough-and-now-I’m-here-because-i’m-a-poor-little-overachiever-who’s-just-looking-for-love…. I don’t like you, and I don’t want to be your friend, and I think you’re a warbling wuss who’s too shit-faced to either say ‘Yes, I’m an obnoxious arrogant little fuck, but I’ve earned it, so I’ll do what I want and who I want when I’m five shots down’ or ‘I’m here to make it in the world, I’m hungry and ambitious and by god I’m going to get my pound of flesh, so you, you and you, I’m going to network the fuck out of you because you have something I want and I can be the resource you wouldn’t be able to live without’. This whole ditzy middle-ground of acting tough and then crying on the dance floor in your own vomit and then expecting everything to be just fine and forgotten the next day because ‘omg I was so hammered last night…. I can’t believe i… This is such a funny story’. Stop.
There. Rant over.
Ergo, in short. I think I’ve come to the rather sharp realization that I don’t like Type As very much. The sort who’ll stick a pastel-toned louboutin in your cranium because that’s the fastest way to get ahead. The sort who not just look at people in terms of what-can-she-do-for-me-hmm but are in fact too dumb to realize that it’s all very fine unless the other person sees through your game, and you’ve made a foe because of your abject stupidity and lack of grace. The sort who shriek and yell and stamp their foot and demand that they be taken seriously. The sort who’re sickeningly insecure and needy for your attention that you wish you could just say ’No, I don’t like you and I don’t want to be your friend you freak’ to see if they really would go and kill themselves.
But. I digress.
Despite all… it’s been a good year by and large. The no curfews, no snoops, no feeling of time slipping by in its toxicity. I think I quite like it. The freedom to live by myself, to be in a city where there’s the distinct murmur of good, fun things bubbling under the surface, of new experiences and new people. Despite everything, there is a decided lightness of being that I hadn’t experience before – and whether it was because of India or because of Madras or because of living with the family, I can only speculate.
I suppose part of it is just the experience of living in the US. Granted, the country’s obscene fascination with itself is a bit strange at time (I mean for fuck’s sake, people are dying a continent away and your breaking news is some two-bit politician wife’s botched haircut?)
But you’ve got to admit, it’s a darn good place to be for what it is. And I suspect very much that it’s my free-er schedule this year and semblance of control over my time that’s having me feeling…. charitable. Upbeat, even. That, or maybe it was just the summer and the feel of warmth on the back of my neck.
But that’s fodder for another post, and I’ve miles of cases to go before I sleep.