Dear Whoever Wants to Listen,

I’ve been living in New York City for three months. I can’t believe it either. Three months in the Big Apple has seemed like a long time. I’ve had my ups. I’ve had my downs, but regardless of this prolonged and sometimes nauseating rollercoaster ride, I know I’ll look back on my residency in NYC and be glad I did it. Is it lonely? Sometimes. Is it scary? Not really. Is it exciting? Definitely. I’ve learned a lot, not just about myself, but about people. We humans? We’re WEIRD. But I love that. The other day, I saw a guy about my age walking a pig. Now that I think about it, I’ve seen a whole manner of strange pets being walked. On my way to work, I passed a woman holding a leash, the end of which was wrapped tightly around the shell of a turtle. A turtle. Already, after three months, I’ve become accustomed to these kinds of oddities. People wearing the entire rainbow of colors and more. Old men shouting obscenities on the subway because that’s just what you do. I’ve been graced with songs by would-be artists and singers on my way home from work. They’re always gone just as fast as they came. I’ve been late getting to the office in the morning because a woman, after boarding the train, promptly began to undress herself, right there in front of all those people too proud to admit that this was going to be the best part of their day. The train stood still until the authorities arrived to remove her. She’d had enough “removing” for one day, don’t you think?

What else? I’ve learned how to make pourover coffee. That’s exciting! I’m drinking a cup now in fact, brewed from the last bit of Stumptown beans we had left in the cupboard. Never fear; I bought more this afternoon. I’ve participated in my first Ramadan… That’s right, I’ve come to know the beauty of fasting. And it wasn’t without difficulty. Strangely enough, it was easier in the beginning. As the month wore on, however, I grew increasingly frustrated at not having the freedom to grab a bagel from the shop just downstairs whenever I wanted—at having to watch my coworkers down cold brews in the morning as I looked on envious.

Side note: Everybody stop using plastic straws. They’re bad for the environment. Paper straws are the new thing. Get on that train. 

Anyway, Eid (the end of Ramadan) is Friday and I’m feeling a mix of both disappointment and relief. The first because it has made a ritual out of dinners at home (iftar), sitting down at 8:00pm to eat the well-deserved food and gulp down as much water and coffee as you can knowing tomorrow is another day of fasting. And the second because…well, food is food. I feel I say that, though, with much more ceremony than I might have been able to before. Food isn’t just food. It’s a gift. Sustenance. An avenue by which we connect with our neighbors. An opportunity, and most importantly, a privilege. I don’t know hunger like some people do, but this should have given me a taste nonetheless (ironic pun recognized but unintended). It’s a great exercise, too, in checking your ego—forcing it to submit to a will reminiscent of that which is beyond our own paltry existence, and not it’s own. Not to mention, I learned a lot about food in the process—where it comes from, what makes it halal, how it affects my body, etc. Milk for instance, you gotta be careful with that. Meat? Just…know where you’re getting it from. Fruit, I buy mostly organic. I guess the same goes for vegetables. Is it more expensive? Yes, but that’s an expense I’m willing to make. Do I still eat out too much? Most definitely.

What else? I paid for a gym membership. Have I been? Nope. But you better believe I’m staying on top of those membership fees just in case I have it in me one day. To be fair, I haven’t been eating. Can you expect me to work out after a whole day of no food? Some people can do it. Me? Nah.

Anyway, long story short… I’m still alive, taking my life day by day, and at night, tucking my baby blanket close to my heart and pretending I’m a kid again and my mom is in the next room. I can’t imagine that ever going away. Just today I texted my mom that I missed home. And she said: “Home misses you too, sweet Steph. But Home is also in awe of your independence!” And then added: “Natural progression – barf”

And to that I say, Natural progression, shmatural shrogression. 

Sincerely,

Stephanie

Advertisements

Dear the Ghost Living in My Heart,

You’re angry with me—disappointed maybe. You see your potential, circumscribed within the confines of the human host you occupy. I’d give anything to set you free, for your sake and mine. But at what cost? Death of the host. Is that the price of true transcendence? I recognize that humanity fears death—more than anything; it’s sort of a conditioned response, isn’t it? Fear of the unknown. What happens after death? Nothing? Is there more? Which of these questions does religion seek to answer? Where can I get some of that? Does it cost anything? Doesn’t everything?

In the meantime, how would you like a taste of your true potential? I think something like that only comes from taking a leap, though—a big leap. I can’t tell you what will happen, but I assure you we can expect to face beautiful consequences. Besides, what is growth without suffering? Being human is fun!

So… what kind of daring leap shall we take? Move somewhere far away? Quit our job regardless of whether or not we have another lined up? Travel somewhere for a few weeks? Be completely and totally honest with everyone around us? All of the above?! How about this? I imagine you’re capable of giving “signs,” right? You’re a part of me after all. You must maintain some kind of influence. I propose this: Give me a sign. Show me want you want out of this short life. Being that you’re in touch with what’s most existentially significant, I trust you to choose wisely. I’m relying on you, because my measly little human brain doesn’t have the best track record at the moment. But my heart? That’s a different story.

Let’s see what you’ve got.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

To the Future,

Please don’t disappoint me.

In many ways, my life has been more than adequate. Good school. Great family. Let’s just say… I am the epitome of female white privilege. Am I thankful for that? Sure I am. Not as thankful as I would be if I knew what it was like to live without it, though.

The problem is… I’m bored. I’m living with the knowledge that there’s so much more where that came from. It’s not that I don’t appreciate my existence. It’s that I feel unsatisfied.

I wrote this in my journal tonight:

“I feel connected to something I’ve never actually looked upon. So you search for it. You spend your whole life searching. Perhaps that’s what they call purpose. Or perhaps it’s what we call death.”

And by “death,” I mean this “search” is kind of ironic, isn’t it? We waste our whole life searching for an answer only to finally get it upon death. Maybe there’s an answer in NOT searching—and just living. Life is meant to be lived, right? Do we concern ourselves with questions about our existence? Or do we save that for later, after we’ve taken our last breath? Or maybe even right before?

I want my future to be happy. Satisfactory. I want to experience love. Passion. Adventure. Most importantly, I don’t want to have any regrets. I want to endure pain and grief and grow stronger with each tear that falls down my face—like a rebirth. As it’s said in Romans 6:4:

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Strictly speaking, I’m not really a Christian, but you don’t have to subscribe to an entire movement in order to recognize and appreciate the potential for truth—in order to humble yourself to the universal code behind understanding the relationship between the soul and the human body.

I’m getting carried away. Always at risk for losing my audience. Going off the deep end.

Ah, I got it. Okay, Future; here’s what I want you to do. Listen closely. I want you to surprise me.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

To the Present Moment in Paradise,

Where to start? I realize coming back from vacation is always really difficult for me—as is going away for vacation, but this feels different. I didn’t really know what to expect walking into the grand lobby of your domain, greeted by smartly dressed men with glasses of bubbly champagne.

It was hot… that was my first impression. And the pool looked so inviting, as did the guacamole. Guacamole always comes first.

I’m not sure I really let myself sink into your ethereal reality until that second night. We were buzzed from the watered down cocktails, making conversations with strangers who would soon become friends—friends we knew we’d never seen again after only a few days. I guess it made me appreciate our time together.

Captivated by fire and dancing and a dizzy, clouded judgment, I went to bed looking forward to the possibilities of tomorrow. You didn’t disappoint.

Shots were passed around, in a pool full of people who’d forgotten where they’d come from. Wild arms and legs. Wide grins. Loud laughter, and the sun so sweet on my tender skin. No inhibitions. I think you knew exactly what I needed, and you gave it to me. On one condition—that I’d suffer from empty hands upon returning home.

My hips came loose Sunday night, encouraged by your spirit. I fell in love with the effect you had over me—so in tandem with my rhythm. I tucked myself inside you, relishing life the way it’s meant to be relished. I threw my head back and then forward, diving off the beach and into the moon’s reflection, washing myself clean of the past. Together, we floated on top of the current. Was it the water or my eager passion warming the spaces between us?

I remember stepping outside of you that night, dictating my memory, commanding it to piece every detail together perfectly so that, if I ever wanted to, I could go back. I would frame it, like a puzzle. I would hang it on my wall. I would close my eyes, take another dive, and overwhelm my senses.

Most mistake sensuality with what we see in movies. A man. A woman. Two women. Two men. Tangled together, spied upon by the most skilled voyeurs of our generation—everyone. No, sensuality lives within the connection between the heart, the soul, and the celestial. It is only because of this connection that we have the facilities to sensualize ourselves and each other. We do not create it; we exploit it. You are the only avenue by which we might discover it. No mortal body could match the weight of your dependable influence.

Thank you for granting me entrance. Until we meet again.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

P.S. This is not a metaphor, but a very literal ode to the present moment. No living, breathing person should take credit. You know who you are. 🙂

P.S.S. Okay, you can take a little credit.

 

 

Dear the people who’ve passed in and out of my life,

I’d be lying if I said I knew that, one day, we’d grow apart. I didn’t know, but really, I never thought about it. I think I’m more aware of your existence now than I was when you were in my life. The empty space you’ve left behind doesn’t like to be ignored.

There are times I allow myself to think back on our moments together, while simultaneously reflecting on what could have been. I have mixed emotions, but the greatest is disappointment. I have to wonder if how quickly people have come in and out of my life is normal. Is it me? Is my personality incompatible with the majority of people?

At this point in my life, I have a few good friends–each of which I’ve known no more than a few years. I guess, growing up, I never realized maintaining lifelong friendships would be so hard. Except “hard” isn’t the right word. I didn’t lose any friends because I didn’t work hard enough. I lost friends thanks to time and distance. It just makes you wonder how important you actually are to people. It makes you wonder if friendship is more of a pipedream than the movies make it out to be. It also makes you wonder if it’s not a pipedream at all, but instead, maybe something’s wrong with YOU.

I don’t want to sound like I’m whining. I realize the path I’m taking with this topic is somewhat depressing… I suppose I’m not objectively observing. I can’t muse about lost friendships without eliciting an element of disheartening nostalgia.

In the end, I just miss you, and I blame myself. Whether or not that’s normal, I don’t want to anymore.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

“More Than”

Ice cream left in the fridge

too long burns

Coffee chills

Blood turns brown

Oil cakes

Out of clean spoons

The puddle of water on the floor

evaporates

Like the tears on my lashes

in the corner of my eyes

Listen to the silence

Refrain and entertain

the game they stain with more than’s

From a distance

 

Dear Stephanie,

Not everyone is going to like you. You will lose people. They will leave you. You will consider yourself expendable…contrary to the truth which is that you are a very small piece of a much grander puzzle. Without your contribution, the bigger picture is not complete. You won’t find much comfort in that, I know. Your insecurities have no mercy, and the world does not cater to them.

You’re disappointed. I get that. You see yourself in others. You judge yourself based on their opinions of you. Don’t. Remember the puzzle. Remember that it’s okay to feel the way you do right now—that life is meaningless. There’s beauty in meaningless. There’s character in humility.

Try not to second-guess yourself. Life is not black and white. I realize how hard it is for you to function within grey areas. They tease out your insecurities and egg them on. They leave room for questions which you don’t have answers to, so you assume the worst. That’s what you do. Learn to reverse this. Learn to accept the unknown. Revel in it. Let it bring out the best in you—the part of you that craves mystery and adventure.

Someone very smart once told you that romantics are doomed to live a life of disappointment. I suppose that could be true. But life is what you make of it, right? Romanticize the FUCK out of it. Who cares? You have one life to live. This is it. Don’t waste it on fear. Take chances, and make mistakes. Experience your disappointments and then take the next day by both hands instead of one. Love yourself. Love others as much as you can, but don’t let it be your priority. For you, there is too much hurt there. Forgive yourself.

Savor each and every moment as you would a really great bottle of wine—not too fast, or you’ll end up passed out on a couch, sleeping right on through all the fun. And don’t leave that full bottle sitting there, because goddamnit, you paid good money for it.

You’re okay, Steph. Be patient.

Sincerely,

Stephanie