To the concept of friendship,

I thought I would have more to say on this topic given what went down this weekend. But now I’m just sitting here, staring at my computer, dumbfounded by the fact that I really do have nothing to say. Ironically, I think that speaks to what I’d say if I did have something to say.

Let’s try this…

I once thought a friend was forever. And by “once,” I mean last week. Then two of my—who I would have called—close friends visited New York (the city in which I live) and didn’t tell me. I found out the way most people find out anything these days—on social media. Huh, alright then. I’ll spare you the details of my insecurities, but I spent the next day or so brooding over the possibility that maybe I just wasn’t all that likeable, an idea I’d never been comfortable with.

Here’s the thing… Ever since I moved to NYC, I’ve lost touch with a lot of friends. Not all of my friends, but a lot of them. ‘Course, it’s a two-way street. It’s not like I’m ghosting their texts. They just aren’t sending any. And to be honest, that’s fine with me. Having to keep up a virtual relationship stresses me out. Besides, I’m usually under this assumption that regardless of how often we keep in contact over the phone, our friendship will pick up right where it left off when we’re reunited. Apparently, not everyone vibes with that.

So I grabbed coffee with one of these friends on Sunday before she headed back home. I insisted. How could she be in New York and I not see her? To me, that’s absurd, but I digress. Before we parted, I asked her if I had done anything to upset her, that could perhaps explain why she hadn’t reached out to make plans. She shook her head, shrugged. That would have to suffice as my answer. Ok, so I hadn’t done anything wrong, and yet…

I’m not writing this to vent. I’m writing this because this shit happens all the time. To everyone. People suck. Friends suck. I suck. But, listen, and I know this sounds crazy, but we get to choose the people we want in our lives. We get to choose in what relationships we invest our energy. So my friends ditched me, and not just forgot-to-ask-me-if-I-wanted-anything-from-Starbucks-ditched me. No, these two friends sent a message, and given that, I can now do one of two things: 1) Do whatever it takes to win back their favor despite there being allegedly no reason for their shiftiness or 2) think Huh, alright then and take my energy elsewhere. Think about it – that’s two less people I have to feel guilty about not keeping in touch with. It’s great. Not to mention, I win back more energy to spread around the friends who put energy into me. Why waste another second trying to mend something that doesn’t want to be mended? Why not instead pour myself into relationships that fill me up? Relationships that can withstand time and distance? Those are the friends I want in my life. And I have friends like that. Every single one of them deserves my time and my energy. You all know who you are. ❤ So yeah, what went down—or didn’t—this weekend, it sucks. And sure, it had me real low all day on Sunday. But look what came out of it. Insight. Appreciation. And a mantra that really, really suits me. Huh, alright then. My mom agrees.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

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Dear Boston,

If I have a voice, it’s in Boston. Where it’s cold. Where there’s almost always a reason to cozy up under a blanket in front of a fire. Where it’s old, musty, and dusted with history. Where ghosts walk the streets. Where people go to ground themselves. Tucked away from the rest of the country. Where coffee is warm and oysters are chilled. Where the wind whips in from the harbor, making you remember things you have no business remembering. White sails. Sturdy ships. Second-hand dinghys. Blue coats. Red collars, standing up against the gusts. You see it, too, don’t you?

It’s impossible not to. Here, under the intelligent eye of Boston.

 

 

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

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