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

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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 La La Land,

I’m inspired.

Reality is highly subjective, you know, to the point that one must wonder whether or not reality really exists at all. Perhaps there’s simply an infinite number of realities, and all of them fit together to make one. actual. reality. An infinite number of perspectives. Like a thousand-seat theatre. Each seat a perspective. Row D, Seat 3… perspective. Row FF, Seat 17… perspective. The stage illuminates actual reality… moving about the stage. Exiting off stage right. Stage left. What happens behind the scenes doesn’t matter, because no one can see what happens behind the scenes.

It’s a nice metaphor and all, but who’s manning the spotlights?

I’m a romantic…clearly. I often write words, sentences, and the like only to erase it all in half the time it took me to create. Pretentious, I’ll sigh to myself.

I live behind a veil, most likely in part to the anti-depressant I take every morning. But La La Land is there… I can see it when the child who plays in my brain peeks over the white picket fence. Big eyes. Blue. Blinking. Long, long eyelashes. She longs to go there. Occasionally, she does, but only one toe at a time and never all the way for fear of floating off.

Perhaps. What a pretentious word. Curious.

I write to you, La La Land, on behalf of the child who plays in my brain. Treat her well when she finally finds it in her to let go. See to it that she never looks back.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

 

Dear the Uber Driver Who Drove Me Through McDonald’s On the Way Home,

You were my age once. I’m sure you understand what it meant to me to have a large, hot, greasy fry in my stomach after a night of both good and irresponsiblity-inducing spirits, but we don’t need to talk about the latter.

The point is… you came in the night like a knight at the helm of a shiny, grey, armored land-boat… equipped with four doors and air conditioning. It was hot, was it not? My God… why did I even venture from my house? If I wanted to come home as wet (from sweat) as I did, I might as well have dived head first into the James River… that is, if the James River was a sweat river. A river of sweat.

But that’s beside the point.

What I’m trying to say is I was nervous about asking you if you’d mind going through the McDonalds drive-thru. It was 2 a.m. and you had a family to get back to. (Ugh, I hate ending sentences with “to.”) I knew that. My friend, Chris, knew that. And yet, the words came tumbling out of my mouth as if of their own volition. “Do you think we could go through McDonald’s?”

I prepared myself for a firm but respectful negative. But it never came. You were more than happy to find a McDonald’s! Oh, happy day! I’m not sure whether it was the elation or the alcohol, but I believe I offered—no, DEMANDED—to buy you a cup of coffee, as you were up late and clean out of caffeine. Plus, let’s be honest, the life of an Uber driver at 2 a.m. on Sunday mornings must really be something. You just never know what characters will pile into your car next. I’d love to read a book compiled of outrageous stories told by Uber drivers. New York Times’ Bestseller list, here it comes!

Anyway, you may not ever read this, but I wanted to thank you. I also wanted to apologize for forgetting your name. But, let’s be real, the minute I got home and inhaled my fries, I was out. But I thoroughly hope you enjoyed your coffee. It’s the least I could do for someone who managed to save me from a hangover the following morning.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

Dear Cedar Point,

You know how much I love you. I don’t even have to say it. But I want to thank you for having me last weekend… You were just what I needed–what I always need, let’s be real.

It had been six years since I walked your streets last. Six years since your lap bars kept me from falling 400 feet to my death. Six years since I questioned getting on Wicked Twister because the wind was making it wobble. Six years since my adrenalized screams added itself to your symphony of noise.

Look at that thing though…

You are my very favorite place on Earth, you know that? I could talk about you for hours with my friends, which I’ve done before. Because I love metaphors, you’re like a religion and I, your dutiful missionary. I want everyone to know of your Greatness. Okay, I’m done with that…

But seriously, you’re awesome.

Dat sun doe...
Dat sun doe…

18 rollercoasters? Is that how many you have? One that hits 120 mph in four seconds and reaches 410 (or is it 420) feet in the air?

Hell yes you do!
Hell yes you do!

Oh, and you sit on an island surrounded by Lake Erie? Casual.

Don’t worry; I will be back… many, many times. I hope to have my bachelorette party under your metaphorical roof. I hope to bid my single life goodbye whilst free-falling down Power Tower.

I REGRET NOTHING
I REGRET NOTHING

My favorite part about visiting you is how I feel when I’m breathing your salty, lake air. Happy. Content. Excited. Warm. Energized. I don’t know where this comes from, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that, when I finally work up the nerve to sell all my possessions and find a nice, soft place under one of your rollercoasters to live indefinitely, you won’t have your employees kick me out for trespassing.

This will be the view from my bedroom.
This will be the view from my bedroom.

I promise to look as un-homeless as possible.

Sincerely,

Stephanie