I wanna talk about three things: 1. living in a different country, 2. a poem I wrote, and 3. how truly important Blair Waldorf is to me rn.
It is 1:14 a.m. and I am sitting in an unfamiliar bed in an empty little room, but I am thinking a lot about how it is 7:14 p.m. in the part of the world where I mostly exist.
I have existed in Spain for almost 41 hours. I haven’t really seen the city yet: I have gone back and forth in between my hotel and my school (a matter of a couple blocks). I have also taken a taxi to my homestay apartment and stared out the window the whole way. As I say, I haven’t really seen the city yet.
I had a really wonderful 41 hours, truth be told. My group and I were propelled headfirst into orientation so that’s been weird, but otherwise: my school for the next four months is absolutely beautiful. Dan and I spent half an hour looking at local music venues and planning upcoming concert excursions (Foals! The Tallest Man on Earth!). I passed a neon white sign that said “You Look Good Naked” (in English) and it was kind of awesome. My host family is an adorable foursome, a married couple and two young boys, with whom I played darts and watched a cheesy singing competition on television. Mateo, who is eight, even gave me a bracelet he made.
But after excusing myself around 11:30 p.m. to go to bed, I went back to my room and sat on my bed and cried. I really don’t know why, but I assume it has something to do with the fact that I struggled at the dinner table to understand the rapid-fire conversation between the new members of my family, and each time they looked at me and asked me a question I didn’t quite grasp, I blushed. Hard. I have learned three new ways to say “excuse me?” or “can you repeat that?” just since 3 p.m.
In preparation for this semester, I have heard so many versions of the This Will Be The Best Time Of Your Life narrative that I think I am profoundly embarrassed that I am not already humming with scraps of belonging and humanness and connection. In the last 41 hours I have been mostly awake, injected with a constant stream of new information, put into a taxi by myself and sent to a new place to live with a new family who speaks very little of my first language. It’s a lot to absorb, and it makes sense that I’m not perfectly and completely fitting into that narrative just yet.
But I do think that it is very taboo for people my age to admit these things, especially about experiences we’re supposed to be lucky to embrace. And I am lucky! But I’m also wildly disoriented. Just earlier today I posted an Instagram claiming I feel right at home—which, in that exact moment, I totally did. I have known myself to be a person capable of very extreme, if very transient, emotions, and a couple hours later I did not feel that way. But I would never dream of posting an Instagram with the caption “I’m struggling a little bit to adjust to this incredible culture shock!”, you know?
This brings me to Part 2: I am reminded of a poem I wrote in the summer, when I was feeling a similar mixture of vague excitement and slight, confused befuddlement. I wrote it as a kind of catharsis, not really ever intending to share it with anyone, just to work through my feelings and detach from them a bit. (Note: I used some lines of this poem in a tumblr post some time ago).
sunstone radiance and full moon bathing thoughts, internal/external synchrony, swimming around on the mossy forest floor.
don’t be sad! you’re a small leaf and it’s ok.
I am at peace. I befriend handfuls of the earth.
it’s hard to relax when all you wanna do is roll around on the plains and spread the good word about stuff.
serenade good things
I am not gentle or hard. I interact with everything good in the world. we will love the sun. just don’t descend.
I don’t stay inside for fun I stay inside because I feel too tender to interact
look at you, filling up all this empty space. good for you, you thirsty little beast.
art is created from kind souls enduring cruel kind bodies
it feels nice to let my cheeks be kissed again
current mood: warm foothills
roslyn - bon iver and st. vincent
cry for an hour and then take pictures of the sky
near everything is about vanity, as it should be.
still clutching at moons and echoes and emptiness and shadow
I have said that the reason I started this blog, and the reason I write at all, is to turn my experiences into something that can be felt, locally, by other people. The same reason why I feel physically affected by music and poetry and novels all the time. Jenny Zhang, in her excellent poem “How It Feels," wrote, “I think everyone wants to make something touchable, but most of us don't out of fear of being laughable. I'm not saying I'm fearless."
This idea of wanting to make something “touchable” but holding back because of embarrassment, because we are not without fear, is so familiar to me. I have so long resisted writing + publishing things just like this blog post because I do not like the idea of being wide open, with a heart like a helicopter pad. I do not share my poetry. I occasionally post snippets on a mostly not-personal tumblr. I write articles that are specifically written for publishing. I craft Instagram posts to fit the version of myself that I prefer other people to see. My sister frequently accuses me of being too private, too guarded, not easy to get at.
I feel the same way about sharing my poetry, sharing my “How It Feels” journal entries, volunteering personal information, as I feel about announcing that I am sitting in my room in Madrid and not feeling Splendid and Timeless and Full Of Aventure like I am supposed to. There is a certain pressure to keep these things hidden, and I’m not sure where it comes from. I wrote in my journal on September 29, 2015: “I am various spring storms and spines. I’m performing a private rain dance in the corners of my head; and I think my intuition must be right about ‘opening up’ and ‘soft blows’ but I have only ever felt punished for being vulnerable.”
This is just so crazy to me, because my goals and professional/personal aspirations, as stated above, COMPLETELY contradict this fear. I want to write in order to share and revel in collective vulnerability, but I am afraid of projecting this vulnerability beyond the rain dances in my head?? Ridiculous. I am my own biggest obstacle—as I suspect many people are.
Which brings me to Part 3. Blair Waldorf. Totally not a joke, she is a modern-day heroine and a great solace to me in all times of need. And one of Blair’s greatest quirks is that she dreams herself into her favorite movies, reimagining herself as the protagonist while her subconscious alters the plot to reflect her current drama.
There is a great moment in the show when Nate is talking to Blair about how she always wants to watch the same movies over and over. He says that she told him once why, and she reiterates: “I like knowing how things are going to turn out.”
Her subconscious betrays her. We, the viewers, can see that she wants to take control of the stories she has no control over. She wants to be her own protagonist. When Blair refrains from putting herself out there just because she doesn’t know how a moment of weakness will turn out for her, she suffers casualties—namely the love of her life (and mine), Chuck Bass, multiple times. Amidst all the Breakfast At Tiffany’s yearnings for Audrey Hepburn’s style, Blair does not want to be Audrey Hepburn. Blair does not want to be Holly Golightly. Blair wants to be Blair, and even though she falls victim to the lust of recognition much like the rest of us, she pushes against it.
So, in my attempt to be more like a badass Waldorf Woman, here I am: probably crying from homesickness for the first time in my life, overwhelmed by all the newness and rapid-fire Spanish surrounding me, deciding to put my thoughts into a public space for consumption instead of holing up inside my own head. It was getting a little lonely in there.