I imagine on the day you were born the stars looked down excitedly and whispered “that’s her, that’s the one we’ve been waiting for!”
How else could they have greeted the beautiful girl with moonbeam hair and the ocean-deep soul?
I imagine earth’s magnificent celebration: shouting songs of praise and welcome for the blessed baby bearer of light.
I imagine you as a child: momentum unstoppable, energy uncageable, sprit unbreakable. A lover of loving. A finder of kingdoms of heaven in the underside of grass blades. The girl who weeps for the world she never asked to carry, but instead welcomed audaciously.
You are a spark.
I imagine you as a sun-goddess, running through fields of wildflowers and lilies. A proprietor of silly. The mayor of her own town: a place where mason jars are standard and they’re never short of tempeh.
I imagine you in water color: ever-glorious, ever-radiant, ever-colors running together, join the dance, make a parade, celebrate today-ing, spinning, ever-growing, ever brilliant.
Brilliant. Almost sounds offensive because it cannot begin to illuminate the genius of You. Are a wonder in every shade, a pioneering purveyor of “yes! today’s the day!”
You. Are the bellows that rehabilitate the flames of the soul. You. Are truer than true. Realer than real. You. Cannot be captured in a bundle of words. You. Are a foreign language of complex, magnificent syllables. A garden of sounds. An exceptional adventure.
You. Are the greatest invention. I love you bottomless. Night sky cloudless-less, yellow sun brightness-less, blessed burning brilliant-ness. Flowering flowing, fearless, sacred you.
Today a U.S. sergeant in Afghanistan murdered 16 innocent people.
He took his gun, armed with privilege, hatred, and superiority and walked over a mile into a village. Then another village. And another.
He knocked on door after door, brandishing his power, showing the upper hand, fighting those who didn’t know they were on the opposite side, who couldn’t fight back, who were sleeping in their beds.
He killed children. Nine of them. And set fire to their bodies.
I do not have words to describe how unbelievably sad this makes me. How inexplicably sorrowed, how devastatingly hollowed, how profoundly sick.
How does one man have the audacity to believe that he is worth more than any other person?
How does he feel as if he can play God, cheat the universe, take lives as if he’s playing some sort of game, steal souls as if he’s collecting trophies, burn bodies as if he’s bringing honor?
What threat could those nine children have posed to him? In what way could he have been defending himself, upholding safety, keeping peace?
This was a premeditated, thought out, pre-planned act of mass murder. This fact makes my soul cry, my heart mourn, my head ache.
We tell ourselves that war is necessary. We tell ourselves that we’re helping those who can’t help themselves, sharing the burden. We explain it away with vague sentences about being threatened, made small in some way, made to live in fear. We must show our strength, we must defend our honor.
We have no honor left to defend.
War is about drawing lines. My side, your side. White, brown. Sand, sky. My way, your way, right way, wrong way. Dominator, dominated. Alive, dead.
We hand soldiers guns and fill them with messages of power. We teach them that they have a right to take what they feel is theirs, to show strength when they want to. To remind everyone who has the upper hand, to never be mistaken as small or weak.
We cannot win by drawing lines. It will bring us no answers, provide no clarity. Lines do not exist. Life is too messy, too imperfect, to impossible to disentangle. We draw lines so we can feel safe. Of course we want to feel safe. As human beings we like to make a distinct mark to say “here’s where you end and where I begin,” “here’s your side and here’s mine.” We wage wars over these lines, the imaginary lines that we use to keep everything out, keep yours separate from ours, keep them away from us.
Them. The others. Not me, not like me, not we. Not intelligent, not informed, not right, now worthy. Not alive. Not anymore.
The man who performed this heinous act is a victim, too. We all are. Just as it is impossible to draw the lines of war, the lines of country, the lines of people, it is impossible to draw lines of victim and victimizer. We all lose in violence, we all lose in war, we all lose in lines.
I do not hate the U.S. military. I do not discredit our soldiers. They are compassionate, strong, brave, amazing souls. I value their sacrifice, I hold their courage to embody patriotism, heroism, and selflessness in the highest regard. I am indebted, beyond grateful for them.
I do not hate America. In fact, quite the opposite. I am extremely privileged and proud to come from a country as great as mine, with the opportunities it has given me, the safeties it has afforded me, the support it gives me every day. I live in a place where I can choose to be who I want, say what I want and do what I want every day without ever having to fear for my life or the lives of those I love. That is a gift I was given by simply having the good fortune to be born in this great land. I will never forsake my American-ness. I love my country.
What I am furious about, torn apart about, deeply saddened by is deeper than that, bigger than one very misguided and clearly very afraid man, bigger than bombs and guns and strength and armor. It’s a culture, a society of people who teach other people that this is okay. That guns are for killing and that we have the right to kill. It’s not one person, it’s not a few “bad” humans out there spreading this message of hate and brute force and privilege. It’s not the U.S. Military. It’s us. It’s everyone. It’s past and it’s present and it’s future. It’s a collective shrug, a group denial, a nation of indifference. We created a culture of violence, a credo of revenge, a mission of murder. We did it. All of us.
We did it through our ignorance. We did it through our fear. We did it through our TV shows and video games and advertisements. We did it through our speech. We do it through our words every day. We teach it to our children, especially to those children who we identify as male. We teach them to hold weapons and point them at humans. We teach them that threats must be met with violence, that weakness is defeat, that compassion has no place, the empathy is evil. We teach them that others are less, that an eye for an eye, or a limb or a life, is only fair. We teach this every day. Everyone. Everywhere. Regardless of class or race or sexuality or politics or any other identifier we can think of, we teach this. We perpetuate entitlement, violence, revenge, hatred, fear. We teach children how to draw lines, how to look at other humans who may differ in some way from them with a distrustful eye. We teach how to identify enemies. We teach how to kill. The blood is on our hands.
I want to put a stop to this. I want to change the conversation to one that self-reflects. One that stops blaming everyone and everything else and looks within. One that vows to stop perpetuating these messages. One that stops drawing lines. One that stops teaching entitlement, that stops making others others, that stops making others less. We can do it. We can teach kindness, there is room for empathy. There is strength in not firing, there is pride in not showing force. There is safety in conversation, solace in understanding. It’s not too far off, it’s not too hard, it’s not too big to change. The time is here, the time is now, the difference is us. We are responsible for making this happen, now we are responsible for changing our ways. I can’t think of anything more patriotic, more American than admitting our mistakes and working to change them. Let’s do things the American way, the way so many great people in this country have done it before us. Come on, home of the brave, be brave. The time is now.
My heart is with the families of the dead, the soldiers in Panjwai, and the family of the sergeant. May they all find some peace.
Not knowing what to say, what to write, yet being driven to immortalize this moment, this feeling in words, I take the tried and true advice of a friend and open textedit. Nothing but a blank page, think of all the words you could write, the thoughts you could have, the space you could fill. Words just waiting to be strung together. She writes truths. I write fiction.
Today you called. We made a list of things in the kitchen. Red bowls: yours. Coffee mugs: mine. I suddenly realize this is the moment I’ve been dreading. The thing I couldn’t imagine 5 months ago when I dropped the bomb. I think part of me felt like by putting it off, I could stop it from ever having to occur. It would just disappear, cease to be, somehow be skipped over and moved onto the next thing.
Truth is, this is a moment that was never supposed to happen. I couldn’t imagine it because it was never the plan.
In a week you’ll be packing up our life. It will cease to exist. Our life. Over. Us, forever, over.
It was almost as if with her being here we could play pretend. Was it happiness? No. It’s safe to say I hated it. And needed it. Even when I was laying somewhere else, you were home. Just one single wall between us. Fewer than in three years. I couldn’t break through. I didn’t want to.
I will never stop throwing you buoys. You’re always neck-deep in that sea to me. I cannot get you out of there. Maybe some day you’ll know what I mean.
One night we lay in bed way too late listening to songs from your childhood. One day we danced in our living room. I saw forever in you.
Now it’s an empty room.
I have always loved New Years Eve. I am in love with starting over. Clean slate. New year. New life.
I have had some pretty stellar New Years Eves in the past. I am fortunate enough to have seen 2006 come around in Italy and 2008 in the Czech Republic. I have spent New Years with friends and family, with many people and with just a few. I love the feeling, the excitement, the time taken to pause and reflect, the time dedicated to thinking about how we got here, where we are, who we want to become. There’s something refreshing about newness in the shortest, darkest days of the year. It’s filled with light. It comes anew. New year. New life.
I cannot let a time like this pass me by without taking time to reflect, too (admittedly, mostly for my own benefit).
It has been quite a year.
A year of change. A year of growth.
In March, I had an epiphany that I didn’t, in fact, want to go to Los Angeles for the ensuing summer. I realized that going to LA was something I was doing because I thought I should do it, not because I really wanted to. I spent my spring break applying to community service and education related internships/jobs and said “no” to LA formally. It was a leap of faith.
There is a week period in late April/early May, which includes my little brother’s prom, the royal wedding and the death of Osama Bin Laden, which I will forever remember in vivid detail. It was a big week for so many reasons. What a crazy time.
In late June, I got in a car with a person I barely knew and 6 hours later had a life-long friend.
I turned 21 in July among a flurry of State College fireworks, a rushed, hushed gathering with 4 new friends, a shower of glitter, and 400 teenagers in a club. It was truly a most memorable occasion full of only the best kind of love and celebration. I will never forget it.
I spent the most wonderful, life-changing, thrilling, challenging, fulfilling 3 1/2 weeks in a hot, stuffy dorm and an equally hot surrounding campus and town in the middle of Pennsylvania. Summer study is among the very best things to ever happen to me. I have never had more fun that I had this summer. I got to teach, to lead, to have fun with a wonderful group of teenagers who I grew to love very much. I could write a novel on the many joys that summer study brought me and continues to bring. It meant more to me than I can ever communicate. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never, ever forget. It was amazing.
In late July my life ended. Then it began again, as life does.
In mid-august, I flew halfway across the world. China welcomed me, with its sticky, murky air and its dusty, crowded streets. I fell in love with its capital city, with its beautiful people, with its way of life. I found friendship, comfort and caring at a disorienting time in a completely foreign place. Somehow China made everything make sense. It was an incredible trip.
Then I weathered the hurricane. Both the literal one which swirled around Boston (underwhelmingly) and the figurative one that swirled around my brain in which a life-changing summer, an earth-shattering breakup, and a trip to the other side of the world uprooted everything I’ve ever known. I made it through both storms in an apartment in Brookline with a comfy bed and a comforting friend.
In the Fall, I took steps toward the future. I filled out a million applications, took a few tests and did a LOT of homework in the wee hours of the morning. My summer showed me that education is where I need to be and an amazing class I took cemented that choice for me. The leap I took in March paid off; I landed.
In December, I again got on a plane not knowing what would await me when I touched down. In one crazy New Orleans weekend, I met amazing people, had a TON of fun, pulled off a successful interview and somehow managed to feel like I had been there all my life. It was yet another short-lived, intense, life-altering experience. I’m so happy I went.
But that’s what this year has been for me, a mess of crazy, intense, challenging, exhilarating, totally wonderful and insanely unreal experiences. Knock you down and spin you around experiences. Make you look at your life a little differently experiences. New life experiences.
So now, I sit on the edge of another big year. The year I graduate college, get my first real job, take steps towards another new life. Another life ends, another begins. Time marches on. I am looking so forward to 2012 and all of the experiences I know it will bring. 2011 brought me many things, changed me, altered me in unfathomable ways. I am so thankful for every second of it. So here’s to our new year, our clean slate, our new lives. Today and every day, we start anew, we begin again. For auld land syne.
There are so many amazing people who made my year and my life what it was and what it is. If nothing else, this year was a year of incredible people. I would be so remiss not to mention a few of them, they have meant so much to me:
Emily, my oldest and best friend, thanks for reconnecting with me and loving me always.
Amelia, my soulmate, thanks for picking up your phone at obscene hours, for listening always and for getting it. You mean more to me than I can ever say.
Kate, my forever friend, I’d be lost without you. I don’t have to tell you that without your presence, I highly doubt I would have survived this year. I love you so much.
Amanda, you’re my hero. Thanks for being fearless, for never using the word “impossible” and for always, always listening. I love you.
Crystal, my big sister, I can’t believe a year ago I barely knew you. I feel like you’ve always been a part of my life. Thank you for this summer, thank you for encouraging me in so many ways. Just thank you.
Gab, Laura, Sara, thank god summer study brought you all into my life. I love you all so dearly. Thank you for being so wonderful and SO much fun always. I have never laughed harder and more often than I did with you guys (and Crystal of course!). Thanks for late-night talks and lots and lots of cuddles. I’ll see you guys on BJI ;)
Leah, how would I have gotten through my semester without you? You have become such a close friend and confidant over the past few months. I love our 2am chats. I can’t wait for your visit. You are wonderful.
All of my summer study kids, from my students to the girls on my floor to the kids I just met through activities, trips or hanging out outside of Shunk, you changed me undoubtedly. Thanks for a stellar summer. I have a little bit of all of you in me.
Summer study staff who weren’t previously mentioned: you all are amazing. Any staff that can keep a late-night dance party going when even the teenagers have stopped dancing are pretty awesome in my book.
Brittany & Katie (and Glenys) thank you for letting me live in your apartment and snuggle in your beds. Brit, thanks for always answering your phone. Thanks for reconnecting with me. You guys rock.
Sarah Barry, thanks for watching lots of netflix with me. I loved your company this semester, wish I saw you more. Have a blast in LA, I’ll see you in May.
Brittany Buchannan, thanks for dragging me out with you. A lot. I had SO much fun with you this semester. I’ll miss you this spring.
Mandi, thanks for always being up to chat about the crazy stuff our former classmates have gotten themselves into. I love catching up with you whenever I can. I’m so proud of you and happy to know you.
Brenna, I met you and then my life was never the same again. I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. Thanks for everything.
Alexa, thanks, as always, for our coffee dates. Where would I be without them? Also, thanks for your endless encouragement, it means the world.
Mom, thanks for answering the phone every time I call and being patient with me when I don’t answer mine. Thank you for always reminding me that I can do anything. Thanks for not sighing when I call you and say “okay, I figured out what I want to do!” for the millionth time. Thanks for supporting all of the crazy things I do. I love you.
Duncs, you are the best little brother ever. I feel like we’ve become so much closer this year, and I’m glad for that. I’m in awe of you as always, and just so damn proud, I can’t even handle myself. You are a wonderful human being and I love you more than you will ever know.
Tina, Dan, everyone else from Beijing, you made that experience wonderful. You are all such talented, fascinating people. I’m so glad to have met you.
Becky and the cast and crew of Our Town, you’re the best. Thanks for letting me talk through all of our rehearsals, and make really annoying jokes all the time. I had a blast.
Erica, thanks for letting me jump on the A4A bandwagon. You ROCK.
There are so many more wonderful people in my life, that is merely a sampling. I am truly fortunate. This likely seems awkward and out of place, but it needed to be said. I’m so thankful for everyone I know, every experience I had this year. Farewell, 2011.
There are pieces of you around every corner. Lurking behind every lamp post. Swirling in every windy cyclone. Surfacing in a little patch in the front yard of the building where I live. Sometimes you cleverly hide in my bed. Right between my blankets. A place I’d never look. Where you’ve not been in six months. Where I cannot see you at all.
Last night I heard you crying. You were talking to a stranger, some other-worldly messenger whose sympathies like moonbeams stream down from outer satellites and right into your ear. They whisper “wish you were here.” For a second I wonder where your whispers go.
This morning you were a crack in the sidewalk, a fissure under my feet. A space where solid ground used to be. Once, we stood on top of a volcano, in the middle of a sea. Soaking in the sulfur. Dancing in the dust. You held on to me for balance. I lost you in the sun.
Yesterday, I pieced you together through packages in wastepaper bins. Learned you through your leftovers. Some days, I collect your shape from your sheets. I can build a perfect mold of you and tear you down in second. I know the contours of the palm of your hand. I keep your smile in my back pocket.
Last week, you were a sticker on the back of a stop sign. A greeting on someone else’s lips. Then you were Sunday mornings, us wrapped up in comforter cellophane counting down moments till we came undone. You were the only lullaby that could sing me to sleep. You were a 2 AM love song, sweet butterfly kisses on my cheek.
Tonight when I pass, you stir in your sleep. You turn over and forget. I could have been a floor creek. Like you, the crumbling plaster on the wall. Once, I kissed the crest of your hip. The small of your wrist. The place where it hurt. Cement for your shards.
When I crawl into bed you’ll be half a world away. In the next room. With the secret-holding stranger and the leaky faucet drips. I will shake you from my sheets, a space between my blankets. A place I’d never look. Where you’ve not been in six months. Where I cannot see you at all.
It’s impossible to get over someone while you’re living in the same small (technically one-bedroom) apartment.
Not even get over. I don’t want to get over it. Her. She. We. We used to be.
Now we must disentangle our lives. After three years together and three months apart, I am still figuring out, on a daily basis, how to live separately from her. Yet still with her.
It almost feels like a death, like mourning. And it is, I suppose, a death of sorts. The death of us. The process of disentangling begins.
First it’s spaces. Walls between us now. Doors to knock on now. “Can I come in?” “May I go through?” Pleasantries, niceties, commonplace expressions of courtesy we’ve never before had a need for. They feel strange in my mouth, like saying your own name.
Then it’s things. Picture frames, plates, bowls, the things we used to play house. We played house. We made plans. We avoid conversation. “Is this yours?” Conserve words. Don’t look at her.
After that it’s memories. Hers or mine? Ours. Ours? Were. Where we were. Where we stood. A thousand nights, a thousand days: me and her.
One day I will be able to tell. Where you ended, where I began. Sort summer from spring days. Pull weekends out of wednesdays. Your space from my space.
Once there was no space.
Now I feel the break.
Today she said that we couldn’t have ever worked forever.
Yesterday a friend called us “very different people.”
I never spent time thinking about the differences. They never concerned me. All I saw was sameness. In stepness. Belonging togetherness.
Maybe that’s one way I’ve been burned in this whole thing. Maybe I didn’t see what was obvious. Was it always this way? Were we always just two different people haphazardly intertwined? Inexplicably thrown together? Making it work, mess upon mess.
The last three years are a blur. I cannot separate months from months, days from days. Seasons blend, semesters feather into one another into summers. It was always her, she was the constant.
I guess we didn’t fit. Did we ever? She fit perfectly in the space next to my chest. We dreamed of traveling, raising fantastically creative children, and never having to get out of bed in the morning.
We were more than just happenstance.