Tag Archives: odyssey

On Over (and under) Thinking Happiness

For our final class, my nonfiction professor invited all his over for for a potluck, a book swap, and the (required) opportunity to deposit with him six essay-filled envelopes that he would, the following day, ceremoniously send to literary magazines on our behalf.

Also in attendance (and, presumably, relieved of the above-mentioned duties) were his wife and two young sons: aged eight and ten.

While the rest of us ate dinner–taquitos, calabicitas, salad and pita pizza–I glimpsed the eight-year old, straddling the back of the living room couch with a pile of three Garfield books in his lap. The expression of pure, unadultered, consuming joy I saw–not just in his face but in his whole, lanky little-boy body–awed me. I made eye contact with my professor and gestured with my chin.

“I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone that genuinely, completely happy,” I said. My professor nodded.

“That one’s kind of an old soul, “ he said.

That moment has been on my mind for the past twenty-four hours, as I’ve walked around Washington DC with an expression not very dissimilar from that ecstatic boy’s.

Last night, snuggling fireside with my friend L on our friend A’s couch, my insides humming with childlike warmth and orange rye punch, I had a doubting moment—the first, it would seem, of several.

“Is it wrong that this feels worth flying across the country for?” I asked, weaving my fingers in and out of his, interrupting a conversation about our latest reading material.

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On Me and New York and What’s Meant To Be

Just about the first two questions I received upon arriving in New York City on Friday—where I went this weekend for my brother’s not-really-at-all-impulsive wedding (sorry, J)–were these:

From my best friend R, who I called in the cab from LaGuardia: “Welcome home! Oh sorry—is it strange for me to call New York ‘home’?””

From my mother, who I met near her East 92nd street office for a pre-wedding blowdry as we powered down Lexington during rush hour: “Oh! Are you having culture shock? Do you always have culture shock when you come back here, still?”

I am inclined to say I had no clue how to answer either of these questions—but, in fact, my real-time response to each one was a fairly assured ‘no.’

As in: no, it’s not strange at all to refer to New York as “home.” I was born here, it’s where virtually my entire family still lives and where my parents still occupy the house in which I grew up.

And: no, while I regularly tell of a consistently violent cultural jolt each time I visit the city, even when it was only from DC (Aaaah! Everyone’s more stylish than I am! And skinnier! And walking with even more speed and apparent urgency!), it seems that nine years of fairly regular ins-and-outs has numbed the shock.

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Friends and Family

My group of friends from college all met one another, more or less, within the first week of school our freshman year. Friendships have evolved and shifted over time, of course, but–despite all of us dotting the country like lakes dot Minnesota–we’re still intact. We have a lot of love for each other. And on those precious occasions when we do gather, we love to express it: our reunions are always filled with blissfully excessive quantities of cuddling, hugging and liberal lavishing of the phrase “I love you.”

This weekend we gathered for a wedding: the first among our intimate clan. You won’t be surprised to learn that I really, really did not want to leave. I mean, I seriously contemplated ditching my flight out of Cedar Rapids this morning and catching a ride to Minneapolis with a few folks instead. If not for Bonita, I probably would have done it.

I know as well as anyone that it takes time to find community and get settled in a place–certainly to build the kind of collective love so many of us find during college. I also know that I’ve got a pretty respectable cache of folks here in Albuquerque considering it’s just coming up on one year since I moved. But there’s a difference between friends who are friends and friends who are family.

I’ve spent the past week–first in New York, then Washington, and finally Iowa, for the wedding–surrounded by the latter. And as thankful as I feel to have people in my life who are so so loving, so loyal and so affectionate (not to mention so good with a Sloop John B harmony), I can’t help but be reminded of how exhausting it can feel to spend the bulk of my time without them.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today in lowbrow gym reading, I perused myself some Glamour. (I claim, by the way, to read the New Yorker at the gym. Once in a while I do. But let’s be real: when there’s a lighter option available, I am not above taking it).

This issue featured Katie Couric conducting a serious interview with Whoopi Goldberg. Okay fine it was really, really unserious. Among her puffy questions was one about what she knows now that she wished she had known in her twenties.

Being Whoopi and being awesome, she replied that she wished she knew that being twenty-something is not, in fact, all that different than being fifty-something.

Which, if you’re not Whoopi, may be more or less true. But regardless it reminded me of a conversation I had last night with one of my best friends, R.

R is starting law school in the fall, which means she’s moving back to New York. She is currently contemplating a decision: whether to go back to her bright-but-expensive-and-ideally-located Brooklyn apartment, or move in, for a few months at least, to her parents bright-but-free-and-ideally-located Brooklyn house.

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Relationships, Careers, Priorities and Abstractions

When I was deciding where to go to graduate school, about a year ago, I had lunch with a family friend who is in her 70s, exceptionally accomplished, and whose opinions I take as seriously as anyone’s.

At the time I was choosing between New Mexico and North Carolina, having begun to tell people that I’d ruled out Columbia “unless I tripped on a trust fund.” I didn’t.

I was also, at the time, dating my Missed Connection: the guy I met through Craiglist after a subway sighting, who is a labor lawyer and performed his younger sisters’ weddings, and who frequently gets mistaken for John Krasinski, the guy from The Office.

In other words, the one who–on paper–seemed like an absolutely ideal husband. And who, accordingly, I had concluded should probably be my ideal husband.

As I weighed my options, he was also weighing his–having been offered a job in Washington DC. A place, it was not lost on either of us, within reasonable driving distance from the school I was considering in North Carolina.

I should add that, despite my delusions about marriage, I actually managed to keep things rather casual between us. Or rather, allowed him to: we only saw one another a couple of times a week. We were both clearly smitten, but despite occasional teasings about who was going to leave whom, we refrained from indulging–to each other at least–in fantasies of our shared future.

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On Ever Feeling Our Age

When I was little, I took comfort in the thought that even child stars were older than me. People like Michelle Kwan and Macauley Culkin.

As though, given a couple more years, I too could become an Olympic champion or become male, blond and dysfunctional after starring in a blockbuster Hollywood movie.

When I started high school, the reigning national Spelling Bee champion was in my class. I rationalized the fact that such people were now my peers with the bizarre way that she compulsively tapped her feet and thrust up her arms during freshman English class.

I thought that I’d still managed to hang on, to some extent, to this method of self-justification.

But today, reading a profile of Greta Gerwig–the female lead in Greenberg, who I fell for in the movie Nights and Weekends–and seeing that she, like me, is twenty-six–I hardly flinched. Which made me wonder: when did I surpass the age when it was surprising for me to be older than a critical mass of really successful people? Really successful people who aren’t even considered young to be successful?

In other words: when did I get to be older than I feel?

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An Ode to Boys

One of the silliest things a guy has ever said to me was when I asked whether his ex-girlfriend and I were at all similar (a terrible, terrible question, I know): “No,” he said. “She’s a girl and you’re a woman.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of this–besides feeling uncomfortably, vaguely flattered and realizing that his propensity for cheesy commentary was easily exacerbated by red wine.

Frankly, I have no clue what separates “girls” from “women” in guys’ minds. (Thoughts welcome, fellas. I know you’re in double-digits now: out yourselves.)

At the moment, though, I am preoccupied with what separates “men” from “boys” in mine.

This largely stems from the fact that, the other day, my dad sent me an email in response to a post in which I used the term “boy.” (As in, S and I were “talking about boys.”)

“Didn’t you mean ‘men’?” he wrote. “Or am I missing something?”

I honestly hadn’t considered my word choice, which I wrote back and explained. And by way of daughterly edification, I added that many males my age are still, in fact, very much boys.

“That’s a pity,” he responded.

I laughed, and thought: yes. And then, no.

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