don't break your tenderness

Leisure, transitions, and bylines (oh my). That’s what I’ve been dealing with in the last month or so since I’ve written here, and everything else in between that the semester has thrown at me so far. The leisure part, though, is more of a work in progress. The month of September went as it usually does in Cleveland - the teasing of autumn in the mornings followed by blistering heat in the afternoons, the Indians winning their way to the playoffs, local breweries releasing their fall-themed craft beers. By week four of the semester everyone’s immune system simultaneously broke down, including my own. With Pumpkin Spice season came cold and flu season.

Two Thursdays ago, I arrived at school in the morning to open at the bookstore, then went straight to The Vindi’s copy edit meeting, then class, and back to the bookstore to work until my night class. During that time I threw back two of those mini Starbucks DoubleShot Espresso drinks, one in the morning and one before my night class. In the middle of lecture I was so strung-out that I felt like my eyes were going to pop out of my head, and then I felt it. An itch in my throat. Oh no, I thought to myself. It was only a matter of time, though, before I succumbed to the exhaustion I was putting my body through. Grace was in fact interrupted. After a week and a half of throwing back DayQuil like Espolon Blanco, and supplementing my diet with Mucinex and peppermint tea, I’m back to normal, but I learned my lesson. While I was sick, I did a complete reevaluation of my schedule and other commitments, and started from scratch the best I could. I was proactive about finding a better work environment and moved over to a place that will actually make it possible for me to move money into my savings account more consistently, and I cut down my hours at the bookstore so I could have more time to myself during the day and on the weekends.

Although I wrote a rather preachy piece back in March about slowing down, and being more mindful about my physical state in terms of stress, I still have work to do all these months later. It’s so easy to get carried away, and fall back into destructive patterns of hyperproductivity, especially at the start of a new semester. My tendency to fill every spare hour I have with something to do, though, is rooted in my anxiety about money, and my dreams and plans for post-grad life. Most adults I know use money as a scare tactic, to drive me away from thinking outside of where I am in my life right now. I’m afraid that if I don’t do all of these things and add more to my resume now, that I’m going to be stuck in neutral, or miss out on something bigger.

One of my good friends, my favorite fellow Scorpio that I met this year through interning at Cleveland Magazine came over last week. We talked for hours, mostly venting about Cleveland and our frustrations in this city (mostly of romantic nature, but still) but it eventually turned into one of those passion-fueled (wine may have had a role in this) discussions about where we are in our lives and what we want to do next. “This isn’t our scene,” he said. Which is true, but it’s not time for me to leave Ohio yet, literally, figuratively, and emotionally speaking. Sometimes my life feels so small because of where I am location wise, but I should know better than to let that get to me at this point.

That’s where the title of this post comes from: Don’t break your tenderness, which Jack Kerouac said at one point. I’m a passionate person and sometimes I let practicality get in the way of it, or if I have a few hours of downtime I guilt myself into thinking I could be working right now, why didn’t I pick up a shift? Which is of course, not great for my mental health. But nonetheless, I’ve been kinder to myself, and giving myself things to look forward to later, and reminding myself that I’m lucky that I get to provide for myself. My mobility is a privilege. There are projects I’m working on that I’m excited to share in the following weeks/months, that I never thought I’d be capable of taking on before.

Despite all of the running around I’ve been doing, being back in school made me realize how much I missed being a student, or rather, an English major. Writing analyses for the short stories I’m assigned to read for my fiction workshop class gives me an adrenaline rush that can only be translated through academia. I sit at my desk, typing away furiously, thinking Yeah, I still got it. Reading a story and coming back to it, ready to deconstruct it from all angles, is what I’ve been trained to do, but it’s different at an upperclassman level, especially when the professor looks at you and says “Yes!” when you explain what you explored in your analysis.

Going off that nerdy tangent, I hope you’re all enjoying the new semester, doing things that you’re passionate about, discovering things that challenge you, and most importantly, taking care of yourselves.

Take it easy.