remembered all these years, falling like rain
This week I said goodbye to junior year, dorm life, and finished my magazine internship. It's hard to believe how close I am to being done with college, and I know it's only going to get more challenging from here on out, as I start my senior year in the fall. But after all the running around I've been doing since I was a tiny, naive freshman at Ithaca College, I know I'll make it.
A song that has resonated with me recently is "Art Exhibit" by Young the Giant - I came across it when I was walking through Public Square to catch the train after work, and naturally I listened to it fifteen times in a row. I've listened to it in the shower, on the bus, in my room - I'm pretty sure it's been driving my new roommates crazy. But it's a beautiful, moving song and it has carried me through the past couple of weeks. Take a listen below if you're up for it.
Thursday was my last day at Cleveland Magazine. I took the bus downtown from my new apartment and it didn't hit me that the past five months that I've spent there were drawing to a close until I had my exit interview with my boss at the end of the day. It was a bittersweet day, and just as I was about to leave, the phone at my desk rang, and I did my last fact- checking call. I tried my best not to be too sentimental throughout the day, and to suppress my inner Scorpio, but when I walked out of the revolving doors of the building a whole wave of emotions hit me at once - simultaneous joy and sadness about a chapter of my life coming to a close. Cleveland isn't exactly a publishing city, but getting a glimpse at an aspect of the publishing world at the local level while being in college is an experience I'll cherish forever. This school year I've seen a lot of growth in myself, and being at the magazine definitely played a large role.
Compared to last August, I feel like I've changed a lot. I dove into my first year at CSU eager to meet new people and learn as much as I could, but in the past nine months there have been a lot of takeaways, in and out of the classroom. I set higher standards for myself and the way I want to be treated, and became more vocal in more ways than one. I really got to know myself, and developed a lot more confidence. I don't make myself small at the expense of appeasing other people. I've finally allowed myself to believe that I'm beautiful and strong and brave and smart - which has been difficult for me to do for years (that is, thinking positive things about myself), but I'm finally comfortable enough to do so, and I didn't get there on my own - my friends and my therapist have definitely helped this process.
It's difficult to develop a voice as a writer - I'm always easily influenced by the things I read. This past semester in my creative nonfiction workshop class we read the essay "This is Kansas" by Eula Biss and when I turned in my corresponding assignment, my professor said it reminded him a lot of her (not in a bad way). I was flattered by this, because there is so much clarity and individuality in Biss' writing. She combines observation with research. I'm happy with the work I've been doing with my writing, and some of my classmates really helped me step out of my comfort zone when it came to experimenting with form - I am a creative writing major, after all.
One day towards the end of the semester, the guy who sits next to me in workshop asked to see my draft of my final essay and he took one look at it and said "Thank you for being here."
"You're welcome...?" I said. "But what do you mean?"
"Thank you for showing up, and just caring about your writing."
This semester I did more in-depth reflections on my freshman year of college, thanks to my nonfiction class - I read some of my papers from some of the classes I took there, and mentally unblocked those nine months from my sphere of memory. Sometimes I forget I spent my freshman year in central New York, because I've been doing so much in Cleveland. It blows me away how different I was two years ago, and how I thought and felt back then, and how the things that were important to me when I was nineteen are so insignificant now in comparison.
I wanted a literary reputation, to be edgy and sophisticated, and just the right amount of intellectual that didn’t lead to self-loathing. I fed myself this embellishment of my college student personality so often, which only led to me being engulfed by disappointment every time I realized that I was not close to becoming who I thought I was supposed to be. I was emotionally unhealthy, in a draining, long distance relationship, and spent most if not all of my free time working two minimum wage jobs while receiving rejection letters from on-campus publications. But all of these things made me stronger. I went to Ithaca because I thought upon arriving there that it would automatically transform me. We go to different places in search of ourselves; a promise of metamorphosis. But the process of becoming is always longer than we anticipate, and never happens in the way we expect. I realized a while ago that I was much better off staying in Cleveland to finish undergrad compared to staying in Ithaca. I wasn't destined to thrive there.
It took two years and a lot of work to grow out of this idea that my high school self created. And as a result, I'm becoming a person that I like, my own person completely separate from what my eighteen/nineteen-year-old self wanted. Obviously I'm still inherently flawed, and at times problematic, and I'm definitely the most "extra" out of my group of my friends, but overall, I'm okay. More than okay, really. I've always wanted to be someone that my younger self can look up to, and I feel like I've finally gotten there. But it still feels so strange to think that I'm an actual person with a schedule and bills and rent and such good, wonderful, funny friends and a tattoo and to-do lists and a good relationship with both of my parents and a therapist and plans and dreams. I have my own style, and things that I'm recognized for. And all of this is good.
Thank you to everyone who pushed me, encouraged me, broke my heart - you all helped in one way or another.
Time for another summer in Cleveland - my city, which never shies away from being interesting and full of adventure.