It’s hydrangea season in my hometown - one of my favorite times of the year. One late summer evening last year my best friend and I were in the car with her boyfriend, inexplicably giddy. We drove down one of the main streets in town lined with lavish two-story homes, and shrieked whenever we spotted the pops of color in side hedges or front yards. “Look at the blue ones!” “Oh my god, the pink!”
I’m about two months into summer and I feel like if I blink I’ll be back at school. Not that I'm craving routine or anything (who, me?), because I definitely have one. I commute to and from downtown five or six days out of the week and sometimes on my way home, I end up having the bus driver who likes to play trivia with passengers over the loud speaker. Between hazy mornings on my way to work and the afternoon shift-switching and the quiet late night walks home my imagination runs wild. This summer is definitely more liberating than the last in the sense that I'm not really tied to anything - I have no one to report to, and I just finally have a life of my own - a good one. I'm making the most of whatever free time I have, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Reading (and reposting) too many Reductress articles
- Indulging in anything lavender honey flavored (in the form of ice cream from Mitchell's or iced lattes from Gypsy in Gordon Square)
- Watching new romantic comedies on Neftlix - one day at work everyone was talking about The Kissing Booth and before I knew it I was staying up till two in the morning even though I was internally screaming because that movie has so many plot holes. I do recommend Set it Up, though - it's cute and cheesy in typical rom-com fashion but it's a rom-com that best represents this generation - millennials working full-time, navigating dating and relationships, struggling to choose between their dream career and a job that makes them unhappy but offers financial security.
- Occasionally going out and blasting "I Like It" or "I Do" by Cardi B (and yelling/singing every word) in the poor soul's car who decides it's a good idea to give me the aux cord when I'm drunk.
- Somehow buying more books even though I've had a pile accumulating since April that I still need to finish. Right now I'm reading Modern Lovers by Emma Straub - I'm trying to get back into reading fiction again because I have a fiction writing class next semester and I'm terrible at writing prose. Straub creates really interesting characters and is good with descriptive detail.
If I get cut early when I'm working downtown I walk to the Cleveland Public Library to read or write on the second floor, where I'm surrounded by biographies of those who lived before me. I recently devoured The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, the first memoir I've read in a while (let alone the first book I've read cover to cover out of pleasure in months) and it really moved me. It isn't a traditional memoir in the sense that Levy wrote each chapter in vignettes about different events or people in her life, but there is unwavering bravery in her voice when she describes the things that have happened to her, a kind of bravery that I hope to have someday with my own work.
I had a housewarming party at the end of June and it couldn't have gone better. We all sat on my porch, around the same table for the duration of the night, laughing, talking, drinking, playing Cards Against Humanity. Arbela brought me a bottle of Barefoot Moscato spritzer and every drop of it was gone before everyone left. I went to bed that night a little drunk off the success of the party - there are a handful of people who bring so much joy into my life, and having most of them in the same place made me so happy. Looking back now it makes me think of a line from the Raymond Carver story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love":
"I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making."
A couple of weeks ago I was eating outside in Ohio City with a friend and my high school Latin teacher walked by. We immediately recognized each other but he thought I didn't know who he was since it had been roughly five years or so since I last saw him. "Hi!" I gushed. "I have a Latin tattoo now!" I pulled up my shirt sleeve and he said almost immediately "Ah, towards better things!" After we did the how-are-you-doing exchange we said our goodbyes. I turned back to my friend, who witnessed this whole interaction.
"Nerd," he said, smirking.
"He TRANSLATED my tattoo! How fucking lit is that?!" I said later in his car.
One thing that I've realized this summer is that I need to work on not letting people make me feel bad about being the way I am, or I need to get better at just not caring. I've already had a lot happen to me this summer, emotionally speaking. I get so frustrated at myself for still having naivety when it comes to people, in the sense that random bouts of kindness do not mean that someone has good intentions. Yet I still say "fuck it" and give someone the benefit of the doubt anyway, which doesn't end well most of the time.
I haven't given high school much thought in a while because I was miserable for the majority of it. I had no real sense of who I was and it was so easy for me to be stereotyped. None of that is important now, but on the 4th of July I had that same feeling of smallness creep back into my system for a few moments. I suddenly felt self-conscious about every little possible thing, but a couple days before I was riding the high of finding out that I was being published as a nonfiction writer for the first time, and getting paid for it.
I have to fully own my passions, especially now - I want to go into a field that demands it. I can't let a few small moments stunt years of progress, years of practicing my craft. When I'm asked the question "What do you do?" The first thing I say is that I'm a writer, because that's the truth. I started writing when I was ten, and since then my voice has literally taken me places - New York and Iowa City - and across genres - flash fiction, poetry, journalism, and now nonfiction. But one of the lessons I've learned since deciding that this is what I want to do is that not everyone is going to understand it, let alone genuinely care. I don't write because I want people to care, though. I write because I have something to say. I like telling stories, and turning people, places, and things into stories. It takes patience for people to listen. Getting published isn't the end goal, although it is a perk - the end goal is producing work that I feel good about, that best represents who I am as a writer, and as a human being.
The things that make us happy, that make our eyes light up whenever we speak - make up most of who we are, but there is always much more under the surface - everyone is multidimensional. We all have minds filled with thoughts and dreams and desires, hearts that beat with love and fear and joy, mouths that can laugh and scream and kiss, hands that can create and touch.
And we've got nothing to lose, or prove.