Blogenning Theme of the Week: Letter to me-a-decade-ago

Why did this have to be this week’s theme? I considered outright skipping this week’s theme post and taking my punishment of writing four posts next week instead. It’s a good topic– which is why I’ve been working the last couple weeks on a piece that treads the same waters in essay form for my thesis. So here goes me trying to see it from a different angle.

Dear K aged 17,

In about four and half years, you will hold on as a train rattles through the London Underground, earbuds bringing you occasional snatches of music. Pretending to listen gives you the excuse to zone out without people thinking you’re paying attention to their conversations or inviting people to ask questions. You didn’t sleep much the night before, perhaps because there were more sirens than usual or because someone threw a party just outside your door again.

The train rounds a corner and it throws off your balance, forcing you to step back and look up. There’s graffiti above the door that turns a warning into the command “obstruct the doors/ be dangerous.” You’ll smile and laugh to yourself over the childishness of the destruction, caused by a passenger tired of rush hour overcrowding and trains breaking down.

You’ll remember the sign again later in the day, and for the first time you will consciously realize that you’ve become someone who laughs at small things. You will realize how rarely you end up in bad moods for long because there’s always something to giggle over and be happy about. You will look back that day, in 2006, wondering when you started to find joy in the little things. For awhile now you’ve giggled before class over literature or with friends over a game of hangman on the classroom chalkboard. You’ve walked by the graffiti Oscar the Grouch near your apartment every day with a smile and a nod for the trash can grump. The list of things you find worth smiling or giggling over has become too long for you to remember when it began, though you know even then that it doesn’t stretch back much farther than age 20.

One day soon, teenage me, you will walk outside at sunset and see a great blue heron in the pond, and this will be your first memory of seeing something you are awed by in quite a long time. It will make you smile, spontaneous and unplanned. It’s yours, and yours alone. Remember that feeling. Keep it. In a few years you will find joy and awe in so many places, they will no longer be so uncommon it takes you a couple minutes of staring at the water, the heron, and the sunset pink sky to finally name and understand the emotions.

The point of this is simply to say that it will get better. You will become a person who is content, and often happy, with her life. You’ll be able to put the last couple years in context and realize that you made the best decisions you could with the information available to you. Right now you’re fairly sure you won’t complete your associate’s degree in two years, and you’re not even sure you’ll finish it at all. You shouldn’t worry, because really. How many other 17 year olds have completed a year of college with a respectable GPA? Of those others, how many do you think are clinically depressed and still struggling to find a medication that works? And I promise, you will graduate. You just have to go at your own pace, and there shouldn’t be a rush.

I feel like a letter such as this should contain helpful hints, advice, more anecdotes. But there’s a reason time travel leads to paradoxes and misery on sci fi shows. We work with the information available to us at the time, and right now, you’re already doing the best you can. Making a change for you would require rewriting scientific advances, and really, that would be like trying to perform surgery with a baseball bat. Things would break in so many ways.

Love from the future,

K

Thesis, meet Plans of Planningness

I didn’t expect to write about adolescence quite so much for my thesis. They were not the most pleasant years, and I’ve avoided writing too much about it in the past because mostly I don’t like poking around dark musty corners of the hoarder’s attic that is my memory. Never can tell, in the dark, where the sharp things might be. It’s been kind of weird to finally attempt it, and I’ve tried to layer in some writing that’s a bit… fluffier, so that my thesis semester isn’t entirely unpleasant. My twenties have been kind of awesome and I’ve enjoyed growing into an adult, and life after twenty has provided plenty of random incidents worth writing about. Too bad most of the lighter stuff won’t make it into the thesis; it wouldn’t fit, tonally.

Applying to teach abroad may be a big factor in the somewhat unconscious choice to look backwards. I’m still trying to understand what, exactly, home means to me. Thinking about leaving Boston sometimes makes me hesitate about moving forward with my plans because it has become home. My apartment has become home. I’ve lived in the same place for three years now, and I was able to choose almost every detail in furnishing and decorating. It’s the first place that’s felt like it’s mine. Usually physical objects and physical locations aren’t something I become all that attached to, but I think what’s scary in this case is the possibility I will lose that feeling of home. I don’t know what I’ll come back to after my time abroad is over. Sometimes the coming upheaval seems exhilariting-scary, and sometimes it’s the kind of scary that makes me wonder if I’m making the right choice.

Living abroad has been a dream of mine since I was probably about fifteen, so the occasional doubt and fear is unlikely to sway me. It’s that same long lived aspect of the dream that makes me keep looking back at teenage me, remembering how anime and manga got me interested in drawing and life outside America. There’s an important difference between seeking new experiences as a form of escape and seeking new experiences for the sake of trying out a fresh perspective. Teenage me would have sought the former, but by the time I studied abroad in London at the age of 22 I understood the difference and sought the latter. That’s what made London such a great experience; I wanted to try new things, and I had matured to the point I knew problems can’t be escaped but must be dealt with instead.

At least I’ve found a few things worth salvaging from the dark and cluttered memory attic, recovered few more of the happy memories that had been packed away in mislabeled boxes. Chances are the future upheaval will end up creating more of the memories I want to keep in plain view than it’ll create of the attic kind. There’s never been a guarantee that I’d find a great job in Boston after I graduate, and there isn’t a guarantee I will find a job here when I return, so I guess I get to keep redefining the idea of home as I meander onward.

And away we go

If there’s something I’m passionate about, I’m decisive. It’s one of the things I like most about myself.

I’ve thought about teaching English abroad off and on for years. It’s not something I talked about much because I tend not to discuss ideas until they come perilously close to being plans. So it came as a surprise to most of my family and friends when I brought it up recently, asking for the advice of people who have done this. Everyone I’ve talked to thus far has been supportive, which reminds me yet again why my people are awesome.

Every once in awhile I decide it’s time to go on a new adventure. The first of these may have been the semester I spent in London, which remains my fondest memory of my undergraduate years. It taught me so much about what I want and need as a person, and is what helped lead me to pursue a master’s degree here in Boston. Boston has been an adventure and a growing experience in its own right, from the frustrations of working a retail job to the deep satisfaction of befriending lots of crazy writers.

Now that my time at Emerson is almost over, I feel it’s time to start planning the next big adventure. Teaching abroad seems like the perfect fit, considering teaching has always been something I want to do and considering I want to experience more of the world. So many years of college has spoiled me, in a way, because I’ve been able to focus on things I love. I can’t imagine going into a job where I’m just a 9-5er straight out of grad school, especially not a job where I don’t feel like I’m able to give back some of what has made my life great.

I’m probably driving people crazy with my confidence that I will find a teaching job abroad, but the truth is I’ve never failed to get something I truly want (I’ve failed to get a lot of things that I sort of wanted). Add to that the fact that I have a lot of qualifications, and I can’t believe I won’t succeed. It might take awhile, perhaps a lot longer than I think, but I’ll get there.