And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby



When I visit a used bookstore, I always go to the young adult section. Maybe I should be embarrassed because I am usually the only one over 14 and I’ve been known to leave with at least three books in my arms. But then I think– to hell with it. This section has been good to me over the years. I’ll never give it up.

Before I left the country, one of my latest ventures into adolescent literature brought me to the book, Stargirl.

She was illusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a cork board like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.

I always heard it mentioned, but I had never brought myself around to actually reading it. I really needed to read it and I’m grateful that I did.

Recently, I’ve felt strangely self-aware–more so than usual. At first I thought it was because I was an aimless post-grad, unemployed and still adjusting to being stripped raw of my comfortable identity as a student. Then I thought it was because I was pointless and misplaced in my poorly scheduled corporate job. After that, I was certain that it was because I felt isolated and amazingly foreign in this bizarre new country.

But really, I think I just feel it when I’m by myself. All those situations give me far too much time to myself. It’s when I have the time to think. It just kind of rises to the surface once everything else is cleared away. When I’m focused or occupied, it shrinks back.

I don’t want to always have to be distracted to avoid being self-conscious. It’s not like there’s anything really wrong here. I guess it’s fine for the most part, but I’d like a little more stability in my own self-assurance.

I’d like to be like Stargirl Caraway. Or maybe I’d be okay with just being me, only with a little Stargirl swagger. She is who she is. She finds good in unfavorable circumstances and casts off the temptation to seek external acceptance. She embraces her own oddities and finds joy in her own flaws.

I want to stop questioning the things I do and the reasons I do them and the way it appears to others and what it says about me. I want to be strange and unapologetic. I want to be frighteningly confident. I want to let things go. I want to accept and move on. I want to be weird and uninhibited.

When I was reading this book, I just kept thinking– what a way to be.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone can be like that all the time. Even Stargirl had her moments of failing confidence. Everyone is self-involved and sensitive, even when they say they’re not. At least a little. So I guess I, too, am entitled to weak moments and wavering individualism every once in a while.

But even if that’s true and I’ll never fully get rid of this itching discomfort of the self, I guess unaffected self-assurance would still be something nice to work towards.

I am geek.

I accept it. I embrace it. To be honest, I kind of love it.

Oh, to pack

Packing is just this really horrible thing. I’ve never been a very effective packer. I don’t think I have the foresight to prepare for things I will need down the line. I’m a very immediate person, and packing for a year is quite long-term.

I’m leaving for South Korea today and I’m terrified. Yes, this is a new experience. Yes, this is an adventure. Yes, this is the convenient escape from home that I’ve been anticipating since September. But I am terrified.

Right now, I have reached a place of blind panic. Leaving is petrifying. Staying is impossible (and horrible). Packing is disastrous. Procrastinating is just irresponsible. I keep thinking: there’s no way I can survive. There’s no way I can go to this whole different country and live by myself and actually survive.

But the more I sit here with all this stuff, the less I realize I actually need. When talking to people, I’ve been telling them my new mantra: one friend. They take it to mean that my goal is to make one friend and they laugh because they think I’m bizarre and crazy. And I say “one friend,” but actually, it means something a little more, a little different. It means all I need is one friend to bring me in. One friend to understand me and accept me and love me despite my absurdities. One friend to provide comfortable refuge from the unfamiliar. Maybe not even a person. I just need one thing to be constant and comforting and familiar. I think if I have something like that, then I can probably do this.

So right now, I tell myself that if I take a deep breath and stop thinking so much and quit living in the worst case scenarios of my head, I can probably do this. I can probably make it out alive.

Burroughs is good.

Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For, lo! My own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me.

— John Burroughs, Waiting


Once, when I was seven or eight, my mother said to me, as we sat on the last seat but one on the bus to the clinic, or the shoe shop, that while it was true that books could change with the years just as much as people could, the difference was that whereas people would always drop you when they could no longer get any advantage or pleasure or interest or at least a good feeling from you, a book would never abandon you. Naturally you sometimes dropped them, maybe for several years, or even forever.

But they, even if you betrayed them, would never turn their backs on you: they would go on waiting for you silently and humbly on their shelf. They would wait for ten years. They wouldn’t complain. One night, when you suddenly needed a book, even at three in the morning, even if it was a book you had abandoned and erased from your heart for years and years, it would never disappoint you, it would come down from its shelf and keep you company in your moment of need. It would not try to get its own back or make excuses or ask itself if it was worth its while or if you deserved it or if you still suited each other, it would come at once as soon as you asked.

A book would never let you down.

— Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness

Oh hey there, 2011.

The Old Year’s gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night…

It doesn’t seem like a new year or a new decade or a new anything, really. But it is and that’s the weirdest part. Things are changing and I can never seem to keep up. Whether I like it or not, this next year is going to be vastly different and I’m not sure if I’ll survive. I know that 2011 is going to be a testy one, but to be honest, I can’t really grasp the weight of all these changes.

When I force myself to look into the future at the year standing before me, I glimpse these drastic polarized emotions. Intense sadness, overwhelming joy, blind anger, gripping anticipation, paralyzing fear– all the things I know will be waiting for me in this new year.

But for now, I can’t feel it at all. For now, my mind just keeps on like nothing has changed, like this isn’t the beginning of my ventures into a whole new abyss. It doesn’t seem real. I’m still gripping tightly to all the goodness in 2010 while trying to dismiss all the badness the comes dragging along. I know 2011 is new and unblemished and all of that, but I don’t know if I really see that yet.

Sometimes I have trouble letting go, even when I know I must. 2011, please bring me clarity and peace. Help me put your predecessors back into place so I can greet you properly with bold hope and courageous strength. And please, whatever you do, please don’t pwn me.

To the new year and many epic days ahead!