mercurywrites:

It hit me yesterday, while talking to one of my brother’s friends, that I’m done with college. A few minutes ago, I was looking for a copy of my transcript so I can apply for a job. I logged into my student center account and… it’s empty.

All of these kids are moving to college, and some for the first time. After four years, eight semesters (Well, the usual eight plus two summers and one winter break), I am not moving back. This process has become the norm - my norm - and now it’s gone. I texted one of my old roommates (and whom I probably consider one of my best friends) and told her, “It feels like a sucker punch to the heart.”

I imagine this is what losing your home is like.

I’ve lost my home.

It hit me yesterday, while talking to one of my brother’s friends, that I’m done with college. A few minutes ago, I was looking for a copy of my transcript so I can apply for a job. I logged into my student center account and… it’s empty.

All of these kids are moving to college, and some for the first time. After four years, eight semesters (Well, the usual eight plus two summers and one winter break), I am not moving back. This process has become the norm - my norm - and now it’s gone. I texted one of my old roommates (and whom I probably consider one of my best friends) and told her, “It feels like a sucker punch to the heart.”

I imagine this is what losing your home is like.

I’ve lost my home.

My grandmother died mid-way through January 2012, but I’d buried her in my mind by then. Four months earlier, I’d received a call from my parents - the contents are vague in my mind, but I had a sense of the end. After talking with Sara about it and getting a hug from one of my dorm mates - one of his few sensitive moments and possibly the only one I’ve ever seen him entirely sober - I went to my two and a half hour lecture-discussion on literature and revolution. Couldn’t really think, though, so I excused myself at the break and returned to my room. It’s a paralyzing reality.

No, wait, I remember what it was. My parents went to visit my grandmother at her apartment, before all of her children decided she should go to assisted living, and she didn’t know my father.

Fast-forward to Christmas and we’re visiting Grandma in these yellow hallways that smell older than the combined age of its residents. We are all Sweetie’s and I can’t help but think she’s dead to us - maybe it is more we are dead to her because we still know; we just no longer exist in her world. We are the nice strangers who brought her presents she cannot unwrap and food she isn’t interested in eating.

I got the news while I’m writing at Stone Creek, and just as I deal with every other event that hits my heart, I wrote about her. I posted it. I emailed it to two of my aunts and my parents and we all drowned ourselves in sadness and other sentimentalities.

My bits of the inheritance are these: a nice lamp, a bedside dresser, three necklaces, a broach, and this afghan she knitted. Whenever I’m not running or swimming or some such thing, I try to remind myself to wear one of the necklaces; the one I’m using now is a silver heart on a chain with some green decoration within the heart. It’s not that I need help remembering her; she’s a difficult person to forget. It’s because my grandmother was one of the kindest people I have ever had the honor of knowing. The necklace is a reminder of what she used to tell us grandkids and her own children: “Be kind to other people. You don’t know what troubles they have.” As an ordinary selfish and self-centered human being, I have forgotten this moral more times than I care to know, but when I wear the necklace, it is a little easier to remember, a little easier to be kind, a little closer.

Some people collect stamps, baseball cards, underwear, shoes. Like other people who write, I collect notebooks.

I found my latest acquisition by chance at the local Paper Source. Three of us had just gone for frozen custard at what I sincerely believe to be the best frozen custard place in the country; since we were literally four or five blocks away and I wanted to finally replace my scratched-up, banged-up aviators and another of us needed thank you cards, we agreed to go to the mall.

Paper Source has lots of interesting products - planners, calendars, pens, sassy notepads, sheets of fancy gift wrap, moleskines, wedding invitations, and the aforementioned thank you cards. It’s like the paper-based Michaels, every piece pretty and delicate.

The woman at the register saw two of us were waiting and arm-flourished the clearance section on the other side of the counter. “Everything is half off,” she said with a grin before going back to helping our friend check out.

We browsed a bit half-heartedly. After a while, all of the pretty paper looks the same.

I saw it on the bottom shelf. The notebook is a gradient of peach to sunrise pink, gold lettering sweeping across the center with, “La JOiE DE VIVRE.” In smaller cursive font beneath the “RE” is “Emile Zola”. The “La” is in the same font as the name; the “JOIE DE” is all in the same font, leaving “VIVRE” to be a mix of blocked and flaky letters. The binding is sturdy bronze rings going through square holes in the cardboard front and back. Its corners are a bit bent but workable, poking out of the open plastic sheathing. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized that the background is watercolor, the brush strokes obvious if you stare at the base long enough in the right light.

When I bought it on Friday, I knew immediately that I wanted to use it for my novel project, but I haven’t done much more with it than carry it around and open it up (its lines are lime green). Something about new notebooks, like other blank pre-art pieces, creates hesitation, like its purity is something that shouldn’t be violated until you’re sure you won’t look back. You want that first blot of ink or graphite to be the right blot of ink or graphite that will set you firmly on the correct path. You are afraid that this is your one chance.

That is not how art works, or at least rarely how art works. Art exists in the middle of a muddle, where the mess is at its most permanent and knotted. Art happens when you untangle or when you find the perfect knotted structure, not an, “Aha!” moment so much as a, “Huh.” You try to make art and perhaps fail many, many times. Luckily, you can take pages out of notebooks and scribble things out. You can also highlight and isolate what you want to keep in. Art happens when you let it in among the rabble, more a game of Where’s Waldo or Clue or Egyptian Rat Screw where the answer might come to you after a bit of going at it than Chutes and Ladder. You cannot wait for art; you must pursue. I find it so difficult to remember this, but I try because otherwise I wait for the words and characters to find me instead of dusting off my knees and picking up my brush and finding what I want.

School Lunches

Inspired by Anne Lamott’s chapter, “School Lunches”, in her book Bird by Bird

I began by considering actual school lunches - the way I’d stand in a line and buy hot lunches in elementary and middle school. Pizza was the gold standard - either Rocky Rococo or Little Caesar’s - and only available on select Friday’s. I’m sure there was a pattern and equally certain that I knew it, but I cannot recall it now. I grew sick of pizza in middle school when I avoided the fair like overcooked broccoli or buttered peas, which was mushy from their stint in the frozen section, and had pizza almost every day for a month. I’m still iffy about pizza and it’s been over nine and a half years.

If Mum made lunch when I was in school, it was almost always some sort of sandwich. She generally used three pieces of bread in a sandwich-atop-a-sandwich sort of thing; now that I think about it, it was probably to maximize the healthier filling and minimize the bread. In high school, to save money and Mum’s time, my brother and I made our own lunches. By senior year, when I was dealing with issues, I’d toss two yogurt cups in my bags and eat before heading to the library computers, ignoring my stomach with writing.

I remember athletic camp in the summers after we stopped going to the YMCA (we had those little meal cups, with ravioli or meatballs and spaghetti, but cold as the pavilion we ate in had no microwave). At athletic camp, we’d go swimming some days, kayaking others, watched movies sometimes, but most days were spent running and playing games in the areas around the building. I remember being really happy there, though I missed horse-riding at the YMCA.

We ate lunches in the gym - these were the days when my mum took the time to make our lunch. I’d eat in a corner, with my back to everyone else, so they couldn’t see the little carton of sushi. Of course, hiding is the one way to guarantee everyone will be interested in what you have for lunch. It’s strange, to be embarrassed about things you like, when I think about it now, strange to be embarrassed by happiness. Sushi wasn’t cool back then - it was something that I was vaguely aware made me different. No one else’s mother made sushi for them; none but mine.

I read a post on Tumblr in the past year about a girl who was equally embarrassed by the Asian dishes her mother would make her for school lunch and told her to stop, only to find out later that that was what her mother had done for her. Asians, like most other cultures, take food very seriously. My grandparents would splurge on food when they visited us and when we visited them - I watch them nearly cry every time they realize that the food they love doesn’t die in their blood in another land - and this is how people show they genuinely care: by putting so much effort into steaming vegetables, frying eggs and cutting them into strips, pressing flavored grains of rice to seaweed, curling fingers around the smooth bamboo roll as they hold back the filling with fingertips, and squeezing just enough so it doesn’t fall apart. I knew this or at least could guess it by my senior year. It was easier, I s’pose, because sushi became Cultured before or around my sophomore year, but the next time someone prodded at my bag and was like, “What is this?” I could say with a proud (well, a little bit cocky) smile, “That’s sushi. My mum made it.”

Jealousy. “Cool.”

I wish I could go back to that little girl, hunched in a corner and somewhat conscious that she is different in a potentially-unacceptable way before pressing it back for the next ten years, and tell her that it’s okay, that standing out for some unusual thing is not a bad thing. I wish I could go back and tell my mother that I am proud of my heritage and the things that stand out. It’s okay that I can’t go back, though, because I mean to be proud of it from here and forward. Looking back is not for tomorrow.