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Senior Year

Oak Trees

I don't want to say that my finals have been easy this year, but you know, they haven't not been easy. Today while I was laying poolside, reading a non-literary novel, I had to take a minute to congratulate myself. I'm just going to lay it all out on the table--I really played my cards right this go around. I figured a few things out. And I can crank out a pretty good academic paper in about 6 hours or less, which may or may not be my proudest accomplishment. That ability is the sole reason why I found myself in a lounge chair and sunglasses watching my legs turn golden-brown instead of in the library, slaving over the paper I have due tomorrow. Unfortunately, I have a difficult time turning the English major off, so instead of peacefully observing the pool, the palm trees and my emerging tan, a really unsavory metaphor popped into my head that involved a comparison between myself and a rotisserie chicken. It's not all fun and games. Actually pretty much it is, I won't lie. I have this job now, and I'm feeling really rather ambivalent towards my final grades, so these last few days have been going pretty dang well.

Most everybody else I know is still deep in the tangle of finals though, so I've been doing a lot by myself--but quite frankly, I really enjoy that. Do I have a future as a hermit? I'm not ruling it out. I think really I just like being on my own schedule, which maybe everybody feels that way--not having to deal with anyone else's needs, in the least offensive and selfish way possible, is a beautiful thing.* Also when I'm by myself I think more clearly and I find generally that I notice things that I wouldn't otherwise. Today at the pool I found 47 different colors in the water and saw a sign that said NO HYPERVENTILATING BEFORE GOING UNDERWATER, which really made me curious as to what incident necessitated someone spelling that out. I also thought for a long time about why I didn't really feel sad yet about graduation, but that really didn't go anywhere, which made me think maybe I just need to be in this moment in time and appreciate what I have right now before I start worrying about my imminent, permanent departure from New Orleans. So I took a nap.

Yesterday when I was walking home from a run in the park, I thought, I wonder what it will be like to not live under oak trees anymore. The oak trees here are magnificent, you know. They defy description, really. When the sun is shining and you're walking along a boulevard lined with leafy green live oak, it's hard to imagine anything better. Probably in that moment there isn't. But then there are times when you think someone is knocking at the door and really it's just a surprise hail storm, which happened to me the other day. I'm not kidding you, I had to stuff towels under the door because the wind was blowing so much precipitation sideways that it was coming in through the crack. Not twenty minutes before it had been a beautiful, 80 degree day. Riddle me that.

There are such startling moments of beauty here, in this place, though, that I don't think that anywhere in the world can compare. I don't know if I can tell you how it feels, but today I was walking home down Broadway and there wasn't any traffic and the world felt completely still. It was quiet. It stopped me dead and pushed me forward at the same time, because for a minute I was a part of everything, on a street that has become familiar in the city that I made mine in a world that I once didn't understand, and I felt so happy  and so sad. Sometimes I think that little pieces of time like that, the ones that stop and make it feel like it was done just for you, are the times that the universe is telling you something--I felt so finished and whole that it must be time for me to move on, because it couldn't get any better.

I think I worked it out, college I mean, so now I feel like it must be time to go. I love it here with everything in me, but not all things are for forever, not all places can be forever homes. You grow and grow and grow, and then you have to know when it's time to go. It's like being at a dinner party when I was a kid--my mom is telling me thank my host and say good-bye, and my dad is saying, well I think we've done all the damage we can do, honey, time to go.

But you know we're begging for ten more minutes, and luckily, I think in this scenario I'm going to get it. The ride is not quite over yet. I have time left to wonder about the oak trees. And lay by the pool. And find some more magical moments and maybe, finally, that elusive signature drink.

xoxo, Lauren

*As if the children upstairs weren't good enough birth control, all I have to do is take one look at my own, self-centered mindset to say NOPE to kids. Because did you know that when you have a child they depend on you for everything and you are never free? I was thinking about that the other day in Starbucks. I mean I realize in an abstract sense that they are your legacy and the best thing you could ever do and when you actually have them they probably don't feel like a burden, but while I was watching this Mom struggle with an impudent little brat at Starbucks with love in her eyes, I realized, wow, I am just not there yet.

May the Fourth

Hey, as it turns out, 22 isn't so bad. The sun is out, I've eaten a lot of really delicious free food in the last five days, I just found a really great Pandora station, and I'm about to start the last week of classes I might ever have. I realize, also, the title of my last post may seem a bit melodramatic to the untrained eye, and though I normally favor the cryptic when it comes to that kind of thing, I don't know if anyone will get it--that's distressing for me, not because I'm afraid people will think I'm standing with one foot off the edge, but because it's the name of one of my favorite songs that briefly mentions being 22. It's by the Alabama Shakes. I also happen to have it on good authority that my Aunt Anne, who I think is a really spectacular human being, likes them too. Bless my heart, bless my soul, didn't think I'd make it, to 22 years old! Must be someone, up above, saying come on Courtney? you gotta hold on! 

 
I think Courtney is the lead singer, and I feel like every time I hear the song, I say you know what, we're in this together, sister. Except you're a wonderfully talented musician and I'm just crossing my fingers I can get a job through September. Tomato, tomatoe. Also I'm a little ornery when it comes to song lyrics, so it might not be Courtney at all, but I'm too proud to go look them up and find out what her name really is. I have a mostly useless talent for learning the lyrics of songs incredibly quickly, but I feel like it's cheating when I find them online. I can't really explain it but it feels like betrayal of the highest order against my own brain.
Anyway, if the first day of my 22nd year wasn't the best, the rest of the week made up for it--I relived my glory days at the Boot, a place I find myself frequenting less and less as I age*, but it was 50 cent night and there was a nice tinge of nostalgia to the cigarette scented air, so who can complain? A pack of the seniors in my sorority were all there together, and we know the DJ, so he spun us some classics from back in our hey-day. All I'll say is that Britney Spears and my girl Queen B were on repeat, and we danced and danced and danced like the girls we are and no one even looked for one second at the boys on the floor, it was just all us, all at once together, without any of the insecurity and fear and longing that plagued us as freshman. So that was a pretty good thing. Thursday the same pack of sorority seniors went down into the Quarter and ate way too much bananas foster at Arnaud's, and I read a letter that I wrote to myself as a freshmen,which was almost the impetus for a major breakdown. Luckily I was able to keep it together enough to really bring down the house, but you know. It was close.

I don't want to toot my own horn here too much, but I've always had a way with words--I can bring even myself to tears. So that was embarrassing, although I was somewhat prepared because the same thing happened when I was graduating high school. I've consistently had good advice for myself which is incredible because rarely is my advice that good, I think. Normally I'm on the go for it! side of things. Ask my roommate Erin. She's made a lot of purchases that she had to rethink because I was the only one she was shopping with--if Lindsay, our infinitely wiser and more practical roommate, is there, it becomes a battle of shoulder angel like you wouldn't believe. I may or may not be the angel. Hint: I'm not. The other piece of advice I like to toss out is do what you feel! which is usually not the best course of action--I am, wholeheartedly, a believer in my own gut instinct, but, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, other people just don't have that same internal compass. The moral of the story is that if you're considering making a large investment purchase or debating the various moral consequences of a choice, do not, under any circumstance, ask me for help.

If you are, however, graduating, and you need a little pep talk, I'm your girl. Or at least I was four years ago. Now that I think about it, it's not exactly rocket science--a little you're great, always have been, keep doing you goes a long way. But I was particularly eloquent in this letter, and I can't remember now exactly what I said but it was really nice, and it was exactly the pat on the back I needed. From myself. That's key. I think when you're in the middle of a crisis of self-doubt it's important to hide unexpected notes of encouragement in the most unlikely of places, so you remember that you are tough, smart and worthy of much happiness! It was great!

And now that I'm on the other side of that mini-crisis, feeling much saner and self-assured, things have been looking up. I got a job! Kind of. I got an internship that could potentially turn into a full-time job, but it's a step in the right direction. I have a beautiful house to move into, I still have two weeks left in wonderland, and the sun is out. My friends are here and there, and my whole rowdy clan will be back together in just a little bit, and that's more great news. And then soon enough I'll be back with the little piece of my heart that lives with Michael, and that reunion will do my body good! So you see, I'm finding out things are never quite as dire as they seem.

xoxo, Lauren

*There is an old saying that goes something like, If you're old enough to be at The Boot, you're too old to be at The Boot. But there's another saying that goes something like, The Boot: where your college career begins and ends. We'll see which proves more true...

Hold On

I turned 22 yesterday, or so they tell me. I'm feeling rather existential these days, so I have to ask--what is a birthday, really? Wait, no, I turned 22 two days ago. This is embarrassing, I don't even know what day of the week it is. Clearly I am not prepared to be 22, nor am I good at being existential. A birthday is obviously the day you were born, what kind of question is that? I don't really feel older or wiser, although I generally feel more tired, and I've noticed that my metabolism has already taken a nose dive since the big day, so that doesn't bode well for the future of my waistline, now does it? Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I have eaten three quarters of a carrot cake in about 36 hours, so that could explain the metabolism drop. I'll probably go polish it off here in a minute, right after I get done with this. I have horrific self-control when it comes to things I really like to eat--like, for example, carrot cake. Actually, I don't know if it's my self-control so much as my resignation to the fact that at some point, I know I will eat the whole thing (if it's cake) or all of them (if it's reese's pieces) eventually, so I might as well just get it over with while it's still fresh and delicious. Also I have a bad habit of leaving a fork right next to the cake at all times, so whenever I pass by I can just eat one bite--that's not so bad, right? Well one thing leads to another, and twenty minutes and 12 passes through the kitchen later equals half a cake down. Sometimes my friend and roommate Lindsay will say You can do it, Brucey! when we're eating cake or other things that aren't healthy, from that scene in the movie Matilda. There's a part where Brucey has to eat an entire chocolate cake in front of the whole school, because he's a greedy little kid and Mrs. Trunchbull wants to teach him a lesson about excess. So she tries to force him into hating cake (he has to eat the whole thing or be locked in the Chokey), but instead, with the support of his classmates (you can do it, Brucey!), he eats the whole cake and loves it. I think you can guess which character I am here. Except my cake is carrot, and not chocolate, because I have an invested interest in improving my eyesight. Also cream cheese frosting and walnuts are my kryptonite.

Anyway, back to my failure of being an existentialist 22-year-old. Well, here's the thing. I'm feeling a little concerned about my level of preparedness for my impending adulthood. I think I've said this before, but I have to say it again, because I am just really astonished as to what has happened here. I just thought I would have it figured out by now! Whenever I think of being an adult, in my immediate future, it's not actually me I see. It's like this better dressed, pulled together version of myself, who seems capable and witty and fun, who doesn't use sarcasm as a defense mechanism and who can actually stick to a day schedule. This person also happens to be like a foot taller than I am, and she has, I am not kidding you, a killer wardrobe. She also doesn't look like someone who forgets to put deodorant on in the morning, and she probably also doesn't have to hang signs all over her house that say TAKE YOUR PROBIOTIC. She really seems like a great girl, a real go-getter, and she walks around in a classy office setting looking professional and murmuring indistinct comments to people, and those people laugh and do exactly what she says because she very obviously knows some things. And you know what the real kicker is? She looks like the type who knows what her signature drink is!

She probably also is aging really gracefully, and I just cannot say the same for myself. Do you know how I decided to think about my 22nd birthday? As the first anniversary of my 21st birthday. I am only slightly better than those people who say they're counting down instead of up once they hit 30 or whatever. That thought in itself is demoralizing and makes me want to throw in the towel and live in my parent's basement for the rest of my life.

Perhaps I'm being overly dramatic, but you know, I was really looking forward to my birthday as a day of rest and relaxation and reflection, and it was anything but. Instead, life handed down a one-two punch of bad weather and zero fun, and that was depressing. Here's what happened: my house and car flooded on Sunday morning, so I spent the morning of my birthday trying to wet-vac about six gallons of water out of the bottom of my car while it continued to rain. Then, while I rolled around in the bottom of my little silver bullet, covered in dog hair from a dog that died like three or four years ago and flood water, which is the most disgusting water in the world, hands down, I looked up and said, you know what, it's time to get out of this city. And burn this car, because I'm never going to get all the water out and as we speak it's molding and bugs are hatching in it, I just know it. So then, naturally, I called my Mom and told her that, and she said don't worry I'm on it, which was a relief--but the saga was not over. She found a nice man named Tyrone who could help me with the water/car problem, but Tyrone was out in Metairie. Metairie is far, and I was out of gas and my debit card got stolen last week so I had no way to pay him, so I had to go to Loyola to get money from the Credit Union. While I walked over I realized I was hot because it was so humid, and it was raining, and everyone I knew called to tell me Happy Birthday!! in such bright and happy voices, and I didn't know how to say it's my birthday and I am so sad, and I know I should be happy because it's my birthday, but I hate this day because it doesn't feel like my birthday, it feels scary and really, really sad. Because my car flooded and I have to take it in and spend my afternoon waiting in a mean cold room for someone to get the water out, and I feel too young to be this old, and I feel totally and utterly helpless in the face of the future that is racing towards me at an alarming speed, and I don't understand the world anymore, because I was sitting in traffic listening to Alanis Morrisette and then someone put a bomb in a bag and killed a little boy at a marathon, and Whole Foods forgot to write happy birthday on my birthday cake. And where in this day is there any room for me?

I know that in my life I have been lucky, exceptionally lucky, to have always had beautiful, wonderful birthdays. I love my birthday. Every other birthday has felt like the world has stopped to smile at me, say hey, you're doing alright kid, happy birthday! We love you. And I love that. Who wouldn't? So this year, as I sat in traffic and cried and cried because I was lost trying to get Tyrone in a car that sloshed every time I hit the gas, on a day that I was supposed to be in love with a world that was in love with me, running errands and dealing with a situation that was totally out of my control and just not fair, I started to think, is this it? Is this what being an adult is like? Is it always this miserable and will I always be dealing with something? Is this awareness? Because if it is, you can have it back.

Later, I walked around Target for an hour and a half while Tyrone fixed my car, and I started to feel better. There is something infinitely soothing about that kind of solid, middle-class commercialism--everything was normal, everything looked familiar. I found a shirt on sale. The world hadn't completely imploded, Target was proof. But I still felt so tired, and I'm still working out that feeling, I think. Because you know, I'm not the girl in the vision, I'm still just me. And it's just me that I will forever be dealing with things with, if that makes sense--I can't be anybody else but me, and I guess I'm the kind of person that breaks down on birthdays when nothing goes as planned, and I didn't know that about myself until Monday. I'm a little anxious about this kind of thing, because what will happen when it's just me and my Mom can't help, and I have to do all these things that happen when you're in control of your own life? Who will be the responsible one? Who will know what to do? Surely not me. I still squeeze the toothpaste from the middle of the tube! I eat entire cakes single-handedly!  I forget what day it is on the regular!

Perhaps I'm dragging my feet as I move into this next phase of my life because I am all too aware of my own shortcomings, and I don't know how much I can change about myself, or if I want to at all. Where's the fun in being six feet tall and an indistinct murmurer? What would you laugh about if everything was ok all the time? What would I tell my therapist if I had it all together? Right? I think my only option is learning how to be ok with me, which is sort of an unsatisfactory answer but the best I can do right now. And you know, I think I have to just keep reminding myself that everything is not happening all at once, although it might feel that way. Life is gradual, so I just have to take it one little piece at a time. And if that doesn't work out, I'll maybe cry about it or laugh about it, or maybe do both, and when someone comes over and asks if I'm ok like they did on my birthday, I'll put on my sunglasses and say I'm fine, I'm just having one of those days. And then I'll have to pep talk myself, which will involve the phrases "white girl crying" and "in public" and "pull yourself together, this is pathetic".

Also perhaps I'll just take the advice of Michael, who told me after I complained for an exceedingly long time about my day that it's high time I figured out that the world doesn't stop just because it's my birthday, and that's the way it goes sometimes, so what I should do is make the next really good day I have be my birthday. And I really couldn't respond to that without sounding like a completely self-centered whiner, so I said ok. I'll just have birthday life. Every day a birthday. And that weirdly made me feel better. So I guess I'm feeling better about being 22. I don't know if ya'll know this, but Taylor Swift wrote a song about being 22, and I think it's really obnoxious. This may have colored my opinion on the day too, because everywhere I went she stalked me on the radio. It was tough.

xoxo, Lauren

 

The Anti-Cake Walk

I am sick with a sinus infection. I can tell because the space just above my eyes burns whenever I press my fingers into the sockets, and because my teeth hurt. I've seen enough x-rays of my mouth to know that my sinus cavities hang low over my molars, so when they swell they press on the roots. As you can imagine, it is very uncomfortable. I think I also have a fever, because my body seems unable to adjust appropriately to the temperature. Also, I am the queen of rolling chills. Today in class, which I had to go to because missing Constitutional Law would be a critical error on my part, I watched while they rolled up and down my legs. It would've been interesting if I weren't so miserable. Normally I am incredibly good at predicting when I'm getting ill and how to prevent it. It is a gift--I can wake up and say it's coming.  I'm good at reading my body, knowing when things are clicking along fine, and when something has thrown a wrench in its usual mechanics. But this beautiful weather made me overly optimistic, and I ignored all the little warning signs.  I had a headache and a tickle in my throat yesterday, but I couldn't bear to be inside so I went and played a little tennis (more on that later) and went for a run in the park. It was, in a word, glorious. The day was perfect. But now I am paying the price. All I can do is lay in my bed perfectly still, while a horrible ache settles into my joints. I know it's not a normal sore because it hovers just beyond where I can push it out with my impatient hands. It remains in a stubborn sit in my ankles, in my calves, into the knees and then my hips. My shoulders all day have been protesting against nothing, which I find infinitely frustrating. I like to deserve my pain. If I'm going to be sore and bone tired, exhausted to the point of not being able to move, I want to have earned it.

Today though my body is a heavy burden to my brain, and all I can do is close my eyes and reflect on how lucky I am to have illness be the outlier in the status of my being. At least it's only every once in awhile that I get sick, although I have been known to come down with some legendary illnesses. Once I had pneumonia in Yellowstone Park--I hiked the majority of the park on about half a lung. While camping. Impressive, no? Once I came down with a bad case of e.coli while in Spain and spent a horrific two days in a confusingly modern hotel--I'll spare you the unpleasant details of that one. I spent my first few weeks of college with swine flu, totally unable to breathe in the humidity here. I got a cough when I was a sophomore that to this day is still known among my friends as "the bear cough". But! All in all, I always recover. As I'm sure I will from this one too, though it better be quick. Nobody has time for this. Especially me. I have a flight to San Francisco in t-minus 58 hours (but who's counting?) that I will not miss. Not for anything, not for anyone. Get me to those golden gates! But that's a story for a different day.

xoxo, Lauren

Lucky

While we're on the subject of questionable saints, I think it's only fair to take a good hard look at Saint Patrick. Because really, what's his deal? How does one become the Patron Saint of green beer? A little suspicious if you ask me, but hey. Can't judge a book by it's cover. As it turns out, Saint Patrick may not be a total sham. I did a little research--actually I did a lot of research, mostly because this hungry brain doesn't know when to say when, so I ended up reading about the history of Ireland for roughly 6 hours and missed my bedtime by 3. I actually started writing this post on Saint Patrick's Day proper, but then the history debacle happened, and then yesterday in my British Literature class we started reading Yeats, so that just heightened the Ireland mania that's been going on in my life for the last four days.

Let me begin at the beginning--this doesn't actually start with Saint Patrick, although I'll get there because he is a man (Saint?) that deserves all of our respect. On Saturday, New Orleans celebrated Saint Patty's with a parade, as New Orleans is wont to do, and naturally we felt the pull in our blood to the raucous party that is a parade, so we went. I've never actually been to this parade before, so initially I was a little overwhelmed. There was a lot of green, and people kept throwing cabbages. Like whole heads of cabbage into the crowds. Riddle me that. It's a weird tradition, but I guess since you're supposed to eat cabbage on Saint Patrick's Day, the Irish Association of New Orleans helps you out. It might sound like a colossal waste of groceries, but people actually for the most part keep them. Which seems a little questionable to me, but! Resourcefulness is a virtue. I also saw someone get handed an enormous carrot. A really, really big carrot. That may have just been an anomaly, now that I think about it, but still. Apparently there is a very loud and proud Irish community in our fair city, which doesn't surprise me. I've been told where there is alcohol, there are Irish people, and in my experience thus far that has been true. The spirits were flowing, let me tell you. We wandered at one point into the Irish Channel, which is the historic neighborhood of those fine folk, and there wasn't a sober person for miles around.

I know because we actually walked like two miles to get to the parade from where we parked the car.  I drove and we all got confused about where we were so we just parked and started following all the people dressed in green walking along, all headed in the same direction. It worked out pretty well, because it was a beautiful, beautiful New Orleans spring day (which is roughly the equivalent of a Portland summer day...sorry about it) and because we strolled along Magazine Street, which is lovely and shaded by live Oaks, and where many people walk their dogs and establish upscale boutiques. Also, one of my strengths is knowing how to reward myself for hard work, so along the way I bought a pair of shoes and a lemon meringue tartlette. In the words of Allen Ginsberg, go on, you deserve it.

Then, after participating in the time honored tradition of actually kissing Irishmen (stop your imagination right there, they were some fine gentleman in kilts--perhaps Scottish? Can't be sure--and it was on the cheek), we wandered on home. Which was when I discovered the sunburn I developed on my shoulders, which was a damper on the day, I'll admit. One time I heard someone say there are only two things in life I hate, sunburns and hangovers. And I'm inclined to agree.

So that was the end of that day's shamrock-induced mania, but the fun continued on Sunday when I went on my epic search of all that Saint Patrick really was. Unlike Saint Valentine, who we all know I consider a very suspicious character, there is proof Saint Patrick existed. They have letters!!

Sidenote: This is one of the reasons I feel compelled to hand write correspondence. Not necessarily because I think someday I may be Sainted and they'll need my letters to prove I was here, but because if the government ever turned off the internet (it is at least potentially possible, my boss at Tech once went on an extremely long rant about the keys to the internet and all the ways everything could come to a screeching halt so now I think about that sometimes...it would stick with you too) I would like the world to know I was here and I could put pen to paper at least moderately well. That's my legacy at this point. Someday I hope to expand on that, but, alas, I have made no other lasting impact and children are just not in the playbook yet so here we are. Letters.

But I digress. Saint Patrick left at least two letters, and as it turns out, he brought Christianity to Ireland, which I guess those heathens were grateful for. Also, he apparently was initially first brought to the country as a slave and was made to herd sheep? This I'm raising an eyebrow at, because really? Slave sheepherder? I'm not so sure. But anyway, that was his job, and after he escaped he felt compelled by Christ to go back and spread the good word. So there you have it.

Also, he gets a point in the win column in my book no matter what, because he apparently was the man who rid Ireland of all snakes.

Upon further research, it came to light that snakes never existed in Ireland in the first place, but anyway you slice it, it sounds like paradise to me. I also discovered that before Saint Patrick the Irish practiced a really magical form of paganism, and I love that. I really do. I think it's fascinating and so special, and now all I want to do is go to Ireland and soak up all that pre-Patrick mystery. And I want to see the Book of Kells, because I saw it online on their website (check it out it's really cool) but I just feel like it would be extra cool in person.

Then, like I mentioned earlier, we are studying Keats. And that makes me want to go to Ireland too. I like Keats. He was a little crazy but he had some real ringing phrases, and he was with me on the loving the spirit world of old Ireland. Well why not. So now all I need is a good trip to satisfy this itch, which is why I have spent a long time considering how I will wrangle myself into a trip to Dublin.

Until, that is, I finish On the Road for my other class, and then I'll just want to tour the country in search of an authentic experience. Or another holiday happens upon us. Either way, I'm itching to go.

xoxo, Lauren