Thursday, November 17, 2011

2 1/2 Months Later

I think what will ultimately push me out of this country is the culture's obsession with cleanliness. I know some of you are laughing while reading this because you know me well enough to really imagine me struggling with this. For those of you who may not know me as well, you should know that it is not in my nature to be clean. I have honed disorganization to an art form, nay, a philosophy even. Some (Germans) may think I have just developed bad habits, which may be partially true. But I really don't think I have enough room in my brain and in my heart to care about the state of my room. With so much to see in the world, so many people to meet, so many unknown and unexpected things to do, how could anyone have the time or patience to put away one's clothes properly? They're on the floor, they're not complaining and I obviously don't care. I know where they are, I can pick things out easily. I was approached by Inga, the mother of the family I work for, recently and she informed me that the woman who comes to clean the house three times a week has adamantly refused to clean my bathroom because of its unacceptable state of neglect. First of all, I would prefer she doesn't go in my bathroom at all, let alone take the time to clean it. Secondly, if my Mom went into my bathroom and saw its state as it is, knowing that I have been the only one taking care of it, she would cry. Weep. With pride. Because this bathroom looks pretty darn good in my opinion. I guess there are a couple hairs in the sink and I left my razor and soap in the shower. A couple of weeks ago this annoying interaction with what I consider this culture's unhealthy perspective on organization would probably have sent me to my room seething with contempt for these strange people and researching the cheapest airline tickets to Boston to kick-start my fantasy of catching the earliest flight back to America. But now I find it laughable. I no longer take these things personally because I'm no longer ashamed of them. I just have to think of Rita (the cleaner) being introduced to my friends at 27 Gordon Street in Allston while they were still living there. I love Rita, she is a good woman who does a great job, but I think I love the expression I imagine she would have on her face at being confronted with such mess and chaos even more.

My feelings about... well, everything... have been out of control lately. Moreso than I can ever recall. In one moment I will feel content, happy to let my life run its course naturally and end up where I end up. The next moment I'm filled with anger and loneliness and feel like if I can't be home with my family and friends I will surely cease to exist. But I realized recently, with the help of a novel titled Life of Pi , that where I am is no different to where I have been or anywhere that I may go in the future. True, I'm an ocean away from everyone and everything I love most, there's an hour less sunlight here, and everyone around me speaks a language I don't understand. But the beauty I have seen in America as sunlight filters through God's perfect green of living things, or the loveliness of being approached by a friendly dog and experiencing his perfect innocence, or even looking a stranger in the eyes and smiling at them and hoping that they are having a good day are all things that exist everywhere as long as you love life. And once you realize this happiness, love, beauty, and contentment crash into your mind, heart, and soul like water that has been building up behind a fortified dam and has been waiting to be released for centuries. I have known the whole time that my experience here will depend only on my perspective, but it is one thing to know something and another to truly understand it.

But like I said, the cleanliness thing really gets to me. Its not just about my personality, though I think that that discrepancy will be enough to bring me home happily and with much anticipation, but it relates to the overall mentality of the culture. Another example is the crosswalk. In every city I've been in (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, D.C., Los Angeles, New Orleans, Austin, Paris, etc.) pedestrians feel that as long as there is very clearly no traffic to endanger themselves they will cross the street, regardless of what the little light on the other side of the street says. Not here. If that little red man is standing with his handless arms at his sides and his feetless legs immobile over the crosswalk, you can bet that the German next to you isn't even considering looking to see if there is a car in the vicinity at all. This is what bothers me so much about the mentality here: if there is a rule, you follow it. There's no reason to ask why because rules are what keep everything together and what allows everyone to be content, safe, and happy. Of course it is wonderful that there is little crime and almost no poverty, but it comes at the expense of what I consider to be a sedated culture, one that does not push its people to question and challenge the structure of their reality because they're just so darn comfortable. Though its frustrating for me to think about, I am so glad I am experiencing this. Before I left, I considered America to be a sad, strange, anxious, dark place. I still think of America as all of these things, but after experiencing the opposite, I have to say that I prefer the chaos of the discontented to the torpor of the contented.

Right now, I feel good. My new found perspective is bringing me a lot of self-sufficient and natural happiness, and I no longer feel a desperate need to go home. I'm excited to discover what the next step is, but don't want to rush into it. Time goes by very quickly here, and I'm excited for the day when I realize that soon I will be returning home. But for now, I think I'll be okay just where I am.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Not an actual blog, sorry

I know I promised a rant-blog, but I don't really care about that anymore. I've actually been writing quite a bit lately, but its all just words and images that have been bubbling and boiling in my head for a long time and finally have the room to spill out on the page. This is the most recent.

The room was very dark

The boy was fast asleep

He can’t be dreaming, he gave it up

It doesn’t interest him anymore

Still as a log

Floating on a sedated river

Unknowingly dreading the sunshine moments


said a voice

right above his young, stoic face

“I’ve come back for you”

The boy’s eyes flew open

A flock of frightened birds

Taking off into the sky

Without maps or compasses

Which they leave below

Air fell like water into his lungs

Crashing into the rocks,

the Wreckage of his heart.

The muscles of his throat

Dancers in the wings

Sprang into action, warming at an instant

Ready to scream

But out came a tumbling laugh

A twinkling giggle of relief

For the bright yellow eyes that glowed above him

Were the most familiar thing in the room,

Everything else formed into a sad blur

And he waved them away with a tired hand

Every time his dusty eyes summoned the energy

To perceive them.

Joyful, intoxicated fairies

Black out drunk from weeks of forgetting

Rolled out of their beds

And tumbled down his cheeks

Singing and laughing

Meeting in their secret hiding place

At the corners of his lips

(A place I’ve been to once

And have been dreaming about ever since)

“I remember you”

said the boy

“You made me cry as a child

When you visited me in my dreams

I could never forget those eyes

I thought I would never grow up

And you would haunt me forever”

The eyes above him chuckled

Blowing out a thick mist

Of cigarette fog

With a practiced motion

The dull yellow light

Lit up the boy’s face

In a peculiar way

Tangles of wrinkles

Rivers of sadness

Death and decay

Flowed through his beautiful skin

And his eyes looked like lost moons

Floating through an empty galaxy

Looking for a planet to adore

“I’m a hostage”

said the boy

to the Monster

“Of a Dirty Queen

She keeps me in this rat-infested cage

With endless mazes made of concrete

I get lost every night

Until I see the blinking neon lights

Above my room

Where I hide from the thieves

And prostitutes

And drink myself to a lonely sleep.

My only relief is the arms of a gentle woman

Her cage is small and steamy

But it provides some warmth

When the nights are cold.

Once in a while the Queen reveals herself

She slinks out of the shadows,

A homeless man

A bag of trash

She could be the sounds in the sewers

Whispering watery secrets,

She is beautiful, she reeks

She is nothing but filth and lies

But I would give up my soul

To touch her

And when she opens the door

She says I can go whenever I please

But I can’t see what lies beyond

And I’ve forgotten the way home”

The Monster sat back in his chair

And blew out a thoughtful fog

A chimney for the fires of chaos

Just below the surface

The yellow eyes smiled at the boy

They remembered the nights

When they paraded along the streets

Of the boy’s mind as he slept

Setting small fires that now

Were healthy and raging

Turning the withered, dried forests

Of his dreams

Once so lush and green

Into smoldering dust.

He looked at his child

With tear stains on his face

A love so near to hate

That it almost burst through his skin

“My dear child”

his voice came out like gravel and metal

“I am your only friend

In this stinking, icy cage

Only I have seen your face

Without wrinkle or the telling signs

Of stolen innocence

Stick with me

And I’ll show you the way out


Keep me well-fed

And never let me grow cold

And I will never leave you

Together we’ll find our Home”

He threw back the blankets

And crawled into the bed next to his favorite


The boy cried out

The feet of his only friend

Were cold as eyes

But he let the Monster encircle him

With strong, tree-trunk arms

He slept as he wept

Not dreaming of the green things

Only of fire

And concrete

*A note to this boy

Songs from across the sea call to me now

While you were chasing the phantoms

And throwing yourself upon any dream

That floated by

You grew blind to my eyes

And deaf to my touch

Now as I rock and sway in the bowels of this ship

Without even a window to know the time of day

Or a compass to know my direction

I feel your salty tears

Rise up from below the creaking floor

From the sympathetic ocean

Our sadness is the same

Under your bed

That the Monster has claimed

That the Queen has provided

That your woman enjoys

Is a bright, shining sword

And a suit of armor

Given to you by the King

Of your forgotten life

For wrestling the demons

That plagued the forest

And kept the children inside

While the flowers danced alone

In the sun

And the trees called their names

Driving them mad

A hero from the old times

The knight of your old songs

A treasure of a nation

Ripe with apple trees

And singing maids

Build up your strength

Find your courage

Look under your bed

And take up the arms

Wage the wars, or they will be waged

Against you

Break down the prison gates

And murder the Queen

The one that you love

And follow me into the Sea

Thursday, September 8, 2011

So this is Germany

My third day in Germany is already coming to an end. The time has been going by so quickly, I've been busy and active from the moment I stepped off the plane in Düsseldorf. The trip over was easy and mostly uneventful, even though I stayed awake for the entire trip.

Arriving in Düsseldorf was absolutely surreal... this whole experience feels very strange to be doing on my own. This is the first time I've embarked on something so grand on my own. It feels amazing to be somewhere so different and so new, and to be on my own doing something so spectacular, but I can't help but wish I had a friend to share it with. Of course I haven't had much time or opportunities to meet people my own age, so that's part of it. While the family is in Hamburg this weekend for a christening I'm planning on meeting with the family's last au pair, Clare, in Düsseldorf, where she said she'll show me around and introduce me to some people. I'm very excited to meet her and to see Düsseldorf!!

I live in Mönchengladbach, a small town/city about a half hour train ride from Düsseldorf, which I attempted to explore tonight. It was an unsuccessful and fruitless expedition. Inga tried to direct me to an Irish Pub in a part of town called Aldermarket (Oldmarket), and though I did miraculously find the right street and street number it appears it has been turned into a bar/restaurant called "American's" and was, unfortunately, not open for business. There were a few bars open, but they were either too dark and sketchy or too full and overwhelming. It's difficult to walk into a bar when you know that most of the people you encounter probably won't be able to communicate with you. Again, it would be nice to have a friend with whom to brave these challenges.

Besides this failure of a quest for a social experience in Mönchengladbach, I have really enjoyed being here so far. I'm getting along with my family very well, even though I haven't met Daniel, the father, yet. The girls are absolutely lovely and Inga, though she can sometimes be flustered, severe, and strict (a.k.a. German), is very accommodating. I made sure today to keep everything super clean and to be on top of her schedule since yesterday she was a little annoyed with me for not having all the dishes clean after baking cupcakes with the girls and forgetting to put away a game Iuno and I had played together. When she came home from school this afternoon she asked me to make some coffee so she and I could "talk about some things that were on her mind". I was sincerely worried that I had disappointed her again and that she was going to tell me that she wasn't sure I would be right for the job. Instead she gave me a brand new phone and 100 € and we mapped out a weekly schedule together. This woman is totally unpredictable.

It's funny, transitioning from my life in the U.S. to here has not felt very difficult so far. Apart from this evening when I tried to experience life outside the house, I haven't been put into many situations where my lack of German has hindered me. Living with this family hasn't felt too awkward or strange, and it's only my third day of living here. I even overcame jetlag with surprise ease and speed -- I'm already on a normal sleep schedule. The strangest part of all is that I don't feel very homesick yet. I wish I had someone I'm close with to share this experience with, but I'm not aching to be in Boston like I was when I was in L.A.. I do wish I could be in New England to experience the beauty of Autumn, but when I think about it its not painful. I know I'll be back again to experience it next year, most likely. It's also strange that I don't feel strange about not going back to school. I thought I'd be pining for the reliability and structure of the academic setting, but I hardly think about Emerson at all. And when I do, it's always with a sigh of relief that that time is over. I am starting to apply for Graduate school at NYU and CUNY, which makes me feel very excited. It's just weird how easy this has been so far.

So now I'm once again in my lovely room at the top floor of this beautiful home. I hope to start taking a German language course as soon as possible, and I'd also like to find a gym. I don't want to get too fat while I'm here -- though I have been eating very well and very healthily in this house. Inga and Daniel have both mentioned the opportunity of playing for a sports team, so I'm going to look into local basketball leagues I might be able to join. I'd definitely learn some German phrases that way, yah?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The 1st of This Month

I feel like an idiot. I spent a long time figuring out exactly how I wanted the layout of this blog to look: what font best represented me as a person, and what color the text should be to trick the reader into thinking this would be a worthwhile read, and where exactly My Followers should be on the page so they wouldn't feel put out... and even though I kept reminding myself how ridiculous this all was (would David Sedaris care about any of this? Has Eve Ensler ever read or written a "blog"? Would I have enjoyed On The Road more if Jack Kerouac had presented his writing in an aesthetically pleasing, technologically accessible way? No, in fact, I probably wouldn't have given it the time of day) it still felt important to take care of this first, before anything else. I think the actual problem is that I've always been afraid of my writer's self, and I'm constantly trying to bring her out while simultaneously beating her down for being inept, conventional, and generally just too normal to exist. And so if I could spend a lot of time working on the look of my blog then I could a) stall on actually beginning this writing adventure and b) at least be confident in my design choices if I have to be ashamed of my ability to write. I'm already re-reading this and thinking "OH MY GOD SHUT UP". Whatever, I'm sure the only people reading this love me, or at least care about what I'm doing, and are at this point just annoyed that I haven't started talking about anything that's actually going on in my life.

Personally, I find memoirs obnoxious. Admittedly, I have only read a handful, but that's because the voice of the author writing a memoir just sounds self-indulgent to me. The only exception to this was Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso, and I didn't even really take much from that book. The idea of writing about my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opinions in a completely direct format seems... annoying?... to me. I prefer to work hard to understand the thoughts of authors through abstract interpretation of fictional characters and events. Especially if the characters and events have some kind of supernatural, magical, or fantastical element to them, which is why I've recently fallen in love with Toni Morrison, the One God of magical historical realism.

But I'm about to embark on an interesting journey, and I think it's worth recording. I'm terrible with journals and usually just end up using them to draw or jot down playwriting or story ideas. This is also a convenient way to keep my loved ones updated, so you're welcome. And thank you for being a Loved One of mine, I love you too. So what the heck, let's just do this, shall we?

It's September 1st, but I'm not moving back into my lovely Allston apartment to prepare for another academic year at Emerson College. Instead I'm sitting in a room now called The Den, a room that used to be my bedroom, my living space, in my parents' house in New Hampshire, a house that's beginning to feel more like a retreat than anything else. I graduated from Emerson in May and am now just beginning to feel the post-grad sadness. As excited as I was to graduate, to be done with school, to embark on my professional life, I can't help but feel depressed when looking at old photos of Freshman year. Crazy Boston adventures with crazy new friends, exploring the snowy beaches of Wonderland, running rampant and wild on quiet, cozy Beacon Hill, walking up a flight of stairs to an entire floor inhabited by my best friends. I have to keep reminding myself that by the end of my academic career at Emerson I was very sick of academia and the presence of most Emersonians.

And now I'm preparing to do something very crazy - I'm moving to Germany to work as an au pair for a year. Who saw that coming? Besides the psychic I saw in Jaffrey last November... who told me I'd be taking a journey East, to Germany specifically. Who also said I'd feel at home there, I'd find myself there, and do a lot of writing there. Her advice to keep a journal and record my thoughts is definitely one of the reasons I decided to start a blog.

I don't know any German, except for Das Kleine Krokodil (the little crocodile), Ich tertuen Mufasa! (I killed Mufasa!), and other important phrases I picked up from watching German cartoons and Disney movies dubbed in German. I haven't started packing yet. Right now when I think about leaving, I feel calm and ready. Sometimes I feel like my chest is swelling up with air, snow, ice, fire, and boiling water and I think I'm going to explode with anxiety.

I've been thinking about trees a lot. I'm a restless, impatient person, and if I feel unproductive, even for a moment, I go crazy. It's hard for me to let go of control, let things be as they are, and to be content just existing as I am without working to improve myself in some way. Which is why I love trees - they exist just as they are, and always have, without any need to do anything or be anything else. When I am out doing whatever it is I do, things I find important, things I find trivial, the tree I see outside my window will just be there. Growing, slowly. Adapting and changing, slowly, to its environment. While I sleep that tree stands there, in the dark, on its own, in silence. As a kid I used to wonder if trees ever get bored. If I have to hang out around the house for a day I lose my mind, how can trees bear to stand exactly where they are, without ever any hope of leaving, moving, changing? But now, as a soul stumbling into adulthood, I hope I can be more like trees. I want to figure out how to be content with myself just as I am in every moment, no matter where I am or what I'm doing. To be OK with doing nothing, to be OK with not being the most successful, thin, beautiful, intelligent, accomplished person in the room, to be OK with just me. I want to do things that I want to do because I want to do them, not because I think I should. And the things I should do should be things that are good for me, my soul, my dreams, not for my "career" or reputation or status.

So that's what I plan to do as I begin this new chapter - figure out how to embrace adulthood gracefully while simultaneously reviving and nurturing a part of myself that I've neglected, abused, and never really understood in the first place. Leaving my friends and family to move to another country, another continent, for a year to take care of someone else's kids and travel around Europe seems like a good start. Whoever I am will have to make herself known if I'm going to survive this.

P.S. Meet Schnappi!