It’s going to be alright

For young love that’s not so young anymore.

And for my 26th birthday.

We used to write 7 poems a day about falling in love. Now we can hardly form the thought. Our words used to spill out of us flooded, overflowing. Now we have grown comfortable with silence and when we speak it comes with a sob or two. We used to revel in the loneliness of the empty space next to us. Now we can’t remember what it felt like to not know how it felt.

We really don’t know what we’re doing anymore. But did we ever? I think some of us did. Some us found what we wanted or what we thought we wanted and then settled down with it just like we were taught to do. But even those of us whose lives came together are still waiting for our lives to come together.

And so here we are in our late-twenties, late for everything, late for our own lives. Or at least late for the lives we planned for ourselves at 16. Because even if it looks just like we dreamed it would, it doesn’t feel that way. No, it feels raw. It feels too realistic. It feels terrifying and boring and too much and not enough.

We waited so long for what, we don’t know. We waited for anything at all, for anyone who would listen. We waited for the timing to be right. We waited for a sign. But the timing is never right. Not really. And signs are not for us. Signs are for those who believe in fate and we know better than that. So we pick up and move trusting our own feet to do the work for us.

We are so tired, but there is so much more to do on this earth. So look back, but just for a moment. Look at all those adventures, flip through the snapshots of pain, reflect on the goodbyes and the change they brought. And then look forward. Remember that your earth shattering heartbreak and your sweetest love have the same name. Trust in your heart. Trust in your hands.

We are not as young, but we are still young. We know less now than we did, but that makes us so much more open to learning from the world. We love more carefully than before, but that makes our love all the more precious. Our lives are built from a scattered collection of things we picked up along the way. But we have built lives that are worth living, and isn’t that it? Isn’t that so much more than enough? We are enough. Look at all the good we’ve done. Look at all we still can do.

33329793541_43da0be465_k

 

Advertisements

A Brief Note on Grief

I don’t do grief well. Today I started crying in a coffee shop. The trigger? I couldn’t find the articles I needed to read for a class. And suddenly it is everything in the whole world that just feels so so hard, and the thought of never again getting a hug from one my dearest mentors and friends. Libby died on Tuesday and the funeral was Saturday and today is Sunday, September 11, which is significant but not significant, and I am in New York City trying to do my homework. I was told once that if I feel like crying but am in a place where I really should not be crying that I should focus on concrete facts. Fact: I am drinking black coffee. Fact: 2,996 people died on September 11. Fact: she gave the best hugs.

Have you ever had the experience where something bad happens but you can’t deal with it at the moment so you shove it down down down with the knowledge that it will inevitably catch up to you? And then here I am crying in a public place. Fact: my dress is grey. Fact: I live in Manhattan. Fact: she was someone who was impossible to keep secrets from.

I cant stop thinking about being seventeen. I was so dramatic and optimistic and hopeless and driven. I am still all of those things. I’m thinking about the way the living room carpet felt. I’m thinking about gingerbread houses. I’m thinking about that time I dreamed of my house burning down. I’m thinking about Wednesday nights and wishing it was Wednesday night eight years ago or Wednesday night eight years from now. There are too many memories, too many memories, and I miss everything. Fact: I’m crying again. Fact: people die. Fact: she called out all of the best things in me.

Grief feels so vague but so specific. There are no words except for every single word that races through my mind all at one time. Sometime soon I’ll have real words to put down and I’ll write some beautiful essay that says everything I want to say. But right now I don’t know what I want to say except, why? except, because. Right now I can’t write in the past tense. Right now I am so tired. Fact: I’ll find the articles I need to read for class. Fact: the weather is good in New York today. Fact: she loves us so much.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Write about nothing

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset
Suhareke, Kosovo

I have so much to say and nothing to say and I don’t know what my life is. But I’m 25 and isn’t that exactly right? I like to write on here because I like to write, and because I like to think that maybe there’s someone who reads this who feels just like me. And so this is a post about nothing really amazing except for a few feelings (except that I think feelings are amazing). But just to sum up: for the last few months, I haven’t really felt like writing. I think that’s because I’ve had too many things to write about and just thinking about it feels overwhelming.

Here is a list of the things I have done since I last wrote:

-traveled to Turkey

-visited a refugee camp on the Macedonian/Serbian border

-hosted my mom and sister in Kosovo

-helped run a summer camp with my NGO

-packed up my entire apartment/life in Kosovo

-said goodbye to a million places and people and things

-traveled to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy with my sister, brother, and sis-in-law

-traveled to Jordan

-returned to America

-said hello to all my friends and family

-unpacked all my stuff

-watched my best friend get married

-packed all my stuff

-moved to New York City

4C266818-1ACA-4B6A-B85B-12664709C87A
Ajloun, Jordan
IMG_0085
Atlanta, GA

 

Yeah. I’m not really sure how to sum all that up in words. I have so many feelings about everything that’s happened in the last few months and all those unspoken moments in between. There’s a fullness and an emptiness. It’s heartbreaking and wonderful. I feel simultaneously loved and alone. I’ve been curled up in the fetal position on the floor of my childhood bedroom and I’ve been dancing with my favorite people at my best friend’s wedding. There’s so much room inside the human heart.

All of that leaves me pretty unsure. Unsure about how I feel, unsure about my life, unsure about what to write in this moment at this coffee shop in NYC. I could write about what it’s like to pack up my life in a few suitcases. I could write about returning to places I’ve loved deeply. I could write about the new places I’ve been. I could write about falling in love with people, places, moments and watching my friends fall in love with people, places, moments. I could write about how excited I am about my life. I could write about how scared I am about my life. I could write about sitting on my windowsill in my new home in my new life in New York City. But I don’t think I’ve really leaned into any of that yet. I’m not quite ready to feel the whole weight of it. So for now I’m just going to say that I’m here, feeling what I feel, letting myself be blown by every breeze that passes through. My feet will touch the ground soon, I think. And then I will sit down and write something that makes sense. But until then I will just take deep breaths and go on walks in Central Park and try to remember all the good things that have come and let that heal me from all the bad. There’s so much room inside the human heart.

 

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
NYC

These Days

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

This past fall was the one year marker of my time here in Kosovo. A whole year. That seems tiny and huge at the same time. “What is my life?” I say this at least three times a day and it’s not always said with excitement or hope.

Living in Europe can be really exciting, and I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve been able to have because of living here. But as with anything in life, the novelty eventually wears off and the dust settles and what is left is the simplicity (and monotony) of the day to day. I knew that when this time came, I would need simple rhythms that gave me space, community, and boundaries so that I could be creative and inspired and empowered.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

For me personally, this has looked like creating time to write at all costs, even if I have to say no to other things on occasion. I’ve committed and invested my time in beautiful and encouraging people both here in Kosovo and back home. I focus a lot of my attention on being mindful and present as I go through my day by meditating, setting reminders on my phone, and stopping to simply take a deep breath every once and a while. These are just the tangible things, but they have proved to be so crucial to my well-being.

Why am I telling you this? Well I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is that makes up a life. What is at the root of it? Experiences, emotions, people, places, careers, the snapshots we share and the stories we tell, all of those things are part of it for sure. But what is so obvious to me now is that what life is made of are those really simple rhythms that we create within ourselves and our communities. It’s the moment in the morning where I sit with my cup of coffee and read a couple of stories out of a flash fiction anthology. It’s sitting in the office waiting for a student to show up and searching the internet for scholarships for Kosovar exchange students. It’s calling my sister right before she has to go to work or excitedly emailing with my best friend about a creative collaboration we are working on. Listening to podcasts while I do the dishes, spending at least an hour everyday writing, planning adventures for my spring break, making tacos simply because it’s Tuesday. That’s my life. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it, and a lot of times I’m totally indifferent towards it. And I’m guessing you feel all of that about your life too.

IMG_2564.JPG

I live in Europe and someone might live on a mountain top in Nepal or in the center of New York City or in a redbrick house in suburban Georgia, but I really doubt that is at the root of what any of our lives are. A trip that I take to Slovakia or Italy or Florida is not what makes up my life. Whether or not I get a Master’s degree or published in the New Yorker is not what will give my life substance. What makes my life completely worth living is the space I create for inspiration and community. It’s the creativity and curiosity I cultivate within myself and the world around me. It’s the everyday reminders of what it means to be alive.

I think I write all of this because in my life here in this tiny Eastern European country, I often feel totally weird and isolated and out of place both with the people here and the people back home. But that’s part of the deal you make when you decide to step out into unknown territory. I guess I am just needing to remind myself, by reminding you, that at the end of the day, each one of us is left with the rhythms we’ve made and the space we’ve created. I hope that it’s a beautiful space. I hope those rhythms match the beat of your heart. I hope that even with all the moments that leave you feeling broken or the ones that simply slip by unnoticed, that there are also moments that inspire you and leave you in awe of the world and your life in it. It’s nice to remember that we aren’t so different. We all feel weird and crazy and curious and invincible and fragile, and we are all here, today. Sometimes (often times) I just need to remember that.

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

Dear California,

I woke up this morning with California on my mind, so naturally, I wrote it a letter.

 

Dear California,

You are magic. I bet all the girls tell you that. But it’s true, and I mean it.

I’ve been thinking about the first time I ever saw your Sequoias. I was only eleven or twelve, and it is one of the only things I remember about being that age. I was a small child and there was so much snow that I thought I would disappear into it. But that was nothing compared to how small I felt standing next to the trees. They were impossible, and yet I was looking right at them.

I think one of my favorite things about you is your transience, or my ability to be transient while I’m with you. I can have my pick of landscapes: desert, city, sandy beach, rocky beach, mountains, forests. You have all of it. You’re dusty and massive, quiet and dreamy, minimal and contrasting. I welcome every change of your landscape. It is an echo of the ever-changing nature of my own heart. We are both fickle in our own ways.

10382881_10202685120865599_6569854868351807216_n

When I was in university, I would sometimes tell people, “I’m from California.” A lie, of course. A nice thing to pretend, at least. At 22, I rented a car and drove up highway 1 in pursuit of clarity and romance. I don’t remember if I got either of those things, but I do remember that I pulled over every fifteen minutes just so I could run to the sea shore and stick my toes in the water.

The last time I was with you, I was heartbroken in my own small way. I stayed with you for a while and let your magic heal me just a little bit. There I was, traveling up highway 1 again, farther this time and not alone. With every turn there was something breathtaking. At times like that you have to be careful and make sure your heart’s still beating. We came to a cold, rocky beach near your northern border and I listened to the ocean flow through me. I explored caves and cliffs. I climbed up and down every rock that I could. And I discovered your redwood forests for the first time. I think you might be hiding fairies in there.

10451063_10202723950676320_1502035797705003866_n

It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen you. I don’t think about you every day, though maybe I should. But I think about you when it matters, like right now, on a cloudy Thursday. And I think about how we are both living lives of movement, and even with all the dust that shakes up, it’s a beautiful thing.

 

Hope to see you soon,

-ee

 

10544310_10202723950236309_5164569708770249141_n

Paris

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Ah Paris. You really won me over.

I’m going to start by saying something that will make you roll your eyes so hard and think that you cannot relate to me at all: I have never wanted to go to Paris. The only reason I decided to go was because it was on my way home and I wanted to check it off “the list.”

Let me explain.

“Paris is always a good idea,” said Audrey Hepburn, to which I would respond, “sure if you’re thin, rich, white, and own a lot of black clothing.” The movie Midnight in Paris is wonderful, but I couldn’t help but watch it and think how if Owen Wilson’s character was a woman, it would be a much different movie. Think less quiet strolls among twinkling street lamps, and more like Morroccan dudes yelling at you as you power walk to your destination with your hood on and head down.

I’m also just not a huge Ernest Hemingway fan, and he goes around claiming Paris is a “moveable feast.”

I know that you can apply some version of these anecdotes to any number of cities, but I had fastened them all onto Paris; and honestly, I just wasn’t in the mood.

For all of that, I must apologize.

As I walked out of Nord railway Station at 9 am, I was wonderstruck (to borrow the T Swift term). I spent 24 hours wandering through Paris, and in my short time there I found it to be beautiful and diverse and complex.

It felt like art and life, the intersection of the two.

I stayed in Montmartre at Vintage Hostel, which was totally lovely and perfect. It was just a five minute walk from Sacre Coeur so I walked up there first thing to see the view of Paris.

IMG_2022-3

I walked from there down to the Seine to see the Notre Dame Cathedral and the [outside of] the Louvre. I bought bread and cheese and sat in the sun by the river to eat. Then I walked along to the river till I reached the Eiffel tower.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and the point of life.” Bold claim, Thomas Jefferson, but I get it. Paris is so many things.

I took the metro back up to Montemartre and went back to the Sacre Coeur to see the view of Paris at night. I bought a crepe on my way back to the hostel and ate it under a twinkling street lamp (and a good distance away from the yelling Moroccan men). It felt like life and it felt like fairytales. And I think that’s what made Paris beautiful to me. It’s magic, and it’s real.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

“The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant.” -T.S. Eliot

New Years + London

IMG_1811

I rang in the new year on top of Primrose Hill in London, England, shivering.

This year has been all over the map (see what I did there?)

I traveled to 10 countries, 4 of them brand new to me.

I wrote nearly 20 poems and 6 short stories.

I read 13 books (which is pathetic, my goal for 2016 is 30).

I cried a lot.

I stood on dozens of mountain tops.

I got my third tattoo.

I started calling myself a writer instead of a “writer.”

I let myself have some regrets.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

This was my 8th or 9th time in London (I’ve honestly lost count). It was the least magical, the most tangible. I got really sick my third day there and spent the rest of the trip coughing, sneezing, achy. I walked feverishly through oddly familiar streets.

I was with my sister. The last time we were in London together was 10 years ago. Then, London was sparkly dream. Now it was grey and hard. I woke up, I guess.

I love London. I visited 4 times just in the last year and a half. But each time it lost a bit of it’s magic, sort of like Christmas does as you get older. This last time was hard because of all the leaving. I spent the whole two weeks thinking about saying goodbye, actually saying goodbye, and wishing I hadn’t just said goodbye. This time around, London felt like people I miss. It felt like moments I wish I could have back or that I wish never happened.

Yet, it’s a new year, and even though I know calendars are arbitrary, it stills makes me feel hopeful and new. I think I’ve worn London out for now. Or London has worn me out. 2015 has worn me out.

My word for last year was grace. I knew that I would need to extend grace to the culture I had entered, the people I was around, and the place I now lived. But more than that, I knew I would need to give grace to myself, because I was trying something totally new, that I was completely unsure about, and I would mess up. One of the ways I messed up was by mistaking grace for passivity. Extending grace does not mean being a pushover. It doesn’t mean letting people hurt you. It doesn’t mean making excuses for others or excuses yourself.

So. In 2016 my word is brave. It feels sort of cliché to choose that word. People throw it at me a lot, simply because I’m girl wandering the world alone and that’s “a brave thing to do.” But what does it actually look like for me to be brave in my day to day? What would it mean if I was brave in my relationships? In my job? In my art? That’s what I want to find out.

I left London alone by train, heading to somewhere I had never been before: Paris. It was 5 am and I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and sad. A few minutes after the train crossed into France, the sun rose, and I made a choice. I chose to feel new. I chose to shake off the heavy things I had been holding onto. The fear and failures, heartbreaks and rejections. And I chose to look (bravely) towards something new. It’s a choice I will have to make every day. But I am so sure this is a year that will end somewhere different than it started.

Happy brave new year.

-Elizabeth-

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset