One of the criticisms I’ve gotten about my blog is that it is too structured, too formal, and not “blog-like”. Even though I write almost weekly, I never fully commit to a stream of consciousness–it’s too free for me. I start organizing my thoughts into themes and genres (often accompanied by appropriate music) even before they hit the page. If they hit the page. Yet whenever I posted something without thinking too much, it was better received by my (small but loyal) group of readers. I’ve made a resolution this trimester to blog regularly, and not think too much about what I will say. This is hard for me, I enjoy preparation and structure. I can also be too blunt and too honest–stupidly so. I am not saying this a backhanded disguised-as-an-insult-but-really-is-a-compliment. I really need to learn how to be smarter about when I say what, and to whom, and so on. So I guess this is where I’ll start.
Recently I was talking to a close friend about how another, relatively close friend had let me down. As one does when talking to one’s girlfriend, I was expressive and animated and because this was the first time I had even vocalized the issues, I let it all out, not realizing there was someone else in our company. Who, inevitably, and through all fault of my own, told on me. I felt, and still feel terrible, not intending at all to spread ill-will. In retrospect, I am glad I learned my lesson at a (relatively) low cost. My lesson, you ask? Stfu.
I am in Milwaukee for this trimester. No, I am not pregnant, that’s just how my program is organized, split into three assignments per year. “Isn’t it called a semester?” someone snarked this past HR (home return… please forgive all the acronyms, I can’t seem to shake them off), not understanding the basic concept of prefixes. My first was in Boston, and I didn’t really see Boston, not really, didn’t see the Freedom Trail, or Matt, or Ben, or Mindy Kaling. I did spend my Saturdays wandering around Newbury Street and the big green park, but that’s pretty much it. I have family in New Jersey (like every Pakistani you’ll meet) so the East Coast/NY area isn’t super unfamiliar to me. But the Midwest was, once upon a time anyway: home. And I’m back after four and a half years. That’s a long time. I am amazed at how much of Iowa I had forgotten about, or at least let it slip to the back of my mind and just how much it is rushing back now.
Firstly- the air. I haven’t seen much of the world, but never have I breathed air as fresh and crisp as Iowan air. When I had finally adjusted to living in Iowa City, it was the single thing I would miss the most when I was in Dubai, convinced the freshness of the air could solve depression, could solve anything. I took one deep inhale on my first walk from one office building to another, the path covered in the first of the yellow fall leaves, and it just felt so good. So familiar.
My apartment reminds me of Iowa too. It’s strange, the fixtures are the same. The light switches, the door handles, even the carpet. My bathroom looks exactly the same, it’s like a freaking time machine.
I might go back one of these days but a part of me keeps putting it off. Partly because I am tired and it is a four hour drive. And partly because I am always slightly nervous to go see what used to be home but isn’t anymore. You know, like Dorothy, you can’t go home again, etc. etc. I’ve only gone back once since graduation and it was a weird trip. It was the dead of winter first of all, February in Iowa, not so great. It was also a weird mix of intense emotions, old relationships/friendships coming up, fizzling, and so on. It’s different now. So much time has passed I bear almost no recollection of my memories anymore, except in random, tiny bursts. Those are the most jarring. I don’t know what is more painful: having painful memories or forgetting them altogether and then it’s almost like you haven’t lived them at all. The latter is probably the greatest insecurity of any writer, or why we write, it’s our unhealthy obsession with preservation. When I was a child I had a panic attack (I was an anxious, hyper child) in which I thought that every memory that left my head was a chunk of time of my life that I had lost forever. To combat this terrifying crisis (too terrifying for a ten year old), I would painstakingly write down the events of my day onto pale pink post-it notes, in bullet-form, under the date. I learned something strange from this exercise: writing down the events in such a way didn’t do much to preserve the memory at all, in fact, I seemed to become even more disconnected from that day once it was recorded in such a robotic manner:
April 15 2001
-Went horse riding
-Ate Chicken and Chawal For Dinner
-Fought and then made up with my sister
-Finished all my HW
And with this realization came the end of my bizarre obsession. Maybe this is why I write so carefully, not thinking that I’ll ever derive any connection from a recollection of mundane details of my life. I find mundane details of other people’s lives endlessly fascinating, and am especially keen to read about famous minds who journalled obsessively, and fancy myself as someone who will built archives of my journals one day. I am not even close, because I am irregular and neurotic. And scared.
I have been acting like my mother lately, replicating her behavior in our house in my apartment – cooking, baking and cleaning. But absent are the steady stream of visitors, the arguments over AC temperatures and TV volumes, the frustration over too many trips to the grocery store, the rush to the night prayers in Ramadan, the fighting to stay at home and watch movies during the night prayers in Ramadan. The absence is heavy, and I wonder how long and how hard we will have to work to create what our parents created so effortlessly.
And for all the independence and personal space we craved (I am kind of late to the game in growing up, but I think that’s pretty obvious), nothing seems so exciting anymore. The TV remote control isn’t as exciting if no one wants to fight me for it. The personal space is just too much, it’s everywhere, so much so that I am not even that comfortable with my own person. I am in the constant conflict of an ambivert: I miss people when I am on my own but make no effort to meet them (and sometimes even avoid them) because a part of me just needs to be alone and finds the idea of socializing incredibly draining.
It’s a cliche, but you have to travel far to figure out where you belong. Giants In The Sky from Into the Woods always sparks such feelings (don’t judge me- I really like musicals):
The roof, the house and the world you never thought to explore.
And you think of all of the things you’ve seen,
And you wish that you could live in between,
And you’re back again,
Only different than before,
After the sky
Powerful stuff, right? Jack, the Giantess and some prettyyy hardcore Psych 101 happening right here. I wish I could live in between, too, and the sky does change you even if it is in subtle ways.
The point is… well, there is no point. This wasn’t a post about anything at all, with no preceding thoughts, no afterthoughts, just the thoughts themselves as they came, free-flowing and unedited. Much like life itself? I guess. I need to stop trying to make an analogy here. That would defeat the purpose, which is to have no purpose at all.
And because I quoted Shakespeare just because I felt like, and because I can feel the onset of winter coming, here are a few more lines from our favorite Shakespearean Prince:
“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”