Transience

Summerdandelions

Dear Keatsway,

I’m in transition. In fact I’ve been living out of suitcases and boxes for the past three months, and I still haven’t found a permanent residence. Everywhere I’ve lived since July has been short term, and in a few short days it will be October (the month that I promised my current flatmate I would definitely be gone). Yet I still don’t know when the magic moment will arrive where I find an apartment in the right location at the right price with just enough amenities and natural lighting that I can see myself calling it home for the next 12 months.

The temporality of my living situation has made it hard to find anything I need, let alone feel settled. A few months ago I was accepted into two graduate schools of choice in the United Kingdom. Weeks ago I received the news (staggered by a few fortnights) that my tuition would be fully covered by either American or Canadian student loans. One month ago I decided to defer (due to lack of cost of living funds). Today I have officially deferred at my second school of choice as well. It feels real now. The dream has been deferred and the reality of the day-to-day in my ordinary job without the comfort of my sanctuary or a place to truly make my own has been unsettling, upsetting, and startling (and dare I say it–depressing).

As a matter of what I deemed to be absolutely necessary at the time (to open up the possibility of studying abroad, I needed to end all rent contracts), I broke my lease in May.  The lease of my apartment that I had loved for three years to do something that I would love more than any possession. Near the end of July I moved out my furniture, although I had physically moved out at the beginning of the month. When an opportunity arouse to house sit in an upscale neighborhood and get paid, I couldn’t turn it down, especially when I needed everything I could get to put in my savings account for England.

A middle aged couple, professors by trade, did research in Berkeley, while I watered plants and watched over their house  (and their cat had it not been put down the day before they left). It was marvelous month that made the reality of my move unbelievable as I moved out of my 670 square feet apartment into a house easily four times the size situated on an acre of land. I stayed in a master bedroom in a king sized bed and I ate breakfast every morning looking out at three different types of roses. I picked fresh tomatoes and herbs from the garden and hosted several garden parties with friends on their back deck. When my father visited, he had a room to himself and dozens of areas to read the books he brought with him: the deck, the sunroom, the study, the dining room…

It was a dream come true while it lasted. Then the harsh reality that nothing was permanent reared its head, as I cleaned the house, made the beds, and took out the laundry and moved into the basement of a friend’s duplex, greeted by the dozens of boxes and furniture parts I had relocated there with my father weeks earlier. Instead of a Pottery Barn master Suite I would face a room littered with about 50 dead and alive bugs in what was clearly not intended to be a bedroom but instead basement storage space.  I was resourceful and called up a few friends to help me set up my temporary bedroom that week, after the room had been sprayed for bugs and thoroughly cleaned.

Now I am settled, my house-mate and I have reached a certain currency in our interactions that is neither too warm or too cold, friendly yet detached. This is not the way either one of us wants to live any longer than we have to.

Image by Carli Jeep from Unsplash

It’s nearing the point in my journey where I feel quite discouraged and disconnected. My dreams loom before me as unattainable and unreal. I can’t handle another year of isolation and displacement at work. Yet this is my reality. I long for the leisurely mornings on the balcony of my old apartment with my own mugs, and cutlery (there is simply not enough room for my dishes and my roommates, so I’ve been using hers since August) looking out onto the world from a place I felt that been molded and shaped by my personality. Now I awaken as a guest who has overstayed her welcome, in an apartment without a balcony and almost no natural lighting. There are four suitcases sprawled across the floor of my bedroom, and my 1970s curtains block windows where bugs creep in land on my blanket. I have visited three potential apartments, and I had two other apartments I meant to see rented out before I could view them. I have called more than twice as many places as have called me back and easily spent every day scrolling through every apartment website in town.

Keatsway, I write here with no answers or revelations, but with the hope that the next time I write it will be from the balcony of my new apartment.

Yours with best wishes (and prayers for patience and fortitude),

Brightstar

P.S. Keatsway maybe this is cheating but I just found this draft today (from September 27) and realized I’d never posted it.  As an update I am now in my 550 square feet apartment (since mid October) with a remodelled balcony that looks out on a hill. I watch the sunrise every morning above this hill as I make breakfast with my own cutlery  and drink hot lemon water out of my own mugs. I am grateful every day to be here in a room of my own.

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Delayed

Dear Keatsway,

I sit in a black leather plushy chair of an oversized waiting room. I am not sure when I’ll be done but I imagine it will be soon. Until then I’ll pass the time writing you a letter.

I’m in a car dealership (for repairs, not car buying), but if I blink I could be back at my gate in O’Hare. Except here there is free coffee–arguably not as good as Starbucks–and there are cars instead of airplanes on display.

Three weeks ago, en route from Toronto, I sat on a leather stool next to a rain splattered window drinking Argo tea, pen and journal in hand, looking out at aircraft carriers. I wished the moment could last forever. Someday soon I hope to be waiting in an airport on my way to see you. I have not, however, always felt this way about delays or waiting itself.

I feel like I am always waiting –to find my next apartment, to pursue my dreams, for the workday to be over, for the weekend to come, and then for the next weekend. Waiting for the answers to my increasingly long list of questions about the meaning of life, and learning to be OK with the space in between. The space where I act out several possibilities to my question, or sit back and wonder what my next move should be.

Waiting in an airport has no clear starting or ending point. You just can’t predict when the delay will happen and you have to be prepared to change plans and be flexible. To remain undeterred by a detour and not waste energy being angry or frustrated. To become creative and spontaneous with your time and your new plan of action.

After a year of plane delays I have finally discovered the secret to not becoming discouraged by them–accepting them completely, and finding a pleasant way to wait it out. Sometimes it’s as simple as staying nourished with healthy food, finding a quiet place to rest, discovering a new perspective, and seizing the opportunity to work on cherished pastimes–like reading or writing. Always ready to pick up everything at a moment’s notice when the plane finally does depart, and practicing patience and fortitude when it doesn’t.

As I put my plans of graduate studies, and living abroad on hold, I am trying to apply the same lesson I learned here. To decide not to waste energy on discouragement or resisting reality. Instead accept it as a necessary part of the process, embody grace and peace, and be inventive and endlessly flexible.

Maybe this delay is reminding me that it’s the journey and not the destination that counts? Keatsway, how do you handle delays?

Yours with best wishes,

Brightstar

Tumeric Tea – A High Five Post

In this post, our newest collaborator Percival shares her HIGH-5 – the 5  things she loves best. 

Messy Hair:Image

In high school I made some bad choices: I count my habit of waking up at 5 AM to flat iron my already strait hair among the worst of them. What makes it so embarrassing is that, with all the effort I put into making my hair look neat and lifeless day in day out, I didn’t even like my hair all that much. On the day my flatiron finally broke from overuse I decided to sleep an extra 30 minutes and accept my messy hair. Since then, my life has improved dramatically. It could be that my flatiron braking coincided with my graduating high school, or that messy/unmanaged hair gives me something in common with Alison Mossheart, or maybe it’s only a matter of 30 extra minutes of sleep. No matter what the actual cause, I believe messy hair to be an agent of good.

Turmeric Tea:

I fell in love with turmeric my first year of art school when I learned how to use it to dye natural fibers a supremely beautiful, vibrant yellow. Besides that, it’s really good for you! This colorful, aromatic spice helps boost your immune system and make sore muscles feel better. Along with adding a little extra to curries, I’ve been enjoying turmeric in tea form, like this: mix ¾ tsp. of honey with ¼ tsp. turmeric, add a pinch of cayenne pepper, a slice of lemon, some hot water and… that’s it! Delicious turmeric tea! I recommend drinking it out of a clear glass for aesthetics.

Tissue Paper:

Color gives me energy and happiness (observe, my love of turmeric), but whenever I try to draw with color I feel incapacitated. For this reason I tend to stick with my trusty graphite pencil set or a ballpoint pen whenever I work on a drawing project. Recently though, I’ve found a way to get around my neurosis and apply color to my drawings: tissue paper. How it works is a make a pattern with the tools I feel comfortable and familiar with: just a regular pencil or pen. Then I add some colorful tissue paper to my composition with a glue stick. That’s it, this is what it looks like:

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It’s a good time, people.

Blank Paper Notebooks:

Just because notebooks without lines are so much less confining than notebooks with lines: you can sketch, make itemized lists, collage: whatever you do with your blank notebook, you can do it without having to think about lines. Line-free notebooks are just better for creativity, okay? Trust me.

Taking a cue from Gorge Perec and paying close attention to your surroundings:Image

Step one—look at An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. The title is long, but it makes for fairly quick and charming read. For Perec, the date is October 18, 1974. The time: 10:30 am, the place: Tabac Saint-Sulpice. He then goes on to describe everything he looks at; he mentions a lot of bus routes. Step two—go somewhere. Anywhere is fine as long as you remember to take a pen and a nice line-free notebook with you. Find a comfortable place to sit and cast yourself in the same role as Perec. Be an observer, write down what colors people are wearing, describe how they move, whatever catches your eye—the most important part of the exercise is to not edit yourself too much and have fun, because it can be really fun to step back and enjoy what the world, your world, looks like (even if only for a few minutes).

My Unscheduled Staycation

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Dear Keatsway,

It’s been three years since I’ve entered March with no trips planned and no plane or train tickets purchased. As an intrepid traveler this feels almost alien to me. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t beginning to feel a bit restless. As you begin to discover the vistas and sights of Geneva, I am learning to be OK staying in one place. I’ve even become acquainted with what has become an all too common catch phrase in this new economy. I’ve just taken my first Staycation.

It’s Spring Break at my university, my boss is in another state, I had a few extra hours in my vacation bank, so I thought why not? Why not take today off for no apparent reason other than I want to stay home, have an unscheduled day, and let each moment be decided upon a whim?

pastries

I wish I could say I have a revelation about life to share after spending the day at home and taking a three-day weekend but I don’t. I spent the weekend drinking roobois tea, baking gluten-free vegan pastries, and taking naps whenever I felt like it. I also had a Thai massage and tried on about 50 French Style T-Shirts from 4 different stores, before deciding upon the one I am wearing right now.

While not groundbreaking, I have learned something about gratitude and hard work. It is absolutely necessary to celebrate the small and big successes of life by taking time to slow down and appreciate your progress. Two weeks ago I sent in my second application to graduate school in England, ending my holy tussle. However instead of celebrating, I kept moving forward at full speed. First I didn’t go to bed until I’d cleaned my apartment, than I hosted a Storyline meeting, orchestrated and led out a focus group, presented on research methods for communication majors, navigated way too many work committee duties including filling in for someone who’s arthritis wouldn’t let them take the minutes.

In contrast, last semester within a week of finishing a 20 page paper for my graduate literature class, I took a 10 day vacation for Christmas in Toronto with family. There was a clear break between finishing a big task and moving forward to the next big thing. Before leaving for Toronto I even hosted my own private celebration by catching a movie I’d been waiting to see, buying new pajamas, and ordering my favorite appetizer at a restaurant. I remember feeling rejuvenated after all my small celebratory ritual and even more so after my vacation.

dandelion

This time I learned a vital lesson in what happens when you don’t take a break. Instead of enjoying the fact that I  had finished something I never imagined I would complete, I began to feel overwhelmed at work, stopped sleeping through the night, and had headaches that lasted for hours. So now that I’ve taken my much overdue break (though this time no trips were taken) I look forward to a new week with fresh perspectives and a lighter spirit.  One in which I know when to pause and reflect before the next big thing.

Keatsway, do you celebrate the little and big things you accomplish in life? How do mark the completion of big projects and prevent burnout?

Yours with best wishes,

xo Brightstar