Where All the Veins Meet

This morning, I smiled at my reflection in the mirror, noticing a crop of new freckles and some peeling skin on my nose. It’s finally warm in Burlington. It may not last, but for the next ten days we are north of 50 degrees, which is all I can ask for. I smudged generous amounts of grapefruit essential oil on my wrists and neck and mixed it in with a few drops of the fragrance I’ve come to associate with my soul itself; Beach by Bobbi Brown. Together this combination reminds me of summer mornings at home cutting up a grapefruit, wearing a free people dress and going on a bike ride to the beach.

I am so happy here and don’t want to leave Vermont, because it’s so fun and beautiful, but I miss home so much. I don’t know how it’s possible to feel both. I can’t wait to jump feet first into the ocean, but I’m going to miss climbing up mountains and stumbling down to the waterfront with a picnic blanket, beer, and a sandwich. I guess my life is filled with so much beauty and the fact that I can’t have both places I love at once makes me sad.

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Yesterday I led a hike, my first real hike, up a mountain that was coated in thick untrustworthy layers of snowfall. By the time I left my socks were soaked through with snow and mud and my leggings were adhered to my ass from the times I fell and let myself slide. We sang along to Vermont radio stations on the way home and I was so tired and happy. A lot of the girls had never gone hiking before, and some were annoyed at how slow they were, but it just reminded me of a cliche, that we all get down the mountain somehow, no matter how unprepared or how likely to stumble we are. Even the best hikers on that trip had to sled down some parts, their packs soaked through with snowpack. It’s maybe a metaphor for this semester. Yeah, going uphill is hard, and you don’t know where to put your feet sometimes and your leg can fall through really easily, but the view at the top is great. On the flipside of that, the way down can be quicker and easy, but slushy, unreliable, and filled with challenges.

With that metaphor in mind, I know I’m just stumbling through the slush and mud in the final throes of spring semester. But I’m choosing to love it, rather than how much I hated it last semester. If there’s anything I wish I’d done differently, it would have been to talk to people. To wear the clothing I wore in high school. To try not to change so fast just because my surroundings did. To sing to Hozier in the shower on Monday mornings, to color in your journal on the quad, and to text that girl you met at a leadership conference to make popcorn and have a picnic. Follow the girl in your spanish class on instagram when you come across it. Talk to the boy in your environmental science class, ask him about Minnesota, go to a party and ask for a hit of his joint and be his friend. College can be just as socially smooth as high school was for you, Maina, if you just treat it that way.

My advice to future college freshman: buy the expensive fruit at the farmer’s markets, hang out with the kids you met in your orientation group, laugh for hours over breakfast instead of getting up after twenty minutes to study. Trust everyone and be content, like the wholesome meme says. People notice what you’ve got going on in your head, regardless of what the 2012 tumblr depression blogs say, so just choose to enjoy the challenges and people will enjoy them with you. I can’t believe I took all of this from a hike, but I guess the weather getting warm reminds me of who I really am. I do believe that people take after certain seasons and I know mine is summer so I am doing my best to reflect how I feel right now onto others.

I can’t really end this on a note that will tie this information together up neatly like most of my posts do. I feel like there is so much I’m going to live over this last month and two days of my freshman year. I cannot believe it’s almost over. So I’m just going to leave a poem that reminds me of this time in my life, so when I feel this way all over again it will make sense.

“As I write
the coffee shop is getting crowded
My back is to the line and counter
but I hear as people enter and exit
the creak of the door
I feel the cool draft 
the outside air gushing in eagerly
while it is able
Overhead is Bono’s voice
replacing Chris Martin’s
“I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls”
My left bicep starts to throb
I rub my eyes
“But I still haven’t found
what I’m looking for”
“But I still haven’t found
what I’m looking for”
The throbbing stops
and I inhale deeply
resting my head on the concrete wall beside me
painted white
although not fresh and fragrant” (x)
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Yes, I’m Gone to Connecticut in My Mind

My opinion of myself and what is best for me always changes. It changes based on new revelations I have within myself but most often it changes due to influences from people around me. This is probably that one defining character flaw that would lead to my demise if I was a Greek goddess in a mythology tale. I can never seem to trust my own instincts until it is too late.

I need to transfer. Financially, it makes sense. I need to go back to Connecticut and get an undergraduate degree at the best college for the lowest amount I can. I have been denying myself the right to say “need” instead of “should.” This is where I will consciously recognize that I need to transfer. This is my record.

Watch this movie clip if you want to understand the next few paragraphs.
I have been tearing myself up about this since the day I stepped foot on campus. But I knew it as soon as I boarded the airplane for Washington, D.C. I got the exact feeling that I felt when I was a little girl watching What a Girl Wants, when Daphne leaves a voicemail for her mother to listen to while she leaves the country to find her dad. I have always wanted to feel that feeling, the complete serenity in my head and heart that I know I’m doing the right thing, even if it seems hard and like I’m breaking a lot of rules.

As I type this in my bed, rewatching this scene over and over again, there is a reason five-year-old me loved this movie so much and this specific scene. I used to rewind it and watch it until my mother got tired of it and told me to cut it out. I would like to thank my younger self for drilling into my head that I should always follow my heart and my instincts. Even if I don’t remember to most of the time, whenever I get the feeling that I do when Daphne leaves Manhattan, I know that whatever I decided was right for me.

Going to school in D.C. eventually is going to be one of the biggest goals I have ever set for myself. And I intend to accomplish it. Not in my undergraduate years, but in my graduate years. Someday I will sign a lease for an apartment on some street that begins and ends with a letter of the alphabet or the name of a state. And I’m going to sit there and be thankful that eighteen-year-old me had the guts to go against my outside influences and follow what I know is right for me and me alone.

I don’t regret coming here and figuring out all there it is to figure out. I learned how to live with multiple personalities under one roof, three separate times. I learned what I don’t want and what I do want. These two semesters, even as this one continues, just keep changing me into the adult I will eventually fully become.

I would like to thank two of my good friends here in Vermont for reminding me that this isn’t just me. UVM’s retainment rate is pretty low. I’m still going to be dramatic and upset over this decision, just because this is who I am, but I’m not alone.

For Being Dramatic About Transferring

…(because there is a playlist for everything)

Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson                          For the First Time – The Script

I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross                       Butterfly Fly Away – Miley Cyrus

Landslide (Live) – Fleetwood Mac               Carolina in My Mind – James Taylor

Wide Open Spaces – Dixie Chicks                My Eyes – The Lumineers

Out of Place – Gavin Thorpe                          I’m Like a Bird – Nelly Furtado

Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield                So Yesterday – Hilary Duff

New Semester Resolutions

Tonight I will drive back to school. Hopefully I won’t cry at the Massachusetts border like I usually do. I could barely sleep last night, so maybe if I do cry it will be because of sleep deprivation. As much as I think New Years Resolutions are kind of pointless (at least, for me, because they’re more of intentions and I don’t like setting goals because I never accomplish them), I think that setting these intentions are important because I need to ground myself. Hopefully if you are a college student just getting back, or a high school student just ending midterms these inspire you too.

  1. Limit use of social media/your phone in general. This goes for when I’m studying, but when I’m out in public. I don’t want to use my phone in class, and I want to use my phone less on the bus. I feel constantly wrapped up in it when I should be interacting with others.
  2. Don’t freak out when something goes wrong. I am aware that I put my best effort into everything I do, and if I forget something along the way, it’s fine. I’m not perfect. Acknowledge your feelings and move on. Ask others for guidance or help if necessary.
  3. Become more flexible about eating. Between five classes, two jobs, and transfer applications, I’m going to have to become more flexible with my eating schedule. I have become reliant on consistent meals but I need to put that on the back burner as all of my responsibilities will be so demanding. Often I found myself unable to complete tasks unless I got my food, which made me procrastinate as I would spend hours at the dining hall on my phone (which will be prevented this time).
  4. Become more flexible about your appearance. There is simply not enough time in a day to pore over my closet and create an outfit. I either want to lay out an outfit the night before like I used to do in high school, or go outside in whatever I grab first. Of course, I should look presentable, but I want to be more functional and flexible when it comes to clothing choices and not put so much weight on what I’m wearing. I already wear nicer clothes than the average college student, so I’m good.
  5. Don’t spend money on things you don’t need. Maina, you don’t need that new shirt. You don’t need that pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. You don’t need a bunch of new candles or books off of Amazon. I want to put more money into experiences rather than things this semester.
  6. Leave parties if they aren’t fun. If you’re dying of boredom at a party, and feel like you have to get drunk or high just to enjoy it, then LEAVE. Who cares what your friends say. Call that Uber, take that bus, make that walk. Try not to go alone, but go if you have to. Do a face mask, watch Shameless, and go to bed.
  7. Interact with your professors regularly. Don’t be that guy that introduces yourself to the professor when they couldn’t care less, but ask your questions after class. Email them for extra office hours. Talk with them about things other than the class material. Professors are people, too, and I bet they’ll laugh at your roommate stories.
  8. Find a routine that works and stick to it. I know I already got this going at the end of last semester, but with new classes and a new job, I need to figure out what is going to work. I want to go to the gym at least four times a week, if not more, and take showers without having to walk outside immediately after (in Vermont, your hair freezes into icicles after .2 seconds outside) as often as possible.

I have a good feeling about this semester, although I don’t want to jinx it. I’m excited for my classes. I’m excited for my spring break plans. I just need to translate that excitement into some other things and I’m good.

Your Chains, and Where to Find Them

In eighth grade, I saw the fourth and final Twilight movie installment with a bunch of friends the half day before Thanksgiving. Nothing significant, I probably had fun, I don’t really remember. But on that day I heard the song Boston for the first time, because my good friend at the time played it on her mom’s car radio on the way home. It’s extremely sappy and cliche, and not nearly the best song on the face of the planet, but since that day, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. Like, it’s probably been stuck in my head at least once a week since I first heard it five years ago.

It’s been used in a variety of different dramatic television series, like One Tree Hill (which is next on my watch list), Scrubs, and Shark. Most white girls I know love it. And, despite all of the eclectic music phases I have gone through, this song has always been there. I have never deleted it from my iTunes library. And I’ve always wondered why.

I now know why, because I’ve played it during two particularly emotional and transitional periods in my life. Once during a college visit, and once this past weekend on the T.

The day of my college visit to Lesley University (which I ended up hating), it was exploding snow from the sky, and the drive on I-395 was terrible and confusing. I give my mom a lot of credit for driving me there and back during probably the worst snowstorm of our mildest winter. As we approached Cambridge and saw Boston’s bridges and streets along the river covered in a thick white dust of snow, I played it for my mom and Michael. At this point in the year, Michael knew he wanted to go to school in Manhattan, and I thought he was going to. But I knew he was looking in Boston, because he was going to apply to Boston University. And I also knew he was doubting if he could get into the schools he wanted to attend in Manhattan, so I played the song way too loudly and thought of the blustery movie day in 2011, trying to picture myself walking and eating bagels in Cambridge for four years. Neither of them really liked it, but I really don’t think it’s the point of the song.

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I think the song really just speaks to leaving. We were all thinking about leaving in that February, but we had no idea where to or what we would find there. Everyone was so hung up on the “there” aspect, myself included. I didn’t know what I wanted. I hadn’t ever really been anywhere besides where I was raised. In the song, a girl leaves California for Boston, and starts over in a town where no one knows her name. And even though it comes across as super empowering, encouraging people to take the leap, to transition, to go somewhere where they’ll see a sunrise if they’re tired of a sunset, it’s extremely sad. No one knows the girl that went to Boston, and no one cares about her. She came to Boston, she came to start a new life, and no one is like her or understands her. She crossed “the world” because she felt compelled to and now she is upset because it’s not what she expected. And this is pretty much college summed up. Because it’s not what you expect; everyone hypes it up way too much. Even if you absolutely love your college experience (even though I don’t know anyone who wholeheartedly does), it had to have not met at least some of your expectations. And you went for a reason… we all had ours, we carefully researched or didn’t, we signed the forms and payed the fees.

I personally love having emotionally charged public transportation experiences, hence my Metro North article. Naturally, on the T, this was one of the songs I listened to. As the green line train cycled people in and out, and we rattled through Brookline and the expensive golf club, I thought about the February snow day earlier this year. I recalled the look on Michael’s face when we left him in Harvard Square to visit friendProcessed with VSCO with b1 presets, kind of like the picture I took of him last fall in New Haven when he was on the phone and I caught him by surprise. I figured if I had paid more attention to that moment in time, I knew he would have ended up in Boston. I don’t know what it would have been like to picture yourself in a city so much that everything else rendered irrelevant, and I know people are telling him to just be happy and accept Boston because there is so much going on. And I know he’s going to have his therapeutic bike rides over the bridges, because I had mine in Madison and they taught me so much, and they are going to help.

Boston reminds me so much of what he has wanted his college experience to be like, and I don’t want to say this prematurely but I know I’m going to feel that way when I transfer to D.C. I thought about it on the T. If D.C. was just an idea and not something I truly wanted, which is a situation I find myself in often due to my frequent romanticization, I would have thought all of the what-ifs, imagining my previously possible life at Lesley, wishing I had looked at other schools in Boston like my mom insinuated I should do. But I didn’t. Boston is a great place, and so is Burlington, but neither of them are my places, and every day I am figuring it out, something I wish I’d done a year ago. But it’s not my fault. I hadn’t seen the world. In these two months of college I’ve traveled more than I have any calendar year of my life, which is sad. But it’s better late than never. It’s never too late to figure out if you want a sunrise or a sunset.

The Verbal Translation of Nervously Jiggling Your Legs

It’s one of those Friday nights where Soundcloud makes you sad, you’re tired of your candle scents and your hair is crunchy and sweaty but you don’t want to stand under the cold, low-pressure flow of your dorm’s shower head.

It hasn’t really felt like my life has permanently changed until now. College has felt like one long weekend, but now, as I type this without distraction of hastily made friendships, it feels like forever. And I don’t like that.

If I could attribute a feeling to Flume’s latest album, Skin, it would be a sad Friday night, one where your plans fell through and you start realizing things. Like how you’re almost out of meal points, and how behind you are on laundry.

Waiting sucks. I call my mom, I tell her my problems, and she tells me to wait. Friends come in time, good grades come in time, ideas come in time, everything comes in time. I want college to be done, I want a degree in something, and I want to be eating unseasoned rice on the floor of my Manhattan apartment with someone I feel comfortable reading my journal to. I never thought I would be fortunate enough to find my people in high school, to find my best friend at fourteen, and I took it for granted. I kind of realized how precious it was when Catie would come home for weekends last year, and we would all wake up groggy, making pancakes and listening to twenty one pilots, but now that space in time seems even more far away.

Yes, home would have gotten old. I needed a change. College is important and good, and I hope it either gets important and good or I transfer somewhere important and good. I hope my Rosa DiLauro essay gets me places for very cheap so I can wake up in a world where Ubers across town don’t cost $10.97 on off-peak hours and Saxby’s shops dot every other corner.

Burlington doesn’t have any grime. Yes, the city is dirty, but the air is too clean for this to be a real city. The bus system is too unreliable. I could sit here and complain about how much I feel so disconnected from the place I live, but it’s not going to get me anywhere. I have to accept that nothing is permanent, people have other things to do and can’t pay attention to you all the time. And it’s important to note that I am doing good. I have never been late to a class and have done all my homework. I take showers every day (with the exception of today) and get to work on time every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I paint. I write. I finally got to the Yale part of Gilmore Girls.

Someday I’ll find people that I will click with, and until then, I have my repetitive candle scents as a sense of stability.

For the Ones Who Stress Shower

Due to my constant and overbearing feeling of terror and loathing while I clomp down L/L’s stairs in dirty Jack Rogers sandals, preparing myself for breakfast, lunch, and dinner spent alone, I have come up with a repertoire of things I can latch onto to make this place feel more like Connecticut, more like a safe space, and more like home. Here are those things:

1. Talking to straight edge people. These people don’t have to have anything in common with you. You don’t even have to like them. You could be a cocaine addict or an alcoholic, it doesn’t matter. But if they refuse to do drugs or drink alcohol, there is a safe bet they are pleasant people. They will remind you that not everyone is scary and most importantly that not everyone thinks vaping is cool.

2. Memorizing a poem or song. Over the summer, I memorized (while procrastinating everything else of course) the poem Bygones by Marina Keegan. The poem has a lot of sentimental value to me and repeating it tonight walking to my dorm with a chocolate milkshake in my hand had real therapeutic value. I also like to play songs in my head, with lyrics flashing up on a screen like a lyric YouTube video, to take my mind off whatever the matter is at hand, which is usually being alone in a crowd of people wearing identical Birkenstocks.

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3. Reading for pleasure. Right now, I am reading Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. I don’t like it as much compared to The Vacationers, but reading a style of writing that is familiar is comforting to me. Making a point of buying yourself new books to read that aren’t for classes is so important, even if you only have five minutes per day to actually read it. Another way to fulfill this need and not spend money is to find blogs and read the shit out of them. I read The Messy Heads and The College Prepster (who also has a shit ton of tips for college students), and when I was an underclassman I read Rookie.

4. Focusing on the future. The weekend before real classes is a lot of waiting, and syllabus week will not be much different. Looking at internships back home and planning concert trips has been one of my favorite distractions. Going off to college knowing I would be visiting Michael in a few weeks and seeing Two Door Cinema Club has given me something to look forward to. I also purchased my passport, and I hope to find somewhere to travel to during Christmas break!

5. Preserving small pieces of your at-home routine. I make the same breakfast as I did every morning junior and senior year of high school (albeit, in plastic containers and with Walmart silverware) here, before my 8:30 a.m. classes or incoming freshman activities on weekends. I also still shower around the same time at night (9 p.m.) and write in my One Line a Day Journal that Maggie got me for Christmas before I go to bed. Small things like checking the Timehop app every morning help, too.

6. Being honest and vulnerable with everyone. College is so good, I’m sure, for so many people. But personally, I’m having a significantly difficult time with adjusting. In a lecture the other day, the speaker said to all of us, “Vulnerability fuels connection.” And something I have been lacking here is a feeling of connection, whether it be to the place I live or the people I live with. I am trying in all ways possible to be transparent with people, and maybe that seems off-putting to the person on the receiving end, but it makes me feel better about my experience.

7. Coffee. It’s the New England thing. It’s the pace of life. It’s what your mother and father and boss and next door neighbor and grandfather and professor and cousin-in-law all crave first thing in the morning. It’s the championing drink of successful, busy, lazy, unsuccessful, stupid, smart, human people. We all share the common human condition that is called “I need coffee.” And, personally, I don’t have the fucking time to use a tea press or whatever that is.

8. Always having your favorite childhood snacks on hand. Yes, I’m afraid of the freshman fifteen, but having a carton of Goldfish and a bag of Smartfood popcorn in my dresser drawer brings comfort to my soul.

9. Finding people from where you’re from. These people will reminisce on your area’s restaurants and highway traffic with you. These people are important and you need them to feel small moments of relief.

10. Never underestimate the power of FaceTime. My entire campus has functional Wi-Fi, so I never really use data, and that makes FaceTime all the more acceptable for my data plan. I FaceTime people walking to and from everywhere, especially when I have no one to talk to. FaceTiming my family is funny and they ask me embarrassing questions really loudly. I like the disruptive power of FaceTiming in public because people give you weird looks, and you should always strive for weird looks, especially in an already strange place because you have accomplished a new level of psychotic. (I have won a few of these and I’m proud.)

An Open Apology To Everyone Who Isn’t Me

I would just like to take the time to say I am so sorry to the world, because I can’t talk about anything but the future. I have become so focused on who I will be that the person sitting here typing this in Christmas patterned pajama shorts is not me. The person in the Christmas pants wants to go to Yale for graduate school and feels pressured to pick three or four activities to be good at and get a 4.0 because that is how you get into things. But she doesn’t know whether to fence or be a member of a philanthropic sorority or a Young Democrat or a student government leader or run artsy events or be a waitress.

This is why I haven’t posted in weeks. I have hit a wall. I don’t know what I’m doing. Every day when I’m driving I almost get into an accident with someone or run a stop sign because I am so distracted by the impending future. Fear of the unknown.

I remember to not care about these things right now only when I’m inside a small moment, watching a sunset on a beach or eating lunch with my little sister, but even then I only shut up for a moment and then become consumed with image, consumed with how to be better and how to make the most of the four years that start in one week. I have never been more addicted to technology than I have this summer. Yeah, I might go outside and do things and lead an overall healthy life but I constantly need a stimulant, something to distract me from the intense pressure I feel all the time. And that distraction has been completely changing my lifestyle and personality. I don’t know why I’m doing that. I don’t know why senior year me isn’t good enough for what’s ahead.

I’m supposed to be coming into my own, figuring out who I really am. But if I really like planners and sticky notes this much, then I am scared. I used to hate bright colors and drink tea all the time, and last month I bought bright pink shorts and I take pride in the mornings that allow a quick drive to Ashlawn Farm for coffee. I’m also afraid that all of this change is going to make my friends dislike me. And I kind of really need them right now.

All of this is making me realize that I can’t shut myself off. I wonder how can adults go on vacations and not care about anything except wine tastings and beach reads for two weeks and I can’t even simply work and lay in sand without freaking out every second for less than that. I know I should not be consumed with anxiety because I am going to be fine but I still am, because I like to torture myself for no reason. I need to get a dog or something.

But I know that I need to somehow get this out of me, because at my therapy appointment today I started crying because I forgot what it was like to vocalize my feelings honestly and deeply. I started telling her about how I was supposed to go to school in California yet that dream was crushed by my parents for no apparent reason, but I was so good with adapting to the restriction that I forgot how upset it made me. It really pissed me off because their acceptance rate was in the 40s compared to the 73.4 that the University of Vermont has. And all I want is to prove to people (and, of course, myself) that I’m smart. So maybe I’ll put on all my job applications that, sorry, I was supposed to go to a pretty good school but then my parents forced me not to and now I feel stuck and gross and scared. I feel like a complete asshole because in some weird way I feel my university is “below me,” but nothing is below me. Everything is some sort of opportunity and I should be grateful, and excited about it.

But I guess I’ll just go back to being okay with it, because there is no use in caring about it now. I’m lucky enough to afford a state school, and lucky enough to even go to college. But Ms. Gallagher told me I would “blossom” in college so I better fucking blossom or else I want my money back.