There is an answer, I haven’t found it / But I will keep dancing til I do

I’m nine days into my junior year of college and I’ve already had a significant existential crisis. Like an earth-shattering, life-altering set of panic attacks played out in the circular plot of grass outside my dorm that looks like my town’s new high school and in the dirty lilac sheets of my uncomfortable twin bed. Ironically, two years ago on September 5th, 2016 I had just returned from my significant existential crisis that manifested itself in a life-changing last minute solo trip to Washington, D.C. I wish I was still naive enough to spend all my money to go to a random city alone to meet random girls at a random college. It was kind of cute.

Freshman year one of my first ever classes was Spanish 002. It was in a beautiful old building at the edge of campus around eleven o’clock in the morning. Before I would walk up the winding staircase, past intricate stained glass windows and old carpets and peeling ceilings, I would eat a Sodexo grilled cheese while reading emails. My keyboard was always stained with grease and my face was coated in sweat from the naturally hot basement. I would take out my gigantic Lilly Pulitzer planner and do homework half-heartedly, alone, googling random things that came to mind and checking blogs. I would always sit somewhere where no one could see my computer screen; I was embarrassed to sit there for an hour, unfocused and scrambling to do an easy one-page worksheet, and have someone watch me and judge me for that.

It’s crazy to think that it was just two years ago. And that I could handle being four hours away from my home. I could handle running out of money, getting rejected by guys that thought I was clumsy and weird, wearing dressy clothing for no reason and making an ass out of myself, not doing my homework rarely ever, missing my 8:30 a.m. class at least twice a week, and walking everywhere in oppressive heat and not crying about it. I for sure cried about other things, but how am I a junior and crying about oppressive heat? To my mother? Who has had breast cancer and doesn’t give a fuck? Why am I suddenly so weak?

If I replaced my closet with dresses right now I would never go to class. If I drained my bank account I would drop out of school. If I got rejected by a guy I would go into a deep spiraling depression. When did this shift? Why was I doing so much better as a freshman than I could ever do as a junior?

I used to think it would get better for me. There was a senior girl in my Spanish 002 class that didn’t wear leggings and sweatshirts. She wore cool scarves, skinny jeans, motorcycle jackets, and ankle boots. She wore long t-shirts, ripped boyfriend jeans, Adidas sneakers, and dangly earrings. She traveled the world and was from New Jersey and transferred her sophomore year from the University of Maryland. And she talked to me.

Me. The girl wearing an orange dress and Jack Rogers. The one with a crush on a tall douchey guy in my class that went to the douchiest of prep schools in the DMV area. The one who forgot homework yet color coded her planner and folders, the one who missed her classes 24/7 but still put on a full face of makeup to go to ten minutes worth of a Chemistry lecture. Yes, me.

She asked me what “leer” meant. My first thought was, okay, this girl can’t be serious. But she was! She didn’t know. She hadn’t taken Spanish in five years, she said. She was a senior. Class of 2017. On her way out. Something I couldn’t even picture for myself.

Her name was Molly, and shortly after we paired up on a group project. She picked me up in her car (!) from outside my dorm where everyone saw us (!) to go to her APARTMENT (!) and I didn’t even ask! She let me into her HOUSE. She had steel cut oats in glass jars, beautiful art prints lining the walls, mismatched furniture and three extremely unique roommates with bikes and lives and great Spotify playlists and futures. After we did the project, I cried. I cried really hard in my room, and I didn’t know why. All I did was sit in the corner of her room in a really soft chair and conjugated verbs. But I cried. Going over Molly’s house showed me that maybe someday I could live in an apartment with white walls and mismatching kitchen appliances and steel oats in a glass jar with interesting people that were my friends. It showed me that it is not like this forever, whatever “it” is, and whatever “this” means. You have to move out, and you have to meet people, and you have to make oatmeal.

In Burlington I would walk down the street, the streets full of actual people with lives outside of universities, lives with children and taxes and family vacations and city recycling. I almost forgot that someday I would be one of those people, too. I have a lot of trouble remembering that now, and especially lately. I can’t imagine what life is like outside of college because it’s not staring me in the face. There is no residential house I can stare at within 45 minutes walking distance that does not have a student living in it. I can’t buy steel oats in bulk because making oatmeal in the microwave is really annoying. My plants are dying because I don’t have natural light for them to soak up. My soul is dying because I can’t drive anywhere right now and put on Dance For You by the Dirty Projectors and cry into the open air just because I can, and just because I feel like it, and just because I could get away.

Even though I felt like I had to get away from Vermont, I had the opportunity to get away in Vermont. I could pretend to be someone who just lives there. I didn’t have to have an identity. I could sit in front of Uncommon Grounds and people watch with the weird comfort of knowing that some of the people I saw I would never see again. But here, everyone is everyone I will see again, even if I don’t know it, and it’s terrifying.

Maybe I’m one of those people who will always think the grass is greener. Maybe I can’t ever make decisions for myself that will turn out right. But finally, when I talk about my freshman year I can say something positive. I have never felt more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. I was making mistakes left and right but still listened to those songs that made street lights shine brighter and my life a whirlwind of a movie. Here I am afraid to make mistakes, terrified to the point of never wanting to try anything new again. I hope I can find that feeling somewhere in my life, someday: trusting, ignorant, blissful hope.


Surviving Freshman Year: A Playlist

Everything is coming to a close and I don’t know what to make of it. I’ve been sick for the past few days so all I’ve been doing is writing and cleaning out my Spotify playlists. I realized from Spotify mainly how much changing I’ve done and how sentimental (well, isn’t it always) music was to me this year. At first I thought I still listened to the same music, but my curated playlists from high school and now are pretty different.

A lot of my musical growth this year has come from boys. Most of my interactions with guys started over music, Mac Demarco being the main player. It’s funny, because in two weeks when I see him it will basically be a reunion of me and every guy I’ve ever expressed interest in this year.

One of the first guys gave me The Strokes. The Strokes were a big part of my fall semester playlists and they were basically all I listened to as I walked from class to class in the brisk weather. He also gave me Courtney Barnett, whose Avant Gardener I will never forget. I learned all of the words to that song in a heartbeat; it’s hilarious, it’s UVM, it’s amazing.

The guy who painted my spring semester with music gave me a lot: LCD Soundsystem, Kaytranada, $uicideboy$, and renewed appreciation for Cage the Elephant and Matt & Kim. He reminded me of the L Train and he has a girlfriend now, or at least that’s what I’ve gathered from his Instagram. LCD will always be a solid walking-to-class choice, thank you.

Lastly, I’d like to thank my old suitemate for letting me lay in his bed, smoke his weed, and listen to Lonerism. That really set the tone for my UVM experience. Also, thanks for being the only straight (?) man who appreciated unreleased Lana.

The following songs are songs I’m going to listen to as we drive away from my new city, possibly for the last time, loaded with boxes and boxes of clothes, memories, textbooks, and my winter boots. They’re the songs that characterized this translucent April, the April that helped me realize a lot about myself. Spring has always been like that for me, but April is ending in peace this time, and not open chaos. April came in like a lion and out like a lamb.

ragged wood – fleet foxes

“come down from the mountain, you have been gone too long. spring is upon us, follow my only song. settle down with me by the fire of my yearning. you should come back home, back on your own now…”

feeling whitney – post malone

to each their own and find peace in knowing, ain’t always broken, but here’s to hoping. show no emotion, against your coding, and just act as hard as you can…”

the dreamer – the tallest man on earth

“oh sometimes the blues is just a passing bird, and why can’t that always be?”

shine – mondo cozmo

“stick with me, jesus, through the coming storm, I’ve come to you in search of something I have lost. shine down a light on me and show a path, I promise you I will return if you take me back…”

an illustration of loneliness (sleepless in new york) – courtney barnett

wondering what you’re doing, what you’re listening to, which quarter of the moon you’re viewing from your bedroom. watching all the movies, drinking all the smoothies, swimming at the pool, I’m thinking of you too…”

hang loose – alabama shakes

“hang loose, hang loose, let the ocean worry about being blue. hang loose, hang loose…”

atlas hands – benjamin francis leftwich

“take me to the docks, there’s a ship without a name there and it is sailing to the middle of the sea. the water there is deeper than anything you’ve ever seen, jump right in and swim until you’re free. I will remember your face, ’cause I am still in love with that place. but when the stars are the only things we share, will you be there?”

The following are songs I’ll characterize with the uncertainty of the beginning. The plane rides, the sweat, the crunchy hair days when everything was humidity. Dropping my eight dollar wrap on a sidewalk in the District while my headphones flew out of my ears. Making myself Nutella rice cakes and doing my Spanish homework ten minutes before class. When I tried so desperately to pretend I had it all figured out, and all my dreams were so, so big. And towards the end of my fall semester, when everything seemed like a tragedy and I went home numb.

the moment – tame impala

“in the end it’s stronger than I know how to be, and I can’t just spend my whole lifetime wondering. I fell in love with the sound of my heels on the wooden floor, I don’t want my footsteps to be silent anymore…”

crane your neck – lady lamb

and how it hurts, even in the sun. it’s a god-damned joke how we can hurt even in the sun. for a heart beats the best in the bed beside the one that it loves, oh yes a heart beats the best when in a head, death becomes irrelevant. ’cause if you’re dreaming about dying, then you’re not really living, darling. you’ve gotta be starving, you’ve gotta be starving for it...”

lonely – mean lady

it’s almost over, time when we’re not together. I feel it getting better all the time. and what if it takes too long? what if it takes too long and I’m lonely? how can it break me and make me so strong? what if it takes too long?”

new person, same old mistakes – tame impala

“and I know that it’s hard to digest, a realization is as good as a guess. and I know it seems wrong to accept, but you’ve got your demons and she’s got her regrets…”

wanderer, wandering – slow club

“I’ll ask where you’re going, and what you’re doing. you have no answer, ’cause you’re a wanderer, wandering, you’re a wanderer, wandering. and every second is a pounding drum, you’re leaning over me to put another record on, and every other guess is just cold hard luck…”

17 – youth lagoon

“surrounded by nothing, but nothing’s surrounded by us, it’s just me in my room, with my eyes shut. oh, when I was seventeen, my mother said to me, ‘don’t stop imagining, the day that you do is the day that you die…'”

hard to explain – the strokes

“I say the right thing but act the wrong way, I like it right here but I cannot stay… I missed the last bus, we’ll take the next train, I’ll try but you see, it’s hard to explain…”

The following are songs I’ll associate with the sadness of excitement. With the first drives up for the purpose of orienting myself here. With the Champlain sunsets, the firsts, the endless Ben and Jerry’s post-class outings, the sun catching itself perfectly in a window as I study. With the times I’d looked around with a soft sense of realization and wonder and knew I would be okay, and times I’d fallen asleep blurring the lines between here and home.

man on fire – edward sharpe & the magnetic zeroes

“come dance with me, over murder and pain, come dance with me, over heartache and shame. I wanna see our bodies burning like old big suns, I wanna know what we’ve been learning and learning from…”

reality in motion – tame impala

it made my heart run in circles and overflow, and I was closer than ever to letting go. it made my heart run in circles and overdrive, and I was closer than ever to feeling alive… heading for the deep end, soon as I remember, baby I surrender, I just need to breathe out, decisions are approaching, reality in motion…”

tiny cities – flume ft. beck

“can I? should I? find my way home? now did I, think I’d better go home. all I said I needed was gone, but I thought I heard it all wrong… but it’s never easy when you think you have it in control, somehow you get caught up in the moment and you never know…”

where the skies are blue – the lumineers

you’re gonna leave, it ain’t gonna break my heart, mama, cause I’ve never seen nobody quite like you. and if you ever change your tune, oh the world’s got the best of you, you can always find me where the skies are blue…”

settle – two door cinema club

“’cause I see the world in different colors to someone like you. the city will pull you in, romantic and drenched in sin, love. you only have but a time until this place will swallow you whole…”

no no no – beirut

don’t know the first thing about who you are, my heart is waiting, taken in from the start. if we don’t go now, we won’t get very far. don’t know the first thing about who you are…”

rivers and roads – the head and the heart

been talkin’ about the way things change, and my family lives in a different state. if you don’t know what to make of this, then we will not relate… rivers and roads, rivers and roads. rivers ’til I reach you…”

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.


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)