I work 40 hours a week at my desk job, at least 20 hours at school, and at least 20 hours as a tarot reader in Salem this October (I’d work more if my schedule allowed). While lugging my laptop across a classroom yesterday, colleagues gasped in horror when they saw the color-coded monster that is my Google Calendar. “How are you doing that?” they asked. The secret is suffering.
I’m bad at being an invalid, so I keep / angel teeth in my pocket and crunch / them up into dust
I used to waste a lot of paper in notebooks—like, a lot of paper. Whole book butts were left blank, half a sheet of paper used, chunks ripped out and discarded. In retrospect, it was wasteful, but I also understand that version of myself: the one who desired clean lines and spaces above all because it felt like control. Now, though, I write until the book is full, even when the spine is broken and the cover is stained with coffee. I hate carrying it around when it looks bad, yet I must admit that the books represent a chapter of my life. As I finish one notebook and open another, a new chapter begins.
It’s easy to be happy online. You work to put together the filter, the caption, the hashtags, the everything, and the end product is this shiny version of you. Don’t get me wrong, life has been good to me these last few years, and so it is always with no shortage of guilt that I present a version of myself that is less than happy. But I don’t want to lie to you.
When I moved to Boston in 2017, I wanted to be a clinical psychiatrist. After working as a therapeutic writing facilitator, I was so intrigued by the thought of helping people heal that it became more important to me than being a novelist (plus no one was interested in a fictionalized account of the French Revolution, despite its cultural and political relevance). Add in my new job with Harvard Medical School, I realized there was a lot of growing I still needed to do before spending any more time as a student. My life had to start, so it did.
With your cayenne lips still burning, you drive up the interstate. Family far behind, it’s easier to be at peace. Vacation becomes vacation, and New Orleans is a place to be at ease. The drive seemed longer when you were a kid, but it’s only three hours. You stop at the gas station your cousin insisted you go to, the one she goes to for fun. You kind of expect to make fun of it, but it really is quite the to-do. Employees get paid almost $20 an hour. No wonder it’s so clean. You wish every gas station in America was like this. The snack aisle is more fun than any memory of Disney you have.
Going back to your Gulf Coast hometown after a long time is weird, a little uncomfortable, especially in the middle of a highly politicized pandemic. Things look the same; they look different. Buildings you grew up in became Panera Breads or are abandoned altogether. Your childhood home is still yellow but is covered in the green mold your mother pressure washed off every summer. There are more broken shells on the beach than you remember. It’s weird to be a Southerner who’s become a Northerner in so many ways.
Before writing my wraps, I always read the previous year’s publication. 2020 sucked, didn’t it? As some of you may feel like 2021 flew by (for me, it’s like Groundhog Day), yet here we are. Another year gone and so much to be grateful for and reflect on. It’s amazing that a person can experience so much growth without breaking. What a year it’s been. It felt like standing still, but I know that I’m moving forward towards wishes and goals that I haven’t yet had the strength to make public.
Maintaining motivation is hard. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and it sort of put my whole life into perspective. The diagnosis doesn't really change how I feel about myself, but is more of a "huh, I learned how to cope really well" sorta thing. Pandemic time threw all of my skills right out the window because there was no structure to my day other than wake up, walk dog, turn on computer. I've always been the sort of person who has needed a jam-packed schedule to keep all systems functioning at average speed. Now that this new normal (hate that term) is on the horizon, it looks like life will shift again. And I'm wondering, how will it go?
The first time I meet my psychiatrist, / he asks if we’ve met before. / This does not bode well.