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Let’s not call them resolutions

01/08/2015

Whenever I’ve made New Years resolutions in the past I’ve only felt restricted by them. They were too intense and unrealistic. You know, ridiculous notions along the lines of “never eat any carbs” or “read every book in the library?” I was tired of failing at them and feeling poorly about myself, so I stopped making them.

But I feel inspired to try my hand at them again because I’ve come to realize something. Resolutions, which are really just goals, shouldn’t be about limiting yourself– they should be about growing yourself. I don’t have to feel guilty if I don’t accomplish them all or if I alter them throughout the year because that’s not the point. Yes, you should strive to complete your resolutions, but what’s more important is making some kind of progress. Big or small.

So here we go. Here’s my list of big and small things I want to practice this year.

1. Live more intentionally. I currently own a lot of clothing that I don’t wear because I either don’t like it anymore or it fits me poorly. I plan to sort through and organize it all and donate some of the things that I’m holding onto out of a sense of obligation instead a genuine desire to keep them. Going forward I hope to make more thoughtful purchases about clothing, shoes and accessories and buy higher quality, longer lasting items that will serve me better than the items I buy simply because they’re on sale. I want to love the things I own and feel like my wardrobe is cohesive.

2. Purge. Lately I feel an overwhelming need to have less stuff. I’ve had to move a lot in the past year and each time I’ve only become more frustrated and felt more weighed down by my belongings. It’s funny, but moving to New York– a city frequently associated with excess– has made me want to live a lot more of a minimalist lifestyle. A lack of space will do that to you, I guess.

3. Take advantage of the fact that I now live in New York City. It’s really easy to come home at the end of a long day of work and spend the rest of the evening in my bedroom or waste away the weekends catching up on sleep and doing errands, but I want to make sure that I explore my surroundings and soak up city life. I don’t know how long I will live here and with so much culture at my fingertips it’s important to do and see as much as I can. Museums.

4. Remove my eye makeup before bed. As silly as it sounds this is something I’ve never done despite the fact that I know I should. I’ve always told myself that because I don’t wear foundation I’m immune from having to take off my makeup before I get into bed for the evening. I’d wash my face but not get my eyes wet. Weird. My motivation for picking up the habit? Not wanting to ruin my new white pillowcases.

5. Be kinder to myself. Often I’m very critical of my intelligence and my appearance. It’s exhausting and unhealthy and I’d like to work on cutting myself some slack.

I still remember

10/28/2014

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I still remember the first night.

It was nearly midnight on a Friday and the world was dark and rainy and crisp. I was studying alone and campus was deserted and eerily still. Hours earlier I had sent you a silly message and now my phone buzzed, letting me know you had finally responded. Your roommate was gone for the weekend and you asked me if I wanted to come over to help you mop and play Skyrim, your favorite at the time. I had no real interest video games or cleaning, but I loved the idea of being near you.

That week you had come to Target with me for the sole purpose of buying a mop to clean the kitchen in your suite. No longer could you stand how sticky the ugly diamond laminate flooring had become from six boys traipsing across it every day for months on end.

I walked back to my dorm room to put away my books before crossing campus, cloaked in blackness, to meet you at yours. I was naive. I brought nothing with me but an umbrella and a coat. We were just friends. I wouldn’t be staying over. You met me at the door, smiling, and I shook off the rain and came inside. While you moved the kitchen furniture into the hallway I leaned against your bed, which you always kept perfectly made, and put together a music playlist originally titled “Mopping” for us to listen to.

You wore red sweatpants low on your hips and a thin white undershirt. When you moved a certain way a gap grew between the hem of your pants and your shirt, exposing your lower stomach briefly and I tried not to stare. Your wheat-colored hair was long and thick tufts of it stuck out from beneath the Crusaders hat you wore in an attempt to suppress it. Everything was foreign to me. Spending time in a boy’s room, being granted the privilege of seeing him freshly showered and dressed down for the evening. It felt intimate and new.

Mopping didn’t take long because the room was barely 100 square feet and I didn’t help at all unless you count making a playlist and taking pictures– pictures I would later come to cherish. Eventually we returned the chairs and table to their place and sat down next to each other to play Skyrim, which you had been telling me about for months. I only lasted for a few minutes before passing the controller back to you because my thumbs were tired from the joysticks and I was terrified that the horse my character was riding would somehow die under my inept control, a thought that disturbed the inner animal lover in me.

You were hungry so you poured yourself a bowl of peanut butter flavored Cheerios in a navy blue plastic bowl and let me have a few spoonfuls before asking me if I wanted to watch a movie. I checked the time. I was worried about walking home too late at night and thought that I should probably leave but you suggested that I spend the night. I said no, I didn’t have any pajamas or a toothbrush, and you told me I could borrow a shirt and a pair of shorts and that you had a spare toothbrush, too. I hesitated briefly but agreed.  I was naive. We were just friends, I told myself again. Maybe friends do this. Strangely I imagined that you would have me sleep in your roommate’s bed, but asked no further questions.

It was nearly three in the morning by the time the movie finished but I was too aware of what was happening to be tired or to remember much about the movie but its title. We walked to your bedroom and you opened the wood veneer drawers beneath your lofted metal bed frame and pulled out something for me to wear. I took the clothing from you and pushed open the gray swinging door to the bathroom and changed in the fluorescent light. I looked at my reflection in the mirror, the basketball shorts falling to the tops of my knees and the shirt swallowing my frame. I worried about letting you see me like that before deciding it didn’t matter. We were just friends.

I emerged from the bathroom ready to make a quip about my outfit, but when I saw you standing in the bedroom in your underwear, hat off, contacts replaced with dark rectangular glasses, words escaped me. We were just friends, I thought again. Maybe friends do this. I brushed it off, still imagining that I would sleep in your roommate’s bed. But then you told me to get in first so that I wouldn’t fall in the middle of the night and I knew. I knew we weren’t just friends.

After I climbed cautiously into the bed you crossed the room to turn off the overhead light, but an exterior light still cast its glow through your open windows. I rested my head against the pillow and watched, transfixed, as you walked toward me. your creamy skin illuminated and bare, a sleepy and gentle smile playing across your face. You lifted yourself into the bed, taut muscles shaking the mattress briefly, and lay down next to me. Under the magical lighting all time stopped and the world faded into nothingness and you and I were all that was left and I would have given anything to stay in that perfect moment punctuated by nothing but the sound of our chests rising and falling, all doubts and insecurities and worries cast aside. I wondered silently what this meant and if I was ready for the implications but you were so beautiful. You looked into my eyes for a long time but finally the trance ended and you kissed me tenderly on the lips. We exchanged no words as you pulled the thin red comforter over us and placed your arm around my waist and we both fell asleep and when we finally woke up it was as if the world had always been that way.

We weren’t just friends. No, now we were everything.

image by Hanaa’ Tameez

Yellow car

09/19/2014

Everyone, at some point in his or her life, has played some sort of game in the car. Punch buggy, I spy, 20 questions… Games designed to make journeys pass more quickly, to keep kids rapt in activity while their parents navigate, to foster healthy competition. Me, though? I have spent most of my miles playing a game you’ve never heard of—gulir bilir (GOOL-er bee-LER).

Gulir bilir means “yellow car” in Faroese, a language most people do not know exists that originates from a set of islands some world maps do not bother to include. The Faroe Islands lie northwest of Scotland and halfway between Norway and Iceland in the Atlantic Ocean and have for nearly 65 years been self-governing under the Kingdom of Denmark.

The archipelago is composed of 18 islands with a population of about 48,000 people. The islands are green and steep and rocky and beautiful. The houses that occupy them are quaint and colorful with lush grass growing atop the roofs. No description can do the lands justice. If you would like to fly to the Faroe Islands and see for yourself, you may only do so via Reykjavík or Copenhagen, and you will need to cast aside your fears of teeny tiny planes that land between two cliffs– unless the weather is bad, in which case the teeny tiny plane can’t land at all.

The Faroes, a breed of sheep from which the islands derive their name, outnumber the people 2 to 1. To put it more simply, there are more sheep than people. I cannot speak for the sheep, but in my experience the people are kind, quiet and humble.

Janita, my stepmother, is Faroese, which is how I came to have a personal connection to the Faroe Islands. She and my dad met nearly 20 years ago when she held an internship at the seafood distribution company he now owns. Being the tender age of five, I unknowingly revealed their relationship to my dad’s boss by announcing that she had left her shoes in his closet. It worked out in the end, so we can laugh about it now.

In the summer of 2010, Janita’s brother, Dan, and his then-girlfriend now-fiancé, Vár, came to stay with us for several weeks. Since it was Vár’s first time visiting America, we went on a lot of excursions to make sure that she had a well-rounded experience. For the Faroese, everyday American tasks like going to the grocery store, with its seemingly never-ending selection, can be an experience in and of themselves. Seeing squirrels, which are not native to the Faroe Islands, is a treat and worth some iPhone footage. But that’s beside the point. To give her that well-rounded experience, we spent a lot of time in the car driving from one place to another. Six Flags. New Hampshire. Maine. Boston.

It’s a well-known fact that siblings tend to argue with each other when they are crammed into the backseat of a car, and my brothers, who at the time were 12, 11 and 6 years old, are no exception to the rule. Perhaps my favorite backseat argument tale to tell is the time my middle brother, Frankie, got so angry at my oldest brother, Andreas, that he would not even allow him to look at him. “Don’t! Look! At! Me!” he screamed.

No one particularly enjoys listening to siblings argue, so Dan and Vár started playing a game I had not previously heard of— yellow car—to help make the rides more pleasant.

The rules of yellow car are alarmingly simple. If you see a yellow car, you say “yellow car” and you get a point for doing so. A tally is kept and at the end of the car ride a winner is declared. There is no reward, but there is glory. Lots of glory. You’d be surprised to know how many yellow cars are on the road. You’d also be surprised to know how many yellow cars are not on the road. Try playing. You will see exactly what I mean. I cannot recall a car trip during which we did not play, much like I cannot recall who reigned as ultimate champion. I can only recall the happy warmth I associate with the game.

I moved to college at the end of that summer. It was the last breath of my childhood, filled with final precious moments, before college began and separated what was from what is. I left my family behind, brothers all lined up in the backseat, where they will eternally remain in my mind’s eye, and moved to a different state. And Dan and Vár flew home, but yellow car stayed.

No matter where I am, I play the game. I have taught it to many close friends, who pass it on to their own. I have played it across many a state border. I have won and I have lost. My boyfriend– who is now my most frequent car companion–and I have even expanded upon the rules. Now, you receive 10 points if you are lucky enough to spot a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, because it combines the yellow car with the punch buggy game.

Whatever is happening, whomever I am with, when a yellow car whizzes by me, glowing like a shooting star, I am reminded. Reminded of my family, of my home. Reminded of how time alters people and places but memories are eternal. Reminded to smile.

Image credit:  Alvimann