I canceled all my appointments for the day, feeling sick and weary. I stayed in, cooked carbs, ate my last fruit (a pear) and tippity tappitied away on my laptop for hours. I rearranged my furniture to put my desk by the window. Now, darkness settles around my bright windows, and I feel much better than I did. We all need days to ourselves, for our own sanity, and to better ourselves for each other.
Yesterday over coffee and a bagel overloaded with cream cheese, I caught up with a friend who I hadn't seen in years. We talked a bit about my writing. How the society we are raised in stigmatizes feelings, and hardship. How tempted I am to want to always give the impression of wellness, because otherwise how smart and capable and good-looking could I really be? And yet, I also don't sugarcoat how happy I am, when I am feeling that way. These days are almost always happy ones.
Even with the days so short and brisk, I step out onto the street and breathe big. I'm here. And let no one tell you New York is impersonal - the moments of sweetness are everywhere. The grandfatherly man who helps me with my luggage when I'm hauling clothes from one apartment to another, so intent on assisting me that he forgets to pay his bus fare. On the subway, a lanky man wearing a beanie reads a comic book to his son, who cradles his Razor scooter, as if they were in the coziest armchair, totally intent on the story and each other. The woman at the front desk of the dance studio beaming at me every single day that I come in, her hair a cloudy auburn cap, her cheeks round and soft as nectarines.
My body is ravenous, I feel like a teenager in puberty, with a metabolism stoked to furnace heats. I'm warm all the time now. If I don't eat every two hours, I become positively irate. "Hangry," is what my friends Yi-Lei and Abby coined it - when one becomes so hungry that they turn angry. I shed pounds, feel my muscles getting leaner. I eat brown rice, wheat pasta, chicken breast, salads and yogurt. Bananas. Gatorade. I come home aching, fall into bed, and then toss and turn from the adrenaline.
Best of all, I am among friends. It delights me that now, finally freed of the constant siren call of homework, extracurriculars, I can focus on talking to people. I spend time with them; I feel I could hang out indefinitely, until the conversation grows awkward, silence reigns, and we turn tentatively on to the rest of our lives. Amazing Fuqua friends, working in high-powered jobs amongst intelligent teams. My new ballroom dancing family, so full of kindness and energy. I forgot that life could be like this - balanced, confident, open for the next opportunity, embracing the next new experience. Sometimes I wonder: can it possibly get better than this? If I died today, I would feel I did so having pursued my dreams...even the realization of them seems less important now than the journey towards them. Isn't this what living is?
On the subway I read voraciously. The Handmaid's Tale, Dinner at th Homesick Restaurant, Sons and Lovers, Possession. The words and ideas fill me. I write a lot for a living now. Between the grandiose novels with their painfully accurate portrayals of the human spirit, and the management writing that I've been honing for so long, I begin to lose sight of my own voice. I try to find it on the dance floor sometimes, but even there I am swayed strongly by the ideas of others. Sometimes I sit down to this screen and I am empty, as if I've poured out every energy into the New York streets that I've cavorted along every day.
Days off are worth it for that. To recapture my voice, to rest a moment, but also to work. The wail of a furious child reaches me from the street, along with the sound of cars passing on the street below, like Pacific waves rushing and receding along a rocky shoreline. My radiator rattles. This is not a quiet place. But it is my place.