Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Blink

I had a dream that every time I blinked, a day would whirl by, so that I would flash forward to a random moment the next day. Washing dishes at the kitchen sink with Ira Flatow introducing his show in the background - blink - walking carefully up the stairs at work with my full coffee cup in my hand the next day - blink - laughing about puns with my team mates in our tiny office the next day - blink - opening the door to the gym and holding it for the stream of sweaty people leaving the next day - blink. All of these days went by in less than a minute. By the time I woke up, I was 70. Every baby I had met had become a parent. Every animal I had known had died. Every war I had heard of had been won. Or lost. Or ceased to be fought. And I had been there for mere seconds of it. A ghost flashing through picture frames, floating in space, fading into backgrounds.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Made Up Memory

Somehow I've reached a point where it's hard to believe that I used to be a little kid. A baby. I used to scream and cry in public and people didn't mind, they accepted it. I used to stare at things for forever and eat dirt and crawl around on the ground and everyone thought it was cute. I used to know nothing and added only goofy sounds to conversations and people thought it was normal. My mom used to cradle me in her arms and feed me and sing to me. My dad used to hold my hand and help me open Christmas presents and put the toys together. My sister used to teach me games and build forts with me and protect me from the monsters. They all protected me. I used to have people who kept me alive, and I don't really remember any of it.

None of the memories are bright and crisp enough to seem real, though I feel like they happened. Even when I see pictures of myself as a little kid, the smiling or crying or curious little face looks like a stranger, a friend's baby, somebody else being held by my young mother. Not me. But I know that it is me. That it was me. Pictures don't lie. That moment really happened, whether I can remember it or not. Pictures do strange things to the mind. Or does everyone feel this way and I'm just now getting weirded out by it?

In fact, some of the memories that stick out the most from when I was little are the silly little scenarios I day-dreamed up, the ones that never actually happened. Like going for a walk and imagining I was a giant, stomping through forests and skipping over mountains. Or imagining long, emotional conversations with my cat. I remember those memories, those day dream conversations, quite clearly. But where have the real memories gone? They must be there somewhere. Does my brain value make-believe more than reality, and has therefore clung to the moments it once wished would happen, while ignoring the ones that did?

And does this mean that in another 30 odd years, when I'm wrinkly and gray and slowing down even more, wanting to retire and rest, the memories I'll recall of these days will be mostly the meaningless, made up conversations I have in my head, and the random dreams I envision for myself all the time? Will the memories not include the real world swirling about outside, the real people moving and breathing around me, the real stories unfolding, of life and death and love and hate? Will it all be lost on me? It's sad to think that I'll be living in a world of memories that never happened, unable to recall the actual life that I led, or the real conversations that I had, or the wonderful people that I loved, and that perhaps loved me, too. The real people that I loved, but never quite understood. Never quite got to know... because it's difficult and a little bit terrifying to try and comprehend a life story your brain didn't invent on its own.    
     

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ways to Worry

Everywhere I live, I learn new things. About myself, about people, about nature, about history and the world. Things that I wouldn't learn if I stayed in one place for a long time. That's a big part of why I like living abroad, even though I know that other parts of my life, like deep-rooted long term friendships, tend to suffer from constantly moving. Most of the things I learn, I sort of expect to learn, like the basic history, aspects of the language, the customs and traditions. Although those things are interesting, I'm rarely surprised when I learn them. But other things are unexpected. Surprises. And those are the things that usually mean the most and change how I see the world.

In China, I learned that I needed to see full blown sunlight that casts shadows and brings the leaves in trees to life once in a while in order to feel happy. And that I needed to live somewhere where I wouldn't be the awkward center of attention each time I stepped outside. In Romania I learned that I liked to teach and that it's really, really hard to learn a new language and that it's not as easy to change who I am as I thought, but that people still like me anyways. In Flagstaff I learned how to work and study hard, almost constantly, and I learned that I needed to be cautious of people even if I trust them.

And here, in Turkey, I'm learning new ways to worry. It's in my nature to worry, I think. If there's something to worry about - cars sliding around on the icy roads my mom takes to work, the highest tree limbs my brothers climb also being the weakest, reckless drivers unknowingly speeding towards my family and friends on their bikes, a hidden disease waiting for the right moment to reveal itself, students disliking my class and not learning - I'll worry about it. All of the worrying I've done in my life before Turkey seemed pretty average - worrying about the basic well-being of my loved ones and myself being affected by regular, day to day living. But here, I've found new things to worry about.

Before living here, I never worried much about war. I thought about it, but I never worried about it. It was a terrifying, abstract, and distant concept. I never worried about my own country, my own government being at least partly responsible for the death of my friends' families. A few of the teachers who started this year are from places that appear daily in the news. Ukraine and Syria. And they've become some of my closest, dearest friends. And despite their light, despite their humor and positive energy, their countries are being torn apart, piece by piece. And their families are still there. And my government is supplying the weapons that might one day be aimed at them. And that feels terrible.

It's a worry combined with guilt. I worry that my friends' families might die, but on top of that, it might be by my own government's doing. My own country. Our big weapons and our huge military and our need to meddle with the rest of the world so that we, in our little comfortable bubble, can feel secure. So that we can spread the values we see as right and most important to the rest of the world. And none of us really knows or understands what's going on out there. All in the name of democracy and human rights. Right? And yes, I know that it's not all our fault. I know that while taking, we are also saving some lives. I know that lives might be taken if we don't get involved. But every time I read about the US supplying weapons to either of those countries, I imagine them being aimed at my friends' families. Because in the history of weapons and war, that's what happens.

I don't mean to sound anti-government or anti-war or anti-anything. I can't think about things in categories anymore. It's a world. We're all people, animals. And we are sometimes wonderful, and we are sometimes horrible. But somehow we've made it much more complicated than that. So I'm talking about things that I don't understand. Politics and history. Things that confuse me. Because I also love my country. It will always be home. Our diversity, our creativity, our freedom to think and question openly, our ability to accept unusual ideas and outsiders with (mostly) open arms. Our curiosity about the world.

At least those are the things that I used to think made up America. It seems, though, that we only embrace differences and diversity within our own borders, where we can easily control things, while the military quietly works away at getting the rest of the world to act more like us and to respect us. I worry that in the process of trying to do good and trying to protect innocent lives all over the world, which I deeply hope was the underlying intent of all of our decisions, we've gone off track. And we no longer know how to go back and too much is kept secret and too much is corrupt and it's all too complicated to fix, so we just keep digging more holes and making the old ones deeper. I worry about those holes eventually leading to the people that I know and love. By living here, in a country sandwiched between war zones, a country trying to keep to itself while also making room for refugees and doing its best not to get involved, I've learned how to worry about my own country and what, exactly, it is doing in the world.    

Sunday, April 19, 2015

a coupla thoughts

Three things the world needs more of these days: pre-emptive guilt, guilt, and remorse.

And

There is never the presence of silence. There is only the absence of sound.

And

I've been very busy. And mostly happy. And perhaps it's possible to learn how to be myself, even when I'm not by myself. Or perhaps not. Who knows. We're all just animals trying to figure each other and ourselves and all those unanswered questions out.




Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hey Brian,

What's up? How're you? How's the weather there? Sunny and hot or snowy and cold? I've been meaning to write to you all month, but you know how it goes. Time just keeps moving. Especially when you’re busy. And happy. I do think of you often, though. Especially this time of year. And this year particularly I've been wondering how you are. How you're doing now that a few years have gone by and your family and friends have slowly started to pick their lives back up and maybe even feel happiness again. Just every now and then, when they allow themselves to forget.  

I guess the main thing I wonder, and I've wondered often this rainy February, is if for some reason you couldn't have carried out your plan, if something or someone somehow reached you just the day before, would you choose to be alive today? Or was it just a matter of time, even if someone stopped you that one day, until you succeeded? If you were alive right now, would you be happy to be alive? Would you look back on that day that you thought was your last and breathe a huge sigh of relief that it didn't work and chuckle to yourself and Kat, "My, my, wasn't I silly back then? Thinking I couldn't go on...thinking no one in the world cared for me...thinking all those dark thoughts...feeling buried so far underneath the dark, black, cold sea. Wasn't I silly?" And later, separately, you'd both wipe away a tear from the thought.

Is that what it felt like? Because that's kind of what I imagine it feels like. Sinking beneath dark seawater. Lying alone on the sea floor and looking up through the murky water at the hints of stars and clouds and life pulsing through the world and not being able to understand or touch any of it. I feel like maybe I've been there once or twice before. Or near there. But not all the way there. Whenever I walk to the sea at night here, I approach it straight on so that it feels like I'm leaving all light and humanity behind me and walking slowly into dark nothingness. Some nights it's so dark that I can't see anything out there, not even the water, but I can hear it. And it often does sound so soothing, spilling onto the rocky shore and tugging at the smooth little stones, encouraging them to follow. I've always been able to turn back around, though.

The thing is, you seemed so happy in high school. You were happy. Weren't you? Standing on stage, big round cheeks ablaze, singing Burning Ring of Fire. There was joy surrounding you, there had to of been at least a bit of it in your heart, at your core. It's painful to think about all the high school and college memories I have that involve you. The more of your smile and jokes and joy I recall, the sadder I feel that something very different was brewing underneath. And none of us really knew. None of us understood that all of a good friend's being could somehow just go away. Evaporate into nothing. And would never have the chance to return. So many people in this world are dying to stay alive, and you just let all of your health, all of your joy, all of your talent, all of your dreams, even all of your pain and sorrow, go. You let them all die along with your heart. And you thought no one would notice that you were gone. It's hard not to feel just a little bit angry at you for that.


But mostly I just feel sad when I think about you. You were so loved, my friend. You still are. You still are, but it's not the same.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Request

I know it's probably (hopefully) a little early to be discussing these things, but I'd like to make a request. As already mentioned, if I become a ghost, I'd like to haunt the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City. That request still stands. However, if that's not what happens and if I get to come back, I'd like to come back as an animal, preferably a bird. Or a bat. Or anything that flies, really. Just not a human. I want to be fully, knowingly an animal without any confusion. Without any crossovers into this realm of otherness. No decisions on what clothes to wear each day, or which cities to visit while on vacation, or which brand of granola to buy, or which podcasts to subscribe to. No conversations about the latest HBO mini series or that old awesome author who died or this new song that everyone knows. No more posts or updates or short video clips with really long titles that aggrandize normal human qualities. No more photos of other people living their charming lives. No more questions of what to be doing with free time or what to write about or who to think about or what song to play. Just survival. Just earth and worms and trees and wind and feathers and sky. Just instinct and nature and an innate understanding of how to live. A life in which all of human knowledge and progress and values amount to nothing. Survival. Simplicity. Can I request that? Or does such a request to you, whoever ye may be, go against all those things that I don't understand and never will? Does such a request expose my ignorance and simple mindedness? Well, whatever, it's still worth requesting. Just in case.        

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014

I haven't done one of these things in a long time.

Where did you begin 2014?
At home. If I remember correctly, I was sick with a nasty cold and even missed a day of work.  

Where were you working?
Teachin' the old English at Antalya International University.   

Where did you go on vacation?

Vacations were a delightful treat last year, mostly cause Antalya's surrounded by amazing places. Within Turkey, I went to just about all of the cool little cities around Antalya, Kas, Petara, Istanbul, Kayseri, Cappadocia, Ankara, and Eskisehir. Outside of Turkey, I got to go to Cyprus, Greece (for a day), Croatia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. And, of course, I got to go home for the summer and stayed in Reno most of the time, but also went to Flagstaff to reconnect with grad school buddies and then to New Jersey for an internship with ETS. Man, it's good to go places, but I think I'm traveled out for a while.  

Did you move anywhere?
I was in Antalya for all of 2014, but I lived in three different apartments during that time (all within the last three months). Fun.

What sporting events did you attend?

Ummm...lemme think....  

Weddings?
I guess my wedding attending days are over.  

What concerts/shows did you go to?

I went to a few symphonies here in Antalya and a couple random bar shows here and there that don't really stick out. I miss going to good shows. Also saw a couple of bizarre plays here - both Shakespeare. One was Italian opera. One was in Turkish with platform shoes. 

Where do you live now?

A 5 minute walk from the Mediterranean sea.  

What's the one thing you thought you would never do but did in 2014?

At the very tail end of 2014, I started to enjoy wine more than beer. Inconceivable. 

What has/have been your favorite moment(s)?

I've felt much more aware of nature this past year. I love my times with friends and family, but I think my favorite moments have been probably pretty savant-esque stares at the leaves in a tree, watching how the sunlight hits them, or savoring a moment with zero human made sound, or just letting the breeze do what it wants to my hair.    

What's something you learned about yourself? 

My happiness and self confidence DO depend, at least a little bit, on the people around me. 
I'm innately uncomfortable with talking about and criticizing people. I've pretty much always been, but my discomfort with it feels like it has sharpened this year. 
I'd rather hang out with a good person who smells bad than a mean person who smells nice.
My memory's gotten real weird and I don't remember as well as I used to, so I like talking about information and facts even less than I did in the past. 
I don't know very much about anything, and I never will, and I'm (mostly) okay with that.   

Any new additions to your family?
No additions, only subtractions. Other than plants. I've got a bunch of plants now.

What was your biggest challenge of 2014? 

Probably choosing to stay in Turkey a second year. It was a really hard decision.

Any regrets?
Nah. Sure. I don't know. Not knowing or trusting myself yet, at this ripe old age.

Change your hairstyle? 
It's pretty much continually going from near-pixie cut to chin length and back again.

Start a new hobby?
I started making ice cream recently. That's been fun and time consuming and expensive. But delicious. I've made coffee, mint chocolate chip, and beet ice cream so far. I've also kind of started weight lifting? Or incorporating weights into working out. Which feels dumb to type, but I love it. I'm definitely increasingly concerned about my own health, especially knowing that I've got a little bit of scoliosis and other back problems...weight lifting has really helped relieve the pain. So I guess it's not so dumb.  

What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?  
On June 17th, I gave my mom a hug for the first time in 10 months. On July 1st, we had to put the Dusty Dude down after 14 years with him. It was so sad, but so peaceful. In mid March one of my colleagues and good friends here pretty much went crazy and was fired from the school and his brother had to fly here from the US to bring him back home. He was one of a kind - riding his skateboard around the university, rarely sitting down on the school shuttle, communicating through anything but English, knowing a dozen other languages, distributing little bits of plastic to people as though they - the plastic and the person - were treasured gold. That all makes him sound weird in a bad way, but he wasn't. He was a good teacher and a good friend and a good person, just weird. And, in the end, going through a harder time than anyone here realized. The day after he went crazy and was fired and knew he had to go back to the US, we all went to work as usual, except for him. He didn't get on the shuttle in the morning. I remember that moment really clearly. The shuttle pulling up to his stop, the other teacher getting on, but not him. He'd never get on the shuttle again. When I got to work, I locked myself in a bathroom stall and cried and cried and cried. I don't know what I was crying about, but I couldn't stop. Luckily I didn't teach until the afternoon. Also the day in April that Seda, one of my students, got hit by a car. She has since died. The hard stuff sticks out so much more than the happy stuff. Sadly.     


What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?
Probably the internship with ETS...I feel proud of that for some reason. It made me feel like I could do something more productive with my writing some day. And also having and kind of enjoying a role at work that I never thought I'd want - being a level coordinator.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Dude, I don't know what is up with my sinuses here, but yuck. My hearing sucks more and more every day. And my jaw pops a lot. And my back aches. What's that? What's that, you say? You say today is Saturday? Goodbye, then, I'm going out to play.  

What was the best thing you bought?  
All of my plane tickets, even the ones that got messed up, rocked. I also am very pleased with the coffee grinder I bought...I now grind my own coffee and will probably never go back to that dreary life I led before.

Where did most of your money go?
Grad school loans, traveling, rent in New Jersey, FOOD

What do you wish you'd done more of?
Probably communicate more with the people who've stuck with me for a few years. And the people around me now.

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Sitting on a bus or in a taxi or waiting for a bus or for a taxi.

Books you read in 2014:
I'm not much of a reader anymore, I guess, but a few of my favorites were...A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O'Connor (it's been hard to read since I read this book because it was SOOOOOO darn good), The Martian by Andy Weir, No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Tenth of December by George Saunders, and The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon.

What was your favorite TV program?
Fitnessblender.com. Check it out. They're great.

What music will you remember 2014 by?
I listened to this song by Rene Aubry probably a hundred times. On the shuttle, making dinner, hanging my laundry, doing dishes, right now. I love it.
The piano version of Where Is My Mind cause I can play it now and spent a good deal of time learning it and love it kinda dearly.
Korobeiniki (the Russian folk song that the Tetris theme song is based on), too, for the same reason.
Different Pulses by Asaf Avidan cause it's groovy and he sounds like a sultry lady.    

What did you do on your birthday?
I had friends over for a pancake brunch. It was the first day of our semester break, so it felt pretty great.

Who did you miss?
My mom and sister and dad and little brothers. Liz summed up my feelings about friends quite nicely - I have lived all over and have good friends speckled across the world.  While I do not regret my experiences, I often miss having a closer knit group of friends.

Who was the best new person you met?
Every person I met is the best in some way. That probably sounds like a lame cop out, but I hate "valueizing" people. That's something else I think I learned about myself - I believe everyone is worth knowing and I don't like prioritizing people. But, at the same time, that's probably how good friendships are formed...when you start seeing more value (is that the right word? enjoyment? kinship? fun? compassion?) in one person than in others and start spending more time with them. Or I don't know. You people are complicated and I understand nothing.

Favorite quote/song lyric:
That Asaf Avidan quote I put on here a few posts back sticks out a lot. Life is hard and emotional and anyone who gets to this point without experiencing some pain is blessed/fortunate/lucky, regardless of what you believe. 


Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
The weather forecast is sometimes correct. Wear boots when in doubt.  

GOAL FOR NEXT YEAR:
Learn more Turkish, stay healthy, keep in better touch with friends back home, be more open to friends here, be kinder to myself on the days that I hate me, savor the days that I don't.