Toska

January 18, 2013

One form of loneliness is to have a memory and no one to share it with. -Phyllis Rose

As I was watching a clip satirizing experiences on public transit, I was struck by a sudden sense of sadness… because I was entertained by the video. In my wanderings around Europe, I have lived through many similar situations, but nearly all of them have been alone.

I have shared some of my more dramatic mishaps with friends and family, and on occasion will share a less exciting one that relates to my current situation.

But this second hand experience does not compete.

When I first went abroad, I was with a girl named Jordyn. Now, we hadn’t interacted much prior to our trip to Poland, and after a few months, our paths diverged again. But one of the most beautiful things that Jordyn and I had was that a year, two years later, we were able to sit down and talk. We shared memories, dusted off old jokes, looked at pictures and reminisced.

A similar situation happened this last spring break, when my fellow RYE student Amanda and I were back in Nitra, four years after we had lived there. We retraced our steps, visited our old haunts, made new memories in this place we’d once called home.

Every movement we make leaves a trace of ourselves.

I have no problems traveling alone.

But it does leave one… lonely.

No one with whom to recollect the Munich train station when we made a fifteen minute change to go to Rome.

No one with whom to share the excitement of the Parisian train station when it appears in Hugo.

No one with whom to laugh about accidentally riding to the end of the line in Amsterdam and being kindly mocked  (and then helped) by the tram drivers.

No one that strolled through airports all over Europe, getting stamps in passports, buying a beer simply because that was the only word you KNEW was the same so that you could use wifi at a pub in Croatia, begrudgingly taking a taxi, then realizing how impossible it would have been to walk this time.

Memories litter my soul.

My words, written across emails and journals, scraps of paper and facebook posts. Sometimes I am afraid that those words are the only thing convincing me that it was all real.

So as my retro suitcase sits unused in my closet, I shrug my shoulders.

It is rather lonely, but I still wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Smartphones and Saturdays

December 1, 2012

Two 20-somethings guys came into my coffee shop this morning looking slightly bewildered.
“Um…” said the one closest to the register. “I’d like a cup of coffee.”
“Sure!” I responded, and then proceeded to query which size and roast he wanted. Finally, filling up the cup, I asked if he wanted me to leave any room for cream. “That’s the last question on this, I promise!”
“That’s fine… but now I have a question for you!”
As I brought his coffee over and finished the transaction, he continued.
“We’re from England.” (At this point, I had to stop myself from saying, ‘Well, obviously.’) “And we’re in Iowa City.” I couldn’t help myself– I did have to laugh at that statement. This bewildered gent continued. “We’re in a band on tour… and our band left without us last night.”

As I handed him his change and he promptly dropped it back in the tip jar, he finally sheepishly asked his question. “We need to get in touch with our manager. Or our agent. Or somebody. And we were wondering if we could use a phone to make a quick phone call.”

I pulled out my cell phone and handed it over. “Here, go ahead.” Now, I do not have a smartphone. As these British gents found the number on their Iphone 5, they puzzled over how to dial it (a problem I can relate to– the joys of traveling!). Then came the brilliant moment: when technology surpasses skills. Looking at me in a panic, they asked, “Now, how do we call it?” I pushed the send button and went back to my work.

Ten minutes later, my coworker had lent them his smartphone and I had my Verizon LG back.

The Mask and the Martyr

September 23, 2012


When does a girl become a woman? I’m wondering if I am going through that process right now. All my life, I have tried to keep up the beautiful mask. That my life is put together. That I don’t struggle with anything or have any issues. That I am never lonely, angry, confused, bitter. That I always have the answers. That I have a lovely, pure heart.

It’s a weary mask. It is a heavy burden. To always be put together. To always have my life appearing whole and unbroken, when inside I have always been dying.

Overwhelmed by myself, I threw my story at someone the other day, too weak to care. Tired of being called authentic, tired of being called genuine when my soul and heart were so dirty and tattered. As I shattered the pedestal I had been placed on, I waited bitterly for the shock, the disappointment, and the separation. I waited to be left alone, as I no longer matched up to the ideal.

But you know what happened?

She said, “I love you, anyway.”

She touched my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, “If anything, I love you more now that I know the truth about you.”

“This is being genuine,” she told me. “Nothing you can say or do will make me love you less.”

And I began to cry.

“This can’t be real. She’s crazy,” I thought to myself. So I sought out another woman, and another, and another. And these four women surprised me so much.

“I love you even more now than I did before,” they all said.

Instead of being thrown away, shunned for not living up to the perfection, I was cherished. Stunned, I wept. As my weakness and struggles, lies and liabilities came to light, I was loved any way. Not because of what I’d done, but simply because I was me. Broken, imperfect, and loved anyway.

I held my scarlet letter to the light: pains from the past and present, wounds that had never healed, struggles that had never been faced, and emotions that had never been confronted. Broken. Confused. And somehow, through it all, I am beginning to release the shell that has bound me, the cage that has kept me, the mask that has shielded me.

I am on a journey, discovering who I really am. How to be genuine. How to be authentic. How to be alive. It is scary, and I have cried more in the last month than I have in the last 3 years combined. But with every tear I cry, I feel as though I am releasing the façade. I am beginning to breathe. My soul is awakening. Who I was is not who I am. I do not yet know what I will look like at the end of this, but I know that she is going to be more alive than I have ever dared to dream of. It looks like this broken girl is finally letting go enough to start to grow into the woman God is preparing me to be.

Pretty Little Liars

August 31, 2012

Because I have far more important things to think about, the world wide web is treated to the introspective ponderings that have been plaguing me for the last several days so that they will stop hounding me.

Following so far? Good.

I’m just a well-dressed wreck

I’m just a made-up mess

Working hard, trying to keep everybody impressed

All the while, falling apart on the inside

Stephen Curtis Chapman — Broken

I despise the question, “How are you?” Several of you have been treated to my venting sessions regarding this statement. In American culture, this phrase means little more than, “I acknowledge your existence, moving on…”

In some ways, this question turns us into the biggest liars.

“Good, thanks.”
“Fine, how’re you?”

I ask it sometimes at work to my customers. Sometimes they give me a, “Good, I’ll have a tall classic mocha.” Sometimes they say, “I’m alright, how’re you? I’d like a grande dark, no room.” Sometimes they are surprised, take a second to blink, answer and order. Other times they completely ignore the question.

I tend to fall into that last category, even in real conversations.

See, the thing is, people ask it but don’t mean it. Most of the time, they don’t even realize they have asked a question. It is acknowledgement of existence, much like, “Where are you going?” or “Have you eaten?” in Chinese culture.

In conversations with people, it is my habit that I will not ask the question, “How are you?” unless I have both the desire and time to hear a legitimate answer. If both of those are in place, I tend to push for more than a knee-jerk answer. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’m guilty of following the same pattern, but I try not to.

People matter.

Life isn’t easy.

We are too busy. Too distracted. Too focused on ourselves. What I have to do next. Where I have to be. My world extends to my fingertips, and we view our fellow man through foggy glass. They are there, but not clear enough to care about what is going on beneath the surface.

This makes it very easy to lie.

“I’m fine.”

Have you ever thought about that? Seriously? Why do you ask people this?

I ignore the question most of the time. But every once in a while, I’ll run into someone that will pause and actually ask me, “Hey, how are you?”

It’s moments like that when I’m honest. It really isn’t that hard to get me to open up.

The thing is, no one ever asks.

And most of the time when they do, it is easier to deflect the conversation, redirect it. Or answer, “Fine, how’re you? No, really, how are you?”

Then I’m safe. My soul stays tucked away. No worries about actually answering that question. No actually having to think about life, analyze it, and be honest with myself. At least not today.

Because when someone actually does ask, then I go into psychoanalysis mode and I ponder the question for days.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programing. Acoustic and Articulatory Phonetics, you’re next in line!