Summer love stories
I’ve always been told I’m an extrovert. Funny how you can be told something but not believe it yourself.
Typically, we think extroverts to be energized by social interactions to the point where they crave it constantly. And I do think this of myself. I love the feeling of being surrounded by friends, the room buzzing. Because of this expectation to fulfill the role of the extrovert, to be “on” 24/7, my perception of being isolated has been warped.
This summer, I spent many hours baking in the living room of my apartment in Hamtramck without air conditioning. It was just me, my guitar and the oddly specific poker decor leftover from the previous tenant. I started to go crazy, finding any opportunity I could to be around people, often standing in the corner at concerts where I knew no one.
I quickly learned that just because I was “going out” didn’t mean I was outgoing. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t living up to my societally-ordained title of Extrovert with a capital E.
When I read Olivia Laing’s “The Lonely City,” everything clicked. Her part-memoir, part-art history lesson examining what it means to be lonely surrounded by people opened a part of me I never knew existed. We as humans want to combat loneliness because of how it's stigmatized: Lonely people aren’t getting out enough; Lonely people are longing for someone to talk to them; Lonely people are just plain sad.
I finished this book at a back-alley restaurant in Pristina, Kosovo. No one was sitting near me. In that post-finishing-a-book glow, I realized valuing myself by how many people I know doesn’t hold a candle to valuing myself by how well I know me.
This summer I learned to love silence.
Coming from New Jersey, you could definitely say I have a large and quite talkative personality. My calm summer days used to consist of the crashing waves on the Jersey Shore. However, I spent the summer in Burlington, Vermont, surrounded by beautiful lakes, mountains and a quiet peacefulness. I liked the views and the countless Instagram opportunities, but I truly loved the way that setting changed me.
Hiking on mountains alone with the sounds of nature became my safe place to just be me. Lake Champlain looked the same in person as it did on a postcard, reading my book as I watched the sunset over my picturesque new home. The silence was so present that it was loud enough to drown out my own thoughts — the type of mental reset everyone needs from time to time.
Over my summer, those peaceful moments were the times I stopped to embrace and appreciate the here and now. I became a kinder person to myself, my peers and the earth. I became a better listener to myself and my friends. It’s like at first, the silence of Vermont helped me to clear my mind. By the end, that same silence was what organized my mind.
As my summer in Vermont came to a close, I realized my newfound love for peaceful quiet did not have to leave when I did. Silence was not my Saturday hikes or a gentle lake. Silence was the clear mindset I could push myself to seek out and maintain, even in the hustle and bustle of Ann Arbor.
Eating disorder recovery: a love story
I’ve been asking myself lately if I’m ready to start writing again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened the same notebook and stared at the same blank page, daring myself to just write. Not for a grade, not for an audience, just for myself. I just couldn’t do it this summer.
The few pages of writing I have from the last few months are jumbled and incomplete. Cursive turns to scribbles and lines and dark circles of ink where I let the pen bleed. So much has been torn up and thrown away. Most of it was never written.
This isn’t a love story about writing, but it is a love story about truth. This summer I learned how to tell the truth. I learned what it means to be honest in ways I hadn’t known were possible. I learned how to vocalize what I’d known for a long time. I was always lying through my teeth: to my parents, to my friends, to my doctors, to myself. I didn’t want to be sick or a burden. I didn’t want to be harming myself, and I certainly didn’t want to be attention-seeking. But I’d been staring at blank pages for so long that I didn’t think I could do it anymore. Honestly, I could have, but it made for a better love story to somehow admit the truth.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s OK. If you do, maybe you’ll know how hard it is to recover. Maybe you know how broken you feel looking in the mirror. How much strength it takes to turn down one more drink or to just eat the burger.
But even beyond the constraints of an eating disorder, maybe you know how much the truth can burn on its way out. It is so hard not to end every conversation with “I don’t know.” It is hard to love people. It is hard to mend mistakes you’ve made over and over, and it breaks me to admit I’m scared.
The truth is, I’m healing. I’m learning how to write again.
I’m also stronger than I used to be — less fragile. I’m more whole. I’m getting to know myself again, and I’m trying to find the right words to say that.
I fall in love three times a day. Perhaps it’s because I’m a cancer sun and a cancer moon; perhaps it’s because I’m a writer. Perhaps it’s because I exclusively seek out experiences that make my heart race (in a good way). But with everything I’ve fallen blindly head over heels for in 21 years –– boys in glasses, coffee shops that sell newspapers, banana muffins, redheaded best friends, novels dripping in rich prose (set in Paris), I’ve never quite made the list of the places, ideas and people my heart aches for. Perhaps, this is because I am a member of a generation that monitors self-worth based on our social media accounts. Or perhaps it is because I put pressure on myself that steals my ability to triumph in who I am.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to move to New York City. New York’s biggest delight for me lies in its impassioned vigor for live theatre. Working on Broadway in the city of my eight-year-old daydreams this summer didn’t live up to the expectations I always held tight in the back of my mind. Simultaneously, the experience of living in the middle of all I’ve hoped for pushed me to fall in love yet again, not with the city, but myself. I recognized the reality of New York beneath the sparkle. It’s a place not of idealism and magic but nitty, gritty life — real life. Being out of the bubble of my childhood pushed me to look at what New York truly is: a bubbly, wide awake, disgusting paradise. The things that make New York ugly make New York real, and the things that make New York real make it beautiful. After 21 years of self-doubt over insignificant flaws — pinching extra skin on my sides, scrutinizing every word I put on a page, agonizing over relationships — I can exhale a bit. I am young, I am in the middle of it all and the very things that make me real are the things that make me beautiful.