Two days ago, someone broke into my car. I was at a concert — the kind of concert I hadn’t been to in almost a decade, with electric guitars and an obsessively-adored touring musician. Throughout the show, I kept thinking, “I wish there was some way to hold onto this feeling.” I could tell that I was nearing the end of a part of my life where I truly enjoy being pressed up against the front of a stage, digging my fingers into some twenty-something’s amplifier. Someday soon this will all feel less exciting to me. I wanted to be able to remember how it felt to be that kind of alive. Meanwhile, someone quickly went through everything I’d left in the car since I started to move, and made judgements about what was worth keeping.
If I could buy one indulgent new book for myself (and I’m not the type to buy indulgent new books; I am the type to buy nickel books and falling-apart books and books that have been out-of-print and gathering dust for decades), it would be “Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Catalog of Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World” by Maria Popova. I saw it propped up on a shelf while I was browsing for gifts last month, and I lost a full hour going through it. It contains page after page of words that exist in only one language, and then whimsical little marker drawings to go alongside. For example, there’s the Norwegian word “forelsket,” which is “the indescribable euphoria one feels while first falling in love.” Or “tsundoku,” a Japanese noun meaning, “the leaving of a book unread after buying it.”
My senior year of college, I had my mind made up about what I was going to do, but no idea how I was going to do it. I was going to move to New York and become a journalist, somehow. I had spent some time working at The Nation Magazine the summer before, and i wondered if maybe they would rehire me to do some kind menial task (after all, I'd been a diligent fact-checker, and I wore such quirky outfits to the office). So there I was, perched on the edge of the vast unknown of a freckly job market, determined to succeed at find a profession in a dying industry, when I got an e-mail from Teach for America.
I sat in the attic, staring at “the pile.” When we moved into this house, four years ago, it felt like a godsend to have so much space for everything: the woman who owned the house had asked us not to live upstairs, but she said we were welcome to use it for storage. So whenever something appeared in my life that I needed but did not need, I put it upstairs.
It was very easy to cut class at my high school. You simply walked off campus, and that was all. I know how easy it was because I cut class all the time — at LEAST once a week. Once one of our school security guards even tipped his hat at me (yes, his literal hat) as he watched me disappear down the street in the middle of the school day. There were plenty of things to do while not in school — you could watch “Kids In The Hall,” buy Oreos at the grocery store, or try to find secretly dirty pictures in the health books at the public library, for example — but my favorite thing to do was to get into Ben’s Geo Prizm with him and drive into the nothingness of the afternoon, blasting “Better Son/ Daughter” from the cheap car speakers with all the windows down.
I have been holding rocks in my pocket ever since I read Byrd Baylor’s excellent children’s book, “Everybody Needs A Rock.” She says, "I’m sorry for kids/ who only have/ TRICYCLES/ BICYCLES/ HORSES/ ELEPHANTS/ GOLDFISH/ THREE-ROOM PLAYHOUSES/ FIRE ENGINES/ WIND-UP DRAGONS/ AND THINGS LIKE THAT — /if / they don’t have/ a rock/ for a friend.” I mean, how can you argue with that? This woman feels sorry for people with WIND-UP DRAGONS if they don’t have a thing as simple as a rock. So my desk drawers and jacket pockets are full of kumquat-sized stones I've stolen from rivers and beaches and yoga studios. (Yoga studios are always trying to sell you pieces of jewelry or fabric headbands by displaying them in dishes of stones. Those are usually the BEST ROCKS.)
Yeah, I know. We’re all supposed to hate Valentine’s Day. If you’re not in a romantic relationship, you’re supposed to hate Valentine’s Day because you’re so lonely, and you have to watch everyone else be happy and coupled up. If you are in a romantic relationship, you’re supposed to hate Valentine’s Day because corporate America is trying to take ownership of your love and have you spend money on stuff no one really needs in order to pacify your significant other one day a year. We’re supposed to hate all the Celine Dion they play on the radio, and all the pink and red, and even the chalky candy hearts in all their glorious ubiquity.
When you’re filling out your OK Cupid profile, you are supposed to complete the sentence, “I am really good at _____.” It’s kind of a tough question, because you don’t want to BRAG or anything, but there is so little in life that a person can be objectively GOOD at. Ideally, you’d be able to cite something where data backs you up: “I am really good at being tall;” or “I am really good at getting fan letters to Michael Bolton published on his fan page.” Lucky for me, I have exactly one skill like this. I am really good at finding four-leaf clovers.