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Wishing With My Hands

“We wish with our hands, that’s what we do as artists.”
― Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You the Sun

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This is basically a summation of the past two months of my life, when a ton of growth happened and shot me into 2016.

First, there was a job. I spent most of November lazily applying for jobs, feeling a loss of hope that 5 months had passed since I had left K feeling vibrant and intelligent, only to have prospective employers throw me away as if I wasn’t worthy. I decided to try for the mall, hoping some holiday seasonal position would scoop me up and spit me out in January, or even hire me on full time. It was a last attempt before I sent my resume out to temp agencies. And honestly, I was exhausted from just trying anymore. This summer, I was approached to work for an individual (who wanted me to edit his manuscript, only to flake out on me after 4 months of scheduling conflicts, Starbucks brainstorming sessions, a few over-the-phone Google doc edits and one paycheck), was called by 4 retail or food prep positions, sent in over 75 job applications, interviewed for 4 jobs, and was “hired” once (only to not hear anything back ever again).

Finally, I applied to LUSH Cosmetics, a company I have long adored for their commitment to sustainable packaging, organic ingredients, fair trade, and refusal to test on animals. LUSH’s claim to fame is the bath bomb– a typically round ball of baking soda, essential oils, and food dyes that turn baths into fizzing, whirling wonderlands that smell amazing. I could talk about LUSH for days, but I won’t. I’ll leave it at this: I applied, I was hired, I spent approximately one month putting my persuasive skills to use and selling hundreds of soaps, bath bombs, shampoos, etc., all while meeting some really great people. Maybe some day I’ll be willing to talk about the shit storm I ran into with them, because there are always pros and cons, even when it came to just simply getting a paycheck, but hey, it’s all water under the bridge now.

During my month at LUSH, one of my best friends, Kaleigh, came home from school which meant I was visiting her house and talking to her parents more. Kaleigh’s mom recommended me for a temporary position as a graphics proofreader at her company. For me, this was such an honor, especially since my experience at LUSH was nearing its end.  I received a call for a phone interview, and waited. After a week, I got another phone call saying that the position had been filled, but they were so happy with my phone interview that they wanted me to come in to interview in person for a different position in their financial reports department. So I did, and last week, I got an offer!

I know it’s a far cry from my first job goals after graduating college. I always told myself I would never be able to work in an office and do the same thing everyday. But once I interviewed, and after a solid month of wacky hours, grumpy sales associates and customers, and making a little over $9/hr, I decided it was time to try something different. The interview was very relaxed; I barely talked about myself, but was more told what the job would be, and how they understood that no, this job was not what I was looking for with my degree, but that they saw it as a really good opportunity for me to gain new skills, get the company name under my belt, and be a good stepping stone for me to go into editing or whatever I chose later on. To me, that was an amazing concept: I’m not expected to be there forever, and they aren’t trying to squelch my current skills, but explore other areas that I may be good at while I start looking into grad school and pay off some of my student loans.

In the past six months I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want, and I truly believe that for right now, this is it. I get that some people see it as me wasting my potential, or giving in too soon, but I have been so stressed about money or getting a car and paying my bills, that I want some security. To me, security is a worthy adventure to go on until I find myself wanting something else.

Second, there was alcohol. And maybe it wasn’t a lot, my post-grad drinking has significantly decreased since June, but it still exists, just in more of an adultier way. I accidentally got a little past tipsy on New Year’s Eve from my margarita bar I made for my friends and I. Accidentally. As in I was like “ah I’ll just enjoy one drink or two” and those two drinks made me drunk. Safe to say my alcohol tolerance went wayyy down after not going to Pitcher Night at Waldo’s for a few months. Funny enough, though, my desire to drink has also gone down since I graduated. Maybe it’s the fact that my parents don’t really drink so I would be drinking alone, or that drinking is expensive, but I currently have three limes going bad because I haven’t taken advantage of my friend’s Christmas gift of  Moscow Mule ingredients. That’s besides the point though. Here it is: Going to a bar and having a drink or two with friends I haven’t seen in a while, or even going to get one drink with Kaleigh before going to the movies has drastically altered my drinking experience. It’s more thoughtful, especially since we have to get into a car and drive after we drink so we are more careful. The memories I’ve made are sharper and more fun to me.

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Kaleigh, Sarah, and Chelsea

 

Third, there was a lot of friendship.  The months of December and November consisted of me doing a lot of things to be with others. I worked a lot, made new friends, and got to start the gifting season by thoughtfully making things for people. My friend Chelsea’s birthday and my lack of funds sparked me to wing an embroidery project that she really loved and I loved working on. I started embroidering more things for people, and while I still have some finishing up to do, I’m glad I took the time to make things for people instead of just buying stuff. Ultimately, I have had an amazing support group of friends for many years, but the three pictured above have been so wonderful and I cherish them every single day that I get to spend with them. We were often too busy to see each other in the past months, but when we get together, it’s phenomenal fun.

Finally, there was a book. 

“This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders.” — Jandy Nelson,  I’ll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson was the first book of 2016 I’ve read. It’s a great YA novel, not just because it focuses on LGBT*QA issues, but because of the language. Nelson’s ability to mesh fiction with poetry made my reading experience so page-gripping and thoughtful, it was refreshing. Because of this novel, I started writing again. I wanted to write this post, I wrote a poem a few days ago. Hell, I stared writing a NOVEL I had an idea for over a year ago. Just having this book come into my life and to relish it made me realize how much I love to write again, especially using my storytelling poetry skills again. I even started looking into grad schools.

I just feel like this turn of the year has been off to a great start, and I am very happy to share these next moments with you.

Until next time,

Hunter

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Live Free or Die Staring at My Computer Screen

Today, I spent 7 hours lying on my couch in terrible posture watching a man cut a goat’s head in half and eat the brains on the National Geographic channel. When my dog, Cooper, barked at me to signal that 1. I was watching T.V. for too long, and 2. it was time for his nightly walk, I groaned and dragged him around the block quickly in the 65-degree mid-November air so I could find out if the couple bee-keeping successfully moved the swarm to the new home. Essentially, I avoided nature so I could watch people live “off the land” in some show entitled “Live Free or Die”.

When I last left off on this blog, I was doing the same thing, just getting by. Living? Depends on who’s asking. Sure, wonderful things have happened in the past few months: I’ve found a (seasonal) job at LUSH Cosmetics that I am eager to start, I’ve seen my best college friends roughly 5 times since we graduated, my family and I seem to be on good terms, I’m able-bodied and from what I can tell, healthy. But am I living?

This seems to be the cliché question many people ask during existential crises, but I’m serious. I spent all day today indoor watching the outdoors instead of being outside. Period cramps and headache aside, I should’ve enjoyed the weather a bit, maybe soaked up some Vitamin D.

As of right now, I dread checking my emails, knowing I have passed deadlines on assignments I can’t gain energy to do. I hate logging on here even to write this, because I’m sure afterward I’ll watch some British YouTuber decorate their home with Christmas lights or give me a tour of their closet. My best friend will send me a Vine on Facebook messenger, someone will like a picture on Instagram I posted from a concert I went to a week ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love technology. I love being socially connected to people; it helps me remember how loved I am, and how good people can be to each other with all the viral videos of people helping each other my Facebook shares with me 24/7.

In the wake of the tragedies in Paris and Beirut, the earthquake in Japan, and the social injustices at Mizzou, I’ve felt more than ever that I need to just turn off my computer and fold into myself. It’s not that I don’t care; I care too much. I want everyone to be okay and live harmoniously. But being reminded by Facebook, tumblr, twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Google that I’m not doing “enough” by not changing my profile picture to one filtered with the French flag makes me want to scream. Does me not engaging on every internet platform somehow translate to me not giving a shit?

I logged out of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter last week for three days. When I came back I had enough notifications that made me want to delete my social media forever. It was too much. Too much caring and feeling. Too much for me to take in all at once. Now, I’m honestly considering it. The only thing keeping me anchored to these platforms is the fear that no one will be willing to pick up a phone and call me unless they see tagged pictures of me floating right in front of their faces. And I get it, I’d do the same for them.

How does this couple with the program showing me a man eating a goat’s head? It’s what one man, who has been living on the land for over 20 years, said. Colbert built three different homes for himself in the swamps of Georgia. His cabin, the main home he had, was destroyed in a fire. Despite the 20 years of work he put into it, he was able to collect some of his possessions from the literal ashes and say, “It was a sign that I was becoming too materialistic again. Things cycle through; it’s time to rebuild.” Then, he went on to try and rebuild his home using reclaimed wood and tin roofing from his past home.

Colbert had a point. I’ve been too materialistic, especially with technology. Heaven forbid I log out of Facebook for a week, right?

I guess these ideas have been swirling in my head a lot lately. Leading up to getting a job, I was jealous of my friends posting their new jobs, their new clothes, their ideas all over the internet. But I wouldn’t have been if I wasn’t watching it all unfold through my computer screen. I’ll even admit, the jealousy was misplaced given how little I was actually trying to better myself– I was just watching through a screen. What was I gaining from watching others do things I couldn’t get out of bed to even try for?

There have been so many instances of people doing so much for others (and themselves) without access to the internet. My mom mailed some fabric to a 90-something year old woman who sews 3 dresses a day for little girls in Africa and Haiti. “It’s not like I’m doing anything with it,” my mom said. A few weeks later, the woman sent my mom a card thanking her so much for her help. She even asked for my mom’s phone number so she could talk on the phone.

See? Helping! Something Facebook didn’t force anyone to do! Someone not focused on the (literal) material of their lives.

I thought about this yesterday, too. My aunt hosted an estate sale for her mother-in-law. Without boring anyone with details, there was a lawsuit, they didn’t get a lot when she passed, etc., etc. It still led up to an estate sale/garage sale with household items my aunt couldn’t part with, even though she didn’t have enough room in her house. It was better to her to have stuff than to part with anything. And dear god, did the woman have STUFF. I get it…ask me about the library in my closet my mom keeps begging me to get rid of yet I refuse.

Maybe something I should do is detach from materialism a bit. Logging out of social media, or even staying away from my computer, for a start. I could read some of the books I have stacked in my closet, or donate them. Maybe it’s time for me, like Colbert, to rebuild.

Hunter

So This is What it Feels Like

I had a moment of clarity the other night. I was in my tiny room of blank beige walls, with everything from stockings to cans of spray paint speckled across the floor. Two candles were lit, and my college lamp sat on the carpet, illuminating one small corner. I was scrunched up on my frameless bed, eating ice cream and drinking Bigelow tea while watching an episode of Grace and Frankie, the mildly amusing Netflix original series. It was then that I had a moment of perspective, as if looking in at myself from another point in time. This is what living in my adult-life twenties feels like. I am here, and I am in it.

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I can relate to a lot of what Hunter mentioned in her last piece. I probably sound selfish in saying this, though, since I have a job that I’m very grateful for and for which I spent days of last winter and spring working towards. And here I am, with the job I hoped and dreamed for, and I have never felt so discontent. It is not that my job is dissatisfactory or that my co-workers are unkind, but rather that I expected my job to instill creative and holistic meaning into my life for this one year, and it has not done that. Shame on me.

Normally the straight-A student and the one to initiate group projects, I have never felt so scattered and unhelpful. My skills for maintaining a planner have somehow escaped me; I’ve been terrible about keeping up with friends; my room has not looked clean more than once since I moved in to my new apartment; I owe my brother over $100 for an Uber cleaning bill after letting loose a little too much on a night of bar hopping. In some ways I feel like the Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin characters of the aforementioned show: I feel lost and confused and like nobody can shake me out of this mindset except for myself. But the one glaring difference is that Grace and Frankie had one moment of their lives that shifted everything: a dinner in which their two husbands (longtime business partners) declared they had been having a 20-year affair and were now leaving their wives for each other. I, on the other hand, have no such closeted gay husband or an event in which the rug was torn out from under me. I am simply going from school to full-time employment, a normal “transition” period. I have no clean excuse for feeling this panic.

It might have something to do with my month in Germany prior to beginning my job. I was a counselor at an international children’s camp and experienced my fair share of high and low points within that setting. But I became so close with so many of the children and other counselors, learned so much about other countries as well as myself, that I was fully attached to the camp culture, and had a hard time being severed from it. So maybe it was the rapid shift from Chaco sandals to suede wedges, from 11-year-old conversations and water fights to design thinking workshops and networking with Detroit’s great minds. Maybe I am still experiencing culture shock.

Or maybe it is that a contemporary college education does not appropriately prepare students for life on the other side. Clearly from reading any one post on this blog, none of us stepped down from the Commencement ceremony stage and glided atop a fluffy cloud of postgrad bliss.

Or it could be that I have written very little for myself since this summer, and I am now being shown how crucial a part of my creative being that has become. Or maybe it is a combination of all of these theories.

I came back from my month in Germany on a Thursday afternoon, with an accumulated seven hours of sleep for the past 36. That, along with the jet lag, made me a dysfunctional member of society. I attempted to wash my clothes and ended up leaving soaking wet clothing scattered in the kitchen. I kept standing in the middle of rooms with my mom behind me asking, “Annie, what are you doing in here?”. I spilled two cups of water. I think a small part of that dazed and hazardous me has stuck around, never shaken back to a functional state.

Yes, getting out into the world keeps one sane.
Yes, getting out into the world keeps one sane.

But here’s the thing: since I started writing this piece and put it aside for a few weeks, things have gotten better. Not perfect, but better. The moments of panic have diminished, and I seem to have more of lashing-outs from my water-spilling self rather than it being a constant presence. My job, for better or for worse, is becoming my new normal, and I am opening up to the fact that I am far from alone in this city. My housemates (who I barely knew before moving in with them) have enriched and enlivened my experience in Detroit exponentially. My parents are a short drive away, and I am not ashamed to rely on them for advice, support and old furniture. My brothers are also back in the area, and our weekly sibling dinners have meant more to me than I think they realize.

It is currently mid-autumn. I have lived in my apartment for two months, and I have figured out several running routes in my neighborhood. I have not brought myself to submit any of my material from my last semester of college. I found a good place to have my eyebrows done for a good price, and I listen to more Top 40 radio than I should. I (like Hunter) am eating too much ice cream lately, my love life is as nonexistent as always, and I occasionally chat with my neighbors outside of my driveway.

The wind is turning cooler, and my goal is to move forward through this year’s changes with as positive an attitude as I can muster. Living in my 20s is not glamorous or set on the path to success, but it is fine and full of wonderful people, and for now that is all I ask.

Annie

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my wormhole ft. my dog
my wormhole ft. my dog

Hunter Parsons

It’s been almost two months since I left Kalamazoo to embark on some new journey into the void, and I’m already jaded. Sure, for many 20-somethings that are fresh out of undergrad, this is old news. You come home to the old rules but a new mindset, you may fall into the couch potato life for a few weeks and go back to the job you had since you were 16. You may roll the dice and take a chance– like so many of my friends have done valiantly and definitely ungracefully (though it seems like they’re skating their way into the future)– and end up in Iowa for grad school or Chicago for a job or Detroit for new opportunities. I’ve learned in the past two months after talking to all of the women I write with on this blog that post grad life is shitty and hard and we have all fucked up already in some way or another. 

The struggle that exists in taking a chance is that some of us are too fucking scared to do it. I am one of these people. I’m 22 and live in Michigan, yet I can’t drive a car or call my doctor for my medication or get a job.

I talked about it before; I can stay or go. But two months later from those original thoughts, seeing people scooping up jobs left and right, seeing my best friends travel to Tibet and New York City and Chicago, and watching Facebook scroll by with the liveliness of summer, I feel the need to voice how hard it is to sit here and not feel like I’m doing anything.

“Well Hunter, why don’t you do something about it?” you may ask, to which I can show you the list of 20+  jobs I have applied to in the past two months in varied locations. I can show you that the only call for an interview I received was from Vera Bradley and I didn’t even do them the decency of calling back to decline an interview. But that’s just the surface of it. 

Truthfully, I’ve been so stuck in a rut that I’m failing out of other opportunities in life. I’m freelance editing a book on the side that promised me a paycheck but I haven’t seen yet because I haven’t gotten past page 8 in edits. I’ve been trying to get myself to work on stuff for my internship for a week and usually sit with an open Google doc and binge watch Friends instead. Hell, this is the first thing I’ve written in about a month. I can tell you about what happened on General Hospital last week, go to an estate sale and pick out a mid-century modern tablecloth that you can sell on Ebay for $15 when you paid $1, I can explain what a satin stitch or french knot are in embroidery, and tell you how well my Sims are on the app on my phone. This has been my life for two months. It’s far from pathetic, I mean I’ve taught myself to embroider things, but I know I’m doing it to avoid the void of not knowing. I am too scared to do anything. 

Yet, I’m in the midst of the void. All I can talk about is how 1) depressed I am 2) scared I am and 3) tired I am. These conversations vary but usually lead back to this main point: I have no idea what I want to do with my life and I feel like everyone else has it figured out (which they don’t, but try telling my brain that at 3 a.m. when I’m on Indeed job hunting because someone on Facebook just shared that they got their dream job…gag).  

The truth is, the world is full of opportunities and chances to take. I took a chance by moving back home, and I’ve fallen into a rut that I cannot seem to dig myself out of. If I’m not talking about my existential crisis, I’m thinking about it, convincing myself I’m a failure for not leaving school with a job in my pocket or not moving out before I got home.

Sure, there are other days when I remember that I’ll get where I need to be eventually. My mom reminds me that some companies take longer to get back to applicants, my friends take me to watch meteor showers or meet up in Kalamazoo or Chicago and remind me that I am smart and worthy.

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Despite being unemployed, I can still enjoy my life.

Maybe I’m saying this to me more than you, but know that there’s a way out eventually. Maybe I haven’t written poems in a while, or some days I can’t get out of bed because I feel pathetic. I hoard empty bags of SunChips and string cheese wrappers on my side table. I’ve eaten ice cream every day for the past, like, two weeks. I watch game shows from the 1970s with my mom for hours straight. I have accumulated a ton of credit card debt because I can’t say no to a Slurpee. I spend hours looking at home goods and fantasizing about the color I will paint my walls in my dream home. I am lost, and sad, and confused most of the time and don’t leave my house when it gets too hot or cold or rainy or windy or cloudy.  But I know this is going to pass one day, and I will write again, and I will figure it out. I can’t enjoy this ride right now, but I’m going to stick with it and probably cry a lot more over it. But when I’m ready, I’ll be jumping into something new. Until then, I’ll be here in my bed with my Netflix and my dog.

The Quarter Life Crisis

This has been one of the most tumultuous summers of my life. At a full twenty-two years I imagine that I will say this every summer for the rest of my life. I almost miss the angst of sixteen (I say almost because fuck that). But since sixteen I honestly haven’t become much better at removing drama from my life.

After graduation in the middle of June I spent four days sleeping in a van at Electric Forest Music Festival, participating in all sorts of debauchery that even the first shower after that weekend wouldn’t wash off. I glued rhinestones to the spaces above my eyebrows, had a man spray paint my arm with stencils, and watched lightshows with a certain kind of dilated pupil that makes you look otherworldly.

I then lit off fireworks the following weekend off the beach of a lake house while waving around a pitcher full of “pink panty droppers.” I blasted music for a boat party with Temptations remixes (blasphemy). I did Acro Yoga on a cement floor and bruised one of the little bumps of my spine.

I then drove to northern Wisconsin where I visited my musically inclined secret love at a music festival hosted by him and his friends. I brought my boyfriend. Trouble ensues. I spent the next week pining over the 29 year old that I can’t possibly have, while simultaneously signing a lease with my boyfriend of three years for a loft in downtown Detroit. I kissed the secret love while at a show in Detroit. I came home with spider bites on my stomach. I’m not sure if I feel bad about it yet.

I then hopped on a plane to travel to Marrakech, Morocco for eight days. On the nine-hour flight my boyfriend would alert me to the fact that he read my text messages and knows everything. I’d spend the next eight days in Africa wondering why my quarter life crisis was happening right there and then. I would cry alone into a vodka tonic while the quiet Moroccan housekeeper would walk into the room and then quickly step backwards out. I would press my forehead against the glass of a taxi van and wave at children swimming in aqueducts. I pondered parasites and also their intense joy escaping from the 114-degree oven that was the outdoors. I wondered how I could escape my own oven that I built for myself. I climbed in like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, blindly and maliciously.

Instead of being productive I drove to Chicago to meet him. I hung around in an Air BnB in Logan Square with tigers on the wall and a porch filled with cats and hanging plants. I listened to Hold On by Tom Waits and felt like I was maybe in a bad indie movie. I am probably playing up the manic pixie dream girl archetype too strongly. I can’t help myself right now.

While this has been happening, I have also been volunteering teaching children creative writing workshops in Detroit which has probably been the most productive thing I’ve done in a while. There are a couple of young students that just make me beam from the inside out.

I have sent out seventy job applications (at least) with almost no sign that anyone has even glanced over my resume until this week. This has been less fulfilling.

This week I’m deciding if I should keep my lease or break it and get out. I’m interviewing at two different advertising jobs in downtown Detroit. I’m imagining that I will stop running around having an affair while I’m supposed to be doing something else.

I am not a good person right now but I am beyond grateful for that. I think that if we always like ourselves then we would never get anywhere. As you can see I’m trying to get everywhere. This is my in between space. This is my edge.

Arkansas

Annie Gough

Growing up, a summer week spent in Arkansas was always a week for relaxation, shenanigans, and just the right amount of humid, hazy boredom. This summer, these typical qualifiers were not to be had.

For the past four years, I have been a responsible young adult and held summer jobs in which I was fortunate enough to be allowed a week off, but only one week. And each summer, I chose to designate my vacation time to spending seven days in Northern Michigan with my immediate family and our family friends. Not going down to Arkansas to visit my mom’s side of the family, her only remaining family besides her sister.

On the twelve-hour drive south with my mom, I thought of the years long gone, when my brothers, Arkansas cousins and myself would drive tractors around the family farm, shoot rifles at junkyard toilets, tend to stray puppy litters, hold three-hour ping-pong matches, and watch too much Matlock. I knew this trip would be different: my great aunt Liz has Alzheimer’s, and it has come to light so subtly and yet so rapidly all at once, that nobody quite knows what to do about it. Still, I brought a tower of magazines to read and even my acoustic guitar, hoping the solitude of the small farm town would force me to pick up the instrument after months of neglect.

When my mom and I arrived that first evening, there was no potato salad, cucumber-tomato salad, and ham feast awaiting us. Aunt Liz grew flustered by the sudden company and demanded to be taken for a car ride, without us. We quickly learned from my great uncle Johny that she no longer likes lots of people around, she can’t walk without assistance, she doesn’t know when she needs to use the restroom, and there was a chance she may faint while being moved.

Aunt Liz, a woman who always nurtured me and soothed me and made sure there was plenty of chocolate cake in my belly — my Southern grandma — is now essentially a different person.

You know when there’s something in your life beyond repair, so you try to mend everything surrounding it? That, for my mom and me, was Arkansas 2015.

Equipped with my iTunes library and some questionable cleaning solutions, the two of us got to work straight away. The first task was to go through all of the cabinets and sort out all of the expired foods, spices and medicines. Next was to put in new shelf liner atop the sticky old layer, then scrub down the outside of all said cabinets. When my mom got to cleaning the two bathrooms, she came out of the smaller, mustard-hued room and commented, “you know, I don’t think it would be that hard to tear down the wallpaper and repaint that thing.”

And it wasn’t. Not the first layer, at least. The wallpaper was original, nearly half a century old, and so only a thin layer of it peeled away with ease. We used a blue, mucousy spray to aid in scraping off the rest, and that’s when my mom essentially kicked me out of the bathroom, urging me to cook dinner. The bathroom was her disaster to remedy, to caulk and sand and clean and paint. To return to a normal state.

So I cooked. All week long, I made green salads, apple crisp, dishpan cookies, sautéed summer squash, creamed corn, chicken-ricotta meatballs, anything. I even made my own version of the cucumber-tomato salad I had come to love receiving when in the south. All of this thrilled Uncle Johny, to have home-cooked meals once again, but I knew that my offerings were only temporary. On more than one occasion he asked if I’d like to stay on as an in-home chef, and I knew he was only partly joking.

There were moments of clarity, when Aunt Liz would answer questions with conviction, when we could hold a conversation that went beyond yeses and no’s. My mom’s sister, Suzy, flew down part way through the week, too, which brought a little more life into the house. I found her one night scrubbing at the floor moldings all along the kitchen walls. The days were generally strained, so that by the time night spread and Uncle Johny was asleep on the couch, my mom, aunt and I would be silly with exhaustion. Drinking red wine out of solo cups and eating my dishpan cookies, we looked through old family photos of the farm when it was a dairy farm, not a soy and catfish farm. We pieced together the lineage of mysterious relatives, told old stories and, of course, like out of a Traveling Pants or Ya Ya Sisterhood novel, we laughed until we cried.

The three of us left Arkansas quietly, on a Saturday morning just as the sun was rising. I don’t think any of us wanted to trivialize the experience with sappy comments; I know I didn’t.

I really can’t imagine what it is like to live constantly, or constantly be close by, to a loved one with Alzheimer’s. It is truly one of our race’s crueler, more mysterious diseases — the loss of memory and the mind is a frightening concept to me, and I didn’t fully understand the heartbreaking effect it can have on a family until I experienced it in my own. And so to all of those who care for a person with Alzheimer’s, to them I extend a great amount of respect and sympathy. For now, I will keep my Arkansas family in my thoughts, with the goal to not wait another four years to return, and maybe even mail a batch of dishpan cookies to Uncle Johny.

Breaking the Bubble

Hunter Parsons

I graduated from my dream college a little over a week ago. When I say “dream college” I mean the one and only college I applied to after visiting during my junior year of high school. I mean the college I wanted to get into so badly that I pushed myself to get the 4.0 GPA, to play varsity tennis, be the leader for five different clubs, to boldly go where no one in my family had ever gone before: college. And yes, to my privilege, I did go there. I spent 4 years learning, loving, and getting to know the four other lovely women I write with on this blog. One week later, after stuffing a queen-sized mattress into a room that barely fit a twin, I’m in my parents’ house, the last place I wanted to end up after graduating.

They’ve attempted to make it more cozy; there’s a large Robert Doisneau portrait hanging on one wall. On another, there’s a mod looking painting of an angel strumming a harp. I painted my room gray, strung up fairy lights, and covered every surface with candles, succulents, air plants, and tubes of lipstick. My dog, despite curling up in a ball on my bed, found a way to hog the exact spot where I sleep at night. This is home, or house, and in my week here I’ve been weighing two different options that seem to be growing heavier each day I avoid them: do I stay or do i go?

When I made the decision not to go to graduate school right away, I listed a dozen or so excuses to justify my decision: mental health hell, my senior thesis project, I didn’t “feel ready”, I wanted to get my driver’s license, I wanted to just see what options home had, I wanted to see my dog, etc. All these things were true, but they were never the real reason for why I didn’t apply. Honestly, I did not want to leave my bubble.

At Kalamazoo College, we have a thing we call the “K bubble”, which means that people have a tendency to get sucked into the small community of our liberal arts college. Weeks go by before you notice that you have only seen the walls of your dorm room or campus. You haven’t left campus aside from running to the Walgreens on the corner of West Michigan and West Main (which was pretty much still campus). You live in the library or the fine arts building or the science building. Sometimes you sneak away to catch some z’s in your actual bed at home, or you sink into one of the chair’s next to the coffee shop between classes. The point is, you don’t leave. For four years you inhabit a tiny world with its own opinions and norms; you learn its language (DOGL, FAB, DOW, FACMAN, D-Watts, Stacks), its culture, and how to be in that space.

The “K bubble” was comforting, even when it got annoying. There was a structure in it that always made me feel like I belonged, like I knew what I was doing. Did I most of the time? Absolutely not. However, it gave me the illusion of that and when it came time to apply to grad school, I decided to let deadlines skate by me as I immersed myself in my final months in undergrad.

The “K bubble” pops the moment you cross the stage. During the fraction of time we cross the stage individually, when suddenly all we are thinking about is what four steps we need to remember (shake hand, smile, tassel, picture) and don’t hear people cheering for us, or see the thousands of faces around us, that’s when it pops.

But the home bubble still remains.

It feels more like living in a one of those vacuum-sealed bags than an actual bubble. It’s cramped, stale, and at this point, I would gladly take my “K bubble” again. There are expectations from my family. Just writing this is nearly impossible without having my mom ask me to drop everything to help her with something around the house. Coming home at any time I want isn’t permissable to my parents. I’m molding into the post-grad life, and I feel myself being compressed more and more the longer I sit idly.

When I look at job openings I sigh. What I want to do is far away from here, in states and cities I’ve never been to. I’d be alone there. I’m afraid.

But the choices are still there. While they might not be to apply to graduate school, my choice to move out keeps nagging at me during every conversation with family and friends who are so happy to see me home. When my mom tells me that I don’t have enough room in the house for my massive library, I cringe, daydreaming about my own apartment in Minneapolis or Chicago. The move is coming soon, I can feel it.

I just need to start living without a bubble.

Hunter