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A puzzle piece went away, rolled around on different surfaces, grazing and bumping and came back with slightly different nooks and crooks. The curves aren’t quite the same and some parts had been left behind, chipped off. The rest of the puzzle board welcomes the returned piece; they missed her. What happens if the puzzle piece doesn't fit? Well, she tries anyways, but other pieces dig into her side and she does the same. Nothing’s intentional but it still hurts and they can’t back out now. They come from the same puzzle board. They are inseparable.
I’m spending my entire freshman year at home, taking classes virtually. My social life is a fraction of what it was a year ago, and that’s saying something. While I didn’t imagine the pandemic would last for so long, I knew it would disrupt my plans.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time editing articles that have focused around the theme of joy. I’m not just saying this so that I can plug The News-Letter’s fall magazine, though you should definitely check it out — take even five minutes out of your day to read or watch one of these pieces and I guarantee it will brighten your day.
The painting is the size of two doors, thick stripes of color against a dark background. I stand in the hall and stare at it, my neck craning to take it all in. Mark Rothko’s No. 14, three rectangles of color — red, dark brown and black — on a 235.9 by 203.2 centimeter canvas.
It’s often easy to forget that I can aim for something more than simply existing during the pandemic, for something as lofty and non-apocalyptic as creative growth. The pandemic seems like it should override just about everything in life. Even the activities I’ve always loved to do, like cooking, creative writing and talking to my loved ones, have now reemerged as coping mechanisms. The pandemic has occupied their negative space, pushing right against them and attempting to take them over, too.
I have never enjoyed waking up early. In my opinion, it is pure cruelty to wake up at the crack of dawn, haul myself out of bed and leave the comfort of my pillows and blankets. I have slept through my fair share of alarms, shown up late to school on too many occasions and once even missed a train ride because of my inherent inability to wake up on time. That is why, this summer, on the day before freshman class registration, I was nervous, anxious and overwhelmed by the idea of having to select my classes at 7:00 a.m. the next morning.
I point to the blue moon. It’s snowing, and I invent reasons to believe that I haven’t changed. It’s pointless, though; I’ve changed, and it’s snowing, and it’s Halloween, and I can count on one hand the things that have stayed the same. On my other hand, I count the amount of people I have spoken to in person since March. I peel open a tangerine, and the wedges of fruit look like little crescent moons. The lamp behind me casts a moon-like shadow against the wall. I look at my hands, and they, too, are moons. It’s late, and I am so, so tired.
For two whole days, our apartment was filled with the deafening racket of drills and hammers. A few weeks before, we had decided to get our own washer and dryer units to avoid using the communal laundry room a couple floors down.
If you ever saw me on campus, you saw me with my headphones on. It’s just a law of nature, like gravity. I’m always listening to music. I can’t help it. The headphones come on, and everything else in the world goes silent. No more incoming texts, no more assignments, no more stress and no more worries.
On Tuesday I deleted all of my social media. There were many factors behind this sudden decision, but the overarching one was that I felt like I had to pretend to be something I wasn’t always: I had to pretend to be okay.
If you are reading this piece, then you are already on the path to self-actualization. This is not necessarily because reading it will create newfound value in your life but because reading it reflects your willingness to learn from the experiences of others.
I loved apple picking as a child. Whether it was juggling the apples, playing hide-and-seek between the bushes or just spending quality time with family and friends, it was always an activity near and dear to my heart. However, my family sadly stopped going after one year when three of my family friends, my sister and I all got severe poison ivy from an apple tree we had climbed.
My roommate Kinsey and I had been counting the days until fall break. For the first time, we had two days off school, and we had an increasing desperation to escape from the four walls we live and work in. As the semester neared its midpoint, our work ethic declined so rapidly that it was practically a resident of the Underworld. We decided we needed to get away, and we picked Philadelphia as our destination.
I turned 22 on Monday, and a friend casually asked me what my three goals are for the next year. This probably shouldn’t have caught me so off guard — Jan. 1, the first day of school and your birthday are the only three acceptable times in the year to set goals, after all. But eight months into the pandemic, I haven’t thought about long-term goals all that much.
“Sometimes, when you've a very long street ahead of you, you think how terribly long it is and feel sure you'll never get it swept.”
I have been trying to practice gratitude. Throughout the day I tick off on my fingers all the benefits of being home and taking college classes remotely. I don’t have to be away from my family or pets for months at a time. I get to have my mom’s cooking. I can attend all my classes while wearing pajama pants. Tick, tick, tick.
There are vampires at this party — plastered in black garments, hair spiked with gel, mascara running down their cheeks like black tears. No one wanted them here, but they are, so someone must have invited them. By this point, it’s too late to kick them out, and I know better than to be rude to party guests, so I am letting them stay for now. And yet, they’re taking up all the space on the sofa and eating all the raspberry tarts and finishing what’s left of the sparkling apple cider, and I am getting sick of it.
I finished The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller yesterday. I began the book unsure of what to expect from a Greek myth adaptation, but by the end, I was in tears. In addition to evoking a sense of sadness, this beautiful and poignant story has reawakened my long-term interest in Greek mythology.
What makes you feel at home? I’ve been asking myself this question a lot. I’ve never felt as homesick as I do now, and I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly changed to make me feel this way. After weeks of uneasy mornings and motivation gone out the window, I’ve finally settled on an answer: people who make me feel safe. I don’t mean physically safe; I mean safe in the I-can-let-my-guard-down sense of the word.
As soon as the canola oil and butter begin to sizzle at the bottom of the pot, I add half a cup of flour and feverishly stir the mixture with a wooden spatula. I keep the flame on high and wrestle with the resulting roux to keep it from burning. As it begins to change hue from bright blonde to dark chocolate, the green pepper, onion, celery and garlic — all finely diced — make their triumphant entrance. I then add the chicken and sausage, which I preemptively cooked brown on a neighboring stove with salt and pepper. This is followed by cajun seasoning, paprika, thyme and a few bay leaves.