Three weeks into this semester I started writing something that I never ended up posting because I was afraid that, so quickly after I wrote it, it would become irrelevant. I wrote about how excited I was, how alive I felt, how full of potential every class, every new person felt. And I also wrote about how I was afraid that all of that potential and excitement I felt early on would flatten out. I was afraid I would get so caught up in the perpetual forward motion this place—and also just being alive—engenders, I would succumb to what I described as a mindless “never-ending series of hurtlings”: “I spend so much of my time hurtling—toward a paper deadline or the weekend or even just to the end of the day when I can get in my bed, and in my sleep, hurtle towards the sound of my alarm the next morning. And when I get incredibly used to falling from one moment to the next, the concrete moments fail to jolt me to a stop, and it all runs together making the vertical free-fall remarkably horizontal.” I was afraid my semester would lose the dynamism I felt it began with. I didn’t want it to flatten out and become boring again.
But revisiting this piece and looking back over the course of my semester and semesters before it, always right beneath the surface is the feeling that I’m talking about a potential much more specific than I let myself say. I wrote “I am attempting to revel in the dynamism of my continually shifting relations with other people.” What I really meant, though, was that I was feeling wanted, romantically. I felt like there were people to get to know, who wanted to get to know me, and different paths, romantic and sexual to explore. This feeling of romantic potential—even though it constantly felt, as it generally does, on the brink of collapse—infused me with excitement. It helped me slow down, feel happy, revel in the novelty of people and ideas and words and things.
But I didn’t want to admit this at the time—that I was feeling happy because I was feeling wanted—because that felt stupid and trivial and beneath me. My editor, Siraj, in all of his infinite wisdom, kept prodding me to explore this direction as I so clearly wanted to, but I wouldn’t let myself. Because, you know, of course I didn’t want to be the woman who wrote about her love life, or particularly cared about her love life, or you know, allowed boys to substantially affect her outlook on life as a whole.
But of course, as most people do, I care about my love life. I care a hell of a lot. It’s not just feeling wanted, but feeling all of the ups and downs that comes with that. Whether or not I feel like there is romantic potential in my life substantially affects my mood, my sense of motivation and direction. I can’t help but feel like my life is split between times of love, or the potential for it, and times of nothing, of no one, of “just me.” The excitement and potential of romantic involvements seem to belong to some other person, some other girl, who lived in a different world with many more emotional hills and valleys. She was exciting, excited.
And sure, this has to do with the way we idolize romantic relationships. I grew up in a culture that made monogamy, particularly for women, seem like the end-all-be-all of joyous existence. The fact that I’ve never really experienced such a thing makes it seem all the more unattainable and desirable. Or maybe I’m just a very sensitive person who clings to the feeling of being wanted, being needed, like a fucking life raft.
So, that sense of emotional, mental, psychical dynamism I felt three-weeks into the semester has passed just like I thought it would. And of course, a lot of that, as I posited then, is due to the simple passage of time. But things have also flattened out because I explored a few romantic paths, none of which really came to anything, and now I’m back at my default. A few weeks back I jokingly described to a friend a night I spent listening to Neutral Milk Hotel scrolling through Tumblr for pictures of people holding each other. I started crying as I thought “Wow. I’m home.”
Even though that sounds really fucking depressing I assure you, it’s not. Having all of this potential fade isn’t devastating, it just feels like a return to routine. I’m honestly, kind of, happy about it. This is partly because I’m really at home with melancholy. Before spring break, I sat in Bradley, listening to the Mountain Goats, reading Elena Ferrante, periodically wiping tears from my eyes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried in an airport listening to the Mountain Goats. I never want anyone to notice but I also like the feeling of not-wanting-anyone-to-notice. I feel alone, potently, powerfully alone, and sad. When my love life has fallen flat in entirely undramatic, uninteresting ways, I get to be sad— a low-grade, entirely manageable atmosphere of sadness—not necessarily because of anyone in particular, but all by myself. I relish the solitude of sleeping alone—both because it is familiar and because I get to wish it weren’t.
Because—when it comes down to it—I fucking live off of nostalgia, unrealized potential, evaporated hopes. These feelings and patterns of behavior are both routine and endlessly invigorating. They allow me to feel like I’m in love, or on the brink of it, or at least on the brink of something, while also freeing me to be my own person. I eat meals alone and pay more attention to my reading, my writing, my schoolwork. I dunk myself into the afternoon light of Amherst Coffee and get started, early, on research for a paper. I wake up early. I make a habit of going to the gym. I establish a boring routine with a background of love songs and a side serving of red wine. Days blend together. I’m alive and moving in a pattern. And what could be better than that.
Image courtesy of antonella morrone