Snapchat, Bringing Families Together Since Last Week

After Snapchat morphed from an ominous sexting app to one dominated by selfies of girls giving themselves triple chins and crazy eyes, it’s become a major mode of communication for my brother and me.

We update one another about our lives through artistic photos of our messy rooms, cooking food and of course expressions. He’s received many glaring chats about doing his homework, and I’ve received just as many angry faces urging me to get out of bed on the weekends.

The next step was assuring our parents this newfangled social medium wasn’t as creepy as they’d heard, and that’s a work in progress.

I made one for my mother last week, as a step forward in the process, and she enjoys snapping photos of recess or all the work she does during her planning period. I regale her with shopping trips and embarrassing photos of me in the morning.

She takes very parental selfies, when she chooses to send them, meaning her chin features strongly and there’s a half-screen of background above her forehead. Teaching her about flattering selfies is the next lesson.

My brother, on the other hand, is fond of sending me photos of the water heater, lawnmower or ceiling fan. So at least I know utilities at home aren’t an issue.

My father is another story. He doesn’t understand why we wouldn’t take normal photos and text them to one another. He also doesn’t get why you have to hold the screen, why the photos don’t last long and what the point is.

To contextualize, my father didn’t know less than three meant a heart until a couple weeks ago, and he’s still angry about how it’s sideways and not anatomically correct. He also doesn’t have his own Facebook account, although he does message me from my mother’s every so often.

I tried to explain that differently-emotioned selfies would take up space and not convey exactly what I wanted in the moment. Plus, sometimes you have to share a photo of real life, and taking that, saving it and sending it isn’t instantaneous.

He returned to his book, and a few minutes later asked me to explain it again, because he was sure it made sense somehow.

When I was younger at some dinner party, my parents ended up in a conversation about their decision to have kids so young. My father said he didn’t want to be outmoded, instead wanted to keep up with pop culture so he wouldn’t be confounded by our trends.

I’d give my parents a 10/10 so far, because they had more advanced phones and knew how to use them better than me until I bought my own and whose mother has a Snapchat? I also found out recently that our ability to communicate via Skype is a rare one among kids my age.

I count myself lucky. That is, until I send my mother an incriminating photo of the pigsty that is my kitchen by accident. (It’s not really, just using that for effect. It’s sparkling. I cleaned it yesterday. Trust me. You don’t need a photo.)

Anticipation and Celebration

There’s something sacred about the excitement leading up to celebration days. For me, it was always the giddiness leading up to Christmas that stood out the most as a child. Everyone excited about the days off school, the promise of presents and the thought that it’d probably still be warm enough to play outside since we were in South Louisiana.

As a kid, I never took into account the non-Christian kids who were more than likely rather sad about having time off for Christmas but not their own holidays. But that’s a separate issue entirely.

Growing older, Christmas has morphed into a symbol of the past when my brother and I still believed in Santa, and a new college tradition has brought out similar anticipation and joy.

It’s called Chimes Night. In the manner of Hanukkah, staff members of the student newspaper celebrate for a week. It begins the moment our managing editor sends out the famous Chimes Night Email Sunday evening, which details the crunk attitude and lack of preparation possible for such an event.

The email’s signature style includes hyperlinks to photos from past Nights, highlighting the bacchanalia we might hope to recreate on the Saturday following.

Since this ritual is imagistic, staff members proceed to change their profile pictures to the best of former Nights. Others begin special diets, swear off drinking for a week or get serious about their tan lines.

This week is always Dead Week, when no assignments are supposed to be due in class for maximum effort Exam Week, but this is a lie. What happens instead is staffers spend the entire week oscillating between worrying about group projects and term papers and fretting about proper outfits.

As a campus group, staffers of the daily student newspaper are arguably the ones who spend the most cumulative hours creating original content for widespread distribution, so this brand of cutting loose is not a part of every weekend. We spend that time emailing sources, coordinating photography for events and covering said events.

So the buildup for Chimes Night lasts through the semester. More than greek life formals, more than championship games, more than even Christmas at this point, the magic of letting loose with the people with whom you spend the hardest-working hours of your college life with is unbelievable.

It’s the single thing I can say I’ve never seen anyone half-ass in college. When someone goes in on Chimes Night, they go all in, and the results include outpourings of love, dancing on stage at The Varsity and the most epic hangovers no matter what you drank.

It’s a thing of beauty to behold, and this semester will be my last as a student, a fate I share with 16 other graduating seniors.

There will be other celebrations, other jobs that capture my heart, other people that brighten my life, but nothing will be as vivid as standing on the balcony at my second Chimes Night, watching the crowd churn on the dance floor below while behind me, an editor yelled about how wonderful a writer had become. In that moment, I could smell the alcohol-soaked wood of the balcony railing mingled with the cumulative sweat of everyone packed into the tiny space suspended above the main bar, and the energy that came from our desire to act like fools together was overwhelming.

Maybe it was just the alcohol talking, but that’s what Chimes Night is about. Credit in the form of words and dancing and sloppily-written love notes in a senior’s card. Something so specifically college and so universal it almost hurts.

The one moment that describes the night perfectly is this photo. The hug, the crush of people, the unicorn head.

chimes night celebration

Photo isn’t mine, not sure where it came from. Much like many later-recollected events from the night.

Bring it on, week, because I just changed my profile picture and this Saturday night, it’s going down.

In Support of Inexperienced Actors

This semester, I’m in a Shakespeare class and in honor of his 450th birthday, all the students enrolled in similar classes put on short excerpts of plays on Wednesday. It felt like a middle school production, except there was no annoying teacher-director insisting on gratuitous costumes. We students chose that ourselves.

A few groups decided to film their scenes, ones that featured cue cards not quite offscreen, and many of the live actors onstage referred to lines in their hands. Skits ran much faster than everyone thought. Despite this, there seemed to be a passion running through the room, not the typical class requirement vibe.

While that may have stemmed from the free food, there was also a deeper focus on words on the audience’s part than typically arises at dramatic events.

Watching English majors — pasty, quiet types for the most part take on something as grave and beautiful as Shakespearean work felt like an adaptation that needed to happen, however sacrilegious it seemed in light of our limited acting backgrounds.

I, for example, forgot how nervous I get onstage, and when it came time for me to deliver what we decided was the closing monologue for Titus Andronicus’s final dinner scene, my voice shook and cracked, and I reworked some of the wording.

I maintain this was because I got caught up in the moment, just like our Titus did when he regained balance like his jumping onto a desk that slipped sideways was choreographed. And it was intense and in-the-moment enough to warrant shock.

Our prop list looked like something from a Tarantino film (meat tenderizer, a head, swords?), according to Titus, and our single practice involved pretending Tamora’s dog was our audience as she sat, barking, on the living room couch.

It was a very typical college experience — Tamora’s surprised roommate walked in just as Titus slit Tamora’s throat with a clear plastic knife — and it reminded me of high school, when my friends and I would spend afternoons making five-minute films.

The masterpieces usually featured us playing several different characters with somewhat different voices. We didn’t rehearse much, just yelled at each other until everyone did what we felt they were supposed to. Our story lines never made much sense either, even when we performed something pre-written.

The yelling came from some underlying desire to fully represent these slapdash characters, people we came to believe in over the course of a filming no matter how impromptu the plot points.

Standing in the back of a tableau with an appropriately depressed face for Marcus while I watched my fellow cast members read lines from their phones and hefty anthologies and amend their awkward gestures to accommodate the small space, I saw the same change happen.

Shakespeare’s characters were far more developed, but we began to settle into them just like high school. Would Tamora draw out her words and close her eyes halfway, bored with the proceedings? Where would Saturninus look when searching for Chiron and Demetrius, whose styrofoam heads we taped to a dinner plate for effect? Was Marcus calm or crying when he delivered the final speech?

After the whirlwind of killing onstage, complete with an earsplitting scream, someone accidentally drawing blood and a sword fight that included the audience, I believed the watermelon we called Lavinia was an actual person, and my three fellow students lay in a heap of bodies on the ground and not just fruit juice.

The audience tracked with it as well. They tensed up, waiting for the summation of the scene, and I chose to go with a wailing Marcus, hysterical and bemoaning the idiocy of slaughter.

Acting, no matter how poorly it’s done, is a rush. And reinterpretations of text teach something intangible and difficult to translate to someone without similar experience.

And after I fell to the floor in grief, we cleared off the stage and Titus took care of his wound, what we left was a visceral reminder that words create action and emotion.

Every so often, us staid English majors need to remember that.

2048 as Meditation

Every so often, a simple game comes along with the potential to distract so fully from the tedium of everyday lives that we, as a culture, become obsessed. It began with tic-tac-toe in elementary school, evolved into Sudoku in middle school and then those logic graph puzzles in high school.

A month or so ago, Gabriel Cirulli hit us with the next incarnation of this phenomenon — 2048.

It seems like old news now, but during spring break I spread the gospel of this simple flash game beyond my friend group and watched as my grandmother walked away from the game, frustrated, declaring she wouldn’t return for an hour. I heard her cursing about filling the board 10 minutes later.

Her board probably looked something like this...frustrating and beyond salvaging.

Her board probably looked something like this…frustrating and almost beyond salvaging.

If you haven’t heard of it, quit reading and google that number. Chances are, a Buzzfeed post shows up first. If that doesn’t tell you a little something about the power of Internet trending, I don’t know what will.

Ignore that too, for now, and find the actual game. The brutal simplicity of smashing numbers into one another to add them is addictive. The goal, as the name states, is to reach the tile that reads 2048 on a four-by-four grid.

The girl I work with in the French Department told me about it one day while we sat waiting for the phone to ring and otherwise putting off homework. Normally we have small talk, but after beginning to play, all conversation ceased. We bought into its mystique wholeheartedly, almost forgetting to greet professors as they walked by.

The numbers pulled us into their world with the slow rhythm of shifting the sets back and forth and up and down.

There’s no time limit, so it feels meditative. You fight yourself to beat a high score, so there’s no external force pushing you higher. I’m sure there’s a leaderboard somewhere, but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as the first time you create a glowing 512 block.

It does glow. And I haven’t reached anything higher, so I don’t know if it starts to sparkle or something, but what matters is that we feel enough accomplishment that it should sparkle.

Games like this provide something that appeals to base human desires. Through your own making, you can create something beautiful, ordered and per The American Dream we’ve been spoon-fed our whole lives — our own, based on merit.

While we scuttle from work to an appointment to a class where we can never muster the courage to speak, we become lost in our minds, in the everyday minutiae of the universe we create.

2048 saves us from ourselves. This cyclical way of thinking has no place on that four by four grid. In its repetition and switching perspective, we find a world of infinite, mathematical possibility. This is rare in our modern world of ambiguous Tweets and shortened face-to-face interaction times.

The game provides an outlet for unresolved anger at the end of the day, or in the middle, and that’s priceless. Even if my high score is a measly 7,068, that’s not the point. The point is that we’re addicted to a game that mellows us out and provides a calming couple minutes in the middle of every day.

It’s like yoga for someone who isn’t physically flexible or doesn’t have the time. Mental yoga, minutes at a time, and making time for it daily helps clear my brain. Received the fifth email about final exams in one day? 2048. Come home to find the Internet won’t turn on? 2048. Upstairs neighbors won’t take their boots off at 2 a.m.? 2048.

It’s the perfect antidote to stressful happenstances in our lives, and I hope people continue to get hooked.

(PS: I got to 1024 on the game I took a screenshot of earlier, which is exciting for me. Even though the rest of my family has reached 2048 and beyond. It’s all about personal goals.)

Communism, Payday and Technology

When I was four or five, I came across something about communism, and it seemed pretty neat. Everyone getting what they needed after doing the amount of work they could perform seemed fair and much nicer than whatever had happened that caused poverty and homelessness.

I asked my father about it, and he explained the purist view of capitalism, how people need to work for incentive to create something great, like this country, and how one of the most effective motivators is money.

Little me didn’t want anything to do with that. Little me was pretty idealistic. For a while, my stuffed animals lived in Russia and shared their houses with Polly Pockets, even though they were different from each other. And no one had anything to do with money.

All this to say it’s surprising now that payday is my favorite biweekly date. And it’s today.

I work two jobs — a desk job in the French Department and as the opinion section editor for LSU’s campus newspaper — and each time the paycheck lands in my account, I crank my music a little louder and have a dance party. My roommate can attest to this.

It’s not even that it’s some insane amount of money. I don’t put in that many hours at the French Department and student media salaries are more of a nod to the lifeblood we pour into the newspaper. But I’ve been lucky enough to not need to place much stock in creating a cash-flow while getting an education, so it’s not something I have to worry about.

When I see work I love turning into something that fuels the economy and allows me to purchase goods and services, it makes my heart jump a little. It’s almost out of surprise that someone would pay me to do something I love (editing) or to make coffee and speak French to professors all day.

The feeling is similar to the one I got when I ordered a SMARTPHONE on the INTERNET last month. Don’t tell me that’s not cool. I used a tool unavailable 50 years ago to purchase a device that allows instantaneous connection to anyone anywhere. That’s pretty amazing.

My roommate was unimpressed by this revelation as well. It’s probably because she operates in the real world where an hourly job is required to pay one’s way through college which might not even be worth it considering the field of work one wishes to enter.

But I’m over here amazed that the oven comes on when I turn the knob and I can have boiled water within two minutes if I want. Just by turning a knob. Because technology is that advanced.

So advanced that the two weeks of work I do magically turn into money that appears in an online account on a prescribed date. It happens around midnight, and the best part is when student media employees go to a bar Thursday night broke and leave Friday early morning richer, except for the shots they bought when their paycheck went through.

There’s always a flurry of phone-checking when the first person notices their account balance, and the owner behind the bar has to fill at least 15 orders within the last half hour before closing. Most of that is repaid beers from earlier in the night.

And there’s this quiet thrill felt in the crowd, everyone walks a little taller knowing they can pay the energy bill or fill their car with gas because of work and money they created. I’m not sure pure communism can replace that satisfaction with anything.

Then again, with pure capitalism, I doubt we’d collaborate on a public service like the newspaper. It’s all about balance.

Tattoo? A Story of Permanence and the Camino de Santiago

The summer after freshman year of college, I walked the Camino de Santiago with one of my good friends whose mother had wanted to hike across Spain for a while. It took about a month, and navigating a country on foot with countless other pilgrims following the same route to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela was life-changing.

I’ve been debating getting a tattoo to commemorate it during the two years since, and I’m not sure what that says about the idea. Permanent decisions like these take time, I guess, but even though I haven’t ditched the idea, I haven’t made a move to get myself inked.

The design is pretty simple, just the shell that’s used as a way marker and has hung off the backpack of pilgrims since they began walking The Way. I’ve gone back and forth about where I’d get it, but I’ve settled on the left upper arm, so I could hide it with shirts as needed.

The shell pointing the way to the next couple towns.

The specific shell I’d like on my body pointing the way to the next couple towns.

I’m notorious for not doing well with permanent things. Growing up in more than ten houses (too many more than that, if you count all the places we parked the RV during the year I turned 13) has done something to my already-nomadic wiring that’s prompted me to attend school far from home and plan to head around the world ASAP. I excel at maximizing efficiency and planning trips, all so I can do something new faster.

All this to say I chose to wear a much more temporary necklace I’d bought in a shop behind the cathedral the day after we received certificates noting our 500-mile trek. Then I realized there needed to be some consequences if I never got the tattoo, so I took it off. Its origin story points to an even deeper fear of commitment.

We spent a night in Santiago de Compostela before flying out the next evening, and while our friends a day’s hike behind us kept trickling through town, I walked back and forth in front of the shop that displayed gaudy charms and delicate chains for sentimental pilgrims in the window. I couldn’t make a decision then, either, and before night fell, I said no to it.

All the pilgrims who showed up that day ended up sitting in front of the cathedral as the sun went down, drinking 40s and swapping stories about how much the Camino meant to them. After being sent on the third beer trip, I finally stopped in the store, picked out the simplest charm and chain and didn’t take it off for a year.

The necklace in question.

The necklace in question.

You can’t see it here, but the shell is hollowed out, and the other side holds a small silver Saint James. I don’t wear the necklace anymore, as a test of how much I needed the permanence. I ended up buying another charm to replace it, but it doesn’t feel quite right. It’s almost like I’m missing something.

It feels almost like an unhealthy relationship, and I keep setting ultimatums for the other person, like “I’ll marry them once I have enough money saved up,” or “We’ll move in together if we don’t fight for a whole week.” Pretty inadvisable. But I love the idea of this tattoo, I really do.

Maybe I’ll drink a couple beers one night and wake up with a shell on my arm. Or maybe it’ll happen healthily, while the sun’s still up and it’ll be the more in-depth illustration of an anatomically correct heart with poppies — the most common flower along the route of the Camino — growing from the aorta and the stars of Orion’s belt on a banner encircling it.

Who knows? Because I don’t, but this debate has been a central part of my life for the past two years, and that’s more than I can say about most permanent things.

If you’re interested in how the rest of the Camino was, check out the blog I kept during that particular adventure at http://hikehydratesleep.blogspot.com/.

Why I Couldn’t Have Kids

It’s Spring Break, which means family time in my world. I travel east to my grandparents’ condo in Florida and my family drives south. This year, my uncle and toddler cousins flew from Houston to meet us.

My cousins are typical for their age in that they enjoy counting out of order on purpose, the shovel they fought about all day on the beach and making sure everyone is paying attention.

They were very interested in tattoos, and after my parents spent a good five minutes discussing the maybe-palm-trees-maybe-sticks on the back of a man who’d just passed by holding a Coors (How old is he? Better be out of high school.), the older one sat up from rolling around in the sand and asked what it looked like.

When my father asked if he knew what a tattoo even was, he took a breath, and given that time, the younger one turned from his careful digging with a shovel as tall as he was and began to answer the question as well.

In unison, they began talking about how tattoos were on the sheet of paper and you have to hold very still and press down with a sponge and leave it for a minute — by this time they’re gasping for air in excitement and need to get the words out — and then it’s a tattoo.

Same hand motions with each word and everything.

They’re different from each other, though. The older one will drive headfirst into the waves, yelling about how much the water tastes like pirates while the younger one will sing “Wrecking Ball” for an audience of family while creating his own obstacle course out of living room furniture.

Jump on a chair, hop to the table, next chair, couch, fall, laugh, repeat.

They’ve got so much energy. I’m used to being surrounded by sleep-deprived, stressed college students pacing the newsroom and waiting for a source to call back, not adorable balls of energy whose favorite dinnertime activity is creating ketchup masterpieces on paper plates.

I love them, but I couldn’t be a parent. Then again, I don’t want to jinx it, so maybe I need to say I want kids so I’ll never have them.

Proof I shouldn't have kids. Here's me accidentally eating my cousin.

Proof I shouldn’t have kids. Here’s me accidentally eating my cousin.

Kids are wonderful, I believe that. I love my younger brother and my cousins and all the kids I’ve led through a personal-growth-packed week of camp over the past couple summers.

That’s completely different than unconditionally loving ones of your own for twenty-four hours over and over without breaks. At the least, I just plain don’t have the patience to repeat myself five times to make sure a four-year-old understands the concept of chewing with one’s mouth closed.

My uncle sends videos of my cousins every so often, featuring them in Thing 1 and Thing 2 costumes or pretending sticks are fire swords and during harrowed 2 a.m. redrafts of a 20-page essay I’ll watch them for inspiration.

Sixteen seconds of pure noise and exhilaration, paired with my uncle’s tired questions, “Who are you?” “What’re you holding?” “Can you say hello?”

Couldn’t do it. Hats off to everyone who does, biologically furthering the human race and allowing me to keep writing about the turnabout of marriage plots in Jane Austen novels until untold hours in the morning.

But I’ll gladly babysit. $10 per hour per kid, discounts if it’s more than two. I’m lifeguard certified.

Tetris, Failure and Risks

I’m afraid my life will turn out the way I lose at Tetris.

I’ll be trucking along, thinking ahead and placing pieces accordingly — because that’s how I operate, a day ahead and a piece ahead. It makes things much simpler by the time you have to do them, and frees up your brain to think about the day after that when you’re on the next day.

One day, that’ll catch up to me and I’ll be sitting on my bike next to the Greek bakery across the street, waiting for the cars to clear, and I’ll realize thinking ahead amounts to nothing. So I’ll pass up home for the levee and go watch the sunset.

And then I’ll freeze because I didn’t think to bring a jacket and that’s where someone’s dog will find me.

More likely, I’ll slam the down arrow on the keyboard and end up with a skinny straight piece piled on top of a perfect block with four vertical spaces missing. And keep hitting the down arrow, making split second decisions until the game’s over.

It’s like when I set a fiscal goal for myself and as soon as I reach it, I decide it’s time to buy a palette of eyeshadow the size of my head or a new bike.

Most of the time I don’t actually buy those things, but one time I packed a Jeep full of two friends and camping gear and we just drove to Big Bend over Mardi Gras break. It was a thirteen hour drive. One way. And the car broke down once we got there.

So you tell me who won.

I’d like to believe I did, hiking more than 4,000 feet straight up and down again in less than a day, reaching a view of two countries I’d never experienced before, learning how a car battery isn’t supposed to look and watching the sun set over the desert while discussing potential reasons for the pineal gland’s existence.

bigbend

The view from the top of Emory Peak, the highest point in Big Bend National Park

One of my roommate’s friends brought a TV setup for Tetris to our house a couple months ago, and it’s still here even though our TV sits underneath the homework desk in the living room. My roommate pulls it out every so often to watch Les Miserables when she’s sick, but otherwise it collects dust and takes up space.

That was until the Tetris arrived. My roommate’s friend and I spent the entire night dueling one another until I finally cleared 200 lines before he did. Something about seeing the game on a TV screen made it more real — meaning my constant failure was also more concrete.

In the end, though, I won. And it’s just like the other tiny failures. There’s no way I’d end up dead of hypothermia on a levee because that’s not how the human body works.

Mistakes are just that, mistakes. And no matter how many times I spin into a panic about huge decisions like where I’ll spend the summer, it’s not worth the stress.

In the end, place matters the most because place determines connections and possibilities. But it also matters the least since places are mostly about the people who inhabit them.

It’s no use feeling Tetris-depressed and making regrettable snap decisions.

So I’m making a list of five year goals right now and ripping it up. Because whatever my goals are today matter for today, and not in five years.

What matters for today is that I place the right piece for the immediate future. Life goes on. I’ll buy a new bike if mine’s falling apart.

A Good Role Model is Hard to Find

Role models are a dangerous thing, but I’ve come to realize since Shakira’s latest album release that she might be mine.

Sure, there’s Thoreau, teachers I’ve had and many family members, but how could I resist a pop star with an IQ of 140 who doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks about her lifestyle?

The tipping point came when I realized I don’t much care that the lyrics are pretty weak sometimes on Shakira, or that Blake Shelton’s stuttering pronunciation of “popping the pills” ruins “Medicine” for everyone.

And it’s not idolization. Trust me, I’m obsessed with Keira Knightley and nothing she says or does will ever make me stop. It’s a little creepy. Also Aaron Paul’s character on Breaking Bad has a place on a pedestal in my heart.

My feelings for Shakira are different. I enjoy listening to her turbo-pop/rock synthesis and achieving the pure insanity of her hair is a pet aspiration.

I respect that she started an education nonprofit at 19, went underground to attend college while confronting her body image issues and fulfilled her dream to have a child but never get married.

By identifying and pursuing her passions at such a young age, she was able to open so many doors for herself, and fight for her individual idea of what’s best.

Not many people can say that about the ways in which they spend their time.

So far, I think I’ve done a decent job of making my life what I want it to be, and Shakira serves as a constant reminder that I can keep doing that. I don’t need to say yes to anything lesser than a passion, and I can roll with the nos.

When she wanted to break into the English-speaking demographic, she locked herself away with her songs and a dictionary until she could make it work, and she ended up with a number one song in 55 countries: “Hips Don’t Lie.”

Let’s not forget the Shakira of Pies Descalzos, singing about being barefoot and creating late 90’s masterpieces of music videos. Just watch “Estoy Aqui” and wish you could look that good in a choker and torn jeans.

And “Loca” Shak, who didn’t wash her hair and liked playing in public fountains, like me when I was eight.

She’s unapologetic and smart about it, knows how to voice her opinions and does so with wording that’s a little offbeat, but it makes perfect sense when you sit and think for a bit. And she knows how to move.

There’s not much left on my wishlist.

So here’s hoping I can remember to forget the rest and stay rabid and barefoot with tortured eyes like these.

(That was pretty pathetic, but I’m not going to apologize.)

Graduation Announcements, Travel and Idealism

Graduation announcements have become an emotional ordeal during the past few months. When the first advertisements for mass-produced announcements arrived, I rebelled and my mother cringed.

Another ill-fated art project for the girl who can write, not draw or lay out anything.

I wanted to define the graduation announcement for myself. This would be no cheap plea for money, no decorous move, no. This would be me, deciding to share a slice of myself with the world.

I would get some fancy paper (whatever that means, it’s just thicker, right? You can get that from Walmart?), a nice pen and go to town. Since I was making about 20, they could each be personalized and creative.

Turns out, like with most things, my mother was correct. Fast forward a month and I’m sitting at my dining room table surrounded by felt tip pens that were too good to pass up, a pad of watercolor paper cut into more manageable pieces and a printer paper template that looked like a fifth grade birthday card.

Image

Let’s back up a few days, when I chose the photos to use. In my head, I figured it would be cute to use a baby photo on the front where I was pretending to write my name but in reality grinning at the camera. How nostalgic.

The back page would feature a photo of me craning my neck to see out a window at what card readers could perceive as my opportunity and future. Poetic and nostalgic for me in the future, no?

So I cut the photos down to appropriate size, figured out the proper wording that wouldn’t make me sound too stuffy about the date and time of graduation and revealed the finished product to my roommate.

She conceded it was Very Me and went back to Skyping her best friend, who happens to live in Scotland.

I took a moment to contemplate my monster of a creation, and realized I had a mere 39 days until my life launched into a new chapter, one I planned to live — according to this graduation announcement — “traveling the world, writing and teaching English.”

It sounded like the life of someone I’d imagine wanting to be as a first grader. I’m sure as a kid with markers and a huge imagination, I’d mapped out this pipe dream of a future on lined paper to be tacked in the hallway as an example of penmanship.

Not going to lie, I let a few tears fall. I’m leaving behind a roommate who can also tolerate the messiness of the living room but won’t let me leave my hair in the shower drain. I’m leaving some of the best friends I’ve ever made, ones I’d bike two miles in the rain to visit after dark.

I’m leaving a campus so picturesque that I can place an over/under bet on the number of people who will take pictures of azaleas in the Quad while I read in my hammock, and it’s usually over. I’m leaving a town where I know which establishments won’t kick me out for being barefoot.

But then there’s 11-year-old me, writing a page about her projected 10 year plan for English class. She imagined I’d buy a VW van within the next year and drive around the country, teaching as I went.

I’m one-upping that dream, and I don’t even need to buy a car. By the end of this summer, I’ll have chosen a country where I will begin teaching English to fund the next move, to a place where I can hopefully teach English, and so on.

After another couple of clunky attempts at formatting the graduation announcement on the fancier paper (which I did buy at Walmart), I moved to the computer like my mother had suggested multiple times before.

I got caught up in fonts. Probably a residual memory of writing stories as an elementary schooler, when font was important for the presentation of a narrative. None of that Times New Roman for this rebel.

My roommate and my brother saved me within five minutes of each other. Now they’ve decided to mess around with my weird design and get back to me.

One of them lives in the same apartment, the other four states away.

That’s when I realized 11-year-old me was right. Worrying about distance and travel is unnecessary. Places are what you make of them, and when it’s time to go, it’s time to leave.

And that’s exactly what lies in wait 39 days from today. It’s time to go.