This year has been hard, and this semester has been hell.
I’m not going to bother being discreet about a lot of things in this, so find yourself forewarned. There has been SO MUCH, y’all.
A couple weeks ago Sam took me to see the new Beauty and the Beast, and even though I despise Emma Watson, I absolutely bawled. I don’t cry at movies very often actually, but I was an absolute wreck at this one – in bed that night I couldn’t stop turning it over in my mind and would randomly bust up bawling again.
The original was my absolute favorite as a child, and I rewatched it at sixteen and bawled – not at the beast/beauty love story, but at the father/daughter feels.
I loved, like everybody does, the I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell…I want so much more than they’ve got planned scene. The sweeping visual, the music, Paige O’Hara’s voice. It gave me chills I’ll never get over, even at the age of three.
My parents bought the Broadway soundtrack on CD when I was a baby. As an adolescent, I stole it (something I did with many others from their collection) and played it over and over.
The theme – the ‘tale as old as time’ song – was my big showpiece for my final piano recital as a senior (along with a Billy Joel song). I played the songbook until that page fell out. And it was my sister’s senior piece, too.
These days, I think much more often of the line (which I don’t think appears in the movie) “And to think I complained of that poor provincial town” than anything about reaching out towards the horizon for new and beyond.
I worry about that sometimes – about how after a year of wonder, of adrift, I seem to not be up for more adventure. “To think I complained of home.” Of course, then I spend three days in bed (thanks spring break at school because work) and suddenly going to the library to do work seems like grand adventure.
I was talking to Sam today about home – well, about hometown. About some changes going down there. We wondered about the future of the high school, of some of its programs. Sam suggested I take one of them up. I snorted right away. “I’m not going back there.”
I didn’t know it was a reflex, but I guess it is. I guess that’s a good thing.
I had such big dreams. I was going to go all over and learn all the languages and do all the things – and then I did just one of them and now I’m suddenly so tired that not being lucky enough to go on seems like it could be a godsend.
I’ve joked this winter that if sanitoriums were still a thing I might need a stint in one. Just to recover my nerves. Dear some Victorian doctor somewhere, please tell me I need to go to the country for a few months.
Things that seemed so achievable only a few years ago now seem like they would lay me flat for a week – if I even managed to pull them off. Is it just because I’ve been faced with the actual work all of a sudden? Or did my time in Sweden really change me?
Anyway, point of all that is that I was considering giving up on my summer in Germany because I was so tired and just needed a break in so many different ways. Somebody build me a cabin and leave me alone for three months.
And then came the news (again – still) that my grandmother is dying.
She’s been dying since I was a junior in high school. She’s been dying for real for over a year. But my mom thinks she might not make it to the summer. And after the surprise to me that my grandfather’s death was, and with my own exhaustion, and the state of the world, I will be damned if I get stuck in some airport on my way home when there’s somewhere else I should be.
The world is crazy these days, but I still daresay there’s a better chance of Germany being there still in another year or two. Meanwhile, I need to be here, now.
So what does that mean for my summer plans, I asked (and literally everyone else is also asking). Well, I don’t know. There’s the possibility that I’ll find something to do here in town; I could probably beg to go back to camp; and my parents said, if Germany and nothing else worked out, they’d be okay with me just taking a few months off. And I need to stop moving so damn fast. I’m too young to need my tires changed already, as it were. Question is, can I voluntarily give up? Should I?
I’d mow lawns all summer, you know? Something to let me slow the hell down. Get into my own head instead of rushing around.
Anyway, about that whole rose petal thing.
My cousin recently got engaged, and basically I have a pretty bad case of Instagram envy when it comes to this cousin, and also a bit of resentment because I think he’s arrogant and doesn’t take me seriously and I resent not being taken seriously because I have deep-seated issues but that’s a whole nother story. Anyway, he got engaged. The family loves his fiancée. No worries there. Just the odd-out cousin (me), getting too introspective and maybe a bit sulky.
The proposal was beautiful, involving rose petals and candles and a skyscraper view of the city. Everything makes me contemplative these days (although…is that new?) so of course I was thinking.
I’m finding that I love Sam more all the time. I do joke that the first year apart was so hard that even fighting with him in person now is a joy (ha). But I told him, ages ago, that if he tried to propose to me before I had a diploma in my hand I’d say, like a magic 8 ball, “Ask again later.” And he said, just the other day, “I’d want you to have your own name on your diploma.” (At which I just loved him more because yes, that’s what I meant and I didn’t even understand that part until you said it that way, so thanks for putting up with my slightly nasty way of saying it in the first place.)
Remember how my grandmother is dying? I won’t graduate before then.
How I’d love to share that moment in my own life with her, and how childishly upset I am that I won’t. It makes my heart hurt. It’s not fair.
The first cousin on that side to get married got married more than five years ago (my grandfather was still alive, and that is yet another thing I am jealous of but have made a bit more peace with since it was so obviously impossible). His bride had just lost her own grandfather, the first of her grandparents, and a special hymn was sung at the ceremony in his honor.
I am not jealous of that. I see no reason to be jealous of myself in this instance. I see nothing that can sweeten this awful, awful deal. (Or maybe my idea of sweetness is just a too-vengeful justice – I don’t know. My mom seems to think I’m too vindictive sometimes.)
Another reason for my emotional exhaustion this spring is that in the winter, just after school resumed, something weird happened.
Someone who had served a mentor role for me ever since I moved up here to go to school tried to come on to me and seemed to think I had felt rejected when he hadn’t done it sooner. I went through with the rest of my planned time with him and his wife at their home as though nothing had changed – I had no idea what else to do, whether I was safe.
I wrote this shortly after it happened:
“The idea that I would prefer some bizarre, covert relationship with someone old enough to be my father more than twice over, someone I have called uncle the entire time of our acquaintance – the idea that I would prefer that to a love I could build with someone my own age, a young man with whom I am very much in love, is preposterous. It seems to me to exhibit the most disgusting conceit, and perhaps above all else it assumes that I do not know what I want.”
My parents still don’t know what to think, and neither do I, and the Tupperware his wife sent me the leftovers home in is still sitting in my kitchen. I don’t know what to do with it.
A few months later I got a ride to church with an older man on a weekend when Sam couldn’t go. He was someone we gave rides to occasionally. I have no reason to think badly of his intentions, but he paid me so many compliments I was uncomfortable. It was the same trapped feeling I’d had two months before. The one time we gave him a ride after that, I couldn’t talk to him, and when he affectionately tapped my shoulder from the backseat I squirmed away. The other makes me want to cry like a baby, run someone over, summon a thunderstorm. This one makes me want to throw up. Funny how those things work.
The mentor-turned-suitor was the first to encourage me to go for internships in Germany and even was going to help me find them. He was also the first to encourage me to apply for a Fulbright. I’m trying so hard to be sure that I don’t want to reject those things only because of him. And this is where the complicated nature of because comes in: I don’t want to go for a Fulbright anymore because I am so tired, not because of The Incident (TM), but why am I tired? Because of The Incident. And would I have noticed how much work it was if someone wasn’t glorifying it for me? Maybe not. Oh, who knows.
This is a mess of disgusting prose and if I showed it to my friends who care about that kind of thing they’d say it’s not ready for publication, and frankly it’s not very discreet, as I said earlier. If you got mentioned in this mess and want to talk about the thing I said, please reach out. Hopefully I can make it clear that I meant no offense. Also, I understand how weird it is that somebody you never talk to or think about can have strong feelings about you, though I don’t apologize for the having of them.