I'm sitting in a Gallatin classroom for a Berlin study abroad information session. The adviser is describing the fellowship experience and the culture immersion that brings students together for an unforgettable month of summer in Europe. My heart swells.
I'm taking photos at a presentation for New York Fashion Week. I go up to an androgynous platinum blonde-headed model (the woman of my dreams that I never knew existed). Unabashedly I hold my camera awkardly close to her and instagram her face. I tell her, "You're really hot," with two thumbs up. I walk away, models' giggles trace behind my steps. My heart swells.
I'm spilling crumbs of a turkey sandwich in Downstein after I Skype with my mom. She wishes me a virtual happy birthday and tells me that she loves me. I look up to find a friend wave at me from across the cafeteria and mouths the same magical words, "Happy birthday." Oh, my heart.
One of these situations is just like the others (i.e. they are all alike, get on my level). Most of these situations involve crying--yes, I cried among college students during a Berlin study abroad information session, how nerdy and embarrassing.(.........ly awesome I am!!!)
While I was in Downstein, tears swelling for the love my mother has for me and the love I have for her, I see groups of friends sitting around. I don't know them. They know each other. Their arms are rested over the backs of their chairs. Napkins rest, crumpled on finished plates. They share jokes from TV shows. They talk to each other because they are friends. This is not an awkward date, there are no pretenses. They just share thoughts, unconsciously, with love. This is connection and community. This is what makes my heart leap and what makes me love this moment of being twenty.
I am fascinated by community. How people can be joined together through hashtags: 'Wow I love your #whitepeopleproblems joke I found through the hashtag.' 'Hey can we meet up? I found you through a #socialmediaweek hashtag and loved your tweets.' 'Dude your fashion blog is so fun, let's be friends?' How people's passions can intersect with another's dreams. How people's work can overlap projects with those of other visionaries. How people can simply comment on the show Community and the awesomeness of Troy and Abed. How people can share thoughts together out of a pure love for something, anything.
I am not fascinated by personal facades presented on a timeline. Instagram photos from last night flood my newsfeed. Oh is your political insight relevant for Facebook? I see some polaroids to document our many yesterdays, only to make our tomorrow's into another hazy candid moment proving we have lived yesterday. The friend I see on Facebook is not the edited person I am friends with in the flesh. This acquaintance with x number of friends and x number of likes on their latest status is not the person I want to judge them to be. The friends I adore on Facebook are not quite the friends I love in real life.
In a similar vein, I'm actually not fascinated by Beyonce. The celebrities I follow are not who they are in real life. And may I dare propose, the Queen Bey America bows to is another collection of performances played for her own self-directed timeline of life. We praise, we like, we heart it. But do we really know it? Do we really love it? Shakespeare was right--what's new--all the world is, in fact, a stage.
I don't know that I will ever be able to properly articulate my thoughts about Facebook. I distantly participate in it, but mostly detest it. The one thing I can define that contributes to my bad Facebook after taste is that this social "network" lacks community. I go online and I look at 'cool people' and lives I've only intersected with once or twice. Or I look at edited punchlines people want to share because maybe it's a cool story that 20+ people will 'like'--i.e. tangible proof of success. Clicking through Facebook, through curated cover photos and capricious likes, I do not feel like I'm part of a community--I feel ever so alone. I miss the crumpled napkins on plates that held Hayden cookies. I miss the polaroid-ed moments that made me feel so alive. Instead of enjoying anything, instead of living my life, instead of being myself, I suck a facade of a reality in and I miss it all. I miss the lives around me. I miss being myself.
"Students definitely come away from the Berlin course excited and wanting to stay or visit again. Studying Berlin's art, history and growth builds a connection among students different from anything else." Salty tears wet the rims of my eyes in Gallatin. My heart leaps not because I want another instagram photo of the Berlin Wall, but because I have tasted community in my life. Listening to the adviser's words, the sugar of that human love lingers on my tongue. Real life, to me, is characterized by community. I live for the connection that lies between two people, and the many webs of people that ensue from connecting two people to another two and the four to eight to twenty four to infinity.
I remember my mom. Far away, I cannot hold her, I cannot tell how fast or slow her heart pulses at night, but I know she is joyful for me. She loves me beyond words could sing, she loves me beyond my stupid efforts at comprehending. We are an expensive and difficult plane ticket apart, and yet, we are together. We're connected.
This is community. being able to say that I have love in my life. The love of my friends who decide to text me good tidings, the love of a professor who thinks of me during her busy week to gift something for me, the love of a friend I've only met a few weeks ago who draws a cupcake in a fancy Papyrus-y card for me, the love of my friends who decide to record a ridiculous video emotionally reciting a ridiculous poem complete with ridiculous drum beats.
As I celebrate the end of nineteen going on twenty and a fresh start saying goodbye to any awkward judgments that come with saying I'm ___teen yrs old, I'm not scared. Mostly I am in love with life. I am in love with the fact that I cry during study abroad information sessions and I am in love with the fact that I am overwhelmed with joy to see friends talk without pretenses in dining halls. I am happy to be twenty, to be nineteen, to be tomorrow, to be yesterday to be or not to be to be whatever.
After all is said and done, I don't mind that I haven't broken records with an Oscar in my hand or that someone else is doing that instead. I don't mind that I'm not on Facebook enough or I'm not like any sassy fake fashionista out there. I am happy to be me. I'm happy my friends are real no matter what any social media says. I'm happy I can connect with an androgynously beautiful model through words. I'm happy to be alive. And most of all. I'm happy to be alive with you.
<3 br="" nbsp=""> To make a long post even longer and more arduous to scroll through:
And I wore this cardigan two days in a row. Don't judge. Actually go ahead. I like it.
(So many people were just staring at my tights whilst I was gallivanting in the city.)
I honestly have no idea what I just wrote up there, but I do have an idea of this happiness I feel aftering having written it even if it is 2AM and I am going to writhe in pain from having to do homework all day on my birthday. Having written this post, I am quite happy. I hope it does a little something for you, too.
song of the moment
Anything from Michael Jackson's This is It and some Dr. Dre here and there (though not while reading this blog post, I don't think the moods would jive. actually....)