Sunday, June 25, 2006

the grass is always greener...

i feel bad for the people around me. i don't know how i can expect them to understand me when i don't understand myself.

i remember last year how i used to lie awake at night in my bed, wondering how i could ever leave. i could not imagine any other place ever being home, ever being comfortable some where else. how would i survive an entire year away from the place i belonged? i only half believed that i would.

i remember looking through my calendar book in the middle of bio class, counting the weeks till i could come home for good. how cheerfully i would cross out the days. everything i compared to milwaukee. shabbos food was nothing compared to my mother's food. my parents were more laid back. life would be so much easier when i could do laundry whenever i felt like it, so on and so forth. milwaukee was so much prettier. i had so much more free time then.

well, let me tell you something. i do not lack for time now.

i don't think the administration officials can be doing it right. the entire year they've got you running like a gerbil in a wheel, breathless, from one quarter to the next. finals come on the heels of midterms, papers on the heels of projects. there seems to be no respite. nine days for pesach at a jewish school? you might as well have yun tif at the airport.

so that's why the whole year you cherish this mythical dream of an oasis: some place of calm and peace, where you will have no overbearing responsibilities, no deadlines, where finally you'll be able to sit back and enjoy living and the nice weather and your family and siblings, who of course you love so much that you could never get enough of them. and you do really believe that. how could there ever be such a thing as too much time at home?

well, i don't know. maybe there isn't. the first few weeks are great. you don't have to get entirely dressed, you don't have to stalk food. you really don't have to do anything - except you'd be amazed how much you've forgotten, what with the sweeping and the cleaning and the babysitting and the cooking and the laundry - but those are all mindless things and you get them done, same as you always did.

somehow, though, it's not the same as it always was. suddenly your hometown is empty. there's nothing to do. you wrack your brains for some meaningful activity, and you come up with a few things - but they're all solitary gigs, like reading or writing. you think of a few group activities - shopping? when were you ever a mall rat? - and are confronted with a double whammy: even if you could somehow get permission and transportation to facilitate the activity, there is actually no 'group' to do it with. you've been away for such a long time that most of your earlier friends no longer feel close to you, and the few that do are busy with their own lives, as really they always were: watching kids, going to camp, getting ready for seminary.

and so somehow it happens that you, sitting in a house in the middle of the city where you spent most of your life, surrounded by the people who love you most in the world, feel alone.

acutely alone.

it doesn't make any sense. i look back at my life and i was very happy here for 16 years. i was never part of any chevra - i never needed one. i must have had just as much free time then as i did now - maybe even more so. what on earth did i do with myself? i wrote, i played guitar, i listened to music - but i guess you have to be passionate about something to do those things, you just have to have an idea of something that you want to create, and i guess i had it then and i don't now. i haven't got two thoughts to rub together in my fallow mind. i believe this blog will be the most strenous mental activity i've subjected it to since i got home.

for whatever reason, i'm just losing it. i look at my week and am glad when thursday comes because it means the week's nearly over. i'm glad when night comes because it means the day's almost over. it is a colossal, colossal waste of time. here is the holy grail i was always chasing, here's the free time! and i'm spending it alone, in my living room.

i love my family very much, and i do like being with them. but being with my family is really not a full time job. there are certain things we can all do together; the truth is, however, that we are a family of loners. we have always been very good at entertaining ourselves. we can band together for the occasional group activity, but even then some one is whining, some one wants to go home, someone wishes we would all behave, etc etc. your family is your family. they are not your friends.

and i have also reached this awkward point where i'm not really sure where i fall on the family totem pole, anyway. i'm responsible for watching people and getting certain chores done...but i'm still subject to permission-and-curfew type rules, things which have taken some relearning after so many months making my own schedule. i feel chained to the house. and the worst part is, i can't even think of anywhere that i want to go, or at least, anywhere to go that's a possibility. i know if i wanted to go somewhere in milwaukee badly enough, my parents would take me. but for the life of me i can't think of anything. i spend hours walking and walking, tracing and retracing the boundaries of my neighborhood, looking for something interesting that i haven't noticed before. but even when i do register some slight change in the environment, it never really seems to matter.

and it seems like i just hear the same conversations over and over again. is the laundry done or isn't it? how much milk do we need? what are we going to make for supper? who's going to vaccuum the stairs? is it my turn to clean the bathroom or is it elana's? these are all necessary discussions, i know.

and i also know that any freedom or decision-making skills i thought i'd achieved over the last year are not really mine to negotiate with, because my parents paid for my year at stern. i didn't earn a penny of it. consequently the whole year is a huge, huge favor done for me for which i will forever be in debt (hah). i realize it's ludicrous to expect to ever work yourself up to an even footing with your parents, but part of the strangeness of being here is that for some reason, when i lived here, i felt that i deserved to be here and that i had occasionally earned certain privileges. whereas now i feel like a freeloader making unreasonable demands of everyone.

i just don't understand.

i think that breaking the academic year up differently - say, having smaller breaks more frequently - might lessen the transition shock and make the actual vacation time more useful to college students, by giving them the breaks when they really need it. but i realize that this will never happen, for a number of reasons, and there are so many downsides that maybe it isn't even really such a good idea anyway.

similarly, i realize that most college kids probably don't feel this way. i am jealous of my friends on the coast, with their public transportation system and their easy access to each other. if i were in new york now, i know i could find a million and one things to do, and a million and one people to do it with.

although knowing me, i would probably be moping in my dorm room instead, wishing i was home.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

interview with the vampire

yonina (passing by several colorful gardens on our daily walk-around-the-block): ....and there's a little tree, for the everyone having their own beautiful gardens today?...except for these guys. they don't even have plants for their bugs. i guess they're not frum.