Monday, January 27, 2014

A sociology superhero!

You know when you used to fantasize about all the remarkable unique shit you'd do as an adult? Finding the most complete Velociraptor skeleton in your suburban back yard?  Being compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald because of the novels you write? Helping all the children learn to read?

I still have these delusions of future grandeur, the only difference between my 10 year old and 26 year old self being that I now have faster internet.  So, while at age 10 I might suddenly think, "Eureka!  I'll do the Peace Corps and fall in love and become a great writer!", I wouldn't naturally turn to the hefty gray box sitting in our family den that made shrieking noises like a dying swan family when you had to 'dial up'--whatever the hell that meant.  Instead, I would probably become over-excited about my idea, run in circles, and then fall asleep.  And, upon waking, I would be reset and go back to playing with model dinosaurs or making my brother Leif drink weird 'everything drinks' that I made from combining all the liquids in my fridge and then cleverly adding hot cocoa mix so that it all looked brown and innocent.  Sometimes, like the Peace Corps thing, the ideas would set and hatch further down the line.  Most of the time, the brilliant things and the brilliant me that I saw in my future would dissipate and evaporate and become like a cranial itch I would sometimes remember in the middle of a conversation with someone when certain words would trigger the memory..."Did you hear about the neaderthal skeleton they found in a cave in France?" "DID YOU KNOW I ONCE WAS ALMOST A BIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGIST?" "Um.  Aren't you majoring in English? And 19?"  "...."

These ideas, these fantasies became such an important yet invisible part of me that I would forget that I hadn't spent a life time studying human evolution and participating in digs in the middle east, and that I actually hadn't ever written a full-length critically-acclaimed book yet.

Back to my present self and the remarkable gift of fast internet.  Where my 10 year old self couldn't immediately google and then realize the futility of her ideas (rats, need a strong background in music performance to get the role of Cosette in Les Miserables), my current self is often even more deluded by the powers of the interwebs while also cognizant of my inability to instantly become a marine biologist or astronaut.

Today, in a hot fit of frenzied cabin fever provoked by cold that would destroy all of the biological material that composes my face by the time I walked the block to the bus stop, I indulged in this very familiar pastime of mine: No really, what can I be when I grow up? 

Today, my idea was to become a sociologist.  A doctor of sociology, in fact.  Why? So that I can study the most fascinating shit on earth like gender, race, culture, misrepresentation of history, etc etc.  A few quick google searches showed me that I'm not inappropriately far behind in order for this to be feasible...slippery slope of logic perhaps...but still.  It's not entirely fantastical.  But then!  With my many years of education and nuanced experience and my firm sense of logic, I had the thought that being a sociologist is basically just being a snooty social worker.  ? Which is almost entirely untrue, since being an academic doesn't necessarily make you snooty.  And then I had the other incredibly informed thought that perhaps graduating with a PHD in sociology doesn't ensure one a job or purpose in life.  But then!  My final thought!  26 years of pure intellect boiled down into this one image of future me:  I would be a sociology superhero!  Upon graduating with my PHD, I would abdicate my snooty academic throne, throw my books to the curb, and go rogue!  I would run around different places wearing bright clothes and perform drive-by sociological interventions in which I inform certain people that they are adhering to and perpetuating certain dogmatic cultural paradigms of race and gender and when they inevitably tell me to bugger off I'll tell them I have a PHD in sociology and run off!!

So, the good news in all this is that I'm bound to fall asleep at some point over the next few hours and be reset for tomorrow so that I can go back to work as an extremely cold youth worker.

Love and Llamas,

Monday, January 6, 2014

A salted caramel

The other day, I had an Ilse day.  An Ilse day is usually a day when I’m alone but active.  On this day, it reached a balmy 18 degrees, so I took advantage of the warm weather to walk around.  Recently, I’ve been feeling like balls because I realized that I get 90% of my exercise from getting around.  Instead of going to gyms or whatever, I just bike or walk to get places, and have never felt so in-shape.  There’s the stray sports game too, but for the most, it’s very simple for me.  Anyway, recently, Minnesota has not been very amenable to this simple desire of mine to use my body in normal ways.

Ah, so the Ilse day.  I used my body in normal ways, like walking around downtown St. Paul with the sun on my face.  Then, I sat in a coffee shop that I like, and talked to homeless men about architecture and space-time continuum.  Then, I walked around a little more, and then stopped in another establishment and drank 12 cups of green tea.  I’m a human of extremes, so what did I expect? That I’d stop drinking the most delicious green tea in the world after a moderate two cups?  Ha.  Half-drunk off of this delicious brew of plants and greenness, I started writing in a little journal that I purchased in Prague.  It adds to my Bohemian-appearance, I find, to carry around innocuous objects that are from bizarre places.  “Ah, this small bundle of papers was forged in the intellectual poetic fires of the Czech republic!! By intellectuals!!”  And so I started to write out some bewildering lines of incomprehensible poetry, and then the thought hit me!  My guard was let down, undoubtedly by my happiness at using my body and drinking a lot of green tea and sunshine and aloneness, and so for the first time in days I had a completely lucid thought!  You know, Ilse, 2013 (the year that just ended) was actually the best year of your adult life.”  IT WAS SO CLEAR!  It was as clear as the gravelly voice of the homeless man waxing poetic on the architecture of the St. Paul Cathedral! 

And then, it sunk in like sugar.  Of course.  This last year was the best year of my adult life.  How wondrous!  How easily your happiness’s are lost and dismembered by the pessimistic tendencies of human nature!  Somehow simple bare boned happy facts like, “I had a bloody brilliant year” are morphed and denatured until this comes out when a distant relative asks how’ve you been since they saw you last year, “Well actually my one friend has been so annoying and it snowed a lot this one day and I got rained on a few times and then I was hungover twice unfortunately, and my ex boyfriend was mean to me and my dog is scared of me and the dishes weren’t washed when I wanted them to be and I was tired a few days ago and I haven’t been able to find a decent pair of jeans and America is awful and I wish I had lost a few more pounds and I get too many emails and my butt itches and my hair never seems to lie straight and I had to go to the dentist TWICE and some days it’s just hard waking up on time!” And so on.  Like we scramble like lost crabs to find our laundry lists of complaints and annoyances and slightly uncomfortable states of being that we’ve experienced rather than looking back and seeing all the rosy truth of how damn happy and lucky we have been. 

So, my guard finally went down and I was able to see it all.  What a year!  America!- my much hated and much loved mistress, to which I returned!  Friends!  I had friends again!  Old friends, newer friends, in-between friends.  So many friends.  I even lived with friends!  My two oldest friends!  At night we would sit around and drink wine and talk about funny things.  And that was so nice.  Family!  I saw my family again and we would eat together and laugh and all of these nice things.  Work!  I had a job, a nice job!  I got to work with diverse teenagers and families and my coworkers are all funny and unique and smart and I get to go to work dressed like Kurt Cobain.  And the bathrooms work!  And I have a bathroom at my home!  It’s amazing.  And my home is nice and warm when it should be and cooler when it should be and I have windows that I can open and a fridge and a stove top and a microwave and a lot of bowls!  Sometimes I have food in my fridge!  And I get to come home from my nice flexible job where I work with people to make pesto pasta in a kitchen and eat it with sriracha and look out a big window as the sunsets.  And then biking! I biked hundreds of miles from May-November and will continue to do so! (Unless it’s -25 degrees like today).  And travel!  I went so far away on a plane and traipsed around an ancient city drinking fresh pomegranate juice and then traipsed around a few newer and colder cities making friends and eating nice food and laughing at my mistakes.  And then I went to see my sister for a whole week where she lives!  And I watched over my niece who is tiny and blonde and fierce and loves in no particular order, The little Mermaid, Pasta, and calling herself silly. And that was so nice.  Everything has been really nice.  And then two weeks with almost my entire family in Minnesota for Christmas! Wine, cookies, games, dinners, babies, beppos, walks, laughter. Totally, utterly exhausting.  And here now I still sit and recover from it with my introverted Ilse day but still with my heart full of these recent memories. 

It has been a bloody brilliant year. 

I’m so happy that I could see through the thick fog of my memories to see things for how they really are, instead of merely remembering the unpleasant, inconvenient bits.  Life isn’t supposed to be convenient or well-greased and spinning smoothly.  We are conditioned, I think, to communicate in specific ways.  We communicate about things that annoy or frustrate us.  And of course!  We have to communicate about those things, because they are problems, and perhaps without them we wouldn’t have much to talk about.  Over that intoxicatingly delicious green tea, without another person across from me, I felt the incredible lightness of being myself.  Being with myself.  Memories sweet and salty on my tongue, but also the happiness at being alone and thus free to talk about nothing at all but instead paddle deep into my mental rivers and find exactly what I didn’t expect to find: Contentment.  It was a good year.  Not for any specific event or reason, but because it was just good.  A salted caramel on my tongue. 

I have not many expectations about 2014.  Maybe just a general idea of continuing to de-onion myself, to continue peeling away my layers and become more myself.  

Love and Loot,