This semester, people used the word “refreshing” to describe you in ten conversations.
What did they mean, exactly?
Why does it matter so much that you counted?
“Now that is a most interesting question: whatever became of me?” – Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
Is “refreshing” The cloak of cool air that follows a hot shower? The smell of grass and wet concrete after rain? Your favorite song, or A soft pillow? The lotion on your hands, or The face mask you put on To cover other masks For “self-care” purposes? The smile of a crush, or maybe The smile you gave back? A conversation, a voice, a smell that brings you home? The thought of being At home At peace With your life With yourself The realization that At home, The best self-care Is not a face mask But no mask at all The feeling when your skin is bare And you are naked And you are smiling This time not at your crush But at the mirror
“Oh, I know that I shall never have [the] answer. But it gives me something to believe in. And that is peace.” – Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
And you stand there.
Your breath caught, your stomach as dimpled as recovery has been rough, you—perfectly imperfect, just like everyone else in this world—
And you are smiling because in this moment, you are you, and in this moment, you are enough, and in this moment, everything is simultaneously fleeting and forever because for the first time in a while you are present in the present a gift from you to you a gift you will wrap and unwrap again and again for the rest of your life because you realize it is in these moments that you feel
“What a subtle torture it would be to destroy all the mirrors in the world: where then could we look for reassurance of our identities?” – Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
And it felt so good. And it feels so good.
To live, float, sink in a moment and believe, if only for a second,
I am home. Wherever you are.
“It was his rightful home, for if he went away, as he had once upon a time, other voices, other rooms, voices lost and clouded, strummed his dreams” – Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
This semester, I didn’t starve myself. It was the first semester in college where I went grocery shopping without looking at nutrition labels and stepped into a bakery not just to smell butter baking but taste it, too.
This semester, I stopped feeling perpetually cold. Even when the cold came, layers kept me warm: friends, family, my dietitian, myself. Myself because I realized that sometimes, sitting alone in my room and taking time to do absolutely nothing was everything.
“I never expect to [catch anything],” said Idabel. “I just like to come here and think about my worries; nobody ever comes hunting for me here. It’s a nice place. . . Just to lie and take your ease.” – Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
This semester, I remembered how much I liked the cold, and New York winters, and chilly walks lit by red taillights and green subway lamps, and hot chocolate from the Christmas markets, and scarves, and jogging along the Hudson at night when Jersey lights shimmer across black water like schools of golden fish, and staying up, and sleeping in, and thick socks, and thicker blankets, and white snow before it turns to slush, and the sky before it turns to dusk—cotton candy on fire—and conversations that melt dusk into dawn again.
“Once, we walked all the way to Chinatown . . . then moseyed across the Brooklyn Bridge, and on the bridge, as we watched seaward-moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline, she said: “. . . yes, they must see this, these lights, the river – I love New York, even though it isn’t mine . . .” – Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
In most conversations, I talked about my time off.
When people asked, “How do you feel?” I would say any variation of, “Like myself again.” Not a complete self, but a fuller self. One that cared more, laughed more, felt more. One that danced like no one was watching but liked when people did.
I would say something like,
“As long as I remember to take care of myself, I can take on the world.”
Not that I always remembered to do so. But that was refreshing to admit, too.
“Strange how long it takes us to discover ourselves.” – Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
To admit there is always something more to remember, to discover.
I discovered a lot by talking to freshmen. Each one pressed pause on my life and hit refresh.
Some topics of conversation: happiness, sadness, can I skip all my micro lectures?, fear, fear of death but fear of disappointment more, careers and why they should be a smaller topic of conversation, why everyone should just be a peanut farmer, are coconuts nuts?, dreams, and do you still have them? how to change the world, but first, how do you make friends? when to change your mind, or should you mind at all?, and heroes, and who do you admire, and what for, and why?
“Actually, Amy, I think I admire your confidence most.”
That compliment was unexpected.
The fact that I took it as compliment was also unexpected.
Sometimes, the most refreshing things in life are unexpected.
“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.” – Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Things I am confident in:
My ability to be wrong, a lot of the time.
My ability to be right more, simply because I tried.
My ability to work hard, but also
My ability to laugh when things crash hard—
After crying, of course, because knowing that shit happens doesn’t stop shit from hurting when it happens, so instead of pretending, I ugly cry and say shit, that hurt before moving on because
Sometimes that’s just the most practical thing to do, and honestly the bravest, too, because people stopped appreciating vulnerability some time ago, and finally
My ability to tell myself I’m the shit even when shit happens because
Who else can you depend on to say things like that when life happens?
I realized that confidence also breeds humility. When you are confident, you spend less time worrying about yourself. You spend less time thinking about your insecurities and whether other people are thinking about them, too, and you spend less time caring if they are. You instead spend that time doing everything else worth doing. You simply be present.
On the days I was confident this semester, I was present. For hot showers and the smell of rain. For favorite books and soft pillows. For hot chocolate in the Christmas markets and night runs along the Hudson. For sitting in my room, alone, doing nothing, which was sometimes everything. For skies of burning cotton candy and white snow before it turned to slush. For conversations about life and death, happiness and fear, peanut farmers and coconuts, and dreams, and friends, and heroes, and who I admired and what and why—for all those conversations that melted dusk into dawn, that were not only humbling but quite refreshing, too.
I do not remember every day this semester, but I easily remember the ones I was confident in. They were the best ones by far.
“The true beloveds of this world are in their lover’s eyes lilac opening, ship lights, school bells, a landscape, remembered conversations, friends, a child’s Sunday, lost voices, one’s favorite suit, autumn and all seasons, memory, yes, it being the earth and water of existence, memory. A nostalgic list, but then, of course, where could one find a more nostalgic subject?” – Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
Speaking of true beloveds…one last conversation. The one you share with someone special, when you are confident enough in yourself that you can give yourself to another.
This semester was the first time I liked someone in a long time. It didn’t really matter that the timing was bad, or that the person would leave, or that none of this would work in the long run. All that mattered was that, for a moment, all I could think was, how refreshing. To feel whole enough to give myself to someone else again.
Conversation Ten: To Be Continued
Now that the semester is over, tell me: what was “refreshing”?
The cloak of snow gathered at your feet? The smell of buttered bread on your fingers? Your night out with friends, or Those nights alone? The socks on your feet, or The scarves around your neck That braced the cold As you embraced the day? The smile of a crush, and The smile you gave back? Those dusk-till-dawn conversations that Brought you home, or The feeling of homesickness that Brought you tears but also Built you up because you told yourself Tomorrow would be better And it was? The moments that made you cry and The moments that made you laugh and The moments that made you A little less anxious A little more confident With the thought of being At home At peace With your life With yourself The realization that At home, The best self-care Was simply Self-love The feeling when your skin was bare And you were naked And you were smiling This time at your crush In the mirror
And you stood there.
Remembering that even though you hate the dimples in your stomach some days, and you hate all the things that make you perfectly imperfect just like everyone else in this world does some days,
You still felt like smiling because in that moment, you were you, and in that moment, you were enough, and in that moment, nothing else mattered because for the second time in a while you felt present in the present— and you cherished the gift, confident that even though it would not last, you would wrap and unwrap gifts like it again and again for the rest of your life until you felt refreshed not just in one moment but in many to come
And it felt so good. And it will feel so good.
To live, float, sink not just in one moment but in several and believe–for a long, long time–
I am home.
“When does a place become home?” – Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, The Jungle
“will let you know address when I know it myself” – Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s