Yesterday, my eyes blinked open to white plaster and brick, four walls hugging close. I zipped up a light jacket over pajamas and ballet flats and skipped down five flights of stairs. Two blocks to pick up clean laundry in a stippled garbage bag, folded neatly into a soft, giant block of almost everything I own. Two blocks back past convenience stores, tailors, restaurants. A neighbor opened the door to the building for me, so I could walk in with my arms full.
Two weeks ago, coins and batteries were the only things left—scattered on the carpet of my dorm room in Boston, the semester over. I rolled a small suitcase to the cab stand to the airport early on a Saturday morning, and boarded a plane to Hawaii: where Erik and Beau were waiting, with flowers. A week later, I flew forever to New York City. I'll be here for eleven more weeks, interning at Kickstarter and listening close. But first, here's what happened in-between.
April and May on Instagram.
The last day on Oahu, Erik and I accidentally woke up before sunrise and knew exactly what to do. I put on a black cotton dress, streaked with sunscreen and saltwater from a week of not knowing what would come next. We made hot chocolate with powder from downstairs and walked down the street to reach the boardwalk part of the beach—slipping over and under a gate behind an apartment building to reach the water. It was low tide, so we wandered until we reached a rock wall projecting out into the ocean. Erik clambered up and I followed, flip-flops scooting under my wet feet with every unsteady step. At the end of the outcropping, we stood still and watched the sky brighten.
I'll admit, I was waiting for a flare of red. But what happened instead was beautiful, too—mid-blue, yellow spilling over. After we were satisfied that the sun had risen, we walked toward the round of palms Erik had seen in the distance. He'd point out black crabs scurrying and monk seals (or were they surfers?) in the distant water. We walked way out, then way back.
By the time we returned to the hotel, it was time to pack up for a morning on the road. We met our friend Beau downstairs. Next: a drive, a walk further down the coast, a visit to a seaside home. An açai bowl and an omelet, a drive to Lanikai
; no expectations, since the wind had picked up. But when we arrived, it seemed calmer. We decided to rent a sea kayak and a paddleboard after all. My eyes filled with salt and more sunscreen, my dress got soaked, we sang the whole way (out of tune). Erik left for the airport and Beau and I headed back to his family's home: showers, a salmon salad with a pineapple smoothie on the side, laundry. Toward the end, Beau and I climbed up to the roofless treehouse in his family's backyard. We talked forever, letting a slight warm rain sting our skin. If I start dreaming, I can still feel the drops on my arms.
Words feel more important than ever.
, by Joan Didion, carried me through the flight back from Hawaii. I started it with glittering, menacing lava flows still on my mind, and finished it feeling like I was floating. It's a sad book and a winding one, but its intimacy helped me return to quiet introspection after a week of vast, overwhelming beauty and motion. Set in Honolulu and California and New York, it let me triangulate between those three to recenter myself, too. I'd recommend it for times in-between. One of three lines I highlighted: I maintain faith (another word for momentum)…
A Monster Calls
, by Patrick Ness, was a hard book for me to read. It's about a boy and his nightmares, and the pain of waiting for someone you love to die. Less a plot than a parable, the story pulled me in; sad memories surfaced that hadn't in some time, and I felt them intensely as the chapters went on.
I've learned that I can't battle my own memories directly. In my waking life, their teeth are dulled by the sentences I used to disarm them in the first place: the journal entries, the blog posts, the emails I remember almost word for word. These are the words I recite when asked to consciously recall those times. In dreams, I'm the one who's disarmed, adrift in a sea of images I can't quite jolt myself out of. But I've found that fiction can be lucid. Through someone else's words, I can obliquely recover old emotions—raw—and face them again. Instead of blindly doing battle, I can hold them close. Then, let them go.
. Understanding things makes them more interesting
, I wrote in December's letter
as my first semester drew to a close. Then, it was the Sharpe ratio
that felt new. Now, it's international politics and global finance. Just six months ago, I would try to read The Economist
and the words would blur; there were no hooks I could hang onto. But after a semester of Business & Government in the International Economy—a first-year required course—I'm realizing that I can flip through The Economist
and words jump off every page. When text goes from being flat and cloudy to jagged and alive…it's exhilarating.
Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal.
Speaking of economists: my dad's an Economics professor, and Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal
is his new blog—and I'm crazy about it. Not just because I'm crazy about him (I am), and not just because I helped him set it up (I did…on Tumblr, even!), but because I truly believe he's found his medium. "I think I've always thought in hypertext," he told me a few days in. Read his first post
and check out his Twitter account at @mileskimball
, and see what you think. I'm beyond happy he's doing this.
I started writing these letters to share what I'd learned. I keep writing them because when I let all the different parts of my life clamor in my mind, they almost start to resolve into chords. This month, I thought I was going to write about Hawaii and books. But as I tried to form sentences I kept wanting to use words like hold
and even hug
, picturing arms encircling, thinking about stillness. The undercurrent surfaced: a warm embrace. Writing is how I discover what I already know. What I know right now is that everything belongs.