This is sheer brilliance from Zadie Smith.
Across the way from our apartment—on Houston, I guess—there’s a new wall ad. The site is forty feet high, twenty feet wide. It changes once or twice a year. Whatever’s on that wall is my view: I look at it more than the sky or the new World Trade Center, more than the water towers, the passing cabs. It has a subliminal effect. Last semester it was a spot for high-end vodka, and while I wrangled children into their snowsuits, chock-full of domestic resentment, I’d find myself dreaming of cold martinis.
Before that came an ad so high-end I couldn’t tell what it was for. There was no text—or none that I could see—and the visual was of a yellow firebird set upon a background of hellish red. It seemed a gnomic message, deliberately placed to drive a sleepless woman mad. Once, staring at it with a newborn in my arms, I saw another mother, in the tower opposite, holding her baby. It was 4 AM. We stood there at our respective windows, separated by a hundred feet of expensive New York air.
The tower I live in is university accommodation; so is the tower opposite. The idea occurred that it was quite likely that the woman at the window also wrote books for a living, and, like me, was not writing anything right now. Maybe she was considering antidepressants. Maybe she was already on them. It was hard to tell. Certainly she had no way of viewing the ad in question, not without opening her window, jumping, and turning as she fell. I was her view. I was the ad for what she already had.
But that was all some time ago. Now the ad says: Find your beach. The bottle of beer—it’s an ad for beer—is very yellow and the background luxury-holiday-blue. It seems to me uniquely well placed, like a piece of commissioned public art in perfect sympathy with its urban site. The tone is pure Manhattan. Echoes can be found in the personal growth section of the bookstore (“Find your happy”), and in exercise classes (“Find your soul”), and in the therapist’s office (“Find your self”). I find it significant that there exists a more expansive, national version of this ad that runs in magazines, and on television.
I can’t sleep because my heart is beating too loudly. The beats are steady and average but with every passing second, the cacophony as they open and close, open and close becomes consuming. There are no other sounds in the room and, in the silence, that organ beneath my ribs may as well be screaming as it works to keep me alive and breathing. And awake.
I can’t sleep because I have too many bills to pay. My paychecks are abysmal and they barely stretch to cover my credit cards, insurance, cell phone, loans, and expenses. I have a birthday present to buy, due dates are approaching, and what about food to feed myself? What about going out next weekend? Do I still owe him money? I hope I can pay him next week. Living paycheck to paycheck is terrible. One day I won’t have to. One day.
I can’t sleep because I’m agitated about work. I’m tossing and turning and with every movement, the inner recesses of my mind are swimming with unknowns. Is my job is secure? Do my coworkers like me? Am I doing well? Am I what they want? Am I exceeding expectations? Am I underwhelming? The more I sink into my thoughts, the harder it is to breathe. I beg sleep to come to take it all away, if only just temporarily. It doesn’t.
I can’t sleep because I want too many things. I want to have a place of my own. I want to have a life I’m proud of. I want to see my grandparents more. I want to travel. I want that dress from Anthropologie. I want to go to grad school. I want to pay off my loans. I want to not want everything.
I can’t sleep because I miss you. I miss the way you look when you wake up in the morning and how you play with my hair before we go to sleep. I miss drinking copious amounts of wine and telling each other how much we’re in love. I miss seeing you at the end of a bad day and feeling like everything is suddenly okay. I miss feeling the scratch of your beard on my cheek when you hug me tight. I can’t sleep when I know you’re not going to be next to me in the morning.
Posted in Essays, Life, Writing
Tagged awake, creative writing, friendships, insomnia, love, relationships, sleep, tired, writing
It’s been quite a bit of time since I last wrote on this thing, huh. What’s strange is that it is not for lack of things to say because, let’s be frank, anyone who has ever met me knows I’m never without words. If I’m being totally truthful, I can’t say I’ve been too busy – because I could’ve found time to write here and there. I will say, however, that I don’t think I wanted to hear or read what I would have written in those stolen moments.
nearly three months ago, my day-to-day has taken a complete one-eighty. Gone are the days when I trekked to and from Grand Central, the pages and pages of notes procured in dozens of lecture halls have been trashed, and the hard-earned, yet still imaginary, paystubs of interning have been bid adieu. Now, my Monday through Friday consists of working nine-to-six at a desk. My weekends are suddenly free game, my paychecks are suddenly gargantuan in comparison to what they once were (yet they seem to disappear just as quickly…), and if I stay awake past eleven pm, it’s considered a “late night.” What’s more is that my days feel like the crawl by but the weeks seem to race faster than light. I’ve blinked and my summer has all but disappeared, without so much as a good suntan to remember it by.
Posted in Essays, Life, Writing
Tagged boredom, boyfriend, creative nonfiction, creative writing, david v dartel, drawings, graduation, life, millennials, new york, new yorker, niki duffy, nyc, photography, twenty-something, writing
How did this happen? How did I become this twenty-one year old college graduate? Here I am, this pseudo-adult entering the real world equipped with nothing but a piece of paper and a mountain of debt. It seems so preposterous that this can be the scenario – that I am by social standards ready to be pushed from the nest and willed to fly. But perhaps, it’s not so preposterous that I’m here but rather, how I got here; this is what confounds my mind.
And I know. It’s horribly cliché to reflect on your “college years.” There’s been far too many Facebook status’, dramatic speeches, absurd photos, and Tweets from outside parties that have made this whole reminiscing process wildly redundant, annoying, and utterly nauseating. Yet, despite all of that, I still sit here with my head in my hands – trying to shake these sober spins – thinking of what these past four years really meant.
The seventeen-year old me would have never recognized this girl, (woman? Am I supposed to call myself that now?), that looks back at me through the mirror as I brush my teeth in the morning. And I know that that’s a great thing – change. But no one really prepares your seventeen year-old self for the changes you’ll undergo in college. And I think I love that there are no preparations because it forced me to jump into the lion’s den with no armor. Where high school is awkward, pubescent, and wildly dramatic in all the most humiliating ways, college is raw, emotional, and absolutely incredible in all the most I-want-to-be-young-forever ways.
Posted in Writing
Tagged college, creative writing, essay, FIT, friendships, graduating, graduation, high school, life, love, relationships, writing