Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,"
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense.- Rumi
Number of states in which I have taken the written driver’s test: 2
Number of times I have taken the written driver’s test: 3
Number of times I will have taken it before I get my license: 4
Number of times I have failed the written test: 0
Number of dollars I have forked over to take the written test so far: 90
Number of cars I have practiced in: 3
Number of years that have elapsed since I first took the test: 7
Number of times I have gone to the DMV without the proper paperwork: 1
Number of hours I have waited at the DMV: 2
Number of years that will melt off my life when I drive on a freeway for the first time: roughly 10
Number of playlists I’ve made for my driving practices: 1
Number of miles I’ve driven in my life: roughly 20
Number of defunct learners permits I have in my wallet: 2
Number of times I went to the DMV and was interrupted in my quest for adulthood because the computer system failed: 1
Number of times I’ve said, “This is the year”: 8
Number of times I’ve been unable to help drive on a road trip: 4
Number of years I could have been driving, legally: 10
Number of days until I attempt it all over again: 7
"I think it’s a myth that the creative inspiration is locked up inside the person and just needs a quiet space and the right “serious” (brooding) moment to get released. I think art is much more about an engagement with the world, a way of being called upon and recognizing that the world is speaking to you. Which isn’t quite solitude, even if you’re alone when it happens."
A non-comprehensive list of embarrassing facts:
When I buy a frozen pizza, I promise myself I’ll only eat half of it, and then eat the whole thing anyway.
Every time I listen to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto 1 in B Flat-Minor, I play air-piano and cry at the same time.
I also cry when I listen to “Un Bel Di Vedremo” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.
I’m not sure if I’m more embarrassed that I wrote fan-fiction based on the plots of wildly popular Japanese manga in high school or that I occasionally listen to Turkish pop music and pretend to belly-dance.
In addition to not having my driver’s license, I also don’t know how to ski or rollerblade. I never played sports growing up. I don’t play an instrument and I only applied to one college. I have consistently played the mother figure in theatrical productions — never the love interest, never the witty aunt.
On a junior high school trip to Barcelona, the teachers rented out a small discotheque as a surprise and my entire class spent the evening drinking Cokes out of glass bottles and dancing to Benassi Bros.’ greatest hits. I sat against the wall and watched the mirrors fog up and hoped that no one would ask me to dance.
In the early 00’s, one of my best friends and I co-wrote a series of young adult fantasy novels inspired by our obsessive love of Lord of the Rings except featuring a strong female protagonist who happened to be an excellent archer. Um, yeah, way ahead of you, Hunger Games.
My first CD was Celine Dion, and for about three years I only listened to her. I’m virtually clueless when it comes to most popular culture, especially music.
I wore jeans with a hole in the crotch for almost an entire semester in college.
I wore nylons in high school because I didn’t like the way my bare legs looked. Let me repeat that: I wore nylons in high school because I didn’t like the way my bare legs looked.
I’m really glad I didn’t peak in high school. Or college.
Once I convinced a friend and her family that they should vacation in Marseille and they had a horrible time (“It was so dirty!”) and their video camera got stolen because they left it on the seat in their car.
I’ve gone hiking in ballet flats. In other words, I was invited to go on a hike, and I showed up in ballet flats.
I don’t think I told my first boyfriend how I really felt about anything, ever. And this was after I wrote about the strong female protagonist/excellent archer who was going to inherit the throne of a magical country in another world without the help of any man!
I couldn’t get a job at Anthropologie so I sold suits at Ann Taylor.
I’m listening to Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA right now and earlier today, I didn’t recognize Bruce Springsteen when he came on the radio.
"You are the only one of you, she said of it. Your unique perspective, at this time, in our age, whether it’s on Tunis or the trees outside your window, is what matters. Don’t worry about being original, she said dismissively. Yes, everything’s been written, but also, the thing you want to write, before you wrote it, was impossible to write. Otherwise it would already exist. You writing it makes it possible."- From Alexander Chee’s memoir of studying under Annie Dillard
"Or at school you may have been prodded to ‘come out of your shell’ — that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same."- Quiet, Susan Cain
Last June I entered what can only be called a fugue state in which I decided overnight that not only was I unspeakably wealthy, but also that I was the type of person who would work out in a gym. So, I joined one. And I didn’t just join the one in my neighborhood, I joined a chain gym with locations all over the city, paying a higher amount of money with the thought that the convenience of always having a gym nearby would be worth the extra ten or fifteen dollars a month. After all, my desire to work out could not be contained! At any moment I threatened to burst into cardio. The gym would help me funnel some of that energy! I’d work out three, four, five times a week. Yes, five times! Maybe I’d even work out twice a day, once on the way to work and once on the way home, maybe just some light yoga in the evening because my morning weight-lifting and 30-minute sprint would have winded me, at least a little. Ha-ha-ha, I’m only human, after all.
I’m sure you can guess what happened next, but that makes it no less humiliating for me to admit: I’ve been to the gym five times since last June. Yes, five times. When I sit down and think about how much it costs me per month, how much of a drain it has been on my resources, it makes me physically ill. Of course, not physically ill enough to go to the gym. I’m not that desperate. No, I’d rather be a walking cliche. Walking is a good form of exercise, guys.
Since I’m pretty convinced they can see when I was last there when they swipe my card at the front desk, wild horses couldn’t drag me back to my gym before my membership is automatically cancelled in June. So, while winter has been raging, I’ve been going with Jens to his gym — none other than the illustrious East Bank Club. Now, from what I’ve seen of my gym, it’s a reasonably nice place. The equipment is clean, the receptionist(s) always wish me a good time, and there’s a pool in a tiny building underneath the El tracks that’s relatively empty at 6 a.m. (at least it was that one morning). But the East Bank Club is another beast entirely, if when I say beast you imagine a buff, perfectly coiffed beast getting a pedicure while it works on its triceps. It’s so fancy that it gets mentioned on the Chicago Architectural Tour, for crying out loud. It’s like a spa inside a five-star restaurant inside a fancy mall.
Being mostly naive to gym culture, I was understandably underprepared for the gym culture on steroids that East Bank Club represents. I once spent twenty minutes trying to figure out the combination lock I had borrowed from the front desk and then I spent the next twenty minutes crying in the shower over my incompetence. Both Oprah and Barack Obama have worked out there, so tell me if you’d be able to do better than a twelve-minute mile on the spacious indoor track with its panoramic view of the Chicago river as you jiggle in a pair of old running leggings and an Old Navy t-shirt. I didn’t think so.
What I enjoy most about East Bank Club is the bar. While I wait for Jens to emerge from the men’s locker room, I stand and watch the bartender, who’s been at East Bank for nearly as long as it has existed, pouring drinks for the who’s who of Chicago. He winks at me and before I can even ask for it, he’s sliding a to-go cup full of ice water with a lemon wedge in my direction.
“You girls all want the same thing,” he laughs.
Sure, I could be offended that he’s lumping me in with the spray-tan nightmares in yoga pants who sigh and roll their eyes when you’re innocently pulling your Trader Joe’s bag out of the locker because you don’t own a gym bag, but I’m also flattered that he remembers me, that he thinks I’m worthy to sweat in a place where Oprah and Barack Obama have sweated. And yes, I really do want ice water with a lemon wedge in it. There are perks to being a walking cliche.