Four years ago, after staying up all night wandering around Tokyo in a state of near constant euphoria, this occurred to me: when you’re curious about people and open to experiences, you bring the party with you. I used to think of it the other way around – that when I went out in search of good times, novelty, or adventure, I needed to find it rather than to create the optimal mental conditions to foster it. In Japan I realized that being in the right place at the right time is much less important than being in the right frame of mind to share the dormant party always living inside me with the people I meet, and to encourage them to share the party they bring along within them as well.
The most memorable example of this in Japan was when my colleague and I were having a pretty underwhelming time belting out pop songs at 2am in a karaoke room all by ourselves. As we were leaving, I ignored the voice in my head telling me that I might deeply embarrass myself, knocked on the door of a private room across the hall, and asked the handful of Japanese hipsters inside if we could join them for a song or two. They said yes and one of the most joyful ten minutes of my life followed.
I haven’t posted an encouraging quote for awhile but I crossed paths with this one via Brain Pickings a couple of days ago and it seems eminently appropriate for the times we’re living in. To say the zeitgeist has been getting me down is an understatement. I keep coming back to the conviction that community, connection, and love is the only thing that can save me – us – from chaos and despair.
I have been saying it to myself in much less poetic and profound ways than Tennessee Williams does here, though. This is a beautifully wrapped reminder of what it means to be human.
I am moving back to New York on Thursday and I’m excited to (re)start there with a bang: a social gathering, a party, and a protest all within the first weekend. But beyond that, I can’t say I’m enthused about heading back. In fact, I was in the city overnight last weekend and though I was very happy to hang out with friends, New York itself did nothing for me. I did not feel even a slight thrill to be back amongst the skyscrapers and yellow cabs and sidewalks overflowing with people. Just a resigned, “Alright, fine, let’s do this.”
So… clearly I need an attitude adjustment and to remind myself of what I have to look forward to in the city. Off the top of my head:
- Being close to my friends and family and being able to squeeze my niece and nephew, who live an hour away.
- Picking out books at Albertine, the lovely French bookstore, and at my favorite used bookstore in Prospect Heights.
- Having fewer language-based misunderstandings than in Senegal or France.
- Visiting the next exhibit at the Met’s Costume Institute, which opens in May.
- Storing my bike at my friend’s place in the Bronx so we can go on impromptu adventures together.
- Having hundreds of movies to choose from in theaters, and not having to confirm that they’re not overdubbed in French.
- Being eligible for the jobs I most want. (In Paris I did not even bother trying to break into the French documentary industry because I was too intimidated by my imperfect French.)
- The ubiquity of clean and well-equipped public bathrooms – as well as private ones you can easily sneak into – so that you need never walk around with a full bladder or pay to pee.
- The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, my soul mate institution.
- Gluten-free pizza is relatively abundant.
- There’s a volunteer oral history recording project I’m excited to get involved in.
- I can become more deeply involved in the “Resistance,” as the expat Americans activist group I was part of in Paris calls it.
- Weaving classes at Brooklyn Brainery (I decided I wanted to learn to weave while living two blocks from this studio and never went. Senegal re-inspired me, and I finally took a class last year in London and loved it.)
- Driving my parents’ cars when I’m in the suburbs – it’s been way too long since I’ve been behind the wheel.
- Picking back up where I left off with my Spanish learning and being able to practice with NYC residents.
- Going back to New York as a French speaker and someone who, on a good day, can call myself bilingual.
I suppose that was somewhat refreshing…
I won’t bother listing what I’m not looking forward to – what’s the point of being negative about it?
‘Tis the season…
I wouldn’t call a list of books a holiday gift guide per se, but all of these would make lovely presents for the voyager or language enthusiast in your life (or for you!)…
Today I am feeling like this meme; just replace 2016 with 2012.
I have another blog, which I’ve kept up for ten years now. At this point it functions more as a private journal than a public site. The other day, I was searching for something there, and I got caught up reading old posts that I had long ago forgotten. I stopped short at one that I wrote just over five years ago. It was my five year plan. Continue reading
This is the song that floored me at the first Youssou N’Dour concert
that I went to in Dakar. The song and the voice are among the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.
Missing Senegal something awful after hearing this again today.
But… in relation to Senegal and many other things, I’m reminding myself of the wise words Cheryl Strayed shared in a recent “Dear Sugars”
column in the New York Times:
“We have the strength to let go of even the things we treasure. Other treasures eventually replace them.”
Such a beautiful way to express something that is so hard to do.
Today’s quote comes directly from The New York Times’ International Women’s Day-themed Daily Briefing. And it couldn’t be more appropriate to where I’m at right now.
Also, the briefing noted that Senegal ranks in the top ten countries with the most female representation in Parliament. I had no idea. Go, Senegal!