re-addressing re(-)solutions

I. More meditations on the “abroad” & acclimations to the non-norm.

I had been looking forward to marking this blog’s first birthday, which actually occurred almost a week ago now. I thought I would go back to that first post and find several of the resolutions I thought I remembered posting, and perhaps make this post an update on how well I accomplished, or did not accomplish, the goals I set for myself a year ago. Imagine my surprise as I read that first post and found no talk of resolutions, apart from my vague, fear-filled hopes that my time abroad would not be so painful to me that I would regret it. After searching through several pages of this blog, I found the post I thought I had remembered posting in January. I had posted it in May.

This is telling –– in many ways, if feels as though 2018 was two different years: the “year” I was in Amsterdam and the “year” I was home. It’s hard to believe that a third of my 2018 occurred overseas, that it’s been less than a year since I went abroad. My mind (like many others’) has a habit of making situations temporarily “natural” and “bearable,” even if I look back afterward and think that I could not have conceptualized myself going through it. The situations I’m referring to aren’t even “bad” ones, per se: when I sit at my desk now, I struggle to imagine waking up, walking through a city whose signs were all in Dutch to the office where I had classes, making coffee for our student cohort, etc.

While I was there, this process became so natural that half the time, I would wake up, dress, walk to the building, and be mid-way through the coffee ritual before my mind awoke to what I was doing. I grew accustomed to listening to morning news podcasts (such as The Daily, which releases at 6:00am EST) at lunchtime. I got used to my professors’ accents, their speaking to each other in a language of which I only understood snippets. This became normal. In many ways, I could not imagine being home. Then, within a day of being back home, I could not imagine being “there”. As it turned out, my doing well (however that’s measured!) abroad didn’t have as much to do with some verbal commitment to it, it had more to do with my ability to homeify / normalize a once-different environment.

With that in mind, I understand my unconscious reasoning for saying little about resolutions in the traditional sense. My time abroad necessarily took place “outside” normal life, not only in a physical way (being outside the borders of the territory that calls me its citizen) but also in a temporal and emotional way: my communication with loved ones back home lessened, I was literally “in a different time” than the life I had had; and, at least at first, it was necessary to abandon some things I took for granted (staying up late, more than a few pages of pleasure-reading per night) because I was using every spoon and more to lull my brain into the homeifying process. I needed to maintain a perfect sense of control, as if I were lowering myself into a hot pool, refusing the pull of gravity into its steaming waters, instead letting myself inch-by-inch. Acclimation. That’s the word.

II. (Get[ting] through this year) if it kills me.

This year is different from the last, as I first suggested in that post from May. I made it just five days before returning home, with the understanding that now I was moving back into a body of water whose temperature precisely matched my body’s; water I could not feel. Here I laid out my “resolutions”, not just for the year but for the next several years, or even for my whole life. I will list them now:

  • publish or be in the process of publishing a small, complete “something” (chapbook, short novel, etc.) by the time I graduate from Mount Holyoke.
  • not speak erroneously, for the sake of speaking, in class
    • & acclimate to the “waters” of silence.
  • resist the forces that compel me to try to commodify everything I wrote.

How did I do?

  • I have made immense progress on my primary, large writing project. I have done this by employing a technique that never seems to fail me when it comes to writing, studying, reading something long or dense, etc: doing a little bit every day. Even a sentence, even a page; sometimes far more. The complete book (or completed reading challenge, or whatever else) will become in time if one works every day. There is a sense of comfort in this.
    • Will it be “out” by the time I graduate? I hope so, but I think a more important goal here is that I remain relentless and do my best writing and revising work every single day, no matter what.
  • This resolution was a curious one, because I’ve simultaneously fulfilled it and not fulfilled it. I have trained myself to sit in silence when I have nothing valuable to say; to attempt to read the room and figure out when I have spoken too much and to give seconds of pause for others to gather their own thoughts.* But in no small part due to a class I took last semester, on writing & re-remembering (re-visioning**) painful memories as a mode of confrontation and reclamation, I’ve revealed more of myself to people on a personal level. I can’t say I’m happy with how the latter turned out, although this process of revealing-self was helpful in the quality of work I produced in the class. All that said, I strongly prefer being private and self-contained with the most personal element of my life.
  • If anything, this last one has gotten worse, and will likely continue to get worse as I publish more things. However, I’ve also begun saving the poems, stories, etc. that will likely never see the light of day, and accept that as a way in which I process the things I experience, and not just a means to getting more recognition as a “writer.” This is the “resolution” I fulfilled the least in the last several months, and the one that most needs to roll over into this year.

This May, after it’s truly been a whole year since I made my last resolutions post, I may (ha) post a similar one in which I outline my 2019 resolutions. It’s a bit of a strange time to post them, but given that the yoga equipment Target sets out for the first two weeks of the year promptly returns to its back-of-store shelves after two weeks, I take comfort in the fact that no one, not even our corporate overlords, take January resolutions seriously.


*and many arguments (including those made by Margaret Price in her book Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life) suggest that the classroom structure of rapid question-and-answer produces a participatory environment wherein students of very specific abilities thrive, while creating a positive feedback loop in which disabled students cannot participate, therefore cannot ask questions when needed, therefore fall behind on material, therefore cannot participate…etc. I tend to agree)

** I owe this idea to Adrienne Rich, as she discusses in When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision (1972) [x] in particular here:

“Re-vision –– the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old
text from a new critical direction-is for us more than a chapter in cultural history:
it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are
drenched we cannot know ourselves.”

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A white & brown hobbit house, in front of which a woman washes and hangs linens to dry. Trees surround it all.

et tu, cottagecore?

Recently, you’ve probably noticed cottagecore-related content, especially on Tumblr. As someone who already has a deep devotion to farm animals (especially sheep), mushrooms, and cabin-homes stuffed with knickknacks, the cottagecore aesthetic was and is one I gravitate toward. It’s easy to scroll mindlessly through blog after gentle, peaceful blog; reblogging jars of honey and golden sunlight and teddy bears and picnic baskets; right alongside assorted farm animals and wide, vast vegetable gardens. It’s impossible for me not to project myself onto their hazy, golden façades (literally!) and feel, for a moment, like that picture is my life. Unfortunately, I recently met with the reality undepicted in those images, and had to confront the practicality of my dreams, the genuineness of my desires.

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In the background, a blurry pastoral scene of grass, flowers, and weeds as well as a wire fence sit in the afternoon light. In the foreground, a sticky pot of honey is ladled, so as to keep some honey suspended in the air to reflect the sun’s light.

I’m already a person prone to planning for a future that could only exist several decades from now. Ever since I was a child, I knew I wanted children of my own, and spent much of my childhood paging through thousand-page baby name books, making lists that I was sure would turn to children. Soon, plans for my perfect home emerged, too: usually a tiny house on the beach or in the woods or in a field whose endpoints can’t be seen from my someday-home’s window. It was always a pastoral scene that never seemed to get so far as to ask, “how do I get my groceries?” I suppose I’d grow all of those, though I think veggie burgers and chewing gum would be difficult to grow on trees.

Aside from the limits of my hypothetical trees, there are numerous other flaws in my dreamy future plans. As someone whose hypersensitivity to noise and need for personal space gains them access to a single room in college, thanks to AccessAbility Services, I sincerely doubt I’d do well living with a wife and kids in a sub-1,000 sq. ft. space in the middle of nowhere. Just a hunch.

In addition, my dream almost always includes me helping to design and supervise the construction of my tiny home. Where will I get the money for this? On whose wide stretch of land will I be allowed to plant my home? These questions, too, remain unanswered. As someone in a relationship, and as a Capricorn Moon & Venus, thinking about and sharing my dreams for a future with the one I love feels like the ultimate sign of devotion. It’s not so much the content of the dream, it’s the idea that there is one. But ever since the beginning of this month, I’ve been wondering just how much real, practical thinking is required for the dreams I want (or do I?) to bear fruit, and how aesthetics seem to be altogether hijacking my dreams.

Of the many things I was excited to do with my partner, Kayla, I was perhaps most excited to visit a farm with them. The farm represented an aspect of our theoretical future that we loved and love to discuss: oh, the animals we’d care for! The love we’d have for them! The endless space in which they could run and play! The mass numbers of Instagram accounts catering so specifically to my dreams of animal-parenthood only furthered this desire. The reason I follow so many (almost 600) accounts on Instagram is that many of them are about certain animals and farms I’d like to keep up with. There’s nothing I love more than watching their latest videos with whomever will agree to watch them with me. I had never been to one of these sorts of farms in real life, and I have to say, I was ready for a relaxing time.

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A moodboard. (R-L, top to bottom:) houses with high-peaked roofs amongst high grass and shrubs, a forest ends in a hole opening into a blue-skyed clearing, chickens stride about on a house’s front lawn, a golden-brown pie sits on a wood block, a close-up of a bucket of red & green apples, a photo of a basket of fresh eggs, a dimly-lit bedroom featuring fairy lights and a skylight in its dormer ceiling, a better-lit loftlike bedroom featuring a bed with white sheets and a window revealing trees in the distance, another, this time large, bedroom whose bed faces a tall and wide window embedded into a dormer ceiling.

Farms –– I’m sure you never could have guessed this –– are, in fact, dirty! As in, there is a lot of dirt, and animal poop that is easily mistaken for dirt, all over the place. There are bugs, too; especially flies in the vicinity of the aforementioned poop. It didn’t fully register with me why Kayla and their mom were slathering themselves in bug spray before walking into the covered structure in which some bunnies and (separately) some small pigs lived. If you were to tell me, “There are bugs here,” I would have replied, “Of course there are!” But it isn’t until a several land on your legs as you attempt to replicate a pristine, loving Instagram video with your new pig friends that you fully accept it.

This situation was unsettling enough in the face of my romanticization of farm life, due both to my consumption of Instagram videos and from my love of cottagecore aesthetics. But it got worse: when we went to visit the goats (who were extremely pleased to see us!) we had the opportunity to spend time with them in their pen. We did. Goats, much like dogs, will get up on their hind legs and put their two fore legs on your thighs, hoping for pets and scratches. In their excitement, these goats managed to spread their poop not only into the ridges on the bottom of my Birkenstocks (and dangerously close to the synthetic straps) but also onto my thighs and the groin-area of my shorts. For all my excessive talk of wanting a farm, I booked it out of the pen after that, standing uncomfortably outside as Kayla and their mother continued to spend time with the goats, significantly less disturbed than I was. When they were done, we visited some kittens and cows. All that time, I was praying,  please let me transfer my consciousness out of this soiled body and into something cleaner. I can’t say I even really enjoyed the rest of the visit, as I was so distracted by the mess.

When it finally came time to clean ourselves off in the farm’s bathroom before driving back to their home for full showers, Kayla let me go in first* and I doused the entire lower half of my body in a mixture of soap, water, and hand sanitizer, all rubbed into my skin and clothing by a massive wad of paper towels. When we got back to their house, we had a delightful time hosing down our respective shoes. Then, finally, it was time for me to shower (first**).

And then I was clean. And mildly disturbed, because it didn’t simply feel like shit had gotten my my legs and shorts. It felt like it had gotten all over my “future,” simply by shoving its reality into my face. It has forced me to (re)consider whether or not I actually desire other things, like a garden (hard, hot work with unguaranteed results) or a tiny house (a truly limiting amount of space that would be more likely to drive me to a divorce than anything else). There has been much written on the potential harm that life lived through a camera lens or an Instagram account can be, especially now that people are using these as reasons to alter their physical forms. But significantly less has been said about the way that popular aesthetics have taken and run with our future plans, leading only to disappointment when we come up empty, frustrated, and unsatisfied.

…[S]ignificantly less has been said about the way that popular aesthetics have taken and run with our future plans, leading only to disappointment when we come up empty, frustrated, and unsatisfied.

A lot of people, especially fellow lesbians, have bought into the ideal-farm-future wholesale. It’s especially tempting because it offers an alternative to a society that is usually either hateful toward you or pretends you don’t exist. Perhaps also to help something or someone grow in ways we have been denied; to nurture other living things in the ways we wish we were nurtured. This is especially true, it seems, for lesbians who don’t want children –– but these dreams tempt us all.

I think I really had myself convinced that this was what I had always wanted, when in reality, what I wanted was the pristine version I had set out in my head. Visiting the farm animals with Kayla, I had assumed, would be a peak into my future: a partner; a farm; a sense of freedom derived from both. But as I stood, panicked in the bathroom, goat shit on my bare legs from eager goat feet, I realized that if this was living my future, I didn’t want it.

It’s impossible to tell the difference between a “real” dream (one that came “only” from inside one’s head) from a dream installed there by some outside source –– namely, because almost everything is a combination of those two. But it’s important to acknowledge outside and personal implications for those dreams, if realized, and to allow oneself to enjoy an ideal but know the reality is not for them. I’m still learning this.


*However lucky you think I am to have Kayla in my life, multiply that by a factor of ten.

**See above.